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.

23 mins ago

Judge reduces Hubbard’s prison sentence to reflect overturned convictions

(Alabama News Network/Facebook, YHN)

A Lee County circuit judge on Wednesday issued a ruling that significantly reduced former Alabama House Speaker Michael G. “Mike” Hubbard’s prison sentence.

Hubbard in 2016 was convicted on 12 of 23 ethics charges brought against him by the Alabama Attorney General’s Office; he was then sentenced to four years in prison.

One of those 12 convictions was reversed by the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals in August 2018. An additional five convictions were tossed by the Supreme Court of Alabama earlier this year.

This meant that although half of the original convictions were subsequently overturned, Hubbard was still facing the full original prison sentence.

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Hubbard’s legal team in recent months, after he began serving that sentence, requested resentencing. They argued, in part, that the “changed circumstances” of the overturned convictions warranted such an action.

“[I]n the interest of justice, Hubbard respectfully requests that this Court resentence him… The convictions in this case alone have resulted in a wide range of punishments which include his removal from office, the loss of his right to vote, the divestment of his business interests, and his current incarceration,” they wrote.

In his Wednesday order, the Lee County judge noted the overturned convictions in reducing the sentence from four years to 28 months. This represents a sentence reduction of 41.67%.

In a statement, Attorney General Steve Marshall expressed disappointment with the decision to reduce Hubbard’s sentence.

“Mr. Hubbard was convicted of the intentional violation of Alabama’s ethics laws, the same laws he championed in the legislature only later to brazenly disregard for his personal enrichment,” said Marshall.

“Even as he sits in state prison as a six-time felon, Mike Hubbard continues to deny any guilt or offer any remorse for his actions in violation of the law,” the attorney general concluded. “Reducing his original four-year sentence sends precisely the wrong message to would-be violators of Alabama’s ethics laws.”

According to the Alabama Department of Corrections, Hubbard is currently serving his time at Limestone Correctional Center. He has already served two months and sixteen days of his sentence.

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

1 hour ago

This month marks 20 years since all humans were on Earth at the same time

(Boeing/Contributed)

NASA and its international partners — including the many in Alabama — this month marked a new milestone in human spaceflight. It has now been 20 consecutive years since the last time all humans were on the planet Earth at the same time.

Indeed, November 1, 2000, was the most recent day humans dwelled only on our planet. The Expedition 1 crew – NASA astronaut William Shepherd and Russian cosmonauts Sergei Krikalev and Yuri Gidzenko – launched to the International Space Station (ISS) on October 31 of that year, arriving to become the first crew to live aboard the orbiting laboratory on November 2.

NASA and its partners have successfully supported humans living in space aboard the ISS ever since, including Boeing — which has been the lead industry partner for the ISS since 1993.

Boeing has partnered with NASA to help design, build, integrate and — now — manage operations for the ISS. Just this summer, the company received a $916 million contract extension through September 2024 to continue supporting the space station.

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In Alabama, Boeing employees work closely with NASA at Huntsville’s Marshall Space Flight Center and perform sustaining engineering and manufacturing support for the ISS. This work is reportedly critical to proving deep-space technology for future NASA missions and providing a cornerstone for developing and operating commercial enterprises in low Earth orbit.

“Men and women have been working in space for 20 years, an accomplishment that speaks to Boeing and NASA’s commitment to crew safety and widening access to space,” stated John Mulholland, ISS vice president and program manager for Boeing. “The space station is the realization of a dream that has inspired countless generations to reach for the stars, and we will continue to increase its uses as our imaginations catch up with its extraordinary capabilities.”

In its history, the ISS has hosted more than 240 individuals from 19 different countries. Astronauts have conducted 231 spacewalks totaling more than 1,400 hours to build and maintain the station.

The scientific research performed aboard the ISS has come from and affected 108 nations around the world. More than 3,000 experiments have taken place aboard the space station so far.

In the present, the ISS is also newly receiving missions powered by NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Boeing is one of two companies selected as prime contractors on this program. The Boeing Starliner spacecraft used for this program is powered by an Atlas V rocket built by United Launch Alliance in Decatur, Alabama. The Starliner was also designed at Boeing’s Huntsville operations.

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

3 hours ago

Bruce Pearl: ‘I felt terrible’ telling players about self-imposed postseason ban

(Auburn Basketball/Twitter)

Auburn University head men’s basketball coach Bruce Pearl spoke remotely to the media on Wednesday ahead of the team’s first game of the season.

The Tigers are scheduled to face Saint Joseph’s at 3:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving in the Fort Myers Tip-Off event.

However, the opening contest has been overshadowed this week by Sunday’s announcement that Auburn will forgo postseason competition this season.

Pearl on Wednesday revealed that his players were not made aware of this decision to self-impose a postseason ban before the public was informed.

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“We made them aware as we were announcing it,” he advised. “We just felt like it was something the university wanted to get out in front of. I was telling the players as it was being announced.”

“I had a zoom call set up with their parents for as soon as I finished up with my players. They probably had heard something about it, but they knew they had a call from me, so when they saw it, I’m sure they realized this is what the call was about. It all took place on Sunday afternoon,” Pearl continued.

He also commented on the team’s reaction to the news.

“It’s been a really difficult time. It was a difficult few weeks leading up to the announcement because it was something we had talked about,” Pearl said.

“If there was any comfort, it was their reaction. I got more guys coming up and hugging me because I felt terrible for them. We kept some things in perspective and reminded ourselves – I asked the question beforehand of why did you come to Auburn, and I got a lot of answers about graduating, being an Auburn Man, getting better, maybe have a chance to play professionally, wanting to be part of the Auburn Family – all those things. I was then able to say right before I gave them the information that they’re still going to be able to accomplish almost all of those things,” he added. “This year, we’re not going to be able to compete in the postseason. A couple years ago, after we won the regular season [SEC title], postseason was only a couple of games. Without minimizing it, because it is important and we all work and strive for it, I tried to keep their focus on what they’re trying to get accomplished and why they’re at Auburn as student-athletes. All I can tell you is, it was an amazing response from my players and their parents how we’re going to get through this together.”

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

6 hours ago

Saban to miss Iron Bowl after testing positive for COVID-19, has ‘very mild symptoms’

(@AlabamaFTBL/Twitter)

University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban is set to miss Saturday’s Iron Bowl after testing positive for COVID-19.

