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.

2 days ago

New advanced manufacturing training center coming to Alabama

(Dennis Washington/Alabama NewsCenter)

A new high-tech training center is coming to Bishop State Community College in Mobile.

A groundbreaking was held Wednesday morning for the $17 million Advanced Manufacturing Center (AMC) to help train a workforce that will meet the needs of businesses and industries in the Mobile community.

“It’s an amazing day for Bishop State,” said Reginald Sykes, president of Bishop State Community College. “Bishop State will have the only training facility of its kind in this region. This will benefit not only our students but also Mobile County and this region.”

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Bishop State breaks ground on new advanced manufacturing training center from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The AMC is designed for students, incumbent workers and people looking for a career change. Students will be offered training in areas supported by area businesses, such as electronic engineering technology, process technology, industrial maintenance and robotics.

“We’re going to be training for those manufacturing-type jobs, both from an operational standpoint and from an advanced technical nature,” said David Felton, dean of Workforce and Economic Development at Bishop State. “All of those types of positions that we really need to be able to train our workforce.”

Area companies contributed insight into the programs and equipment to be offered at the AMC.

“As I think about AustalAirbus and the countless other businesses that we have that need the workforce, the students that come out of here will be feeding that,” said Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson. “If we have the right students, then the businesses will locate here.”

Bishop State also broke ground Wednesday on a new $4 million health sciences facility in the old library. The building will provide state-of-the-art simulation teaching labs for the college’s nursing and physical therapy programs.

“This will allow skills development and real-time feedback on students’ clinical experience,” Sykes said. “This will help support the healthcare facilities in our region. I can’t wait for students to start training in these amazing facilities.”

Sykes said the AMC should be completed in about a year and a half, while the new health sciences facility should be finished in about a year.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 days ago

Boeing donates $500,000 to help save Huntsville’s U.S. Space & Rocket Center

(David Brossard/Flickr, YHN)

Boeing on Friday made a $500,000 contribution to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center’s “Save Space Camp” campaign.

Launched on Tuesday to offset losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the campaign had raised more than $600,000 by the time Boeing announced its donation on Friday afternoon.

The campaign in less than four full days has now raised more than $1.1 million, counting the incredibly generous Boeing gift.

The campaign’s total goal is to raise a minimum of $1.5 million to sustain operations of the Huntsville museum and to be able to reopen Space Camp in April 2021.

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“We understand the unprecedented economic hardship the COVID-19 pandemic has caused educational institutions all across the country,” stated John Shannon, vice president and program manager for Space Launch Systems at Boeing. “The U.S. Space & Rocket Center is a cherished institution that has inspired generations of future scientists, engineers, pilots and even astronauts – many of whom now call Boeing home.”

“With today’s investment, we proudly stand alongside the Center – throughout this pandemic and beyond – as we work towards our shared goal of making Space Camp an even better, brighter, more inclusive experience for our future innovators,” he concluded.

As reported earlier on Friday by Yellowhammer News, the campaign has received contributions from individuals in all 50 states. Worldwide, more than 6,000 individuals and entities have already donated to the cause.

Boeing’s transformative contribution marked a tremendous investment in the U.S. Space & Rocket Center’s short- and long-term future.

“I am awed and grateful for the generous support from Boeing for this vital campaign,” U.S. Space & Rocket Center interim CEO and executive director Louie Ramirez said in a statement.

“This has been a devastating season for the Rocket Center and Space Camp, but our family of supporters have given us hope for the future,” continued Ramirez. “Boeing has been a longtime and important supporter of the work we do. They understand the role the Rocket Center has in sharing the work of Huntsville’s aerospace community and in Space Camp’s unique role in inspiring its future work force. We thank them for this clear and profound statement of support.”

You can donate to the campaign here.

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

3 days ago

Huntsville-managed missile defense program makes large deliveries

(U.S. Missile Defense Agency/Flickr, YHN)

Boeing continues to bolster the nation’s only defense program capable of protecting the entire United States homeland, including Alaska and Hawaii, against long-range ballistic missiles.

The company manages this vital national security program, known as the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) program, out of Huntsville as the prime contractor for the Department of Defense. Boeing has led the industry team since the inception of the GMD program in 1998 with engineers and experts who work in Alabama.

GMD interceptors are designed to track long-range ballistic missile threats and use collision force to destroy the target.

The program is now building more silos for 20 additional missiles to sustain the system.

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It was announced this week that Boeing’s GMD team completed two sizable deliveries to the Fort Greely, Alaska, military installation on time and on contract. The deliveries were achieved even though the COVID-19 pandemic threatened to get in the way.

A total of eight 135,000 pound silos and eight 144,000 pound silo interface vaults were shipped to Alaska to be emplaced. They will be used to house and maintain GMD interceptors.

Five additional silos and silo interface vaults will be delivered this fall, with three more units expected to be delivered in the spring of 2021.

