Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.
Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.
“The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.
Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.
Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.
Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.
"Frontier Airlines will begin direct flights from Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport on April 11, the airline announced today. Frontier Airlines will start by offering direct service to Denver, Orlando and Philadelphia from Birmingham. Introductory prices will start at $39."
"At 87, Clint Eastwood is not only trying new things, he’s trying daring new things, and his new film 15:17 to Paris represents one of the most audacious gambits of his career. To dramatize the tale of three Americans who tackled and subdued a heavily armed Islamist terrorist on a train out of Amsterdam in 2015, Eastwood cast the young men, none of whom had professional acting experience, as themselves. It’s a decision with little precedent in the entire history of motion pictures."
Dynetics finishes critical hardware for NASA’s Space Launch System
Huntsville-based Dynetics has finished a critical hardware component for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS).
As part of its effort to build the Universal Stage Adapter (USA) for SLS, the Dynetics/RUAG Space USA team recently completed the USA composite panel Manufacturing Test Demonstrator (MTD), according to a release from Dynetics.
The MTD is a full size USA panel, representing one of four panels that comprise a complete USA. The company noted that the demonstration panel is a significant step toward building the USA flight hardware at the Dynetics and RUAG facilities in Decatur.
“Our team has worked with the RUAG team to complete this MTD panel that will be used to validate manufacturing, handling and testing aspects of the design before steaming ahead to manufacture the flight hardware,” said Robert Wright, Dynetics’ USA project manager. “This panel is a result of our teams working closely with NASA to reach a high fidelity design baseline well ahead of the USA Critical Design Review, allowing us to purchase the long-lead bonding mold required to make full scale USA composite panels.”
SLS will be the rocket that launches America’s next lunar mission planned for 2024 and is a specialized launch vehicle designed, developed and managed by Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. SLS has been billed as the only rocket powerful enough to carry the Orion spacecraft, astronauts and supplies to the moon in one launch.
A key piece of hardware for SLS, USA will measure 32.4 feet tall and 27.6 feet in diameter at its largest point.
The company outlined that once RUAG has completed the panel manufacturing demonstrations, Dynetics will begin system assembly manufacturing demonstrations. The final USA demonstration will take place at the Dynetics Aerospace Complex and involve a full length, vertical bonded joint.
“The vertical bonded joint technology allows the team to eliminate splice plates and fasteners that are typically used in composite joints,” said Wright. “This results in lower mass for the USA and improved payload lift capability for the SLS rocket.”
Following completion of the MTD operations at the Decatur facilities, the team will begin working at Marshall’s test stands to perform full-scale damage tolerance testing.
NASA announced last week that it has resumed Green Run testing of SLS’s core stage, an essential step toward the rocket’s completion.
“Green Run is the step-by-step testing and analysis of the new SLS rocket core stage that will send astronauts to the Moon,” said Richard Sheppard, the SLS Stages Green Run Test Lead from Marshall Space Flight Center. “This testing will reduce risks for, not only the first flight, but also for the Artemis mission that will land astronauts on the Moon in 2024.”
South Alabama football schedules series with Ole Miss
The fewer than 300 miles between Mobile and Oxford will become familiar territory for fans of the University of South Alabama Jaguars and the Ole Miss Rebels later this decade.
The two schools have reached an agreement for their football teams to play a home-and-home series in 2028 and 2029, according to a release from the Jaguar athletic department.
“We are very excited to sign this home-and-home contract with Ole Miss,” Jag head coach Steve Campbell said. “They have a proud program and tradition, it will be great to have them play in Hancock Whitney Stadium; hopefully they will be the first of many Power Five schools to make that trip to play here in Mobile. Mississippi has been very good for us as far as recruiting, we have brought in a lot of talented student-athletes from the state, I know it will be exciting for those future recruits to play Ole Miss.”
The teams will kick off the series in Oxford on September 2, 2028, with a return trip to Hancock Whitney Stadium set for September 1, 2029.
A visit from the Mississippi State Bulldogs in 2014 was the last time the Jags squared off against an SEC team at home. The Jags last played the three-time national champion Rebels in Oxford in 2017, a game the home team won 47-27.
The Jags will also face Florida in 2020, Tennessee in 2021, LSU in 2024, Auburn in 2025 and Kentucky in 2026.
Crimson Tide solidifies home-and-home series with Pac-12 opponent
While questions linger about the Alabama Crimson Tide’s out-of-conference game with a Pac-12 opponent this season, the University of Alabama athletic department announced it has added a home-and-home series with the Arizona Wildcats for the 2032 and 2033 football seasons.
“We are excited to announce another home-and-home for our future football schedules with the addition of Arizona for the 2032 and 2033 seasons,” said Alabama Director of Athletics Greg Byrne in a release from his department. “These meetings will be the first between the Crimson Tide and Wildcats, providing our teams and our fan bases exciting new opportunities during the regular season. As I said early on, we are going to work hard at adding more home-and-homes to our non-conference schedules, and we are pleased that we’ve been able to do that, securing nine of them thus far that will begin in 2022 with Texas.”
The Wildcats come to Tuscaloosa on Sept. 4, 2032, with the Crimson Tide heading west to Tucson on Sept. 3, 2033.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban sees the series following in the pattern of top-tier competition for his program.
“The addition of Arizona is another example of the commitment our administration has to creating outstanding schedules for many years to come,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. “Arizona is a tremendous football program and the opportunity to play this type of competition only makes our program stronger while providing a lot of excitement for both fan bases.”
Earlier this year, Saban reached yet another astonishing milestone when he became the first head coach to have players at all 22 positions drafted in the first round of the NFL draft.
As for this season’s Pac-12 opponent, the Crimson Tide and the rest of the college football world await decisions from West Coast schools on when, and if, they plan to start the season as they deal with COVID-19. The Crimson Tide are scheduled to open against USC on September 5 in Arlington, Texas.
One national pundit based in Los Angeles has reported the game will not be played. Paul Finebaum has reported that Alabama is exploring options with other opponents for the same weekend in the event USC is unable to play.
