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.

21 hours ago

Alabama-built USS Mobile christened in its namesake city — ‘Best that America has to offer’

(Austal USA)

MOBILE — At Austal USA’s world-class shipbuilding facility in its namesake city, the future USS Mobile (LCS 26) was christened on Saturday in front of a crowd of thousands of attendees.

The future USS Mobile is an Independence-variant littoral combat ship (LCS) currently under construction in Alabama’s Port City.

Dignitaries, Austal employees, community leaders and U.S. Navy personnel attended the ceremony, which was set alongside — and, for part of the crowd, under — the ship in a massive construction bay.

A symbiotic mixture of patriotism and local pride was the theme of the day, which while celebratory in the trademark Mobile fashion, also turned somber at moments, as the reality of what the ship symbolizes hit home.

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A family tradition

A moment of silence was held at the beginning of the program to honor Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, as well as all of the service members who have, continue to and will put themselves in harm’s way for our nation.

Later, to begin his remarks, U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne (AL-01) called for a moment of silence to honor the lives lost at Pensacola Naval Air Station on Friday.

“A loss anywhere in the Navy family is a loss for all of us,” he said.

Family was indeed a major component of the day.

Byrne’s wife, Rebecca, is the ship’s sponsor. Their three daughters are the ship’s matrons of honor, which, as the congressman afterward explained, means that one of them would take over in Mrs. Byrne’s stead if she became unable to continue her duties as sponsor.

“So as long as this ship’s in the United States Navy, a Byrne woman will take care of it, I guarantee you,” he added.

Both Rep. Byrne and Mrs. Byrne come from storied naval lineage.

In fact, the congressman’s grandmother worked at a Mobile shipbuilding company during World War II, one of many “Rosie the Riveters” who were cranking out one Liberty ship for the Navy every week in Alabama during that war.

That grandmother was herself made a sponsor of a Navy ship, the Afoundria, after her Merchant Marine son, the congressman’s uncle, was lost at sea in 1943 after his ship was sunk by a German U-boat.

Mrs. Byrne explained that one of her relatives was a U.S. Naval officer who served on over 30 missions to the Arctic in the early 1900s, including Admiral Peary’s famed expedition to the North Pole in 1909. Additionally, Mrs. Byrne’s great grandfather was a ship captain from Nova Scotia.

And, just this year, one of the Byrnes’ daughters married a Navy surface warfare officer.

History aside, the Navy is now very much part of the family’s present.

Mrs. Byrne commented, “I know now what it means to be a Navy family, which makes this day even more special for me.”

A city of builders

While the Byrnes have long-running ties to the open seas, so too does the city of Mobile have a storied history of excellence in shipbuilding.

From building the H.L. Hunley, the first submarine ever to sink a ship, in 1863 to Alabama Dry Dock and Ship Building Company’s historic work from 1917 until well into the 1970s to what Austal USA is accomplishing today, Mobile has made its mark by making ships.

Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson, speaking on Saturday, remarked, “We are a city of makers, of builders, innovators and inventors.”

Austal is now the prime contractor for two cutting-edge U.S. Navy ships: the Independence-variant LCS and the Spearhead-class Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF).

To date, Austal has delivered 10 of 14 contracted EPFs and 10 of 19 contracted LCS to the Navy, making the company’s Mobile facility the nation’s fifth-largest shipyard in the process. These 20 ships have been delivered just in the past five years, and Saturday marked the third christening in 2019 alone.

The Independence-variant LCS is a high-speed, shallow draft multi-mission ship capable of operating independently or in a group. These ships are designed to defeat growing littoral threats and provide access and dominance along coastal waters. A fast, maneuverable, and networked surface-combatant, LCS provides the required warfighting capabilities and operational flexibility to execute focused missions such as surface warfare, mine warfare and anti-submarine warfare.

Austal USA president Craig Perciavalle stated, “We are blessed to have christened so many ships through the years, but this one is special. It is a distinct privilege to build a ship named after your namesake city and this has truly been a community effort. The support we have received from Senator (Richard) Shelby, Senator (Doug) Jones, Congressman Byrne, the county and city has been incredible and has played a major role in our success to date.”

“With incredible speed, volume, flexibility and firepower, Mobile will be the coolest, most formidable small surface combatant on the planet, one that meets the needs of the Navy of today, while having the adaptability to meet the needs of the Navy of tomorrow — a ship that will represent the best that America has to offer across the globe for decades,” he added.

While LCS 26 will become the fifth USS Mobile in history, the ship will be the first of its name to actually be built in Mobile. Then-Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus in September of 2016 authorized the naming.

Stimpson stressed, “Our community is profoundly grateful for this tribute.”

The first USS Mobile was a side-wheel steamer that operated as a Confederate government operated blockade runner. It was captured by U.S. forces at New Orleans in April 1862, commissioned as Tennessee and later renamed Mobile.

The second Mobile was reportedly a passenger liner operated by Hamburg Amerika Lines between Germany and the United States until the outbreak of World War I. It was taken over by the Allied Maritime Council and assigned to the U.S. after the Armistice and commissioned March 1919.

The third Mobile (CL 63) was commissioned March 24, 1943. It participated in numerous campaigns in the Pacific during World War II and received 11 battle stars for her service by the time she was decommissioned in May of 1947.

The fourth Mobile (LKA 115) was an amphibious cargo ship that served from September 1969 until decommissioning in February of 1994. The captain of that vessel was actually in attendance at the christening on Saturday.

‘Fair winds and following seas’

Each speaker during Saturday’s program gave their version of wishing the future crew members of LCS 26, some of which were in the crowd — including the future first captain of the ship, protection in their travels and service to come. This included Perciavalle, Stimpson, Rep. Byrne and Mrs. Byrne, as well as: Carlo Zaffanella, vice president and general manager of maritime and strategic systems for General Dynamics Missions Systems; Frederick J. Stefany III, principal civilian deputy to the assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition; Vice Admiral John G. Hannink, judge advocate general of the Navy; and Pastor Chris Bell of 3Circle Church.

“I wish you fair winds and following seas,” Rep. Byrne said. “Let me add, as we Irish say, may God hold you in the palm of His hand. And to you all, may God bless you, may God bless our great United States Navy and may God bless the United States of America.”

After Bell gave the invocation for the ship, Mrs. Byrne formally blessed the future USS Mobile through breaking a bottle of sparkling wine across the bow — as is a time-honored Navy tradition.

In his closing remarks, Stimpson presented the future crew members with a key to the city, which will always sail with LCS 26.

“I want to convey that this ship will sail with the support of our entire city,” the mayor emphasized, saying its future crew members should all consider themselves honorary Mobilians.

Stimpson concluded, “My prayer is that this ship and all who sail upon her will always have the protection of the Holy Spirit [and] the bay upon which she was built, for there is no greater protection.”

You can watch a live stream of the event here.

Read more in Yellowhammer’s live-tweet thread from the event here.

The future USS Mobile is slated to launch in the spring of 2020, after which it will undergo acceptance trials. Upon completion of these trials, the ship would subsequently be delivered to the U.S. Navy and an official commissioning, expected in 2021, would then be held.

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

23 hours ago

Roy Moore pledges ‘commitment to God,’ rails against D.C. amid backdrop of vocal protesters

(Jeff Poor/YHN)

TUSCUMBIA — The sleepy county seat of northwestern Alabama’s Colbert County was a hotbed for politics early Saturday morning.

Around two dozen protesters showed up at the Helen Keller Public Library to voice their disapproval of former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, a candidate for Alabama’s U.S. Senate seat up next year, who was speaking to the Shoals Republican Club.

However, Moore did not allow those protesters armed with a bullhorn just a few feet and a windowpane away from thwarting his presentation to the Republican club.