Team physician Dr. Jimmy Robinson and UA Associate Athletics Director for Sports Medicine Jeff Allen made the announcement on Wednesday in a joint statement.

Saban experienced a false positive earlier in the season, but this situation is apparently different.

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“This morning we received notification that Coach Saban tested positive for COVID-19. He has very mild symptoms, so this test will not be categorized as a potential false positive. He will follow all appropriate guidelines and isolate at home,” stated Robinson and Allen.

The Iron Bowl is scheduled to be played in Tuscaloosa’s Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. The game will be broadcast on CBS.

UPDATE 10:45 a.m.

Saban on an SEC teleconference told reporters that he is the only person within the Crimson Tide football program to have tested positive during this latest round of regular testing. The positive result reportedly came from a PCR test.

The legendary coach said he essentially only has a runny nose.

“I feel fine. I don’t really have anything significant. I don’t have a fever,” Saban added.

RELATED: Alabama No. 1, Auburn No. 22 in first College Football Playoff rankings of 2020

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

7 hours ago

Tommy Tuberville names Capitol Hill stalwart, Alabamian Stephen Boyd chief of staff

(Stephen Boyd/Contributed, Tuberville Campaign)

U.S. Senator-elect Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) on Wednesday announced that he has selected Stephen Boyd to serve as his chief of staff.

Boyd is a veteran of Capitol Hill with deep Alabama connections, currently serving as United States assistant attorney general.

Born in Birmingham, Boyd would go on to graduate from the University of Alabama with a Bachelor of Arts degree before earning his Juris Doctor from the University of Alabama School of Law.

His previous experience includes service as communications director for then-U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), as well as communications director for the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. He also formerly served as chief of staff to U.S. Representative Martha Roby  (AL-02).

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Boyd was confirmed by a voice vote of the U.S. Senate in August 2017 as assistant attorney general for Legislative Affairs, following his nomination by President Donald J. Trump. In this important role, Boyd manages the Department of Justice’s relationship with Congress and advances a legislative agenda in support of the DoJ’s vital law enforcement and national security missions.

In 2017, U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) said Boyd “is well-respected across the state of Alabama and is known for his ability to reach across the aisle and get things done.” Alabama’s senior senator further praised Boyd’s “level of integrity and character.”

Roby, who chose not to seek reelection this year, previously noted that Boyd “possesses a keen intellect, conducts himself with the utmost professionalism and decorum, and he works extremely hard.”

Before being confirmed as assistant attorney general, Boyd served as chief of staff at the DoJ’s Office of Legal Policy.

“Stephen is a true conservative who has fought for our Alabama values since moving to Washington D.C. and I’m proud to announce him as my Chief of Staff,” Tuberville stated on Wednesday. “He is well-known throughout Alabama and knows how to get things done on Capitol Hill. Stephen is a leader of tremendous integrity and during my discussions with him, it became abundantly clear that he is the right person for the job.”

Boyd, as he previously announced, is set to resign from the DoJ effective December 11.

Tuberville, after drubbing U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) at the ballot box on November 3, will be sworn into office upon the beginning of the 117th Congress on January 3.

The incoming junior senator’s transition committee is being chaired by Stan McDonald of Huntsville. Boyd is the first announced hire for Tuberville’s staff, which Boyd is now expected to help shape moving forward.

RELATED: Tuberville vows to hire those with Alabama connections for U.S. Senate staff — ‘As many people as I can’

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

7 hours ago

Wonderland Under Warrior returns at Alabama’s Rickwood Caverns State Park

(Rickwood Caverns/Contributed)

Alabama State Parks, a division of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, this week announced that one of the state’s unique holiday traditions has returned this year at Rickwood Caverns State Park.

The park’s centerpiece cave system will once again be home to “Wonderland Under Warrior,” a magical experience in which the cave is transformed into a festive underground winter wonderland. Holiday light displays and decorations accentuate the cave’s natural formations.

“Wonderland Under Warrior is one of the top attractions at the park every year, and it’s the perfect way to get into the holiday spirit,” Rickwood Caverns State Park superintendent Chris Bentley said in a statement. “We are extremely pleased to keep this holiday tradition going for all of our guests.”

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Wonderland Under Warrior runs through December 30, operating from 2:00 until 8:00 p.m. CT on the days it is open, and the last tickets will be sold each day at 7:30 p.m. The cost is $10 per person.

A complete schedule can be found on the park’s website here.

All regular cave tours are suspended for the duration of “Wonderland Under Warrior” and will resume in 2021.

Cave visitors are required to wear masks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and guests are required to maintain a social distance of six feet from anyone not in their household. Capacity restrictions will be enforced by park employees in the cave, nature center and gift shop and must be followed by guests. Hand sanitizing stations are also located throughout the cave, and park staffers reportedly disinfect frequently.

The cave temperature remains at 62 degrees year-round, so visitors should not be dissuaded by cold days. The park’s gift shop will be decorated for the holidays and offer unique gifts, ornaments, snacks and hot cocoa to purchase.

Further, “Wonderland Under Warrior” features an out-and-back self-guided tour, so the 110-step ascent at the end of the normal cave tour is not required. This makes the walk easier for anyone with mobility concerns and small children. The entire walk is about a mile in the cave.

“Wonderland Under Warrior has become one of the top holiday attractions in the entire parks system, and we know many visitors look forward to it every year,” commented Greg Lein, director of the Alabama State Parks System. “The parks system offers unique experiences from the state’s Gulf Coast beaches to the gorgeous scenery in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in northeast Alabama. Diving deep into Rickwood Caverns is a holiday experience unlike any other, and it represents another way to offer our guests something truly adventurous and memorable.”

Rickwood Caverns State Park is located just off Interstate 65 in Warrior, about 30 miles north of downtown Birmingham and about 75 miles south of Huntsville.

You can view a video of Wonderland Under Warrior from last year below:

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

8 hours ago

Poarch Band of Creek Indians supports Sweet Grown Alabama

(Sweet Grown Alabama/Contributed, YHN)

Sweet Grown Alabama, the state’s agricultural branding program, this week added the Poarch Band of Creek Indians (PCI) as a founding member of the non-profit organization.

The program represents over 170 farmer, restaurant, market and business members across the state who play a role in bringing local products to Yellowhammer State consumers.

“I am excited to announce our support of Sweet Grown Alabama,” stated Stephanie A. Bryan, PCI tribal chair and CEO. “We are always looking for ways to support Alabama’s economy and this important initiative will educate Alabamians about products that are grown and bred in our own backyards.”