“We know the work we do on a daily basis is critical to U.S. national defense, and we understand that more than 300 million Americans are depending on Boeing and its suppliers to deliver a product that performs as designed. I’m proud to be a part of this mission,” stated Donnie Hudleston, GMD project lead for Boeing Ground Systems.

Boeing designs, produces, integrates, tests and sustains all GMD components deployed across 15 time zones. Boeing also provides training, equipment production and operations support services.

The company’s total contract for the program was recently increased by the Missile Defense Agency to $11,487,396,890.

Last year, Boeing earned a prestigious Aviation Week Laureate Award for completing a historic GMD test.

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

3 days ago

HudsonAlpha researchers make more progress in genetic research

(PIxabay, YHN)

Scientists at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology in Huntsville have made more progress in their research of the human genome.

Researchers working in the Myers and Mendenhall labs have zeroed in on the science of “transcription factor proteins” that bind to DNA and essentially serve as on/off switches for genes.

They, along with collaborators from CalTech, Penn State and Uc Irvine, recently published the results from the largest study of transcription factors yet completed.

According to a release from HudsonAlpha, the team was “able to identify novel associations between transcription factors, elaborate on their spatial interactions on DNA, and distinguish between those that interact with promoters and those that interact with enhancers in the genome.”

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“Understanding the genomic targets of transcription factors is vitally important to understand many aspects of biology, including gene regulation, development, and to help identify the biological mechanisms of many diseases and disorders,” said Chris Partridge, Ph.D., senior scientist at HudsonAlpha and co-first author of the study, along with Ph.D. student Surya Chetri.

Hudson Alpha and its collaborators have been part of what is named ENCODE project that is now in its third phase. Project ENCODE began in 2003.

“One thing we learned working on the Human Genome Project is that huge endeavors like the ENCODE Project work much more efficiently when research groups coordinate their efforts, particularly because ENCODE’s charge is to generate a resource of data, materials and results that are meant to be used by the entire research and biomedical community,” advised Rick Myers, Ph.D., president, science director, and M. A. Loya chair in Genomics at HudsonAlpha.

“Another thing we recognized early on is that making the data freely available to everyone on a weekly basis, prior to publication and with no strings attached, allows researchers everywhere to make advances in their research much faster than would otherwise be possible,” he added.

The full findings can be read in the scientific journal Nature.

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

Jefferson County Commission president: ‘Remote learning cannot compare with in-class instruction’

(Jimmie Stephens Jefferson Co. Commissioner District 3/Facebook, YHN)

Jefferson County Commission President Jimmie Stephens supports local school boards and superintendents deciding if students in their districts will physically return to school for the start of the academic year.

In a Thursday letter to Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. Mark Wilson, Stephens emphasized that these local education leaders must be given balanced, unbiased information to make the best possible decisions for their respective locales.

This comes after Wilson earlier this week sent out a letter to school leaders in the county recommending that they “[s]trongly consider virtual instruction only (no in-person instruction) for middle and high school students throughout the first grading period (typically 9 weeks).”

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Wilson further recommended that students from pre-k through middle school be required to wear face coverings while at school if in-person instruction is to be allowed.

Governor Kay Ivey and State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris this week announced a new state health order that only required students in the second grade and above to wear face coverings while at school.

Another recommendation by Wilson was to cancel or postpone “close contact sports” such as football. This came after the Alabama High School Athletic Association recently announced that fall sports will be allowed to start on schedule this year.

Stephens, in his letter, thanked Wilson for his efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19, while encouraging the local health officer to consider education outcomes when speaking about education.

“I truly understand your concern and how your recommendation is consistent with the mission of your office,” Stephens acknowledged. “I can appreciate your thought process and reasoning. I sincerely believe you are doing your best to abate the spread of the virus. … I do not envy the difficult position you are in and the choices you must weigh.”

However, the county commission head noted, “I also share the concerns of many of my constituents that there are several other important factors involved with reopening schools, all equally deserving strong consideration.”

Stephens, who is also on the board of the Jefferson County Department of Health, advised that hundreds of his constituents have contacted him “expressing their confusion and frustration over the mixed messages they are receiving concerning school attendance.”

He underscored that Governor Kay Ivey has voiced her support for resuming in-person instruction wherever it is possible to do so safely.

“I’m telling you we need to do everything we can to get our kids back in the classroom as soon as possible,” said the governor. She warned that the state will experience a backwards “slide” in education if students do not return to in-person instruction this year.

Both Stephens and Ivey are former educators, with the Jefferson County official having 21 years of experience himself.

“Local school administrators, as well as the State Health Officer, Governor Ivey and others, have communicated their plans and expectations to safely reopen schools for in-class instruction in the coming weeks,” Stephens wrote to Wilson. “Your letter, which has been widely publicized, seemingly contradicts this…”

“We should find ways to better coordinate messaging that provides the public with clarity and clear guidance, not to add to the confusion. We must provide the public with safe, effective public health protocols and guidance for combatting this pandemic while understanding and balancing the public right to individual choice,” he added.