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Despite chants of “Go to hell, Roy Moore,” “No more Roy Moore,” and “This is what democracy looks like,” the Etowah County Republican attempted to clarify his position on race and homosexuality.

“Now I’m accused of being a racist and homophobic,” Moore said. “I’m not scared of homosexuals. I don’t hate homosexuals. If I did, I couldn’t wear this cross on my lapel. You’re commanded to love people, but you’re also commanded to abhor sin, that which is evil. My position in this race is freedom of speech and truth. That’s why I’m running — a commitment to God. My sole purpose in life is to serve God. If he would have me in Washington, D.C., I will go — reluctantly, I will go because it is a different world.”

Moore pledged not to be dissuaded by protesters on the left or Washington, D.C. forces on the right in his second bid for the U.S. Senate in just the last two years.

“They hate me there. They have vowed to stop me. In fact, they said the last time around, they said it was a sprint. This is a marathon, said Jesse Hunt, the spokesman for the NRSC,” Moore said as he pointed at a tracker in the audience, urging him to send his statement to Hunt.

Moore also likened President Donald Trump’s impeachment travails to those of former President Andrew Johnson, who he argued was a victim of the radical Republicans of the time. He offered the audience assurances he would serve in the mold of former U.S. Sen. Edmund Ross (R-Kan.), who, despite being an opponent of Johnson, cast the deciding vote against Johnson’s removal from office in 1868, claiming loyalty to his oath to the Constitution.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.

1 day ago

Samuel Associated Tube Group plans $29 million Alabama expansion

(Made in Alabama/Contributed)

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — Samuel Associated Tube Group today announced plans to invest $29 million to build a new manufacturing facility in Jefferson County, an expansion project that will create new jobs and prepare for future growth.

The company, which manufactures small diameter, electric-resistance-welded and fabricated carbon steel tubing, is teaming with a developer to build a new 284,000-square-foot-facility at 300 Fleming Road in Birmingham.

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“We are very excited about expanding into our new facility,” Vice President and General Manager Kristen Hudak said. “We’ve been growing steadily over the past several years, and due to our growth have been looking for the right location to expand our business operations.

“This new location and facility will give us the opportunity to serve and meet the needs of our growing customer base,” she added.

The new facility is expected to be fully operational before the end of 2020.

The company has been in Jefferson County since 1973. Samuel Associated Tube Group-Birmingham currently employs 190 and converts carbon steel coil into high quality mechanical or structural tubing.

“Samuel Associated Tube Group’s expansion will have a significant impact on our local economy by creating approximately 50 new jobs, investing $29 million and repurposing a brownfield property – but I am particularly thankful that 190 skilled, hardworking employees will remain active in Jefferson County’s workforce,” Jefferson County Commissioner Steve Ammons said.

TEAMWORK

The company worked with the State of Alabama, the Alabama Department of Commerce, Jefferson County, the City of Fultondale, Alabama Power, and the Birmingham Business Alliance (BBA) on the project.

“Supporting Birmingham’s existing industries comes down to teamwork between companies like Samuel Associated Tube Group and our economic development allies, like the Jefferson County Commission and the Alabama Department of Commerce,” BBA Vice President of Business Retention and Expansion Mark Brown said.

“This Canadian-based company found continued value in our community and our workforce to improve its overall productivity in this consolidation and, as a team, we thank them for their growth,” he added.

Samuel Associated Tube Group offers precision cutting and fabrication of components and welded subassemblies. In addition, it offers both robotic MIG and manual welding as desired to meet each customer’s product specifications and volume requirements.

Its growing customer base spans the power sports, lawn and garden, furniture, power transmission, automotive, and agriculture markets as well as servicing many other industries across the U.S.

The company’s parent is Samuel, Son & Co., a family-owned and operated integrated network of metal manufacturing, processing and distribution divisions that was founded in 1855.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

2 days ago

Huntsville Police officer shot, killed in the line of duty — Sixth Alabama LEO slain this year

A 20-year veteran Huntsville Police Department officer on Friday evening was shot and killed in the line of duty.

The officer’s name is expected to be released on Saturday. The suspect, whose name also has yet to be released, is in custody.

Huntsville PD Chief Mark McMurray during a press conference confirmed the officer’s death, outlining that the officer was shot in the heart during a drug-related task force operation and later was pronounced dead at an area hospital. The officer was reportedly wearing a bullet proof vest when the shooting occurred.

Following Lowndes County Sheriff John Williams’ death most recently, this Huntsville officer becomes the sixth Alabama law enforcement officer slain in the line of duty in 2019.

U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town of the Northern District of Alabama released a statement, saying, “All of Alabama is heartbroken again as another Alabama peace officer is gunned down in the line of duty.”

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“The Huntsville Police Department investigator, whose name will be released tomorrow, will always be remembered as a good man and a fine officer. Those of us who knew him admired his dedication and professionalism. We must now direct our prayers to his grieving family and pull together in full support of the Huntsville Police Department and law enforcement everywhere who lost another brother of the badge tonight. I am beyond grief,” Town concluded.

Governor Kay Ivey also released a statement.

“I am grieved to hear of the Huntsville Police Officer killed in the line of duty and extend my deepest sympathies and prayers to his family for their unimaginable loss,” the governor stated. “It has been an exceptionally tough year for our law enforcement community, and this will be felt across our state.”

“I will also be praying for strength for the Huntsville Police as they grieve the loss of their fellow officer, as well as for their continued protection as they keep us safe. May the Lord’s peace that passes all understanding be with the family and everyone who loved this dedicated officer,” Ivey added.

Oxford Police Department Chief Bill Partridge, who is president of the Alabama Association of Chiefs of Police, tweeted, “It seems the attack on our brothers and sisters of law enforcement continues. We have lost another officer tonight to gunfire. Please keep the Huntsville Police Department and the family of the fallen officer in your prayers. This assault must stop!”

In addition to the Huntsville PD officer and Sheriff Williams, Tuscaloosa Police Department Investigator Dornell Cousette, Mobile Police Department Officer Sean Tuder, Auburn Police Department Officer William Buechner and Birmingham Police Sergeant Wytasha Carter have been shot and killed in the line of duty this year.

State Rep. Rex Reynolds (R-Huntsville), a former police chief in the city, posted a powerful tribute about the unmanned officer on Facebook.

“He always wanted to be in drug enforcement, that’s all he talked about as a young officer. He worked the streets diligently until he got his dream assignment,” Reynolds wrote. “Now he is the victim of a murder, killed trying to make our community safer. There are mean evil people in this world that have no respect for human life.”

“I pray for his family, our officers, our Chief that tried to provide comfort in the worst of times, and I pray for the families and the officers that graduated the police academy this morning,” he concluded. “There is no reasoning. Bad day for the good guys.”

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle stated, “Our City is broken hearted tonight.”

“All of Huntsville mourns along with the Huntsville Police Department and the family and friends of our fallen officer. We owe a continual and deep debt of gratitude to the men and women in law enforcement who protect our community every day. Let it never be taken for granted the sacrifice that officers make to keep us safe,” the mayor continued.

Battle advised, “We stand side by side with our police department and in the days, weeks and months ahead – have no doubt – we will use the full extent of the law to bring the perpetrator to justice.”

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

2 days ago

Ivey lights official Alabama Christmas Tree

(Henry Thornton/Yellowhammer)

MONTGOMERY — Governor Kay Ivey, Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed, Air Force General James B. Hecker, a children’s choir and several hundred of their fellow Alabamians gathered on the capitol steps Friday evening to light Alabama’s official 2019 Christmas tree.

The tree, standing 34-ft tall, was decorated with tens of thousands of lights as well as special ornaments marking Alabama’s bicentennial.