Mike Bohn, USC’s director of athletics, has said the school has “every intention” of playing the game. Bohn is scheduled to appear on Finebaum’s radio show on Thursday afternoon.
Reed, Woodfin highlight small business relief efforts in their cities
(Mayor Steven L. Reed, Randall Woodfin/Facebook, YHN)
Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed and Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin outlined their cities’ respective efforts to aid small businesses during a regional teleconference Wednesday night.
Hosted by the Small Business Administration (SBA), the teleconference included numerous black leaders from across the Southeast.
SBA regional administrator Ashley Bell, an Entrepreneurship Policy Advisor for the White House Opportunity & Revitalization Council, noted that “the clock is ticking before the lights go out” on many minority-owned small businesses suffering as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
Woodfin pointed out that, in his city, “90% of our businesses only had 14 days of cash buffer in the bank prior to COVID-19.”
He assessed the situation as critical.
“Our small businesses are struggling, have been struggling,” Woodfin remarked. “Many will be forced to close if we did not do anything locally. There was no cavalry coming.”
To begin providing assistance, the City of Birmingham formed a public-private partnership called #BhamStrong. Under the program, contributions from the private sector helped to form a $2.4 million pool of funds from which small businesses could pull for relief.
Woodfin said the program has provided 90 businesses with low-interest loans for six-month periods. Out of those, 51% are minority-owned and 41% are owned by women, according to him.
The city has also formed a partnership with Hope Credit Union and Goldman Sachs to facilitate access to SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Woodfin said the partnership has served 52 Birmingham businesses.
“Our whole goal is very simple, we have to do everything we can to invest in and protect black businesses in our community,” Woodfin said.
In Montgomery, Reed said some of the shortfalls of PPP have led the city to establish some of its own programs for small business relief.
“What we’ve done here in Montgomery is we’ve developed economic and community impact task forces to really look at not only the financial but the socioeconomic impact of this pandemic on our city and look at ways we can restore Montgomery’s vibrant economy and help those who are most impacted,” he stated.
Among the community programs the city of Montgomery has undertaken are free mask giveaways and testing partnerships with Hyundai and Alabama State University.
Reed, a member of the board of advisors at a regional bank, mentioned that he and his team have performed significant outreach to the private sector to encourage their involvement in assisting small businesses.
“We’ve challenged our bankers to really look at those disadvantaged businesses, look at the high-need communities and those entities that are serving in those areas that did not have access to some of the traditional loans and see if we can help them,” he explained. “We have had tremendous success in doing that.”
Guidance on how to navigate what can be an overwhelming process is an additional resource the city is helping to provide, according to Reed.
“We have also established an opportunity with our chamber of commerce by pulling together trained professionals that are doing an initial triage, consultation over the phone with business owners,” he explained. “When necessary they are scheduling follow-up appointments to assist these business owners in how to get their documents before the financial institutions. What information do they need that they don’t have right now and how to connect these dots for them.”
Coming soon will be a local fund from which Montgomery small businesses can gain access to resources.
Reed outlined that the hub the city has set up for all of the relevant information is MGMReady.com and that his work on behalf of his city’s small businesses will continue in the coming weeks and months.
“We know that help is still needed,” Reed concluded. “This shortfall impacts those entrepreneurs, workers and small businesses. So while national retailers and chains might be able to rebound, for businesses in Montgomery, we know that is not always the case. So we are always looking for good ideas that we can implement.”
Relief available for Spire small business customers
(Alabama Retail Association/Facebook, YHN)
One of Alabama’s natural gas utilities is seeking to help small business customers get back on their feet.
Spire has created a fund to provide relief on bills for small businesses adversely affected by the COVID-19 closures. Under the program, eligible businesses may receive up to $200 in grant money through the program.
Customers can apply through the company’s website.
Alabama Public Service Commission President Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh believes the program is one of many which can provide an added boost to the state’s small businesses.
“We need to do whatever we can to help small businesses,” she told Yellowhammer News. “Programs like Spire’s will give Alabama’s small businesses the relief they need until they get fully back on their feet. The quicker we can get the small business sector moving at full speed, the faster our economy will recover.”
Cavanaugh, whose commission regulates Spire, pointed out that grants continue to be available.
“There is still plenty of money remaining in this relief fund, so I would encourage everyone not to be shy and apply immediately,” she said. “Alabama’s entrepreneurs are at the heart of our economy. It’s encouraging to see companies such as Spire stepping up to do their part to help them.”
On the front end of the application process, small business customers with active gas service through Spire during the last six months will need to show a loss in revenue month over month due to COVID-19 closure, a valid business status through either the Alabama Secretary of State’s Office or the Better Business Bureau and that they are locally-owned and not a franchise.
Spire committed in April to provide $500,000 in matching funds as part of its DollarHelp program for customers affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Spire originally created the DollarHelp program in 1982 to assist limited-income customers in the communities it serves. Now managed through the United Way, DollarHelp allows Spire customers to donate $1, monthly, to help other customers in need of assistance with their natural gas bills.
Spire began on April 16 matching the expected first-year contributions of new and increased pledges, dollar for dollar, up to $500,000.
“With these new challenges, come new opportunities – new opportunities to help and engage with our customers on an even deeper level,” said Suzanne Sitherwood, Spire CEO, in a release from the company.
Video: ULA launches Boeing’s secretive space plane back to orbit
(United Launch Alliance/Flickr)
Alabama rocket builder United Launch Alliance (ULA) launched the secretive Boeing X-37B space plane back to orbit on Sunday.
The mission, conducted on behalf of the U.S. Space Force, marked X-37B’s sixth trip to space and the fifth time it was delivered by ULA. For this mission, ULA employed its Atlas V 501 rocket built at the company’s 1.6 million square foot facility in Decatur.
Launching from Cape Canaveral, Florida, this was ULA’s second mission for the U.S. Space Force. The company previously completed the newly-formed space agency’s first national security space mission in March.