Stephens emphasized the “innate benefits” of in-class instruction for students.

“Remote learning cannot compare with in-class instruction to provide focused learning resources, collaborative learning experiences, comprehension assessment, stable environment, social interaction, comprehensive meal programs, improved organizational skills, critical thinking skills and personality and career skills,” he outlined. “All are important.”

Another positive of in-person learning, per Stephens, is teachers being better able to identify abused children. He further explained that remote learning is especially inferior for special needs students.

“I would ask that you offer equal guidance to assist our school boards and superintendents relating to virtual, blended and traditional learning settings,” Stephens said to the county health officer. “These boards best know their communities and the individual needs of their students. Each family unit within each community must decide on their child’s learning setting and each must be afforded options from which to choose. Guidelines for a safe environment for virtual, blended and traditional learning settings would offer each school board options from which to choose.”

“I strongly encourage you to provide sound, effective options for school boards to consider as they work diligently to structure a safe environment while maintaining the highest educational standards,” he continued.

Read Stephens’ entire letter here.

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

3 days ago

Ivey creates $100M program to help low-income families with students pay for internet access

(Gov. Kay Ivey/Flickr, YHN)

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey on Friday announced a new $100 million program designed to enhance internet access for low-income students during the coronavirus pandemic.

The funding for the program, which is being called Alabama Broadband Connectivity, comes from the $1.9 billion the state received as part of the federal government’s CARES Act that was passed in March with the intention of mitigating the economic effects of the coronavirus.

The new program comes as many of Alabama’s public school students will begin the school year online amid the ongoing pandemic.

“This funding will expand internet access to allow more students to access distance learning while creating smaller classes in schools,” Ivey said in a statement on Friday.

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According to a release from the governor’s office, the program “will provide vouchers for families of students currently eligible for free and reduced-price school meals, or other income criteria.”

“The vouchers will help cover equipment and service costs for high-speed internet service from the fall through Dec. 31, 2020. Providers will contract with the state to provide the service using existing lines and technologies,” the office added.

Types of equipment and service provided for by the vouchers could include “equipment and service for broadband, wireless hot spots, satellite, fixed wireless, DSL, and cellular-on-wheels.”

Families eligible with students who qualify for free lunch will receive a letter in August informing them about the program.

The grants will be administered by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA), which has created a partnership with CTC Technology & Energy for the program.

“I am pleased that Alabama is going to enter into this private-public partnership to make internet access available to those low-income households who cannot currently afford it,” Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) said in a statement released by Ivey’s office.

“Economic status should not be a determining factor in receiving quality education, and it should not bar anyone from the ability to access vital online services,” he added.

The governor further reiterated on Friday her hesitation for students to attend school outside of the classroom, saying, “I fear that a slide will come by keeping our kids at home. These funds will bridge the gap until all students can get back into the classroom as soon as possible.”

Alabama State Superintendent Eric Mackey recently estimated 40%-50% of Alabama’s public school students will begin the school year virtually.

A website with more information on the Alabama Broadband Connectivity effort can be accessed here.

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

Campaign to save Space and Rocket Center has raised 40% of goal with support from all 50 states

(Alabama Tourism Department)

The online fundraising campaign to save the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville from permanently closing has raised 40% of its goal since launching on Tuesday. Support for the iconic Alabama institution has come from all 50 states.

The center announced on Monday that it needs $1,500,000 in public support or it will be forced to permanently close at the end of October. The organization’s leadership has said the “coronavirus pandemic devastated our revenue stream.”

So far, the online fundraising effort has raised $596,859 since going live on Tuesday morning.

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“Donors from all 50 states, Washington D.C., the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and 26 countries outside of the US and its territories have contributed to #SaveSpaceCamp,” the Space and Rocket Center tweeted on Thursday.

“We are moving forward but have a long way to go. Please continue to donate and share,” the facility added.

An estimated 44,000 students attended space camp in 2019, and hundreds of thousands of American schoolchildren have enjoyed the program in recent decades.

Vice President Mike Pence visited the Space and Rocket Center in 2019, saying in part, “[W]ith the courage and ingenuity of this new generation of explorers, and with God’s help, that America will once against astonish the world with the heights we reach and the wonder we achieve. And we will lead the world in human space exploration once again.”

Contributions can be given at SaveSpaceCamp.com.

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

Cavanaugh sees obstacles on road to recovery — ‘More regulations are poisonous to job growth’

(Twinkle Cavanaugh Campaign/Contributed, Made in Alabama, YHN)

Reacting to Thursday’s gloomy third quarter economic numbers, Twinkle Cavanaugh fears some of the proposed government overreach, and a return to the days of job-choking regulations, may stifle any hope of a turnaround.