“Christmas is a direct reminder of the hope we find in Christ,” Ivey said in her remarks.

Caroline Blades, age 4, talked to Yellowhammer after the event. She agreed with her dad that the tree was “really pretty’ and that it “was cool to see other kids up there.”

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At the event, Ivey made sure to remember the Americans serving in the armed forces, saying, “[T]his time of year it’s important to remember the brave men and women, away from home, protecting us.”

Lieutenant General James B. Hecker, commander and president, Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base, followed the governor in speaking. He said, “There is not a state in the country that welcomes their military members like Alabama.”

Watch the lighting here or below:

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

2 days ago

Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson: No plans to seek higher office beyond Mobile Mayor

(Sandy Stimpson/Facebook)

MOBILE — Whenever there is an opening for a high-profile statewide office, one of the names always mentioned as a potential candidate for that office is Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson.

As of late, the city of Mobile has had a good run under Stimpson’s leadership with the growth of Austal USA and Airbus Mobile while Stimpson has won two mayoral elections in Alabama’s port city. Those are the hallmarks of a potential political up-and-comer and make Stimpson a viable candidate for higher office in the eyes of some political watchers.

However, Stimpson says not to expect him to throw his hat into the ring for any higher office beyond mayor any time soon.

During a wide-ranging interview about economic development, infrastructure and education policy on location in Mobile with Huntsville radio’s WVNN, Stimpson dismissed the possibility of having any political ambitions outside of Coastal Alabama.

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“We all have choices to make, and my choice was to stay married to the lady I’ve been married to for a number of years,” Stimpson said. “I’m not going to change that, and so as long as that’s the way it is, I’m going to stay right where I am. But I’m honored that somebody would suggest to think that I could run for a higher office.”

According to Stimpson, he sees one of the keys to Mobile’s success as having longevity and stability at the helm. He also pointed to situations in two of South Carolina’s major cities as an example.

“We still have a whole lot of work to do in Mobile. It takes a number of years to really understand all the dynamics of being a mayor. When I look at some of the cities that have been very successful — Greenville, South Carolina or Charleston — you have a mayor that’s been there 12 or 16, or in Charleston’s case 40 years. That won’t be me. But it does take a while, and if you start getting the momentum going and things are going right in the city, it’s important to support that.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.

2 days ago

BCA’s ProgressPAC endorses five statewide judicial incumbents

(Wikicommons)

The board of directors for ProgressPAC, the political arm of the Business Council of Alabama (BCA), on Friday voted to endorse five statewide 2020 judicial candidates, including in the hotly contested race for place one on the Supreme Court of Alabama.

All five candidates endorsed are incumbents.

Political observers will likely consider the endorsement of Associate Justice Greg Shaw for reelection as the only non-foregone conclusion undertaken by ProgressPAC on Friday.

Shaw faces a tough primary challenge from popular State Sen. Cam Ward (R-Alabaster). Former State Sen. Bryan Taylor (R-Prattville) has also qualified for the place one race, although he has yet to announce a final decision on whether he is actually running or not.

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Additionally, ProgressPAC endorsed Associate Justice Brad Mendheim, Judge Beth Kellum (Court of Criminal Appeals, place two), Presiding Judge Mary Windom (Court of Criminal Appeals, place one) and Judge Bill Thompson (Court of Civil Appeals, place one). All are Republicans.

In a statement, Progress PAC chairman John Mazyck said, “All of these candidates have proven track records of being fair and impartial while serving on the bench.”

“Their commitment to the rule of law and conservative judicial philosophy made the decision to endorse an easy one,” Mazyck, of The Frazer Lanier Company, Inc. in Montgomery, added.

This came the same day that Windom’s campaign announced she raised the most of all judicial candidates last month, per public filings. She ended November with $269,699.89 total in her campaign account.

Windom was first elected to Court of Criminal Appeals in 2008 and has presided over that court since 2012. Prior to her first election, she served as an assistant U.S. attorney, as well as a deputy attorney general for the State of Alabama.

She stated, “When I was elected to serve on the Court of Criminal Appeals, I promised that I would bring justice to victims of crime, protect the constitution and apply the law as it is written, not create new laws or legislate from the bench. I am proud that I have kept those promises and I will continue to do so.”

The Republican primary will be held March 3, 2020.

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

2 days ago

Rogers: Senators seeking the presidency should recuse themselves from impeachment trial

(Congressman Rogers/Facebook)

U.S. Rep Mike Rogers (AL-03) announced Friday that he was co-sponsoring Rep. Jason Smith’s (R-MO) legislation urging the Senate to alter its rules so sitting U.S. Senators would be forced to recuse themselves from the removal trials of impeached presidents.

Currently, four Democratic senators are vying for their party’s presidential nomination: Elizabeth Warren (MA), Cory Booker (NJ), Michael Bennett (CO) and Amy Klobuchar (MN), plus Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

“This is just common-sense and fair. Clearly, none of the Democrats running for president will be impartial during an impeachment trial and they will all use their involvement in the trial to ramp up their campaigns.  As unfair as the House witch hunt has been all along, I am hopeful the upper chamber will be just in their treatment of President Trump,” Rogers said.

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The bill comes in response to the ongoing impeachment inquiry into President Trump. The inquiry will end with the U.S. House voting on the articles of impeachment that are currently being drafted. If a majority of the House, 216 members, vote to impeach, then a removal trial will be held in the U.S. Senate.

At present, there are 233 Democrats in the U.S. House.

Most observers expect the House vote in late December, followed by the Senate trial in January.

Smith’s legislation claims that a “United States Senator actively seeking to unseat the incumbent President of the United States cannot claim impartiality in his or her political opponent’s impeachment trial.”

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

2 days ago

Alabama task force on veterans suicide holds ‘productive and encouraging’ inaugural meeting

Members of the 117th Air Refueling Wing participate in Birmingham's Veterans Day Parade. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by SMSgt Ken Johnson, 117th Air Refueling Wing)

Wednesday saw the first meeting of the Alabama Task Force on Veterans Suicide. The organizational meeting saw testimony from subject matter experts and was complimented as impactful by its chairperson.

The task force originates from a resolution sponsored by State Rep. Neil Rafferty (D-Birmingham). The goal of the task force is to investigate what is causing the elevated rate of suicide among Alabama’s veterans and figure out how to prevent more vets from taking their own lives.

According to the Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs, “In 2016, the veteran suicide rate in Alabama was 60 percent higher than the rate for civilians and nine percent higher than other southern states.”

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The members of the task force were appointed by the governor, speaker of the Alabama House, minority leader of the Alabama House, president of the Senate, Alabama Senate minority leader, commissioner of the Department of Mental Health, state health officer and commissioner of the Department of Human Resources.

The task force has two years before it must present a report on its findings to the state legislature.

“This first workshop was productive and encouraging.” Paulette Risher, task force chair said. “Participants gained a better understanding of each member’s background and why they are willing to serve in this important work.”

Two experts on veterans’ mental health, Dr. Joe Currier and Dr. Karl Hammer, presented at the meeting to establish a gound level vocabulary and level of knowledge among the participants.

Currier, according to the ADVA, “discussed suicide fundamentals such as terms used for those contemplating suicide. He also highlighted the risk factors and red flags for suicide.”

Hammer “discussed Operation Deep Dive, a four-year research study that examines the potential causes involved in suicides among military veterans.”

“My sensing is that every person in attendance, many veterans themselves, are fully committed to helping Alabama demonstrate our genuine concern and commitment to our citizens who have worn, or are wearing the cloth of the nation,” Risher stated. “It is such an honor to help guide this effort. This is clearly work of the head and the heart.”