The X-37B is an autonomous, reusable spacecraft built by Boeing for the U.S. Air Force. It is designed to operate in low-earth orbit, 150 to 500 miles above the Earth.
Although part of a classified program, the X-37B has been more visible to the public lately. Two different X-37B vehicles have been built.
What started out as a program featuring short trips to and from space has turned into long missions.
“Each flight has been successively longer in setting a record for duration,” Boeing’s Jim Chilton recently outlined. “The last flight was 780 days, start to finish. If you add up all the missions, just under eight years in orbit and a billion miles. So a lot of traveling by this machine. It has hosted a wide-variety of experiments and kind of advanced the state-of-the-art in both reusable vehicles and the experiments you can host.”
In 2012, the U.S. Air Force released footage of the vehicle returning from its second mission.
The forgiveness application process is an essential next step for Alabama small businesses and the state’s banking industry, which helped facilitate the loans.
“With the release of guidance on Paycheck Protection Program loan forgiveness, small business owners are one step closer to realizing the greatest benefit of the stimulus program designed to provide relief from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Scott Latham, president and CEO of the Alabama Bankers Association, in a statement to Yellowhammer News. “Just as in the initial phase of PPP, Alabama banks stand ready to help small business owners through the forgiveness process and to further partner in working to reignite our state’s economy.”
The National Federation for Independent Business (NFIB) is holding a special webinar on Tuesday, May 20, to advise small businesses on the loan forgiveness process. Those interested in participating can register through the NFIB site.
The second round of PPP funding has brought more than $1.5 billion in relief to Alabama small businesses.
A report in the Wall Street Journal on Sunday noted that lawmakers expect to revise PPP to provide more flexibility in how the funds may be spent. Under the original terms, businesses are required to spend at least 75% of the loans on payroll. However, some businesses with higher overhead costs, such as restaurants and hair salons, have struggled to make PPP funding work for their operations.
It is also expected that changes will include extending the time to use the funding beyond the terms currently required by the program.
The form and instructions from SBA include several measures to reduce compliance burdens and simplify the process for borrowers, including:
Options for borrowers to calculate payroll costs using an “alternative payroll covered period” that aligns with borrowers’ regular payroll cycles.
Flexibility to include eligible payroll and non-payroll expenses paid or incurred during the eight-week period after receiving their PPP loan.
Step-by-step instructions on how to perform the calculations required by the CARES Act to confirm eligibility for loan forgiveness.
Borrower-friendly implementation of statutory exemptions from loan forgiveness reduction based on rehiring by June 30.
Addition of a new exemption from the loan forgiveness reduction for borrowers who have made a good-faith, written offer to rehire workers that was declined.
Boeing’s classified X-37B payload for ULA’s most recent U.S. Space Force launch
Three minutes and 40 seconds into Sunday’s mission carried out by United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Alabama-built Atlas V rocket, the payload fairings jettisoned on schedule, introducing Boeing’s cutting-edge space vehicle to space for the sixth time.
The X-37B is a reusable spacecraft built by Boeing for the U.S. Air Force. Although part of a classified program, the X-37B has been more visible to the public lately. Two different X-37B vehicles have been built. The most recent launch was the fifth time ULA has powered X-37B into space.
During a pre-launch interview, Boeing’s Jim Chilton provided an understated summary of the vehicle’s characteristics.
“X-37B is a really interesting machine,” he remarked.
X-37B is a reusable, autonomous space plane. It is designed to operate in low-earth orbit, 150 to 500 miles above the Earth.
“It can be rapidly reconfigured to host a wide-variety of experiments, and it can take off from standard launch pads in standard rockets, under fairings,” explained Chilton. “And it can land autonomously through public air space. You add all that up, and there is a lot of innovation in this machine.”
What started out as a program featuring short trips to and from space has turned into long missions.
“Each flight has been successively longer in setting a record for duration,” Chilton outlined. “The last flight was 780 days, start to finish. If you add up all the missions, just under eight years in orbit and a billion miles. So a lot of traveling by this machine. It has hosted a wide-variety of experiments and kind of advanced the state-of-the-art in both reusable vehicles and the experiments you can host.”
This most recent U.S. Space Force mission, ULA’s second for the newly-formed agency, brought something new for the X-37B.
“This mission is really interesting in that it is the first time we have flown the service module,” said Chilton. “The service module extends the vehicle capability. We can host more payloads that way. So this is the most we have ever carried on X-37B.”
Boeing is utilizing the features of the service module to facilitate research at one of the nation’s service academies.
“One of the things we are carrying on the service module, which can release independent satellites, is a satellite designed and built by the cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy,” Chilton detailed. “They built it, we’ll release it, and they’ll get a lot of learning out of that, a lot of science.”
The Naval Research Lab has placed an experiment onboard X-37B which will turn solar energy into RF energy and attempt to beam it back to Earth.
“Very early research kind of project, but long term great potential,” Chilton said of the experiment. “Very exciting and the kind of thing this machine was built to do.”
X-37B can exercise some agility unavailable to other space vehicles, and this opens up another range of experiments.
One of those Chilton pointed to on this mission was a NASA experiment gauging the effects of radiation on seeds in space previously conducted on the space station.
“X-37B can go some places the station doesn’t go, collect different kind of radiation, and our payload bay can be different kind shielding, so they’ll get more data to complete their study,” he noted.
Although only a quarter of its size, the similarities of X-37B to the space shuttle are obvious to the eye.
“You could say the X-37B stands on the shoulders of the space shuttle,” Chilton recognized. “An interesting fact a lot of people don’t know is we modified the orbiter processing facilities. The actual hangars the space shuttle flew in and out of are the homes of the X-37B.”
Its autonomous capabilities, flight duration and an ability to more rapidly reconfigure are some of the ways in which X-37B sets itself apart, according to Chilton.
“Frankly, the challenge of coming down through public air space without crew has been proven to work well,” he noted. “A difference is also the duration which the X-37B can fly. Our last mission was 780 days, and that’s just a lot longer than a shuttle could stay aloft.”