“The economic numbers show just how badly the coronavirus pandemic has hurt our economy,” Cavanaugh observed to Yellowhammer News. “We will come back out of this. I don’t have any doubts in my mind. The hard-working people of Alabama and across the country have spent the last few years building the strongest economy the world had ever seen. Everyone did it. Everyone who worked and everyone who hired and everyone who built a business contributed to a historically strong economy. Together, we can all do it again.”

Reports came in on Thursday that the U.S. economy had shrunk at an annualized rate of 33% during the April through June quarter while COVID-19 cases continued to mount. This was the largest recorded contraction in history for such a time period. Nationally, unemployment claims rose this week while the same claims dipped slightly inside the Yellowhammer State.

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There is one big obstacle to the comeback, according to Cavanaugh, who is serving her second term as president of the Alabama Public Service Commission.

“What we don’t need, though, is for government to get in the way of the comeback,” she asserted. “The last thing small business owners, workers, builders or manufacturers need is government red tape. We’ve spent the last few years peeling back all the red tape put into place by Obama and Biden during those dark years for our economy and American workers.”

For her part, Cavanaugh spent significant time from 2010 through 2016 fighting the Obama administration’s rules aimed at outlawing the use of coal to produce energy. And now she fears that, in the wrong hands, another administration will set out to crush the nation’s energy production and take the economy down with it in the process.

“Just look at what Joe Biden has said,” stated Cavanaugh. “He announced that his administration will subject us to the Paris Climate Agreement as soon as he takes office. Why would you promise the American people that you are going to tie one hand behind their back your first day in office? It makes no sense. As soon as he traps us back into the European regulatory system our ability to create jobs and recover from the pandemic is made far more difficult.”

It is the fallout from such a policy move which Cavanaugh believes could have a lasting impact.

“Our energy options will shrink, businesses will have less flexibility to expand and Alabama families will have a tougher road back,” Cavanaugh explained.

The path forward and the effort to dig out of the current pandemic-induced downturn will require some principled policy making, according to her.

“Economic recovery will require all hands on deck,” stated Cavanaugh. “Let’s empower our small business owners, not hurt them. Let’s encourage companies to expand, not make it harder for them to operate.”

And Cavanaugh believes restoration of the nation’s economy begins on the state and local level.

“I have all the confidence in the world in Alabama’s people but not the liberal politicians in D.C. who are salivating over the possibility of growing government,” she concluded. “AOC, Pelosi and Biden want more money for government programs and more control over the private sector. More regulations are poisonous to job growth.”

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

4 days ago

Report: SEC adopts conference only, 10-game college football schedule for 2020

(SEC/Facebook, YHN)

The Southeastern Conference is forging ahead with a conference-only college football schedule for the 2020 season, as first reported by Sports Illustrated.

The outlet reported that SEC presidents on Thursday adopted a proposal to play a 10-game schedule this fall, featuring only teams from inside the conference. The SEC has now confirmed the news.

The plan adopted Thursday would see the season start on September 26, three weeks later than previously scheduled.

The SEC Championship would still occur as originally scheduled on December 19.

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SEC football seasons normally include eight conference games. The new plan, which comes amid the COVID-19 pandemic, would feature two more interdivisional games. This means that SEC West teams such as the University of Alabama and Auburn University would each play two more SEC East teams than normal.

The schedule includes one mid-season open date for each school and an open date on December 12 for all schools ahead of the conference championship game.

“This new plan for a football schedule is consistent with the educational goals of our universities to allow for the safe and orderly return to campus of their student populations and to provide a healthy learning environment during these unique circumstances presented by the COVID-19 virus,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement. “This new schedule supports the safety measures that are being taken by each of our institutions to ensure the health of our campus communities.”

While the SEC now has a new schedule, this still does not mean that the 2020 college football season will definitely be played. Coronavirus hurdles remain and will continue to be discussed in the coming weeks.

“After careful consideration of the public health indicators in our region and following advice of our medical advisors, we have determined that this is the best course of action to prepare for a safe and healthy return to competition for SEC student-athletes, coaches and others associated with our sports programs,” added Sankey on Thursday.

The SEC in a press release stressed the flexibility of its adopted schedule and that the advice of medical experts was leaned on heavily in the plan’s formulation and adoption.

“We believe these schedule adjustments offer the best opportunity to complete a full season by giving us the ability to adapt to the fluid nature of the virus and the flexibility to adjust schedules as necessary if disruptions occur,” Sankey stated. “It is regrettable that some of our traditional non-conference rivalries cannot take place in 2020 under this plan, but these are unique, and hopefully temporary, circumstances that call for unconventional measures.”

UPDATE 4:10 p.m.:

Alabama Director of Athletics Greg Byrne and Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban released respective statements.

“We’ve continued to stay optimistic about having a fall season, and today’s decision to move to a 10-game, conference-only schedule provides us with an opportunity to still compete and move our program forward in the safest way possible,” Byrne remarked. “The health and well-being of our student-athletes, coaches, staff and fans has always been at the forefront of our decision making, and we are thankful to now have plans in place that allow us to move forward. We appreciate the hard work of Commissioner Sankey and the SEC staff as well as everyone involved across our 14 campuses to make these collective decisions together.”