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

2 days ago

Ivey orders flags lowered to half staff in honor of Pearl Harbor

Flags fly at half-staff at Sumpter Smith Air National Guard Base in Birmingham (S.Ross/YHN)

Governor Kay Ivey has issued a directive saying the flags at all Alabama government facilities should be flown at half staff on Saturday, December 7 in remembrance of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Ivey said in her directive, “At the request of President Trump, I am directing flags to be displayed at half-staff on Saturday, December 7, 2019, to honor and remember our military members who heroically fought at Pearl Harbor, on December 7, 1941.”

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Saturday, Dec. 7, marks the 78th anniversary of Japanese fighter planes bombing the United States Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The attack destroyed much of the United States Pacific Fleet and is estimated to have killed more than 2,400 Americans.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

2 days ago

Auburn business school rated second-best in country for minority students

The Princeton Review recently rated Auburn University’s Harbert College of Business as the second-best college in the nation for minority students.

According to the Princeton Review’s website, their rankings are calculated “based on school reported data and student surveys. School data include: percent of students and faculty from underrepresented minority groups. Student answers to survey questions on: assessment of resources for minority students, how supportive the culture is of minority students, and whether fellow students are ethnically and racially diverse.”

“Students have a voice in these rankings, and the results reflect our continued efforts to provide our students a transformational learning experience that offers an outstanding return on their investment,” said Stan Harris, associate dean of graduate and international programs.

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The Princeton Review does not publish an overall list ranking the best on-campus full-time MBA programs, but they did designate Auburn as one of their “Best Business Schools.”

Additionally, the company rated Auburn’s online MBA program as the 19th-best in the nation.

“We recommend Auburn and the Harbert College of Business as an excellent choice for a student aspiring to earn an MBA,” said Rob Franek, Princeton Review’s editor-in-chief.

The data for the rankings are based on the 2018-2019 school year.

“Auburn University is committed to enrolling the best and brightest students. The graduate programs in the Harbert College of Business partner with central campus units to create an environment that is welcoming for all,” Jim Parrish, executive director of full-time and online graduate programs stated. “While there is still work to do, we are grateful to be recognized for offering high-tech support services that are attractive to a diverse student body.”

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

2 days ago

Bradley Byrne: Jeff Sessions ‘doesn’t own this seat’ — ‘The seat belongs to the people of the state of Alabama’

(Jeff Poor/YHN)

Even though former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been a U.S. Senate candidate for a month, there appears to still be some hard feelings regarding his entry into the race.

During an appearance on Birmingham radio Talk 99.5’s “Matt & Aunie Show,” U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) discussed a phone call he received from Sessions just before Sessions’ entry into the race asking Byrne to withdraw his U.S. Senate candidacy and run for reelection to the seat he currently occupies in Alabama’s first congressional district.

According to Byrne, Sessions told him he thought he was doing a great job as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and that Sessions still had a “couple of gallons” of gas left in his tank to serve in the U.S. Senate. Byrne explained how he declined Sessions’ request to co-hosts Andrea Lindenberg and Matt Murphy and argued against the merits of Sessions returning to the U.S. Senate.

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“Look, Jeff Sessions served this state for 20 years in the United States Senate,” Byrne said. “I honor him for that service. But I don’t want somebody who is my senator that just has a couple of gallons left in the tank. And I don’t want somebody when President Trump needed him walked off the field. I mean, we’re in a fight up here. We’re going to be in a fight even after this impeachment vote. And we’ve got to have somebody with a full tank of gas that’s understanding the fight that we’re in, that’s willing to get up here and willing to fight every day, not just somebody who said, ‘I just had 20 years. I’d kind of like to go back and get my seat.’ That’s not enough for the vast majority of people in this state.”

Byrne emphatically argued Sessions did not “own” the seat and downplayed his chances at winning an election for that seat.

“I hate to say this about my friend Jeff Sessions, but I think he believes he owns this seat,” he said. “And he’s calling everybody — ‘Look, I own this seat. I’m coming to get my seat back.’ Well, he doesn’t own this seat. The seat belongs to the people of the state of Alabama. And I did tell Jeff in the conversation, I said, ‘Look Jeff, this is a race. You’re going to have to get in it. We have a forum in Greenville, Alabama,’ which he did not show up for. He doesn’t own this seat. He’s going to have to go out and fight for it. I’m one of the people he’s going to have to push out of the way to get it.”

“I don’t think he’s going to win,” Byrne added. “Talking to people, as I’ve been talking to people around the state — I get one of two responses about him. One is they’re angry at him. The other is they say, ‘Why is he running?’ I like Jeff. He’s my friend. I’m not going to disavow him as my friend. I’m not going to act like I don’t respect him. I do. You’ve got to know when your time is up and his time is up.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.

2 days ago

U.S. Navy set to christen Austal’s Alabama-built USS Mobile — ‘Marvel of engineering’

A graphic representation of the future littoral combat ship USS Mobile (LCS 26). (U.S. Navy photo)

The U.S. Navy on Saturday — which is National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day — will christen its newest Independence-variant littoral combat ship (LCS), the future USS Mobile (LCS 26), in its namesake city where Austal USA built the ship.

Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01) will deliver the christening ceremony’s keynote address. His wife, Rebecca, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of South Alabama, will serve as the ship’s sponsor. In a time-honored Navy tradition, she will christen the Alabama-built ship by breaking a bottle of sparkling wine across the bow. Congressman Byrne and Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) are widely known as being key champions of Austal’s LCS production in South Alabama.

In a release from the Department of Defense, acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly called the USS Mobile “a marvel of engineering.”

”She will extend our capabilities for any mission, from the middle of the ocean to the shallowest of waters, enhancing our ability to project power ashore and at sea,” Modly added. “This Independence-class LCS will extend the maneuverability and lethality of our fleet to confront the many challenges of a complex world.”

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The Independence-variant LCS is a high-speed, shallow-draft focused-mission ship capable of operating independently or in a group. These ships are designed to defeat growing littoral threats and provide access and dominance along coastal waters. A fast, maneuverable and networked surface-combatant, LCS provides the required warfighting capabilities and operational flexibility to execute focused missions such as surface warfare, mine warfare and anti-submarine warfare.

The future USS Kansas City (LCS 22) recently completed acceptance trials in the Gulf of Mexico and became the 11th Independence-variant LCS built by Austal in Mobile to reach this important milestone.

The USS Montgomery (LCS 8) and USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10) were recently deployed to Singapore and seven other Independence-variant LCS are homeported in San Diego.

The LCS program is currently at full-rate production and continuing its momentum at Austal’s Mobile manufacturing operations, with four ships besides the USS Mobile currently under construction in addition to the Kansas City now awaiting being officially commissioned.

The future USS Oakland (LCS 24) has launched and is itself preparing for acceptance trials. Final assembly is well underway on the future USS Savannah (LCS 28). Modules for the future USS Canberra (LCS 30) and the future USS Santa Barbara are under construction in the module manufacturing facility. The Mobile will be expected to launch following its christening. Acceptance trials will come after the launch.

LCS 26 is the fifth ship named in honor of Mobile, Alabama’s port city. According to the Department of Defense, the first Mobile was a side-wheel steamer that operated as a Confederate government operated blockade runner. It was captured by U.S. forces at New Orleans in April 1862, commissioned as Tennessee and later renamed Mobile.

The second Mobile was reportedly a passenger liner operated by Hamburg Amerika Lines between Germany and the United States until the outbreak of World War I. It was taken over by the Allied Maritime Council and assigned to the U.S. after the Armistice and commissioned March 1919.

The third Mobile (CL 63) was commissioned March 24, 1943. It participated in numerous campaigns in the Pacific during World War II and received 11 battle stars for her service by the time she was decommissioned in May of 1947.