“The success of this mission resulted from collaboration with our customer while working through challenging, and ever changing, health and safety conditions,” said Gary Wentz, ULA vice president of Government and Commercial Programs in a statement from the company. “We were honored to partner with the U.S. Space Force to dedicate this mission to first responders, front-line workers, and those affected by COVID-19. It is truly a unique time in our history and I want to thank the entire team for their continued dedication and focus on mission success.”
— Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett (@SecAFOfficial) May 17, 2020
Riding along with OTV-6 is FalconSat-8, a small satellite developed by the U.S. Air Force Academy. The mission also carries NASA experiments, including one to determine the results of radiation and other space effects on various materials and another to assess space effects on seeds used to grow food.
This was ULA’s 139th mission, during which it has enjoyed a 100% success rate. It was the 84th for an Atlas V rocket and the seventh in the 501 configuration.
Video: Chris Hodges, Micah McElveen discuss the spiritual path forward during uncertain times
Chris Hodges, founding and senior pastor at Church of the Highlands, joined Micah McElveen recently to discuss the spiritual path forward during these uncertain times.
According to McElveen, founder and CEO of Vapor Ministries, Church of the Highlands is his organization’s largest supporter. McElveen called Hodges a mentor and a friend.
Referencing one of his recently authored books, Hodges spoke about the importance of establishing a clear path in your life based on Proverbs 29. He paraphrased its lesson by saying, “If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves. But when they attend to what he reveals, they are the most blessed.”
Hodges and McElveen continue an insightful conversation in which Hodges offers encouragement for the days and weeks ahead, why he thinks the term “social” distancing is not accurate and the value in having clear direction for our lives and where that starts. Hodges also offers sound advice for keeping a productive routine during these odd times and answers the question: What is the greatest way to have influence in other peoples’ lives?
(@GatorsFB, @AlabamaFTBL, @CoachGeneChizik, @AuburnFootball/Twitter, Ole Miss Football/Facebook, YHN)
On a recent edition of “SEC For Now” on the SEC Network, former Auburn head coach Gene Chizik ranked his top five quarterbacks in the SEC heading into the 2020 college football season.
According to Chizik, these five signal-callers stand out among their peers.
5. John Rhys Plumlee, Sophomore, 6’0″, 192 lbs, Ole Miss
Key 2019 stat: 1,023 rushing yards (led the team)
Chizik’s take: “He showed spurts of brilliance last year running the football. I know he’s got to improve throwing the football.” On new head coach Lane Kiffin’s influence on Plumlee, “What he could do with this guy could be masterful.”
Key 2019 stat: Averaged 7.9 yards per passing attempt.
Chizik’s take: “There has been so much energy out there about him because of what he brought to the table for Wake Forest. He’s a big, athletic guy.” Based on offensive coordinator Todd Monken’s success with quarterbacks in the past, he called the relationship between Monken and Newman “a really interesting match between the two of them.”
3. Mac Jones, Junior, 6’2″, 205 lbs, Alabama
Key 2019 stat: 1,503 yards passing on 141 attempts
Chizik’s take: The weapons around Jones are something he will capitalize on for success. “What I’ve seen Mac Jones do up to this point, particularly his last game against Michigan in the bowl game, I would say that is going to be very interesting scenario in that quarterback room.”
Chizik’s take: “I think they’re destined right now to have…a great year on offense with what Jimbo has done there.” Texas A&M’s returning weapons, and a third year under Fisher, should lend to even greater improvement. “He will probably end his career as the leading passer in the history of the school.”
1. Kyle Trask, Senior, 6’5″, 239 lbs, Florida
Key 2019 stat: 25 TDs, 7 INT
Chizik’s take: “There’s no question in mind. What I saw him do when he took over for Feleipe Franks last year, leading them to an 11-2 season, great win in the Orange Bowl. He’s exactly what Dan Mullen wants…Really picked up the offense. He’s been in the offense now for three years. Dan Mullen is one of the best play callers in college football. There are no staff changes. This guy has a chance to bring an East title, for sure, this year and compete with Georgia.”
Notable absences from Chizik’s top five:
Bo Nix, Auburn — “I think Bo has a great career ahead of him but he lost so many weapons around him,” said Chizik.
Myles Brennan, LSU — Chizik noted the uncertainty surrounding the offense now that offensive coordinator Joe Brady has moved on to the NFL.
Alabama’s ULA to honor healthcare workers, first responders on next Space Force mission
United Launch Alliance (ULA) is making final preparations for its next launch on behalf of the U.S. Space Force, a mission with which the organizations plan to honor front-line workers in the fight against COVID-19.
Built at ULA’s 1.6 million square foot plant in Decatur, an Atlas V 501 rocket is set to launch the USSF-7 mission for Space Force from Cape Canaveral, Florida on Saturday. The launch will mark the sixth flight of the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV-6) and ULA’s second mission for the U.S. Space Force.
“Despite unprecedented circumstances, we continue to launch critical missions,” said Gary Wentz, ULA vice president of Government and Commercial Programs in a statement from the company. “We are honored to partner with the U.S. Space Force and Air Force to recognize healthcare workers, first responders and other essential personnel affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett and Gen. Jay Raymond, Chief of Space Operations for U.S. Space Force, both extended their support for America’s healthcare workers and first responders, as well as the mission’s #AmericaStrong theme.
The mission, ULA’s 139th, will have a full payload.
Riding along with OTV-6 will be FalconSat-8, a small satellite developed by the U.S. Air Force Academy. The mission also carries NASA experiments, including one to determine the results of radiation and other space effects on various materials and another to assess space effects on seeds used to grow food.
ULA provided some amazing shots of the rocket as it made final preparations as part of roll-out day.
California shouldn’t tell Bama, Auburn if they get to play football
(Paul Finebaum/Facebook, @SEC/Twitter, Golden Gate National Recreation Area/Facebook, YHN)
It took 40 years in the media business, but Paul Finebaum finally said something smart earlier this week.