Saban commented, “We are pleased to have a plan in place for the Southeastern Conference this season. We believe it is the best option to keep players and staff safe and still maintain the integrity of the season. The safety of our team will be our highest priority throughout the season, but we are also excited that our players will have the opportunity to compete and play this season. I want to thank the leadership from our administration, our medical staff, the SEC and all of the medical experts that are guiding us through this process.”

UPDATE 5:30 p.m.:

Auburn Director of Athletics Allen Greene said in a statement, “The health and safety of our student-athletes, staff and fans remains our top priority. In that spirit, we deeply appreciate Commissioner Sankey’s leadership and the tireless efforts of the Conference staff during ongoing discussions related to fall competition.”

“The Presidents and Chancellors’ decision to implement a 10-game, conference-only schedule for the 2020 football season is prudent and the Tigers are fully supportive,” he continued. “While the format of the football schedule is confirmed, there are many other items related to football and other fall sports that warrant robust discussion, and the leaders in the Southeastern Conference are committed to working through these discussions in a thoughtful manner.”

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

4 days ago

Ivey grants $50M to nonprofit and religious organizations to ease financial pain of coronavirus pandemic

(Governor Kay Ivey/Flickr)

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey on Thursday announced that she is awarding $50 million to help charities and faith-based organizations recover revenue lost during the coronavirus pandemic.

The money comes from the $1.9 billion Alabama received as part of the federal government’s CARES Act passed in March with the intent to help the country get through the economic effects caused by COVID-19.

The $50 million announced by Ivey on Thursday will be split into two $25 million programs: The Alabama Nonprofit Grant Program and the Alabama Faith-Based Grant Program.

The maximum amount an organization can receive under either program is $15,000, and the application window is open from August 3 to August 14.

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Grants will be handed out on a first come first served basis, and organizations cannot list as an expense on their grant applications anything that has been previously reimbursed by another form of government aid such as a PPP loan.

Both programs will be administered through the Alabama Department of Finance.

“Nonprofits and faith-based organizations are truly the backbone of our great state,” said Ivey in a statement on Thursday.

“Alabama relies on these entities to be equipped to serve our communities in ways where the state is either unable or incapable of doing so. Unfortunately, many of these groups often have a hard time keeping critical funds flowing in normal circumstances, and the pandemic has exponentially increased their struggle to remain operational,” she continued.

“It is simply the right thing to do for our state to ensure Alabama nonprofits and faith-based organizations can recover in order to benefit the citizens they serve,” the governor concluded.

Groups interested in applying can go to this online portal and select “Nonprofit” or “Faith-based” to get more information on how to apply for the grants.

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

Doug Jones: Tuberville ‘doesn’t have a clue how to handle’ coronavirus; Vows response to Club for Growth attack ads

(Screenshot/MSNBC)

With less than 100 days separating now and Election Day, U.S. Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook) says he feels “very good” about his prospects in a head-to-head match-up against GOP U.S. Senate nominee Tommy Tuberville.

In an interview with Huntsville radio WVNN’s “The Jeff Poor Show,” Jones argued his opponent did not “have a clue” how to handle the COVID-19 pandemic.

He pointed to responding to the rise in coronavirus casualties as a focus of his campaign.

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“We feel very good about where we are in this,” Jones said. “We know what I’ve been doing is trying to save lives and save livelihoods. You know, I’m out here every day trying to work for the people of Alabama. I’m trying to make sure we do the things necessary in these next packages. We’re still in trouble in Alabama. I’ve got an opponent who has indicated he doesn’t have a clue how to handle it. He was on your show with another guest back in May basically saying we don’t need any more stimulus. We need to get back to work. Well, we really needed it then and we need it now. And by the way, we’ve tripled the number of cases in Alabama since that time. We’ve tripled the number of deaths. In America, we hit over the 4.4 million mark today with 150,000 deaths. We’re not out of the woods with this and we need leadership, and that’s what I think this is going to boil down to — leadership, leadership in a crisis and leadership for the people of Alabama on the issues, the kitchen table issues that folks are concerned about every day of the week.”

Jones has been the target of campaign attack ads and urged listeners to visit his website to see his response to those attacks.

“We’re going to be updating that a lot in the near future,” he added, “to try to give people, to tell people the truth about some of these crazy TV ads that are running that have no basis in truth with Club for Growth and this One Nation — just the craziest stuff I’ve seen.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly and host of Huntsville’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN.

4 days ago

Alabama’s ULA praised for role in Mars mission: ‘They gave us a perfect launch’

(ULA/Twitter)

United Launch Alliance (ULA) was lauded by NASA officials for the performance of its Atlas V rocket in launching the Mars 2020 mission.

At a post-launch news conference on Thursday morning, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine went out of his way to praise ULA and its leadership for their role in the historic launch.