The fourth Mobile (LKA 115) was an amphibious cargo ship that served from September 1969 until decommissioning in February of 1994.

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

2 days ago

Doug Jones on Trump impeachment inquiry: ‘Not a witch hunt … not a hoax, it’s not fake news’

(D. Jones/Twitter, White House/Flickr)

Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) continues to say he has not made up his mind one way or the other on the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, however on Thursday he made it very clear that he believes in the need for the process to play out, pushing back on Republican arguments that this is a political exercise by Democrats.

Per WHNT, Jones in a conference call with reporters on Thursday once again noted his role essentially as a juror in the Senate if the House impeaches the president. Jones has said it would be improper for him or any of his colleagues to have made up their minds on whether they would vote to convict Trump already, as the trial needs to be held, evidence examined and witnesses heard from.

Yet, Alabama’s junior senator did seem to land on one side of the aisle when it comes to his remarks on the ongoing impeachment inquiry in the House, which was launched with no Republicans voting for it and even two Democrats voting against it.

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“Everything that you’re seeing, though, is not a witch hunt. It’s not a hoax, it’s not fake news,” Jones said, according to WHNT.

“This is a serious constitutional matter the founders of this country envisioned a long time ago,” he added. “This is not about an individual. It is not about one person. It is about the conduct of the presidency and how we want future presidents to conduct themselves while in office.”

Republicans across the nation — including many Alabama elected officials — have sharply criticized the impeachment inquiry.

In a statement to WHNT, Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) — well respected as one of the country’s preeminent statesmen — shared a divergent view from Jones on the impeachment inquiry.

“This effort to impeach the President is a political circus engineered by the Democrats, distracting us from the important work we need to complete for the American people,” Shelby stated.

“If and when an impeachment resolution comes to the Senate, I will sit as a juror and carefully consider any evidence presented to reach a conclusion based on the facts – as outlined in our Constitution,” Alabama’s senior senator concluded.

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

3 days ago

Alabama Power, C Spire announce broadband partnership coming to Birmingham area

(André Natta/Flickr, YHN)

BIRMINGHAM — More broadband services will soon be coming to Alabamians in the Birmingham metropolitan area, including parts of Shelby County, thanks to Alabama Power Company and C Spire.

At a Thursday press conference at Regions Field, a new partnership was announce between the two companies similar to one they announced in Jasper last month.

Alabama Power’s existing fiber infrastructure will be used for what is called “the middle mile,” while C Spire will in some areas build out “the last mile,” which is an industry term meaning the final portion connecting the service to a consumer’s residence or business (the length is not always a mile or even close to it — it can be a matter of feet or several miles).

Executives from both companies attended the press conference, along with Alabama Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper), Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin and Jasper Mayor David O’Mary.

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Tony Smoke, Birmingham division vice president for Alabama Power, said that even though the company itself is not the broadband service provider, Alabama Power is proud to be able to help bring the service to their customers — as “customers are at the center” of everything they do.

“We are thrilled to welcome C Spire to Birmingham and other parts of our state,” Smoke stated, saying being able to provide this type of positive economic impact “is what we’re all about.”

“We are committed to communities across our state,” he emphasized, explaining that even in northern areas of Alabama where the company does not provide electric services, Alabama Power still actively helps with economic development projects. “We do this because we care about Alabama. Our employees are in these cities, are in these communities. They live there. So, this kind of project … is huge for our employees, huge for our communities. We are proud and honored to serve in that role.”

“It may be a pun, but we do believe that fiber infrastructure helps us have better connections with our communities and makes our communities stronger,” he added.

This type of partnership, in which a broadband provider can utilize an electric utility’s existing infrastructure and right-of-ways, was made possible through legislation championed by the likes of the Alabama Rural Broadband Coalition this past session — HB 400, which was sponsored by State Rep. Randall Shedd (R-Cullman) and championed by Reed. Additionally, SB 90 was passed to expand eligibility for and update a state grant program for broadband expansion.

“I’m proud of the role we played in creating this opportunity for Alabama communities,” Reed said. “But I am even prouder of the partnerships that we have forged with C Spire, Alabama Power and others and the investment they are making in our state. That investment will pay dividends for consumers and businesses.”

He emphasized the importance of high-speed internet access to the present and future success of the state.

“If Alabama is going to be everything we want her to be economically, we must include all the areas of our state in that boon — in that opportunity and that growth,” Reed stressed. “And as we’ve seen Alabama’s economy be super strong, it is not as strong in certain urban areas, it is not as strong in some rural areas. And some of the reason [for that] is because we don’t have internet services … it’s a must for us to be able to move Alabama forward.”

Reed and O’Mary both touched on the fact that while Jasper is certainly a very different size and type of city than Birmingham, they are bonded together because they both face a “digital divide.”

Woodfin explained that while many people assume all of the City of Birmingham has ideal internet access, that is simply not the case. Reed reiterated this and said this applies to other larger population centers across the state, as well as more rural areas.

“You would think in certain areas of the state where you have [interstate] highways and the like, that there would be easy access to the internet superhighway. That’s not always the case,” Reed commented.

“As I’ve said before, no matter where they live, every single student, family, worker and business owner in Alabama should have access to fast, reliable internet that allows them to thrive in the 21st-century economy,” he added. “It’s through partnerships like this one that we are working to make that a reality.”

C Spire is a privately-held Mississippi-based telecommunications and technology company, with no affiliation with the gas company Spire. C Spire’s president and CEO Hu Meena spoke during the press conference and with members of the media after the event.

Meena encouraged other municipal leaders from across the Birmingham area and Alabama as a whole to reach out to them to express their desire to have the company come in and offer broadband services.

The company will offer all-fiber Gigabit speed broadband internet access and related services to homes and businesses in Alabama beginning in 2020, and Meena stressed that exact service locations and timelines will primarily be determined by customer demand. Meena said another announcement will be coming on how municipal leaders — and potential customers — can express their interest in the services.

“Today is a big day in the life of our company,” Meena stated. “While we’ve had a presence in southern Alabama (Mobile) for decades and our Alabama headquarters are here in the Birmingham area, we plan to make our all-fiber broadband services available to homes and businesses across the state next year.”

C Spire is looking for areas of Alabama enthusiastic about broadband services, similar to the high level of interest expressed by both O’Mary and Woodfin.

“The communities that want this game-changing infrastructure and services the most will get it first,” Meena explained.

Woodfin certainly showed his enthusiasm during his speech, as well as beforehand — energetically making his way throughout the standing-room-only crowd and thanking seemingly each and every person for attending.

“This is a great investment in the future of Birmingham and our metro area,” Woodfin said at the podium.

The Magic City mayor delivered powerful remarks on how important high-speed broadband services are to not just the modern digital economy but to quality of life in general — as well as other areas like education.

“In Birmingham, we are committed to creating an inclusive economy that provides the best opportunities in education, workforce development and entrepreneurship for everyone,” Woodfin advised, noting that technology investment and broadband infrastructure by C Spire are critical to the city’s economic future.

Reed added that especially in rural areas, broadband is increasingly important for healthcare through telemedicine.

“The city of Birmingham has always been a city of builders,” Woodfin concluded, saying that this partnership in building out fiber infrastructure is just the latest example.

For more information about C Spire’s broadband plans in Alabama, click here.

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

3 days ago

Merrill: Shelby used ‘power and his clout’ to protect Sessions from Trump; ‘Would not surprise me’ if Trump endorsed Sessions

(John Merrill/Facebook)

Ever since former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced his decision to seek his old U.S. Senate in Alabama, speculation about an attack from President Donald Trump has been rampant.

However, there has not been such an attack, at least not yet.