Appearing on ESPN’s “Get Up,” Finebaum said putting together the upcoming college football season would be “survival of the fittest.” He continued, “This is a brutal game … if you can play, you play. If you don’t, you get run over and left behind.”
In the same conversation, Finebaum reported that the Crimson Tide has already had conversations about replacing its opening opponent, USC, with TCU. TCU is scheduled to play another Golden State school, Cal-Berkeley, on September 5.
Many areas in the state of California, home to four Pac-12 teams, have stay-at-home orders in place through the summer. Its state university system has declared there will not be any on-campus classes during the Fall semester. As a result, some believe the Pac-12 will not play football this Fall and instead opt for a Spring season.
Similar problems could pop up in other conferences. Big Ten states such as Michigan, Illinois and New Jersey have extended their stay-at-home orders.
Every conference is facing different situations which are being dictated by political leadership in their member states.
This is why Greg Byrne, Alabama’s athletic director, and his team are reportedly undertaking prudent steps to ensure they do not get left behind. Byrne has said the Crimson Tide are playing games this year — and has even started inviting guests. At Auburn, President Jay Gogue has told students they are “going to have football this fall.”
If a team cannot play because of circumstances at home, then so be it. As Finebaum said, “If you can play, you play. If you don’t, you get run over and left behind.”
What happens in Michigan, Illinois, New Jersey and California should not decide whether schools in the South play football this season.
That is not, however, the stated position of the SEC office.
SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey took to the airwaves on Tuesday seeking to quash any notion that his conference would make decisions separate and apart from those in other regions of the country.
“The notion that one thinks one conference is going to go off and doing something independently isn’t attached to reality,” Sankey told Finebaum.
The reality is California schools have already begun to make decisions affecting the season, and it does not seem they are asking the SEC for input.
There are a lot of reasons why the SEC should be actively forging its own path.
First, there is a long time between now and opening weekend. Only two months ago, COVID-19 projections for Alabama were through the roof. Those projections have not come to fruition. Governor Kay Ivey held true to her word and reopened the state for business. The states of Georgia and Florida have reopened and seen their numbers decline.
Maybe the data in Georgia and Florida has to do with a second reason to go it alone, if necessary: SEC weather. A human being can barely survive an 11:00 a.m. kickoff in Starkville, so what makes anyone think a virus can?
The reality is SEC football fans like to dream. Right this minute, Georgia fans are dreaming of a national championship, Kentucky fans are dreaming of basketball season, and South Carolina fans are dreaming of Dabo Swinney’s move to Tuscaloosa.
If other schools and conferences decide not play this year, schedules will have to be patched together as best as they can. No doubt. But for Sankey to duct tape Bama, Auburn and every other SEC school to the political whims of California makes no sense.
Sankey has extended the “We’re all in this together” mantra a little too far. When it comes to college football, we are most definitely not all in this together.
Fox Sports national radio host Colin Cowherd said two sources have told him the season-opening matchup between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the USC Trojans will not be played. The game is scheduled for September 5 in Arlington, Texas.
Cowherd made the remarks on his radio show Wednesday afternoon.
“Yesterday, I was told by two people I trust the USC-Alabama game will not happen, it’s a pipe dream,” Cowherd reported.
The Los Angeles-based sports personality cited multiple reasons for the game likely being canceled.
“The people I talked to brought up several points,” Cowherd outlined. “Number one, college football is going to be more regional this year. It’s going to be regionalized and it should. Less travel. Don’t put student-athletes, these are not professional athletes, do not put them in the crosshairs on cross country trips. College football is going to be more regional. By the way, there was a report by Paul Finebaum that Bama has already contacted TCU if USC and Bama cannot play. TCU is scheduled to play Cal, USC-Bama, so you had two Pac-12 teams and that is drying up, and it should in my opinion.”
In a Tuesday interview on ESPN’s “Get Up,” radio host Paul Finebaum said this season could end up being “survival of the fittest” for the programs willing to field teams.
“There’s already scrambling going on,” Finebaum said. “Alabama plays Southern Cal in the first game of the season at Jerry’s World, and there’s already talk going on between Alabama and TCU about meeting instead of the other two because TCU plays at Berkeley and the California schools, they do not believe, will be available for that date.”
Cowherd believes this is another reason why USC will decline to keep its date with the Crimson Tide.
He called the inability of some schools to start practice on time “a huge disadvantage to California schools.”
Earlier this week, California State University System announced it would not hold any in-person classes during the Fall semester. This is in addition to Los Angeles County’s determination that it will remain under a stay-at-home order through the summer.
Cowherd expressed his belief that all California schools in the Pac-12 would follow suit in declining to hold classes on campus, which could tip the balance away from playing a full college football schedule.
“USC is concerned, I’m told, about not having enough practices, as Alabama could have a three-week to a month head start on practices,” said Cowherd. “No thanks facing Nick Saban who has 20 more practices than my coaching staff and my players are equipped to deal with. Also, California yesterday announced three more months stay-at-home no large gatherings. How does UCLA practice? How does USC practice? As southern states are much more willing to let it go.”
The Pac-12 is entertaining the option to play a condensed schedule and possibly in the Spring, according to Cowherd.
Meanwhile, he thinks not having to play Saban’s squad is a better scenario for USC.
“Maybe the greatest break in scheduling in the history of college football,” concluded Cowherd. “Not necessarily a bad thing for the Trojans.”
Mike Bohn, USC athletic director, took to social media on Tuesday night to say he has been in communication with Crimson Tide athletic director Greg Byrne, adding that the school had “every intention” of playing its game against Alabama.
I enjoy regular conversations with @Greg_Byrne. We have every intention of playing our game against Alabama.
I’d like to remind all our fans that this is an uncertain time and there will be much disinformation. We continue to explore every model for the 2020 football season.
Video: David Platt joins Alabama ministry leader to discuss radical service in a pandemic
David Platt recently joined Vapor Ministries founder Micah McElveen on a video conference to discuss radical service during the time of a pandemic.