“It was an amazing launch, very successful,” began Bridenstine. “It went right on time and of course it is on a trajectory that has been done now with pinpoint accuracy. It was a great day for NASA. I want to say thank you to our partners at United Launch Alliance. Tory Bruno, your team did an absolute magnificent job. It could not have gone any better from a launch perspective.”

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The Atlas V rocket tasked with carrying NASA’s Perseverance rover into space was built at ULA’s 1.6 million square foot facility in Decatur. It is the largest facility of its kind in the Western Hemisphere.

Bruno, president and CEO of ULA, was pleased with his team’s execution.

“We ended with an extraordinarily accurate orbital insertion,” he remarked in an understated manner.

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) took to social media to recognize ULA, saying the launch was “paving the way for future human exploration.”

Matt Wallace, deputy project manager for NASA, also mentioned the accuracy of the Atlas V’s performance.

“They gave us a perfect launch this morning,” he said. “Right down the middle. Could not have aimed us any better.”

ULA’s ability to meet the demands of the launch schedule was something Wallace counted as critical to the success of the mission.

“[ULA] really pushed us hard to keep on this limited planetary launch window in 2020,” noted Wallace. “As most of you know, if you miss this window, you have to wait a couple years. So it was critically important for us to hit this. And I can’t say enough about the professionalism and the support they gave us over the last couple of months in particular.”

Wallace outlined that the spacecraft will spend the next six and a half months in cruise mode while NASA does a litany of checks to ensure the craft is ready to go for entry, descent and landing.

He called the spacecraft’s entry, descent and landing on the surface of Mars the “most difficult” part of the mission because the conditions are so challenging.

NASA expects the spacecraft to land on Mars on February 18, 2021.

This was ULA’s 140th mission, during which it has enjoyed a 100% success rate. It was the 85th for an Atlas V rocket.

Vice President Mike Pence offered his own congratulations to NASA and ULA, as well.

Upon arrival to Mars, Perseverance rover will explore the planet while gathering samples and performing groundbreaking tests to see if it can turn carbon dioxide into oxygen.

Tucked beneath Perseverance will be a small helicopter called Ingenuity. The rotorcraft weighs four pounds and will operate under solar power. It received its name through a NASA contest won by an Alabama high school student.

The time delay between Earth and Mars will prevent Ingenuity from being controlled in any meaningful way, so it will fly the planet autonomously.

“Ingenuity is going to transform how we think about exploring worlds in the future,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said prior to the launch.

RELATED: Alabama rocket launches NASA’s Perseverance rover toward Mars

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

4 days ago

UAB, Southern Research discover breakthrough diabetes drug candidate

(YHN)

The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and Birmingham-based Southern Research have discovered a new drug candidate that represents a major advance in the treatment for diabetes.

A release from UAB on Thursday advised that the drug has been tested on isolated human and mouse pancreatic islets, the place where the hormones insulin and glucagon are made. It also has been tested on mouse and rat cell cultures and animal models of both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.

The drug candidate, called SRI-37330, is a non-toxic small molecule administered orally that effectively rescued mice from models of both types of diabetes.

SRI-37330 was reportedly discovered through two decades of research by Anath Shalev, M.D., director of UAB’s Comprehensive Diabetes Center. Southern Research used her findings to search through 300,000 compounds and identify promising leads. The non-profit then optimized the drug from those leads, using medicinal chemistry.

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The strong anti-diabetic properties and safety profiles of this newly designed chemical compound were published in the journal Cell Metabolism this week. Per UAB, this study is the culmination of 10 years work by the Shalev-led lab and a massive search, followed by detailed drug improvements, by Southern Research.

The UAB and Southern Research researchers found that the experimental drug significantly improved four problems caused by diabetes:

• Levels of blood sugar that are too high;
• Too high levels of the hormone glucagon, which exacerbates the too-high level of blood sugar;
• Excessive production of glucose by the liver; and
• Fatty liver, known as hepatic steatosis.

“Compared to currently available diabetes therapies, this compound may provide a distinct, effective and highly beneficial approach to treat diabetes,” stated Shalev, the leader of the research. “We are committed to see this drug moved safely and as quickly as possible into humans and are currently exploring the best way to do so.”

Diabetes affects 425 million people worldwide and more than 30 million in the United States. It is a growing epidemic, with 1.5 million Americans newly diagnosed each year. Alabama had the third highest prevalence of diabetes in the country as of 2012, per the Department of Public Health.

The preclinical studies led by Shalev suggest that SRI-37330 could be beneficial for both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, including both lean and obese individuals.

“The safety and efficacy of SRI-37330 in humans still remains to be determined,” she added, “but we have seen that it is highly effective in human islets, is orally bioavailable and is well tolerated in mice.”

The 80 million people in the United States who have prediabetes might also benefit from the potential drug, according to UAB’s release. Additionally, the effectiveness of SRI-37330 in reducing fatty liver in mice suggested it might have potential to treat non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which affects about 100 million people nationwide and 1 billion worldwide.