The program’s mission is to enhance marketing opportunities for the state’s farmers by connecting retailers and consumers to Alabama-grown foods and other agricultural products. Sweet Grown Alabama earlier this year unveiled a searchable database which members of the public can use to search for locally grown products in their area.

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According to a release, PCI’s financial support will help Sweet Grown Alabama connect Alabama farmers and families. Funds will be utilized to encourage purchasing of locally grown products through traditional and digital marketing.

“This financial support from the Poarch Creek Indians will have a positive ripple effect on Alabama’s economy,” said Ellie Watson, Sweet Grown Alabama director. “The Tribe has a strong reputation of community support and economic development, and we are incredibly grateful for their sponsorship of Sweet Grown Alabama at the highest level.”

The tribe also has deep roots in agriculture. In fact, PCI’s Perdido River Farms is one of the largest cattle operations in the Yellowhammer State. In addition to operating this commercial cattle herd, Perdido River Farms supports youth agricultural programming through 4-H and sells Sweet Grown Alabama beef direct from the farm in Atmore.

RELATED: PowerSouth joins Sweet Grown Alabama as founding member

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

11 hours ago

Alabama No. 1, Auburn No. 22 in first College Football Playoff rankings of 2020

(College Football Playoff/Twitter)

The College Football Playoff Selection Committee on Tuesday evening released its first rankings of the 2020 season, with the University of Alabama Crimson Tide coming out on top.

Bama was followed by Notre Dame, Clemson and Ohio State to round out the top four teams.

Texas A&M, Florida and Cincinnati were ranked Nos. 5-7, respectively.

The Auburn Tigers, ahead of a big Iron Bowl this Saturday, came in at No. 22.

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The committee will now release weekly rankings through the final, determinative rankings of December 20.

Since the College Football Playoff began, only Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State have made the Selection Committee’s rankings each time (38/38 possible times).

For this season’s playoff, the January 1 Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl will serve as the semifinal games. The National Championship game is scheduled for January 11 in Miami.

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

1 day ago

Friday’s UAB vs. Southern Miss football game canceled due to COVID-19, meaning the Blazers have played last Legion Field contest

(UAB Athletics, Southern Miss Football/Facebook, YHN)

Due to “positive COVID tests and subsequent contact tracing” within the Southern Miss football program, UAB’s upcoming game against the Golden Eagles has been canceled.

The game was set for Friday, November 27, at Birmingham’s historic Legion Field. This was supposed to be UAB’s last game ever at the venue, as the team will transition to the under-construction Protective Stadium.

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More information on the cancellation was not immediately released by UAB.

“The UAB Department of Athletics will continue to work with Conference USA on the remaining regular season schedule,” the school wrote.

The Blazers are currently 4-3 this season, including 3-1 at home.

This is now the third consecutive scheduled UAB football game that has been canceled due to the coronavirus and related protocols. UAB last played on October 31. The Blazers’ next — and final — regular season game is scheduled for December 12 at Rice.

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

1 day ago

Aderholt introduces bill allowing unspent CARES Act funds to be utilized advancing rural broadband access

Congressman Robert Aderholt (AL-04) on Tuesday introduced new legislation to further the advancement of affordable, high-speed rural broadband internet access.

Aderholt’s bill, entitled the Enabling Extra Time to Extend Network Deployment (EXTEND) Act, would permit states to use federal CARES Act monies under the Coronavirus Relief Fund for grants for the deployment of broadband infrastructure in “unserved areas.”

CARES Act funds not spent by each state are currently set to expire on December 30, 2020.

Aderholt’s legislation would extend that deadline to the end of 2021 for grants made “to a provider of broadband internet access service for the deployment of infrastructure for the provision of such service.”

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Read the full bill here.

In a statement, Aderholt advised, “The COVID-19 pandemic has showcased the critical need for efficient and reliable rural broadband. Teleworking, telemedicine, and virtual classrooms have been our reality for the better part of eight months, and it could continue into the new year. Since Congress has passed stimulus funding for Coronavirus relief, I believe states should be allowed to use that money to address this dire need.”

“That is why I introduced a bill today to do just that, secure the ability for states to expand their rural broadband infrastructure with Coronavirus relief funds,” he continued. “This bill will help those rural areas that have been left behind by providing a pathway for states to determine which areas are particularly underserved, while also preventing overbuilding in areas where broadband access is widespread.”

Aderholt, the dean of Alabama’s U.S. House delegation, is a senior member of the Committee on Appropriations, including serving as the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science and as a member of the Agriculture and Rural Development Subcommittee and the Defense Subcommittee. He is known as a prominent, vocal advocate for expanding broadband access to all Alabamians — and all Americans.

RELATED: Aderholt: We need long-term broadband solutions, not band-aids

“I am hopeful that this legislation will set a precedent for future funding bills, ensuring that rural areas have access to funds to build out the broadband infrastructure they need, while also preventing waste and abuse,” Aderholt concluded on Tuesday. “It’s clear that adequate funding is needed now more than ever, and ensuring states the option to use Congressionally approved stimulus money for this issue is a step in the right direction.”

Aderholt’s Extend Act was met with praise from Congressman Bob Latta (R-OH), the lead co-sponsor.

“When Americans can’t access the Internet, they aren’t able to participate in our 21st century economy, learn remotely, or communicate with others outside of their communities, all of which have become increasingly important during the COVID-19 pandemic,” commented Latta. “The EXTEND Act works to support the buildout of broadband infrastructure in areas that do not currently have broadband capabilities. It ensures funds from the CARES Act, which I supported earlier this year, can be granted by states for the deployment of broadband so all Americans, including people living in rural communities, have reliable internet connectivity. I’d like to thank my colleague Rep. Aderholt for his attention to this critical issue, and I am encouraged that with this bill, we are working towards a more connected future.”

This came the same day that Aderholt got out of quarantine after coming into close contact with someone who subsequently tested positive for COVID-19. Aderholt announced the quarantine on Sunday, November 15; his office said he did not test positive (testing negative three times) and never felt sick while in quarantine.

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

1 day ago

Ivey orders flags to half-staff in Montgomery to honor the late Rep. Alvin Holmes

(Hal Yeager/Governor's Office, Alabama House Democratic Caucus/Facebook, YHN)

Governor Kay Ivey (R-AL) on Tuesday issued a directive to all state agencies ordering that flags in certain locations be lowered to half-staff.