Platt is a former pastor at The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham and now pastors McLean Bible Church in Northern Virginia. His book, “Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream,” was one of Yellowhammer News’ Sixteen must-read books by Alabama authors.
McElveen, who leads the Sylacauga-based ministry, described its mission, saying, “At Vapor Ministries, we bring social, spiritual and economic impact into some of the poorest places on planet Earth. We do that through centers we establish. From those centers we’re able to alleviate poverty and multiply disciples in such a way that brings glory and honor to God.”
The two discuss why serving the marginalized is important to Platt, how the COVID-19 crisis has provided a glimpse into the suffering of others, how Platt focuses his service and what drew him to Vapor Ministries.
Montgomery plumbing company feeds healthcare workers, honors founder — ‘We feel it is our duty’
A Montgomery plumbing company is providing lunches to area healthcare workers as a way show its gratitude to them and to honor the legacy of its founder.
“What the doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers have done the past 2 months is nothing shy of extraordinary,” explained Will Imbusch of Bill Bradley Services in a recent statement. “The countless hours, sleepless nights, sacrificed family time – putting their health on the line, these were true acts of bravery and service exemplified for us, and we cannot thank them enough. The absolute least we, as a community, can do is recognize what they’ve done and show our gratitude.”
Employees from Bill Bradley Services have already delivered lunches to Baptist Health-Prattville and Baptist Health-East. The next two Fridays they will do the same for workers at Baptist Health-South and Jackson Hospital in Montgomery.
Imbusch, grandson of company founder Bill Bradley, called his grandfather a man of faith, family and integrity, and he believes this is exactly what he would have done in this situation.
“My grandfather believed in generosity and acted upon it daily,” he continued, “We feel the best way to honor him and his legacy is to continue giving back, and to uphold the values that he held dear.”
Bradley founded the company more than 50 years ago with a single truck and the help of his wife, Brenda. And, according to Imbusch, it continues to look for ways to give back to honor his grandfather’s legacy.
“Community is a huge part of our lives,” said Imbusch. “A positive community is built on acts of love, service, generosity, progression, and hope for tomorrow. As a member of the community, giving back and saying thank you was not viewed as a choice. We feel it is our duty. It is what Bill Bradley would have done.”
Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth: ‘It is now time to rebuild Alabama’s economy’
(Wikicommons, J. Tuggle/Flickr, ALFA/Flickr, YHN)
Governor Kay Ivey has reopened Alabama’s economy.
At a press conference on Friday, Ivey announced that nearly all businesses in the state may reopen starting Monday at 5:00 p.m. In addition, she removed the prohibition on large gatherings, which will allow worship services to resume.
A few businesses remain in the restricted category, such as night clubs and movie theaters.
What will the new world look like? As part of lifting Ivey’s health order, the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) issued handy information sheets to assist businesses in planning their reopening. ADPH has issued guidelines for gyms, places of worship, restaurants and bars and close contact service providers. The guidelines set forth by ADPH largely mirror those contained in Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth’s 150-page Reopening Alabama Responsibly plan. Masks will continue to serve as essential gear for businesses and their employees. The City of Huntsville has a helpful do-it-yourself guide to making a cloth mask. UAB has posted advice on how to properly wear and clean masks. They are uncomfortable to wear. But they can do more harm than good if people potentially expose their faces to the virus by constantly touching and adjusting them from the outside. So UAB has some tips.
The father of reopening. Ainsworth was the first statewide leader to champion the cause of reopening Alabama’s economy. Pointing toward plateaued case numbers, ample bed space and devastating economic numbers, Ainsworth and State Rep. Danny Garrett (R-Trussville) presented a plan for safely reopening several weeks ago.
On Friday, Ainsworth released a statement in which he commended Ivey and State Health Officer Scott Harris for “leveling the playing field” for businesses while mentioning the many Alabamians who have expressed to him a desire to reopen their businesses.
“Even with increased testing, the percentage of COVID-19 cases in Alabama has declined or remained stable since early April,” Ainsworth explained. “Evidence clearly indicates that the worst his behind us. It is now time to rebuild Alabama’s economy, reenergize our workforce, and redouble our efforts to Reopen Alabama Responsibly.”
Close to 450,000 Alabamians filed for unemployment since February. Ivey referenced this data point as one which influenced her decision to reopen the state. The COVID-19 crisis has been devastating to families and businesses in Alabama and across the country. Nationally, the unemployment rate has spiked to nearly 15%. While Alabama has begun the rebuilding process, the economies of every state in the nation are intertwined in some way. So the faster the rest of the country gets up and moving, the sooner Alabama can reestablish its economic position.
Congressman Bradley Byrne sounded this alarm yesterday morning.
Liability protection for businesses. Ivey amended her emergency order on Friday to provide certain liability protections to businesses, health care providers and other entities in dealing with COVID-19. This “Safe Harbor” order does not provide blanket immunity but aims at protecting against what policy makers have labeled as frivolous lawsuits.
Don Jr., Kimberly Guilfoyle to headline virtual fundraiser — ‘Alabamians were there for us the entire way in 2016’
(Donald Trump Jr/Twitter)
The President Donald Trump campaign announced on Friday that it will be hosting an Alabama-focused virtual fundraiser featuring Donald Trump, Jr. and Kimberly Guilfoyle.
The younger Trump, who has previously visited the Yellowhammer State in person, cited the role played by Alabama in the election four years ago as a reason why he wanted to reconnect with its residents within the means available.
“Alabamians were there for us the entire way in 2016–from the stadium events in Mobile and Madison, to the arena event in Birmingham, and everywhere in between,” Trump Jr. said in a statement from the campaign. “Since social distancing won’t allow us to come in person right now, this virtual event is the best way for us to spend time with the people of Alabama, who are going to play a huge role in getting the President re-elected this year. Kimberly and I are really looking forward to this fundraiser and are personally asking for everyone to pitch in.”