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

4 days ago

Auburn professor: ‘F*** every single cop’

(Jesse Goldberg/Facebook)

Jesse A. Goldberg, Ph.D., still has not started his first semester as a lecturer at Auburn University. However, the incoming professor continues to ignite controversy on social media.

A few months ago, Goldberg admittedly posted his “first controversial tweet” as an Auburn faculty member.

Ahead of starting his new job as a “Lecturer of African American & American Literature and Composition in the English department at Auburn University” this coming academic year, Goldberg said, “I know it’s just a mascot but I’m never gonna be able to call myself a ‘war eagle’ or say ‘go war eagles.’ Sorry.”

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“I can’t bring myself to enthusiastically and sincerely use a slogan/greeting/cultural signal with ‘war’ as a primary descriptor. Yeah I know I’m being a party pooper but it’s the kind of language thing that sticks with me,” he advised.

In reporting on that incident, Yellowhammer News noted that Goldberg’s Twitter bio read, “Lecturer @ Auburn U | Black Studies, Critical Prison Studies, Queer Theory, American Literature | Abolitionist | martial artist | views are mine | he/him/his.”

The following image utilized as his Twitter header seems to explain what he means by “Abolitionist:”

He further described himself as a “radical anti-racist white (Jewish) teacher.”

Goldberg on Wednesday apparently took his “radical” branding to heart.

The incoming Auburn lecturer tweeted the following (censoring added by Yellowhammer News):

F*ck every single cop. Every single one. The only ethical choice for any cop to make at this point is to refuse to do their job and quit. The police do not protect people. They protect capital. They are instruments of violence on behalf of capital.

The tweet came as a response to a post by the ACLU claiming that a protester in New York City was “abducted” by law enforcement officers. The NYPD has publicly explained that the protester was actually arrested on open warrants by plainclothes officers. Goldberg in his tweet asserted that the arrest was actually “kidnapping.”

Goldberg’s tweet has since been deleted and his account has been set to private. A screenshot of the tweet can be viewed here.

In a statement to Yellowhammer News on Thursday afternoon, a spokesperson for Auburn University reacted to Goldberg’s tweet.

“We find Mr. Goldberg’s comments inexcusable and completely counter to Auburn values. Hate speech of any kind is simply wrong,” said Brian Keeter, the university’s executive director of Public Affairs. “Auburn is fully committed to the fundamental right of free speech, but we do not support hateful words or actions that degrade, disrespect or exclude. Especially during these difficult times in our nation, it’s vital that we reject crude stereotypes and work together to foster mutual understanding and respect within our communities.”

“Auburn officials are considering options available to the university,” he concluded.

While Goldberg’s Twitter account is not currently publicly viewable, his Facebook account is.

As of Thursday at 1:00 p.m. CT, his Facebook cover photo displayed a poem entitled, “Against the Police.”

(Jesse Goldberg/Facebook)

In a Wednesday Facebook post that was still on his page as of Thursday at 1:00 p.m. CT, Goldberg echoed the thoughts contained in his since-deleted tweet about police.

“ACAB. Yes, all. Police do not protect people. They protect capital. Cops are instruments of violence on behalf of capital. Literally the only ethical decision for a cop in this moment is to refuse to do their job, to quit. The only good cop is a cop who quits,” he wrote.

ACAB stands for “all cops are bastards.”

A separate Goldberg Facebook post from last week stated that he is a supporter of “prison & police abolition.” Numerous Facebook posts by Goldberg outline that he literally wants to abolish the police, as opposed to more prevalent “reforming” or “defunding” movements.

Goldberg recently wrote that he plans on teaching four classes exclusively online at Auburn this upcoming fall semester.

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

4 days ago

Coronavirus hospitalizations and new cases level off; UAB expert touts effectiveness of masks

(Pixabay, YHN)

There are glimmers of good news in Alabama’s coronavirus numbers for the first time in several weeks, and a high profile infectious disease expert at UAB Hospital credits increased wearing of masks as a big factor.

According to BamaTracker, the number of people being hospitalized each day due to COVID-19 has leveled off in the last week, and the seven-day average of new cases has decreased from a high of 1,851 per day to just under 1,600.

The decrease in numbers comes after Governor Kay Ivey’s statewide mask mandate has been in effect for two weeks.

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Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, director of UAB’s Division of Infectious Diseases, was asked during a videoconference on Wednesday whether the governor’s mask mandate has affected Alabama’s numbers.

“The answer is yes,” she replied.

“I think right now we’re at a precariously stable point,” she added later in response to a question about hospitalizations.

Ivey extended the mask order for the entire month of August on Wednesday morning.

Marrazzo commented that more wearing of masks was good “particularly so we can keep businesses open.”

“None of us want to go back to the draconian world of everything being shut down,” she added.