The directive covers flags “on the grounds of the Alabama State Capitol Complex in Montgomery and in Alabama House District 78.”

This is being done “to honor the memory and longstanding service” of former longtime State Rep. Alvin Holmes (D-Montgomery), who passed away over the weekend.

Holmes served in the legislature for 44 years — from 1974 until 2018. He was the longest serving member of the House of Representatives in Alabama history. An alumnus and former faculty member of Alabama State University, Holmes was a Montgomery native.

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“As the longest serving representative in our state’s history, it is only fitting that we pay homage to his decades of dedicated service,” Ivey wrote on Tuesday. “Anyone that had the privilege of working with or hearing Rep. Holmes address the legislature, knows that he was passionate about his work and cared deeply about improving our state, specifically in matters regarding civil rights. His unique approach to conveying the importance of causes he supported garnered much respect from his colleagues and is something the people of our state will not soon forget.”

“I offer my sincere condolences and prayers to his family, friends and constituents of his beloved community. The flags should be flown at half-staff on the day of Rep. Holmes’ interment on Sunday, November 29, 2020 until sunset,” she concluded.

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

1 day ago

Malzahn ahead of playing Alabama: ‘This isn’t a normal game; this is the Iron Bowl’

Auburn football Gus Malzahn presser on Monday, Aug. 17, 2020 in Auburn, Ala. (Todd Van Emst/AU Athletics)

Even though the No. 1 University of Alabama Crimson Tide (7-0) come into this weekend’s matchup as heavy favorites on paper, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn is noting that the Iron Bowl is always a different kind of game — and one that is difficult to predict.

Malzahn’s Tigers come into the annual post-Thanksgiving matchup with a 5-2 overall record.

The game is scheduled to be played Saturday at 2:30 p.m. in Tuscaloosa’s Bryant-Denny Stadium; while Auburn is undefeated this season at home, the Tigers are only 1-2 on the road.

However, as Malzahn said at his Tuesday press availability, “This isn’t a normal game; this is the Iron Bowl.”

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“I first coached in this game in 2009 as a coordinator,” he added. “People would tell me what it was like. You’ve got to experience it to fully understand it and get a grasp of it. It changes you. I know after that first year it changed me. This is something that here at Auburn, I know me personally, I think about it 365 days a year.”

The coach subsequently talked about what he likes most about his own team heading into the big game.

“First of all, the character that our team has,” Malzahn remarked. “The closeness that our team has. I really think our team understands what it means to play Auburn football, to be an Auburn man.”

“Then the adversity they’ve overcome,” he continued. “This has been a year, we’ve said it numerous times, but this has been an interesting year, the ups and down. For our guys to play their best game against LSU and not get to play for 21 days and still find a way to beat a talented Tennessee team even though we didn’t play our best, took us a while to get going. This group has persevered. We lost K.J. Britt, one of our best players, a first team all-SEC player. We lost him. He was our team leader. One game, against Arkansas, we played without three of our four team leaders. We lost our most talented offensive lineman four or five weeks ago. We’ve played without some people and our guys, it’s been next man up. It’s got to be that same type of mentality this week with the injury situation we have.”

Britt will also be out this Saturday, and running back Tank Bigsby is “still questionable.”

“It’s Iron Bowl week. Obviously, a big week. We’re playing the No. 1 team in the country. Since I’ve been the head coach here for eight years, I think they’ve either been No. 1 or No. 2 in the country every time but one. I think that was last year, and they were No. 5. Offensively, No. 1 in our league in scoring offense. Defensively, they’re No. 1 in our league in scoring defense. Their head coach – probably one of the best to ever do it, so it’s the same old story. We’re excited to go there and play. I know our kids and our coaches are really looking forward to this,” Malzahn said.

Asked if Auburn has taken an underdog mentality against Bama in recent years, Malzahn responded, “One of the reasons you come to Auburn is to play in the Iron Bowl. Our guys get extremely excited, and this is a game our guys think about 365 days a year, so that’s really the simplest way to put it.”

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

1 day ago

Scofield comments on selection as next Senate majority leader, says broadband ‘critical in rebuilding Alabama’s economy’

(Clay Scofield/Contributed, YHN)

Yellowhammer News on Tuesday spoke with State Senator Clay Scofield (R-Guntersville), who was selected by his Republican colleagues the previous day to be the next majority leader in the legislature’s upper chamber.

This vote by the Senate GOP Caucus came after Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) in the same meeting announced he would step down from his leadership role effective at the beginning of the 2021 regular session.

Current Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper) was then unanimously nominated by the caucus members to succeed Marsh, which would — at that effective time — create a vacancy as majority leader.

Speaking to Yellowhammer News, Scofield said, “I’m very humbled by the trust my colleagues have placed in me for this important role.”

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“I look forward to serving them and making sure that I know and understand their priorities and their needs so I can assist them in successfully representing their constituents,” he continued.

Scofield lauded the conservative, pro-jobs work accomplished by the Senate since the Republican wave of 2010, the same year Marsh became pro tem. Marsh has also announced he will not seek reelection as a senator in 2022, meaning the next two regular sessions will be his last. He was first elected in 1998.

“I look forward to working with Pro Tem-elect Greg Reed in his new role,” Scofield remarked. “Senator Reed has big shoes to fill that our current Pro Tem Del Marsh is leaving.”

“It’s been an honor to serve with Pro Tem Marsh,” he added. “He’s done an amazing job.”

Scofield advised that he believes Reed “has great leadership skills and will be able to continue the positive momentum of the Senate in serving and bettering the lives of all Alabamians.”

The senator from Marshall County further congratulated Marsh and Reed, saying he looks forward to continuing to work with both of them for the remainder of this quadrennium (and — in Reed’s case — beyond).

The 2021 regular session is set to gavel in on February 2. Looking ahead to that date, Scofield told Yellowhammer News about some pressing priorities he sees on the Senate’s agenda.

“I think the number one focus that we need to have is getting the economy back on track from COVID,” he emphasized. “That has to be our top priority, and I believe that it will be.”

Scofield pointed to a few specific measures to that end, including some of the proposals that have been floated as potential agenda items for a special session that has — at least yet — not been called.

This includes ensuring there are reasonable liability protections for businesses and healthcare providers related to COVID-19.

Another priority for Scofield is renewing certain economic development incentives; the Alabama Jobs Act is set to expire on December 31, 2020, and the Growing Alabama Tax Credit expired as of September 30, 2020.