The event is scheduled for Tuesday, May 12 at 3:00 p.m.
“This event is a great opportunity for Alabamians to show our support for the President,” said Cliff Sims, a former Trump White House aide who now serves as an Alabama co-chair for the Trump Victory Finance Committee. “Democrats and their allies in the media are doing everything they can to tear him down. He’s fighting for us, so we need to make sure we’re doing our part to fight for him.”
There are various levels of support available, ranging from $100 for Event Participant and $500 to be listed as a Sponsor, up to $1,000 for co-hosts and $2,800 for Co-Chairs.
Tickets for the event can be purchased through the WinRed website.
Barbershops, salons and in-person dining at restaurants remain impermissible business activities. In addition, gatherings of more than 10 persons are prohibited, keeping worship services virtual for at least another week.
The federal government releases its jobs report on Friday. The report is expected to show a record number of losses.
Video: U.S. Space Force makes powerful recruiting pitch
(U.S. Space Force/Facebook)
Recruitment has opened for the U.S. Space Force, and the newest branch of the U.S. military is making a powerful pitch through its first advertisement.
Opening with a narrator offering, “Some people look to the stars and ask, ‘What if?’ Our job is to have an answer,” the newly-released video combines aspirational language with science fiction quality footage as the agency seeks to fill out its ranks.
Alabamians have already made their mark on Space Force’s early work. United Launch Alliance (ULA) powered the agency’s first national security space mission with an Atlas V rocket built at the company’s Decatur plant.
Final preparations are being made for the Alabama-built Atlas V rocket, which will fly the U.S. Space Force-7 mission on May 16.
Now the sixth branch of the military, Space Force hopes to recruit 16,000 people. It currently has 88 recruits slotted.
At a recent press conference, Gen. John Raymond, chief of space operations, discussed the branch’s importance.
“It is a critical time for space,” Raymond said. “But it’s also an incredibly exciting time. There are advances being made in all sectors of the space domain whether it is national security space, commercial space, civil space with the moon to mars programs and international space.”
The Space Force, which came into existence Dec. 20, 2019, has a $15.4 billion budget.
Alabama doctor urges reopening: Worship ‘a cornerstone of our existence’; Employment ‘a cornerstone of our economy’
(Highland Medical Center/Contributed, Pixabay, YHN)
One North Alabama physician believes the latest data, and the whole well-being of the state’s citizens, call for an immediate, full reopening of Alabama.
Dr. Andrew Hodges practices in internal medicine in Jackson County. Earlier this week, he wrote a letter to State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris outlining the reasons why he thinks the time is right to return everyone to work and to allow churches to conduct worship services.
Hodges complimented Harris on his work throughout the COVID-19 crisis.
“From one internist to another, I want to commend you for a job-well-done under these unprecedented circumstances,” he wrote. “I want to personally let you know I have been praying for you and the rest of our state leadership throughout this pandemic.”
He then went on to articulate his belief that the time has come for reopening.
“At the time of this virus being discovered, I understand the initial fear and panicked response,” wrote Hodges. “However, now that the data has come out, I believe it is time to get back to life. The people of Jackson County, my home, desperately need to get back to work. More so than this, we need to get back to church. Assembling to corporately worship God together is a cornerstone of our existence; people being gainfully employed is a cornerstone of our economy.”
Throughout the lockdown process, many have questioned the need to apply the same approach throughout the country.
Hodges registered his skepticism of a one-size-fits-all model, writing, “Looking at the data, I do not understand why there needs to be any further waiting. It has become apparent to me our COVID19 testing is in danger of misclassification bias in light of the liberal reporting practices increasingly coming to public attention. The R0 value for our state (even more so, many of our counties) is not that of New York, New Jersey, New Orleans, etc. Meanwhile, the collateral damage stands to be massive.”
Will state reclose if cases go up? Plus Baldwin County recovery, Battle’s phase 2 in Huntsville
(Wikicommons, J. Tuggle/Flickr, ALFA/Flickr, YHN)
Alabama is eight days away from the expiration of Governor Kay Ivey’s public health order.
Areas around the state are in full recovery mode. And a lingering question remains: what happens if cases increase?
Phase 2 for Madison County. Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle has an idea of what he wants to see in the next phase of reopening. “I think phase 2 would probably include opening the retail personal contact and the restaurants,” he outlined at a Wednesday press conference.
He hopes to ease into the next phase, as he noted, “To do that, we would love to see that we start off very controlled — 25% of occupancy in the restaurants. Making sure everybody has six-foot separation. Making sure the wait staff, and the people working in the back of the house, are wearing mask and gloves. We’d like to see this open, we’d like to see this open on a very controlled amount so we can have phase 2, phase 3, phase 4 and slowly but surely move into where we need to be.”
What happens if cases increase? The seven-day average for reported cases is up in Alabama. However, these would be cases contracted prior to reopening. In his comments on Wednesday, Battle pointed out that the measurements for success will be taken 10 to 14 days after reopening.
This is in accordance with the thoughts of Dr. Pam Hudson, CEO of Crestwood Medical Center, who remarked earlier in the week, “The real truth though is in about 12 to 14 days if we see a resurgence. Remember, the exposure can occur, and the incubation period, the time until symptoms, is anywhere from 10 to 14 days. So this is not like having a daily quiz where you can get a grade every day. This is more like one exam at the end, and we’ll be monitoring and tracking that every day those, the hospitalizations, that’s really the people who are seriously ill with this virus, and that’s really what we’re trying to control our risk for.”
During his Sunday appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press, State Health Office Scott Harris outlined the possibility of tightening restrictions back up if such a resurgence occurred under Ivey’s new public health order.
“These aren’t steps forward that are just going to ratchet forward and can never come back,” Harris announced. “These are gradual steps, and we certainly will consider dialing things back if we see an increase in cases.”
Everyone’s situation is different. That was the message from Ken Grimes, city administrator for Orange Beach, in a video posted Wednesday by Gateway Initiative. In pointing out how statewide restrictions mean different things to different areas, Grimes spoke of how the economies of Baldwin County are intertwined.