During an appearance on Birmingham radio Talk 99.5’s “Matt & Aunie Show,” Secretary of State John Merrill, who was a candidate for U.S. Senate until last Sunday, discussed his decision to bow out of the race and how Sessions’ entry into it played a role.

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Merrill indicated he had thought things would have taken a different course when Sessions entered the race, particularly with his other opponents former Auburn head football coach Tommy Tuberville and U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) and President Donald Trump.

“Let me tell you — first of all, we felt like when the conversation became intense with Senator Sessions’ entry into the race that the dynamics would probably play out because of what we had observed with the president, of the president continuously beating on Senator Sessions, talking badly about him, talking unfavorably about his service as attorney general, and doing that in tweets consistently between the day he announced and March 3,” Merrill said.

“We also felt like Coach [Tommy] Tuberville and Congressman [Bradley] Byrne would use a number of their resources to try to inflict harm on Senator Sessions and his candidacy,” he continued. “We also felt like the two of them would work against each other, and bring harm to each and define each other in whatever way was positive to the other candidate. But, the first thing that happened, of course, if you recall, when Senator Sessions said he was running, Coach Tuberville came out with the swamp ad. There was actually two ads — there was one that was a little bit over a minute and one that was 30 seconds about why Jeff Sessions did not need to be back in the Senate seat. But the president never said anything.”

According to the Tuscaloosa County Republican, the lack of an attack on Sessions by Trump was attributable to Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Tuscaloosa), who he said was using his clout to protect Sessions.

Merrill also said it would not surprise him if Trump endorsed Sessions in the end.

“When asked about it, coming to Tuscaloosa for the LSU game, the president did not say anything negative at all. I attribute all of that to Senator Shelby and all of that to Senator Shelby using power and his clout to ensure Senator Sessions is protected from the president in that regard. That changes the dynamics dramatically, and we continued to watch what was happening. And you can see the president has not said anything negative about Senator Sessions since he got in the race and I don’t anticipate that he will. Now I will say this: It would not surprise me one bit if he ended up endorsing Senator Sessions.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.

3 days ago

$62.3 million to be invested in bringing broadband to Alabama’s rural areas

(Tombigbee Communications/Contributed)

HAMILTON — A group of public officials and business executives gathered in Hamilton on Thursday to announce four investments by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) totaling $62.3 million. The investments are all aimed at improving broadband access in Alabama’s rural areas.

The two most substantial investments, at $29.5 and $28.2 million respectively, are 50/50 loan grant combinations being given to Tombigbee Electric Cooperative and Millry Communications.

The Tombigbee investment will affect Marion, Lamar, Fayette, Franklin, Winston and Walker counties. The Millry portion will affect Choctaw and Washington counties.

Per the USDA, the investment will total $62.3 million. The funds are aimed at creating high-speed broadband infrastructure. The USDA estimates it will improve internet connectivity for more than 8,000 rural households, 57 farms, 44 businesses, 17 educational facilities, 14 critical community facilities and three health care facilities in rural Alabama.

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Two smaller investments are being made in National Telephone of Alabama (TEC) and Farmers Telecommunications Cooperative.

The TEC investment is a $2.7 million 50/50 loan-grant combination serving Colbert County. The Farmers investment is a $2 million loan that will affect unserved areas in Jackson and Dekalb counties.

Present at the announcement were U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Donald “DJ” LaVoy, Tombigbee Electric Cooperative CEO Steve Foshee, Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs Director Kenneth Boswell, along with representatives from Millry Communications, National Telephone of Alabama (TEC) and Farmers Telecommunications Cooperative.

“Beyond connecting us to our friends and family, high-speed broadband internet connectivity, or e-Connectivity, is a necessity, not an amenity, to do business, access opportunities in education and receive specialized health care in rural America today,” LaVoy said.

In March 2018, Congress appropriated $600 million to the USDA with the intent of expanding rural broadband access in rural America. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue unveiled in December of 2018 the “ReConnect” program by which rural areas could apply for the allocated resources. The USDA says they “received 146 applications between May 31, 2019, and July 12, 2019, requesting $1.4 billion in funding.”

The $62.3 million announced for Alabama on Thursday makes up over 10% of the total money spent by the program.

ReConnect dispenses grants, loans and grant/loan combinations to private sector providers in rural communities. The ReConnect money goes to building high-quality broadband infrastructure in areas with inadequate internet service. The USDA defines insufficient service as connection speeds of less than 10 megabits per second (Mbps) download and 1 Mbps upload.

The funds for the program originated in the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture. A subcommittee on which Rep. Robert Aderholt (AL-04) sits.

Citing Congress being in session, Aderholt appeared at the announcement via a pre-recorded video. He said he was glad the program would “help close the ‘digital divide’ that isolates so many parts of rural America.”

“This program is beginning to pay dividends in rural Alabama and America,” he said of ReConnect.

“USDA also recognizes the strong leadership of Senator Shelby in making these funds available for rural communities in Alabama and across the country,” USDA Alabama Rural Development Director Chris Beeker told Yellowhammer.

“Expanding freedom FIBER broadband to residents across northwest Alabama meets a critical e-Connectivity need,” said Steve Foshee, president and CEO of Tombigbee Communications. “From students having the ability to complete their schoolwork, to our neighbors in need of receiving adequate healthcare, freedom FIBER broadband will help improve the lives and communities of rural northwest Alabama.”

Foshee also emceed the event and was praised by name by each of the other speakers for his tenacity and commitment to providing internet for his area.

Several groups of school children were bused in for the announcement and sat in the audience.

ADECA Director Boswell said to the young people in attendance, “You’ll be able to travel the world at your fingertips, no more having to go to McDonald’s for the hotspot.”

Two employees at the McDonalds nearest the site of the announcement confirmed to Yellowhammer that students from local schools frequented the establishment after school to use the internet.

Annis Jordan spoke at the event on behalf of Millry Communications. Millry provides service in Washington and Choctaw counties. Jordan said Millry had wanted to invest in high-speed broadband for the last 10 years, “but the financial analysis then and throughout the years since did not allow us to proceed until this year.”

State Rep. Tracy Estes (R-Winfield) said a substantial part of the coverage will be in his district, and complimented Steve Foshee for his work in bringing the project to fruition.

He told Yellowhammer, “This is a big day for rural Alabama. Too many times, we’re left watching on the sidelines.”

Fred Johnson, the CEO of Farmers Telecommunications Corp, praised Aderholt in his remarks, calling the dean of Alabama’s U.S. House delegation “the one person most largely responsible for the funding of this program.”

Joey Garner, a VP of TEC, one of the companies receiving an investment, said, “We are thrilled with the opportunity to increase our fiber internet network in Alabama with the assistance of this federally-funded grant. TEC is committed to our local service areas, our customers, and our employees, and we look forward to these great opportunities and additions in 2020.”

State Rep. Proncey Robertson (R- Mount Hope) also represents areas that will be covered after the announced investment. He said in a text to Yellowhammer, “High-speed internet is as important today as electric power was in the 1930s.”

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne (AL-01) said in a statement to Yellowhammer, “Today’s announcement is fantastic news for Alabama. This significant investment from USDA of $62.3 million in high-speed broadband infrastructure across rural Alabama is critical for economic development, education, healthcare, and quality of life in our state.”

One of the students in the audience was Natalie Langley. She told Yellowhammer that her house benefitted from a previous Tombigbee expansion of high-speed internet.

“It was bad before,” she said of her old internet connection, “my mom spent a lot of money on cellular data before we could get fiber.”

In remarks to reporters after the event, Undersecretary LaVoy praised the cooperation between Alabama’s public officials and businesses that brought the announcement to fruition.