An additional priority for Scofield is ensuring that federal coronavirus stimulus payments to Alabamians is not taxed by the State.

Generally, Scofield will be looking for anything “that will help Alabama’s business community — both large businesses and small businesses — get back on their feet and get people back to work.”

“That has to be our priority,” he noted. “Along with that, I believe that broadband is critical in rebuilding Alabama’s economy.”

Scofield, a longtime advocate for rural Alabama, is known in the legislature as a champion of increasing access for all Alabamians to affordable, high-speed broadband internet services.

“I think that we will focus on expanding Alabama’s broadband infrastructure,” he said on Tuesday.

These are the kinds of priorities that could very well end up with overwhelming bipartisan support. Scofield spoke to the “working relationship” and personal friendship he has with Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro).

Scofield concluded, “While I am certainly majority leader and my focus is — and will be — on the Republican members of the Alabama State Senate, Senator Singleton — the minority leader — and I have a great working relationship. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him and his colleagues. While we agree on some things and disagree on others, there is no reason we can’t work out our differences on the Senate floor and in the committees of the Senate; and when we leave that chamber, there’s no reason we can’t leave as friends.”

RELATED: Greg Reed on nomination to be next Alabama Senate pro tem: ‘Great honor and a privilege’

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

1 day ago

Greg Reed on nomination to be next Alabama Senate pro tem: ‘Great honor and a privilege’

Sen. Greg Reed, Senate Majority Leader

Yellowhammer News on Tuesday spoke with Alabama Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper), who was unanimously chosen by his Republican colleagues the previous day to be the next president pro tempore of the legislature’s upper chamber.

Reed’s nomination by the Senate GOP Caucus came after Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) in the same meeting announced he would step down from the leadership role effective at the beginning of the 2021 regular session.

State Senator Clay Scofield (R-Guntersville) was then selected by the caucus to be the next majority leader upon Reed’s ascension.

Speaking to Yellowhammer News, Reed said, “I’m excited, I’m appreciative — grateful, honored — to be asked by my Senate colleagues in my caucus to move forward as pro tem of the body once Senator Marsh steps down in the regular session coming in February.”

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He continued to say he has been proud to serve as majority leader since 2014.

“And it’s been a great honor to serve with Senator Marsh,” Reed stressed. “And I want to continue working closely with him. He’s got topics that are of significance and importance to him, and he wants to focus on those. I think that is important for him and for our body.”

Marsh has also announced he will not seek reelection as a senator in 2022, meaning the next two regular sessions will be his last. He was first elected in 1998 and became pro tem in 2010.

Reed subsequently told Yellowhammer News, “I’m looking forward to working with Senator Scofield — who’s been my friend and I’ve known for many, many years — in his role as leader.”

“It’s just a great honor and a privilege for me,” he outlined. “I’ve also already reached out to the minority leader, Senator [Bobby] Singleton, who is my great friend.”

Reed advised he will “be looking to communicate individually with the members of the minority caucus.”

“I have great relationships with minority members, as well,” he remarked. “It’s going to be my goal that we work together moving forward on topics that are of paramount importance to the people of the state of Alabama.”

The senator from Walker County then pointed to a pressing priority for the legislature.

“I think it’s clear this next legislative session that the people of Alabama are interested in our economy. They’re interested in job growth, they’re interested in the mitigation of the coronavirus pandemic, they’re interested in us incentivizing industry and business to come to our state — those are the kinds of things that are important,” Reed said.

He added that in Alabama “because of conservative leadership over the last several years, we have been in a better fiscal position than other states.”

“But it still does not mean that our economy has not been feeling the effects of coronavirus, and of course that is going to be important to the people of Alabama that we, as their representatives, focus on the things that are most important to them,” he stated.

Reed delineated that related to COVID-19, the legislature will be focused on continuing to mitigate the pandemic as well as the economic effects it is having on Alabama families.

The 2021 regular session is set to gavel in on February 2.

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

1 day ago

Amazon’s Alabama facility under Bernie Sanders-backed siege from New York City union

(El Borde/Youtube, BAmazon Union/Twitter, G. Skidmore/Flickr,)

Backed by a national labor union and Democratic socialist U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), a notice has been filed informing the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that there is an attempt underway to unionize Amazon’s state-of-the-art fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama.

This facility outside of Birmingham just opened earlier this year, employing more than 1,500 full-time associates who pick, pack and ship essential items to customers.

On top of Amazon’s $15 minimum wage, the company offers industry-leading benefits to full-time employees, which include comprehensive healthcare from day one, 401(k) with 50% match, up to 20 weeks paid parental leave and Amazon’s innovative Career Choice program, which pre-pays 95% of tuition for courses in high-demand fields. Since the program’s launch four years ago, more than 25,000 employees have pursued degrees in game design and visual communications, nursing, IT programming and radiology, just to name a few.

Per the latest available data from the Alabama Department of Labor, Bessemer has the third-highest rate of unemployment among the state’s major cities.

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On top of the Bessemer fulfillment center, Amazon in recent weeks announced its plans to open two delivery stations in Alabama: one in Bessemer and one in Birmingham. These stations will reportedly create hundreds of full- and part-time associate jobs, all paying at least $15 per hour, in addition to hundreds of driver opportunities for Amazon’s Delivery Service Partners and Amazon Flex drivers.

However, all of this progress could come to a screeching halt.

The New York City-based Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), which is affiliated with the AFL-CIO, has launched the “BAmazon Union organizing campaign.”

The campaign’s website paints Amazon as an evil bogeyman, even claiming, “Amazon presents a threat to the very fabric of society and the social contract we work to uphold for all working people.”

As organized by this campaign, the paperwork newly filed with the NLRB serves as notice that at least some Amazon workers in Bessemer want to hold an election to determine whether or not they will unionize; and, of course, the RWDSU would represent the workers under the filing.

Observers may have heard of RWDSU before. In fact, this was the union involved in the 2019 cancellation of Amazon’s plans to open a second headquarters in New York City, reportedly killing 25,000-40,000 jobs in the area. U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) was a vocal ally of the union in its efforts.

On Monday, Senator Sanders tweeted, “I stand with the Amazon warehouse workers in Alabama exercising their constitutional right to form a union.”

Apparently unaware of Amazon wage policies, a former Democratic candidate responded to Sanders’ tweet by writing, “We deserve a $15 minimum wage!”