“An example is when you close down the beaches, it means the accommodations are not being booked, which means no one is going to Foley to shop, which means the retailers are not open, which means the restaurants can’t supply that, which means the grocery stores run out of product,” he said. “It’s a cycle that everybody has a different situation, but that kind of gives you some ideas of what happens in South Baldwin when things begin to ripple through a tourism economy that cannot recover.”
Grimes identified the challenge facing COVID-19 decision-makers. As the New York Times daily newsletter stated recently, “The economy is a complex web of supply chains whose dynamics don’t necessarily align neatly with epidemiologists’ recommendations.”
Recovery means getting people back enjoying the Gulf Coast and reinforcing the favorability of that brand, according to Grimes. For residents, it means getting back to normal life, getting haircuts and appreciating the simple things like sitting down in a restaurant to have a meal.
“In Baldwin County, we know that we will get through this, and we obviously have leadership who have been through storms, literal storms and man-made storms,” he continued. “We’ve been through economic storms, and we will get through this. The absolute number one goal is to keep our people safe, to keep your family safe and to keep your businesses functioning.”
Watch the entirety of Ken Grimes’ remarks on the Gulf Coast recovery:
Alabama-based Dynetics receives defense award to implement AI for air combat
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) awarded Alabama-based Dynetics Phase 1 of the Air Combat Evolution (ACE) program.
Known as ACE TA3, or Alpha Mosaic, the award is valued at $12.3 million, according to a release from Dynetics.
The ACE program seeks to infuse artificial intelligence (AI) into high-intensity air conflicts. The company says, similarly to military training for fighter pilots, ACE performers will work to increase trust in automated, within-visual-range, air-to-air dogfighting.
The Phase 1 award should last 18 months and will lay groundwork for future live, campaign-level experimentation of manned and unmanned vehicles.
“The ACE program is inspiring on so many levels,” said Tim Keeter, ACE program manager for Dynetics. “Our team brings novel solutions that have proven to be feasible and scalable to these challenging ACE objectives. These efforts will help DARPA and the U.S. military expand their advantage in the evolution of Mosaic warfare.”
DARPA‘s stated mission is “to make pivotal investments in breakthrough technologies for national security” with the organization being “the initiator and not the victim of strategic technological surprises.”
DARPA touts itself as having been at the forefront of developing military technologies such as precision weapons and stealth technology, as well as civilian technologies which include automated voice recognition and language translation, and Global Positioning System receivers useable in consumer devices.
The program consists of three phases: Phase 1 begins research in a simulated environment, Phase 2 advances to a flight environment using unmanned air vehicles, and Phase 3 includes a realistic, manned-flight environment involving complex human-machine collaboration.
“Our entry into Phase 1 of ACE represents years of relevant research within Dynetics and our team members that position us to do great things for our country,” said Kevin Albarado, Dynetics’ chief engineer. “Our scientists and engineers are eager to continue advancing these state-of-the-art AI applications to help our warfighters defend our nation.”
Dynetics, based in Huntsville, has more than 2,500 employees and provides responsive, cost-effective engineering, scientific, IT solutions to the national security, cybersecurity, space, and critical infrastructure sectors.
CrossFit owner invites Ivey to his gym, calls state’s regulations ‘seemingly arbitrary’
(Wikicommons, J. Tuggle/Flickr, ALFA/Flickr, YHN)
Alabama is nine days away from the expiration of Governor Kay Ivey’s public health order.
More businesses reopened this week. Others have offered pleas for the opportunity to reopen. And the legal fabric of Ivey’s order may have begun to unravel.
Alabama’s largest mall reopened. The Riverchase Galleria in Hoover welcomed back shoppers on Tuesday. Customers could be seen in footage from WBRC milling about as they normally would — except many wore masks. Similar to other shopping centers, some of the large national chains with out-of-state corporate management have, so far, declined to open at the Galleria. One store which did open was High Mountain Outfitters. Its manager, Jeff Jones, told WBRC, “We’ve been getting so many phone calls from customers, they’re ready.” Jones noted his store requires the use of masks and is frequently disinfecting common areas and any items which customers try on.
“Let us open.” CrossFit Trussville owner Andrew Rape made an impassioned plea to Ivey to allow his gym, and others like it, to reopen. In a video posted on Facebook, Rape invited the governor to view first-hand how his gym could safely conduct business. Making a compelling case, he explained that CrossFit is by nature a well-coordinated effort which could easily accommodate the necessary spacing and sanitizing for operation. Rape further outlined that CrossFit instructors, because classes tend to involve 10 or less participants, would be in a position to monitor the health of small groups. He pointed out that physical fitness is one of the ways in which immune systems are strengthened.
Rape called the regulations issued by the state “seemingly arbitrary” based upon the selection of businesses which were permitted to open versus those still forced to shutter. Initially, the Ivey administration had said it would simply follow the White House guidelines. Upon announcing the new public health order on April 28, State Health Officer Scott Harris declared the state would not follow the guidelines set out under the White House’s Opening America plan. This has led to frustration from business owners, like Rape, for whom the reopening criteria is unclear. He concluded, “So for my staff, my members, my community, and my family’s sake, let us open.”
Legality and enforcement of health order questioned. On Tuesday, Attorney General Steve Marshall proclaimed that the enforcement of Ivey’s public health order against churches would be “ill-advised” on constitutional grounds. Earlier in the day, Baldwin County Sheriff Hoss Mack announced his department would not enforce the order against businesses or churches. Baldwin County has a population of approximately 225,000 with a fairly diverse economy reliant upon tourism, agriculture and small business. In addition, Mack is one of the more influential and popular local officials in the state. Last week, the City of Fairhope, located in Baldwin County, politely asked Ivey to rescind her public health order and adopt Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth’s 150-page plan for reopening.
Other sheriffs joining Mack in declining to enforce the order have included those from Blount, Lamar and Marshall Counties.