“This is the model, what we have in communities like this,” he said, gesturing to those around him. “I would say Alabama is at the forefront of being able to make what we want to see happen.”

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

3 days ago

Ivey invites Alabamians to join as she lights Alabama’s official Christmas tree

(Governor Kay Ivey/YouTube)

Governor Kay Ivey has invited Alabamians to join her for the official state Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony. The program is scheduled for Friday, December 6 at 5:30 p.m. on the front steps of the Alabama State Capitol.

“I invite all Alabamians, friends, and neighbors to join us here at the Capitol for that special occasion. This is always a wonderful event and serves as such a great reminder of the spirit of hope that Christmas brings,” said Ivey in a news release.

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According to the release, Alabama’s 2019 Christmas Tree is a 40-foot-tall Eastern Red Cedar. It was grown on Mr. and Mrs. Ray Allen’s Farm in Bullock County. When lit, the tree will have around 37,000 lights strung on its branches. It will also be decorated with special bicentennial ornaments to celebrate Alabama’s 200th birthday.

At around 5:00 p.m. on Friday, the 151st Army National Guard Band will begin playing. At 5:30, the ceremony will begin. The program will also have a performance by the Forest Avenue Elementary School Choir.

Ivey will be joined in making remarks by commander and president of Air University at Maxwell Airforce Base Lieutenant General James Hecker and others.

The citizens assembled are invited to join the governor in counting down before she flips the switch to light the tree.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

3 days ago

Byrne: ‘Illegal immigration is harming our students, teachers and communities’

(B. Byrne/Facebook)

Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01) on Wednesday spoke during a House Education and Labor Committee hearing centered on immigration.

While Democrats called the hearing, “Growing Up in Fear: How the Trump Administration’s Immigration Policies Are Harming Children,” Byrne argued that not enforcing immigration laws actually harms children born to legal American residents and citizens.

“It is amazing we are here to talk about ‘How the Trump Administration’s Immigration Policies Are Harming Children’ but we never, never talk about how illegal immigration is harming our students, teachers and communities. People who are here legally are being harmed by this,” Byrne said.

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After asking Democrat witnesses about the costs of illegal immigration to our nation’s schools — and apparently stumping them, Byrne criticized Democrats who attacked President Donald Trump for enforcing immigration laws while they themselves did not even ask about the cost of failing to enforce those laws.

The coastal Alabama congressman’s line of questioning highlighted that these costs are borne by states and local school systems and ultimately come at the detriment of students.

Byrne’s full remarks during the hearing as follows:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. In 2016, the Pew Research Center estimated that 3.9 million – or 7.3% – of kindergarten through 12th grade students in the United States were either here illegally or were the children of at least one parent illegally present in the United States.

Can anyone tell me how much we spend on public education for that population of students? It’s around $60 billion.

A significant and increasing percentage of these costs represent remedial English education, required by the federal government for students designated as Limited English Proficiency or LEP. In 2016, it was estimated that 9.6% of all students and 17% of kindergarten students were now designated as LEP. Educating those students is expensive. By some estimations, we are spending $59 billion just on ESL and other programs to help children with English language deficiency.

Can anyone tell me what percentage of teachers in the United States are certified or trained in ESL? It’s about one percent.

How about what percentage of ESL Programs are paid for by the federal government that requires them? Just over 1 percent.

Who pays for the rest? States and local school systems!

So, we require it and we push 99% of the costs on state and local school systems. That costs a lot of money for these state and local school systems. Many of them like my state of Alabama just don’t have it. But because the federal government requires it, they have to put that money in there to the detriment of other programs.

At least 13 states spend over $1 billion per year on limited English proficiency programs in public schools.

Earlier this year, this committee found that there is a $46 billion public school infrastructure shortfall. Accounting for inflation, teacher salaries are down 1.6% since 2000. Classroom sizes are growing. Resources for students are shrinking.

It is amazing we are here to talk about ‘How the Trump Administration’s Immigration Policies Are Harming Children’ but we never, never talk about how illegal immigration is harming our students, teachers and communities. People who are here legally are being harmed by this.

The federal government has mandated that we provide public education to the children of illegal immigrants, but we don’t pay for it! States and local school districts do!

How is that fair? How is that right that we make the requirement here at the federal government and we put up one percent of the cost?

I’m a former state school board member in Alabama. I have sat across from teachers and superintendents and talked to them about this issue. Dollars that our schools have, they are not unlimited. The states don’t print money like we do here in Washington. They have requirements that they balance their budgets. Coming up with the money to fund these K-12 education programs around the country is extremely difficult.

So, I think if we are going to sit here and criticize the president for enforcing the law, we need to also think about the cost of not enforcing the law.

That cost is not being borne by those of us in Washington. It’s being borne by men and women and the states and local school systems around the United States of America. But really the cost is being borne by children who are being denied the programs that they should have. Children who are citizens of the United States, whose parents are citizens of the United States, they’re being denied programs because we’re forcing their state and local school systems to take on an expense that we should be taking on because we’ve failed to enforce our own laws.

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

4 days ago

Brooks applauds Trump administration’s new rule tightening work requirements for food stamp recipients

Congressman Mo Brooks (CSPAN/YouTube)

U.S. Representative Mo Brooks (AL-05) praised the Trump administration on Wednesday for announcing a rule that will tighten work requirements for people receiving food stamps.

Before this new rule, states had been able to get waivers exempting people in regions with unemployment higher than the national average from the work requirements. After the new rule, to get those waivers, the unemployment level in an area will need to be at least 6%.

Brooks said in a statement, “I fully support the Trump Administration’s efforts to bar able-bodied, working age Americans from receiving food stamps, SNAP, or any other food benefits they can and should be paying for with money they earn themselves.”

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The USDA says their new rule “promotes work for able-bodied adults between the ages of 18 and 49 without dependents and does not apply to children and their parents, those over 50 years old including the elderly, those with a disability, or pregnant women.”

According to the Associated Press, “The Agriculture Department estimates the change would save roughly $5.5 billion over five years and cut benefits for roughly 688,000 SNAP recipients.”

Congressman Brooks added, “America suffered a $984 billion deficit in FY 2019. America’s accumulated debt has blown through the $23 trillion mark. Every financial guru Congress employs warns that our current financial path is unsustainable and that, as a result, America increasingly risks a debilitating national insolvency and bankruptcy.”

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

4 days ago

Huntsville named nation’s best-paying city for software developers

(Wikicommons

The Rocket City continues to turn heads across the nation for its prowess in STEM-related fields.

On Wednesday, a report named Huntsville as the best-paying city in America for software developers.

HeyTutor analyzed salary and employment statistics for the country’s metropolitan areas using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics. For each location, HeyTutor calculated a cost-of-living adjusted salary for software developers based on regional differences in the price of goods and services. Cities were then ranked by their adjusted salaries.

The report showed Huntsville with an adjusted mean software developer salary of $120,392 annually.

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The report outlined, “The average software developer in Huntsville earns an unadjusted salary of $108,232 a year, but that number gets bumped up to over $120,000 in purchasing power when factoring in living costs. Huntsville is home to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, and the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command. Not surprisingly, the city hosts its fair share of aerospace engineering jobs, but it also boasts 5,920 software developer jobs. Huntsville has a vibrant STEM community, anchored by Cummings Research Park, the second largest science and engineering research park in America.”

The Rocket City was followed by the Columbus, OH; Seattle, WA; Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, FL; and Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC metropolitan areas in the top-five.

Huntsville has been honored at the top or near the top of many national jobs-related rankings recently, including being named the fourth-best overall city for career opportunities.