Sanders’ tweet pointed to the need for “decent wages and working conditions” as reasons for backing the BAmazon Union push.

The Washington Post on Monday reported, “Amazon counters that its warehouses are safe and that it pays a minimum wage of $15 an hour, as well as offering such benefits as health care, vision and dental insurance, spokeswoman Rachael Lighty said in an emailed statement. ‘We don’t believe this group represents the majority of our employees’ views.'”

Amazon director of operations Travis Maynard has previously described the Bessemer fulfillment center as “a safe, innovative workplace.” Maynard also pointed to the “industry leading pay and benefits that start on day one” at the facility.

At the groundbreaking for the Bessemer fulfillment center in 2018, Governor Kay Ivey praised the “high-tech environment” that Alabamians would get to work in at the facility.

“Amazon is one of the world’s most dynamic companies, and we couldn’t be more proud to see the company select Alabama for one of its high-tech fulfillment centers,” Ivey said when plans to build the Bessemer facility were finalized in June 2018.

“This facility represents good jobs for our citizens and the beginning of a long partnership that I believe will see Amazon expand and grow in Alabama in the future,” she added.

Upon the recent announcement of the plan for the two delivery stations, Bessemer Mayor Kenneth Gulley said, “I am extremely excited with the relationship the city of Bessemer has established with Amazon. The Fulfillment Center which opened earlier this year has been a tremendous success and has given opportunity to many of our residents as well as others throughout Jefferson County and the surrounding communities.”

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

1 day ago

Prayer police? City of Birmingham urges ‘skipping the hand-holding’ around Thanksgiving table

(City of Birmingham/YouTube)

The City of Birmingham on Monday afternoon released a video with some rather specific recommendations of what people not do this Thanksgiving.

Mayor Randall Woodfin opens the video by noting the message is intended “especially for our Birmingham city employees.”

The video, shared with the hashtag “#DontDoThat,” subsequently transitions to an on-screen narrator commenting on clips and images which people should — per the City — avoid replicating.

“Remember: practice social distancing and make sure you limit, as much as possible, your in-person contacts to people in your household,” the narrator says after asking viewers not to travel at all during the holiday season.

A clip then plays of two people answering the front door of their house to greet two other people, presumably family members, who are wheeling suitcases. The four people then prepare to hug, before the action pauses and the narrator yells, “Ahhhhhh, don’t do that.”

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The narrator then outlines the recommendation that people should not spend Thanksgiving or any other holiday with family members — or anyone — not in their immediate households this year.

“[A]void shaking hands and hugging,” the narrator adds, pointing to the still-paused hugs about to occur on-screen. “That’s a no-no.”

The next clip shows six individuals, all wearing masks, assembled in a home dining room. One individual beckons for the others to gather around; they then begin to do so and prepare to hold hands, as people often do in prayer.

The clip comes to a halt, with the narrator pointing to the imagery and warning, “Don’t do that.”

“This Thanksgiving, give thanks but consider skipping the hand-holding,” he continues.

The narrator subsequently cautions that the CDC is recommending gatherings of no more than 10 people.

The video shows an image on-screen of four people sitting at a dining table: one adult male, one adult female and two children.

“That’s about right,” the narrator remarks of that image.

Another activity specifically recommended that people not do by the City of Birmingham video also included playing Twister.

WATCH:

View recommendations from the CDC here.

RELATED: Dr. Scott Harris: No shutdown needed ‘if people can just follow the guidance that we have in place now’

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

2 days ago

Del Marsh to step down as Senate pro tem, be succeeded by Greg Reed

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Senate Republican Caucus met on Monday, and Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) announced he will be stepping down as leader of the legislature’s upper chamber.

The Caucus membership in the same meeting then unanimously nominated current Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper) to succeed Marsh as pro tem; since Republicans have a super majority in the chamber, Reed’s ascension to that role is all but assured now.

The GOP senators then selected State Sen. Clay Scofield (R-Guntersville) to serve as the next majority leader of the body, succeeding Reed.

The moves are expected to take effect at the beginning of the 2021 regular session of the Alabama Legislature.

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Marsh recently announced he will not seek another Senate term in 2022. He has served as pro tem since 2010 and as a senator since 1998.

Reed and Scofield have both served in the Senate since the Republican wave of 2010. Reed has served as majority leader since 2014. Scofield is currently chairman of the Senate Committee on Confirmations.

This is breaking news and will be updated.

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

2 days ago

State of Alabama allocates $3.6M in COVID relief funds to food banks

(Hal Yeager/Governor's Office, YHN)

Governor Kay Ivey’s office on Monday announced that the governor has allocated a total of $3,606,104 to reimburse several Alabama food banks for expenses incurred due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Alabama received approximately $1.9 billion total of federal CARES Act funding to respond to and mitigate the pandemic. Alabama Act 2020-199 initially designated up to $300 million of that total “to be used to support citizens, businesses, and non-profit and faith-based organizations of the state directly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.”

Monday’s announcement comes as part of that designation. The funds will go to the Alabama Feeding Initiative, a program of the Alabama Food Bank Association.

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The beneficiaries of the reimbursed funds will be Community Food Bank of Central Alabama, Feeding the Gulf Coast, Food Bank of East Alabama, Food Bank of North Alabama, Montgomery Area Food Bank, Selma Area Food Bank, West Alabama Food Bank and Wiregrass Area Food Bank.

Reimbursed expenses fall into one of the following categories:

  • the purchase of food, packaging and related supplies to meet increased demand;
  • operational expenses, including fuel and maintenance, incurred due to handling a higher amount for food, as well as open-air distribution events;
  • rental costs of storage space and vehicles to handle increased volumes of food; and
  • to purchase PPE, screening equipment and decontamination services to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

You can view an exact breakdown of the reimbursements being paid for here.

Ivey said in a statement, “Alabama is a state where neighbors help neighbors, even in the most difficult times.”

“The Coronavirus pandemic presented significant challenges around the world, as well as here at home in our own state,” she continued. “Food banks in communities across Alabama have been a lifeline for those in need, and I am proud to be able to put these funds toward the Alabama Feeding Initiative. I have told Alabamians that I remain committed to getting these CARES Act funds into the hands of those who need it.”

RELATED: HomTex getting over $10.5M in CARES Act funds to build PPE manufacturing center in Black Belt, creating over 300 jobs

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

2 days ago

Alabama’s Miles College launches collaboration with IBM to develop students’ tech skill sets

(Pixabay, YHN)

Miles College on Monday announced a new multi-million dollar collaboration with IBM on a comprehensive program designed to develop high-demand skill sets in students and faculty that align with industry needs and trends.

As part of this program, IBM is reportedly donating $2 million worth of artificial intelligence (AI) and open hybrid cloud technology resources to help Miles students build 21st-century economy skills they will need in the modern job market.

According to a release from the college located in Fairfield, IBM and Miles College are both building on the necessity to advance digital skills in education and are dedicated to providing future-focused curriculum and educational tools to help train the diverse workforce of tomorrow in fast-growing technologies such as AI, blockchain, data science, cybersecurity, cloud and quantum.

“Miles College celebrates IBM’s leadership in recognizing the value of investing in HBCU students as current and future leaders and innovators in the technology workforce,” stated Bobbie Knight, president of Miles College and a 2020 Yellowhammer Woman of Impact.

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“While the digital divide has historically placed many students at a technological disadvantage, this initiative will absolutely help narrow that gap,” she continued.

The new collaboration extends IBM’s recent investment in technology, assets, resources and skills development with HBCUs across the country through the IBM Skills Academy Academic Initiative.

“Equal access to skills and jobs is the key to unlocking economic opportunity and prosperity for diverse populations,” commented Valinda Scarbro Kennedy, HBCU program lead for IBM Global University Programs. “As we announced earlier this fall, IBM is deeply committed to helping HBCU students build their skills to better prepare for the future of work. Through this collaboration, Miles College students will have an opportunity to gain modern skills in emerging technologies across hybrid cloud, quantum and AI so they can be better prepared for the future of work in the digital economy.”

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

2 days ago

AG Steve Marshall: Violating Alabama Memorial Preservation Act a slippery slope to ‘utter lawlessness’

(Attorney General Steve Marshall/YouTube)

Attorney General Steve Marshall (R-AL) on Monday released a video message warning the people of Alabama that elected officials violating the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act could cause serious, wide-spread societal consequences.

The message came after Marshall on Friday announced that his office is filing suit against Madison County for recently removing a Confederate monument from the county courthouse grounds in Huntsville. This monument was originally erected in 1905.

Marshall said this is the fifth lawsuit in 2020 alone brought against a city or county for allegedly violating the act, which prohibits the removal, alteration or destruction of any structure of historical significance more than 40 years old in the state.

“In recent months, we have witnessed a number of elected officials take it upon themselves to tear down monuments and statues protected under Alabama law,” Marshall said to begin his statement on Monday.

He then proceeded to outline some key points about the situation.

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Partial transcript as follows:

I want to speak directly to the people of Alabama, as the chief law enforcement officer of our state, to make a few things clear about the actions of these elected officials:

First, any elected official who removes a historic monument or statue in violation of Alabama law has broken the law. He has not simply decided to ‘pay a fee’ so that he can lawfully have the monument or statue removed. He has committed an illegal act.

Second, any elected official sworn into office by taking an oath to uphold the law, who then breaks a duly enacted and constitutional law, has violated that oath.

Third, despite what some newspapers might have you believe, any elected official who disregards the duties of his office in this manner has done so not out of courage, but has done so out of fear. This should not be celebrated, for disregarding the law subverts our democratic system.

For Marshall, this is not just about one law.

He advised that much more is at stake than historical structures. He also noted that elected officials have legal recourse to deal with laws they do not like. Ignoring — or willfully violating — such a law is not a valid recourse, Marshall explained.

“Our government vests the power to make laws in the legislature alone. If an elected official disagrees with a law, he can work through his legislators to see that law changed. That is how our system works,” the attorney general remarked.

Marshall continued, “I urge my fellow Alabamians to take note of those casting votes and spending their tax dollars to violate a law of this state. It is now a question of when not if these same leaders will cast aside yet another law—being guided only by the political winds of the moment.”

He concluded by pointing to the anarchy that has been witnessed in other parts of the country this year when law and order is subverted.

“Around the country, we have seen what happens when city and county officials allow the mob to take over,” Marshall stressed. “It all starts with subtle non-enforcement of laws and ordinances, and quickly devolves into utter lawlessness. As a state, we must remain vigilant that those elected to govern our localities do not lead us slowly down the same road.”

WATCH:

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

2 days ago

UA System successfully completes on-campus fall semester, affirming ‘world-renowned medical expertise’

(UAH/Contributed, YHN)

The University of Alabama System on Friday afternoon released its weekly update with COVID-19 related data from each of its three distinct institutions: the University of Alabama, the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH).

This is the final time the dashboard will be updated for the fall 2020 semester, which — as designed — will be completed remotely from this week through final exams so students do not return to campus following Thanksgiving.

The last weekly update of this unprecedented semester showed that 189 students System-wide tested positive for coronavirus from November 13-19, which saw record testing.

Even as the number of confirmed cases surged around the state of Alabama, the System experienced only a slight increase in its number of positive tests — and a number well below August peaks.

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Another highlight of the latest System data was merely nine positive test results among students, faculty and staff who participated in the System’s sentinel testing program, which is essentially a sampling of the campus population. This indicates a minimal rate of asymptomatic positive cases, per previous System releases on sentinel testing.

The UA System also offered students exit testing at no-charge prior to their return home for the holidays and winter break.

With more than 700 beds available for COVID-positive students needing isolation space, the occupancy rate for the past week System-wide was less than 1%.

Additionally, of the 17,500 clinical enterprise employees in the UAB Health System, the number of positive tests decreased 11% week over week, per the latest update.

While members of the national media — and some in-state — clamored to kill the in-person fall semester, the University of Alabama System has now proven that its meticulous planning, comprehensive mitigation strategies and data-driven adaptability were successful. Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, has previously spoken to this, as has UA System Chancellor Finis St. John.

On Friday, St. John in a statement commended the work of the UA System Health and Safety Task Force for developing and implementing the plan that enabled the three institutions to safely and responsibly remain open this semester.

“We knew from the outset of the global pandemic that the world-renowned medical expertise in the UAB Health System would be the most valuable resource any university could hope for in helping keep our students, faculty and staff safe. They have met and far surpassed our expectations,” St. John said.

In addition to expressing appreciation to the System’s board of trustees, St. John further thanked Dr. Selwyn Vickers and Katie Osburne, who co-chaired the task force, along with Charlie Taylor, who has coordinated its daily operations.