RELATED: Study names Huntsville one of the best places to live in America

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

4 days ago

Alabama’s Austin Huffaker confirmed as federal judge by U.S. Senate

(Rushton Stakely/contributed, WH/Flickr)

Montgomery attorney Austin Huffaker on Wednesday was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in an 89-4 vote to be a U.S. District Judge for the Middle District of Alabama.

Both Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) voted to support Huffaker’s confirmation. He was nominated for the federal judgeship by President Donald Trump in July.

In a statement, Shelby said, “Today the Senate confirmed Austin Huffaker’s nomination to be a district judge for the Middle District of Alabama, which is great news for Alabama and our nation’s federal judiciary.”

“Austin is well respected in the community, and I know that he will uphold the rule of law with the utmost integrity and honor. I was proud to support his nomination and believe that he is the ideal candidate to serve in this prestigious position,” Shelby added.

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Huffaker is a shareholder at the prominent law firm of Rushton, Stakely, Johnston & Garrett, P.A, where his practice focuses on complex commercial, product and lender liability, along with professional malpractice litigation.

Additionally, Huffaker serves as a commissioner of the Alabama Securities Commission and as a member of the Alabama Civil Jury Charge Committee. He earned his bachelor of engineering, cum laude, from Vanderbilt University and his juris doctorate, magna cum laude, from the University of Alabama, where he was a member of the Alabama Law Review and a Hugo Black Scholar.

In addition to Huffaker’s confirmation, nine of Alabama’s federal judicial nominees have been confirmed in the Senate, most having been originally nominated by Trump in 2017.

One of those confirmed, now-U.S. District Judge Andrew Brasher, has already been nominated by Trump for another, higher court.

Trump is responsible for nominating the first-ever African-American judge on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama, Judge Terry F. Moorer of Greenville, who was confirmed last year.

UPDATE 4:42 p.m.:

Senator Jones released a statement on Huffaker’s confirmation.

“Throughout his confirmation process, I have been proud to support Montgomery’s Austin Huffaker for the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama,” Jones said.

“In July, I joined my colleague Senator Shelby to recommend Mr. Huffaker’s favorable consideration in the Senate Judiciary Committee and today I cast my vote in favor of his confirmation by the full Senate,” he continued. “Mr. Huffaker has an excellent reputation within the legal profession for his fairness, temperament and thoughtfulness. I believe he will serve with the utmost integrity on the bench and will represent Alabama with distinction.”

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

4 days ago

Aerojet Rocketdyne: New Alabama manufacturing site ready for production

(Made in Alabama/Contributed, YHN)

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama — Aerojet Rocketdyne said today that it is ready to begin producing large solid rocket motor carbon fiber cases in Alabama’s Rocket City following installation and calibration of a key machine at its new Advanced Manufacturing Facility (AMF).The state-of-the-art machine will be used to wind the carbon fibers that form the structural case of large solid rocket motors. It is capable of producing motor cases up to 72 inches in diameter and 22 feet long, which is large enough to support strategic missile programs.

“The successful transfer of this important capability from Sacramento, California, to Huntsville, Alabama, is part of our ongoing efforts to increase efficiencies and decrease product costs to our customers,” said Eileen Drake, Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO and president.

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“Expanding support of missile programs at the Advanced Manufacturing Facility is a major component of our ongoing growth in the Rocket City.”

The carbon fiber-winding machine will begin producing large solid rocket motor cases for missile defense target vehicles built by Aerojet Rocketdyne Coleman Aerospace starting in early 2020.

“This capability also positions our Advanced Manufacturing Facility and Huntsville Defense Headquarters to support new U.S. national security priorities, such as the Air Force’s Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) program,” Drake said.

SUPPORTING KEY PROGRAMS

The 136,000-square-foot AMF was designed to manufacture motor cases for a variety of missile, missile defense and hypersonic systems. The company officially opened the Huntsville facility in June.

“Huntsville’s legacy as the cradle of the nation’s missile program and a hotbed for the development of rocket propulsion systems makes it the perfect home for Aerojet Rocketdyne’s new advanced manufacturing facility,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“The cutting-edge activities that will be conducted at the company’s new facility will solidify the Rocket City’s reputation for innovation and technical capability.”

Among the existing production programs the facility supports are the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense and Standard Missile-3 interceptors. Both the THAAD and SM-3 systems are assembled at facilities in Alabama.

Aerojet Rocketdyne, which has provided propulsion on every U.S. ICBM to date, was recently selected by Northrop Grumman to be an integral part of its nationwide GBSD team working to develop the nation’s next-generation ICBM.

Aerojet Rocketdyne has made significant investments in new, agile manufacturing capabilities, infrastructure, processes, tooling and people in its Huntsville; Camden, Arkansas; and Orange County, Virginia sites.

Earlier this year, it opened a new, 122,000-square-foot Defense Unit Headquarters building in Huntsville. The company’s workforce tops 400 in the Rocket City and is expected to grow as the AMF ramps up production.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

4 days ago

Alabama Power executive named CEO of Birmingham’s 2021 World Games

(Alabama Power Company/Contributed, YHN)

The World Games 2021 board of directors on Wednesday announced that Nick Sellers has been appointed the organization’s new chief executive officer, effective immediately. Sellers comes to The World Games 2021, to be held in Birmingham, on loan from Alabama Power Company.

“We are delighted to welcome Nick as our new CEO,” Jonathan Porter, chairman of The World Games 2021 board of directors, said in a statement.

“He is a highly-respected executive with demonstrated success in strategic leadership, operations, and implementation,” Porter continued. “He is well-positioned to lead The World Games 2021 over the next 19 months as we continue our positive momentum toward delivering a world-class event that showcases Birmingham to visitors from around the globe.”

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For the last 16 years, Sellers has served in a variety of major leadership positions with Southern Company and its subsidiary, Alabama Power, most recently as vice president of the Mobile division at Alabama Power. His previous roles with the organization also include vice president of business origination, senior vice president of projection development and construction and vice president of external and regulatory affairs.

Sellers expressed his thoughts on the appointment in a statement.

“Honored and grateful are the two words that capture my feelings,” Sellers commented.

He outlined, “We have a unique opportunity to present Birmingham and the state of Alabama to the world; so, our mission will be to deliver the best and most innovative competitor, spectator, and sponsor experience in the history of The World Games. I’ve always believed in Birmingham and have confidence that we will come together in a way in which we’ve never done before. Through the collaboration and leadership of the Birmingham Organizing Committee, city of Birmingham and International World Games Association, I’m convinced that the stars are aligned for us. This is our time. I’m ready to get to work.”

Sellers, in addition to his corporate prowess, brings a background in sports and event operations through his prior work as director of operations for the Alabama Sports Foundation, where he was responsible for sponsorships, ticketing and operations plans for large-scale events such as the SEC Baseball Tournament, Arby’s Hardwood Classic Invitational and Regions Charity Classic.

A native of Birmingham, Sellers holds his Juris Doctor from the Birmingham School of Law. Currently, he is also the chairman of the Alabama Sports Council, where he works to oversee all ASC events including the Magic City Classic and the Davis Cup Tennis Invitational. Sellers additionally serves on the Bryant Jordan Scholarship Foundation, the Mobile Industrial Development Board, the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce and Innovation Portal.

Sellers, a previous honoree on Yellowhammer Multimedia’s annual Power & Influence list, replaces DJ Mackovets, who recently resigned as CEO.

Porter stated, “The board and I also would like to express our gratitude to DJ Mackovets for his service to The World Games 2021 Birmingham during a critical time for this event. His vision, commitment and experience were instrumental in laying a strong foundation for the Birmingham organizing committee.”

The World Games 2021 will take place in the Magic City from July 15-25, 2021, and will generate an estimated $256 million in economic impact for the city.

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