“We are finalizing the updated plan for Spring and much work remains to be done, but we are pleased with the outcome of this Fall semester and the enormous sacrifices our students, faculty, staff and families have made. On behalf of our Board and leadership team, I want to express my heartfelt thanks,” St. John added.

This came immediately on the heels of another huge win for the UA System leadership and staff, as the Altec/Styslinger Genomic Medicine and Data Research Building at UAB received the $50 million in funding from the State of Alabama needed to be completed. This “transformational” precision medicine project could make Birmingham the “Silicon Valley of Biomedicine.”

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

3 days ago

Auburn basketball self-imposes postseason ban for 2020-2021 season

(Auburn Basketball/Twitter)

Auburn University’s athletics department on Sunday announced that its men’s basketball program will forgo postseason competition for the upcoming 2020-2021 season.

According to a release, both the NCAA and the SEC have been notified of the self-imposed postseason ban.

The athletics department and university administration, in conjunction with head coach Bruce Pearl, reportedly came to the decision in light of the ongoing matter that first surfaced with the arrest of then-Auburn assistant coach Chuck Person in fall 2017.

Person, who was fired by Auburn shortly after being arrested, last year was sentenced to probation and community service hours after pleading guilty to one bribery conspiracy charge.

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Person was charged with accepting approximately $91,500 in bribes from a financial adviser to steer NBA-bound players to him.

“Auburn has cooperated with the NCAA and will continue to do so,” the Auburn Athletics release said on Sunday. “We regret the impact this decision has on our student-athletes, yet it was made in the best long-term interest of the program. Because of the ongoing matter, we will not comment further but hope for swift consideration and resolution of the matter.”

Auburn is not ranked in preseason rankings ahead of the quickly approaching season; Pearl’s squad in 2019-2020 finished 25-6 after the coronavirus pandemic halted the season amid the SEC tournament and before the annual NCAA Tournament. The season before that, Auburn reached its first-ever Final Four.

“This was a difficult decision but the right decision,” Pearl said in a Sunday statement. “I hate it for our current players. They lost the opportunity for the postseason last year because of COVID, and now they will miss the postseason again. It’s a two-year postseason penalty for them. However, we need to take this penalty now to put it behind us.”

Auburn will open its season against Saint Joseph’s at the Fort Myers Tip-Off event on Thanksgiving.

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

3 days ago

Longtime Alabama State Rep. Alvin Holmes passes away

(Alabama House Democratic Caucus/Facebook)

Former Alabama State Rep. Alvin Holmes (D-Montgomery) died on Saturday at age 81.

Holmes served in the legislature for 44 years — from 1974 until 2018, when he lost a primary bid for reelection. He was the longest serving member of the House of Representatives.

An alumnus and former faculty member of Alabama State University, Holmes was a Montgomery native.

In a statement, House Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) said Holmes “was not only a champion of civil rights in Alabama but he was also a champion of all taxpayers.

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“He took stands to insure African Americans were treated fairly and that tax dollars were spent wisely,” the speaker continued. “Representative Holmes could be forceful at times and give no ground on issues he was passionate about but no one ever questioned his sincerity. I was proud to call him a friend. My wife Debbie and I offer our sincere condolences to his family.”

State Rep. Chris England (D-Tuscaloosa), who is also the chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party, stated that “Representative Alvin Holmes was a great Democrat and a fighter.”

“He stood on the frontlines of the fight for civil rights and was willing to sacrifice everything in his fight for justice for all. He not only had a long and distinguished career as a civil rights leader, but also as a member of the legislature, serving his constituents faithfully and dutifully for 44 years. Alabama has lost a giant, whose wit, intelligence, fearlessness, selfless determination, and leadership will be sorely missed. My prayers are with his friends, family, and colleagues,” England added.

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

5 days ago

Air Force selects Alabama’s Maxwell AFB to house new helicopter unit vital to national security

(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)

The United States Air Force on Friday announced Montgomery’s Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base has been selected as the preferred location to host the MH-139A Grey Wolf helicopter Formal Training Unit (FTU).

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations and its Subcommittee on Defense, applauded the Air Force’s decision.

The new MH-139 Grey Wolf will serve as a replacement and upgrade to the Air Force’s UH-1N Huey, reportedly advancing the helicopter in the areas of speed, range, endurance, payload and survivability.

The MH-139A FTU will supplant the mission of the Air Force Reserve’s 908th Airlift Wing’s aging C-130Hs currently at Maxwell in providing security and support for our nation’s intercontinental ballistic missile fields.

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“This long-awaited news regarding the MH-139 Grey Wolf is excellent for Maxwell, the Montgomery area, and the entire state,” Shelby said in a statement.

“It comes as no surprise that the 908th Airlift Wing has again been chosen to receive advanced, state-of-the-art aircraft for our Air Force. I am pleased that Maxwell will continue this tradition with this next generation aircraft. The decision highlights and reinforces our state’s success in supporting a robust national defense. Not only does this support jobs for reservists and experts in the area, but it also enables economic development and future opportunities for Maxwell,” Alabama’s senior senator added.

Per an Air Force release, additional MH-139 capabilities include civil search and rescue, airlift support, National Capital Region missions, survival school, and test support.

“As the lead command for the Air Force’s MH-139 helicopter fleet, bringing the MH-139 FTU online is an important step to ensure the nation’s Nuclear Triad remains safe, secure, effective and ready,” commented Gen. Tim Ray, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command.

“The MH-139 will be an absolute game changer providing increased intercontinental ballistic missile security in support of USSTRATCOM nuclear deterrence operations,” he continued. “The Grey Wolf will bring significantly improved capabilities, ready to rapidly deliver more defenders to missile fields while also providing increased convoy security.”

The first MH-139 aircraft is expected to arrive in 2023. Those airmen currently supporting the C-130 mission in Montgomery will transition to support the MH-139. The 908th Airlift Wing consists of over 1,198 individuals and boasts an annual economic impact of more than $60 million annually. Maxwell’s close proximity to the Undergraduate Helicopter Pilot Training at Fort Rucker allows for increased efficiency for the Air Force.

The Air Force will now conduct an environmental impact analysis before finalizing Friday’s decision in the winter of 2021.

“The impact this decision will have on our community is significant,” emphasized Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed. “Montgomery continues to prove that it is not only serious about its support for our military but that we are serious about our ability to look ahead, to anticipate opportunities, and to successfully compete for the projects, missions, and initiatives that will continue to carry our community and our nation forward well into the future.”

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