In contrast to the positive sign of declining case numbers, the portion of Alabama’s coronavirus tests coming back positive hovers around 18%, which remains troubling to experts.

“That is very, very, very high,” advised Marrazzo on the positivity rate.

The national average for positivity percentage of tests is currently 7.8%, according to the medical school at Johns Hopkins University.

Thursday, 65 of the state’s 67 counties reported a new positive COVID-19 test.

The number of Alabamians being hospitalized each day has stayed steady somewhere in the mid 190s for the last week, a figure that is still worryingly high to healthcare professionals, but for the first time since the early days of July, it is not increasing.

The state of Alabama only had 12% of its intensive care unit (ICU) beds available on Wednesday.

As of Thursday morning, Alabama has averaged over 20 deaths from the virus every day for the last week.

The total death toll in the state is now 1,516, with 49 more that are probable but have not yet been confirmed by the Alabama Department of Public Health.

“So much is going to happen, or be determined by what happens, in the next seven to 14 days,” Marrazzo said of Alabama’s numbers.

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

Alabama rocket launches NASA’s Perseverance rover toward Mars

(NASA/Twitter)

NASA’s Mars 2020 launch went off without a hitch early Thursday morning from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Catching a lift from United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Alabama-made Atlas V rocket, Mars Perseverance is now setting its trajectory toward the Red Planet. The Perseverance rover will explore Mars while gathering samples and performing groundbreaking tests to see if it can turn carbon dioxide into oxygen.

The Atlas V rocket launched promptly at the opening of the first launch window. Launches to Mars face additional urgency because launch windows only come along every two years.

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Perseverance now embarks on a seven-month journey through space before reaching its destination. It will be the ninth robot that NASA has landed on the planet. ULA and its heritage rockets have launched every previous U.S.-led mission to Mars, beginning in the 1960s. Thursday’s launch marks ULA’s 20th trip to Mars.

Another unique aspect of this mission is the plan to fly a small helicopter around the planet.

Ingenuity, named by an Alabama high school student, is attached to the belly of the rover. Because of the time delay between Earth and Mars, Ingenuity cannot be controlled in any meaningful way so it will operate entirely on its own. The rotorcraft weighs four pounds and will operate under solar power.

“Ingenuity is going to transform how we think about exploring worlds in the future,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said prior to the launch.

This was ULA’s 140th mission, during which it has enjoyed a 100% success rate. It was the 85th for an Atlas V rocket.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

4 days ago

State Rep. Dismukes resigns from church following Nathan Bedford Forrest backlash

(Will Dismukes/Facebook)

State Rep. Will Dismukes (R-Prattville) on Wednesday resigned from Pleasant Hill Baptist Church, where he was serving as an Alabama Baptist bivocational pastor.

The resignation, first announced by The Alabama Baptist, comes in the wake of Dismukes attending a celebration of Nathan Bedford Forrest, who was a Confederate general and the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

The Alabama Baptist is an official entity of the Alabama Baptist State Convention. The publication explained that the resignation came following a meeting that included church deacons and Mel Johnson, lead mission strategist for the Autauga Baptist Association.

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“Immediate effort was made to connect with Will on behalf of our leadership with commitment toward a biblically based process to mitigate controversy surrounding this issue,” Johnson advised, according to The Alabama Baptist. “He was open and receptive to our call and subsequent in-person meeting on Tuesday afternoon.”

“Scripture is clear that all people are created in God’s image and therefore equal in every way before Christ and our personal need of Him as Savior and Lord,” Johnson said.

In addition to the celebration itself, Dismukes has drawn intense criticism from both sides of the aisle for the statement he first released on Monday, as well as a follow-up interview later that day with WSFA.

After that television interview aired, State Sen. Clyde Chambliss (R-Prattville) called on Dismukes to resign from the legislature. Chambliss is a constituent of Dismukes’ (and vice-versa).

Reacting to the news on Wednesday evening that Dismukes had resigned from his church, State Rep. Merika Coleman (D-Birmingham) reiterated calls for Dismukes to relinquish his seat in the Alabama House of Representatives.

Dismukes told WSFA on Tuesday that he has no plans to resign from the legislature.

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

5 days ago

Ivey dismisses state school board member who insulted her appearance — ‘True gentleman’ doesn’t discuss woman’s age or figure

(Governor's Office/Hal Yeager)

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey wasted no words in responding to Alabama State Board of Education member Wayne Reynolds, who on Wednesday morning posted an insulting comment about the governor’s appearance on Facebook.

“She is gaining weight,” wrote Reynold in the comments of an AL.com Facebook live stream that was broadcasting the governor’s coronavirus pandemic press conference.

“A lady never discusses her age or her figure – a true gentleman doesn’t either,” responded Ivey later in the day to AL.com.

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Reynolds represents the eighth of the Alabama State Board of Education’s eight districts. It encompasses most of the northeast corner of Alabama.

Wayne Reynolds, File Photo

In the press conference Reynolds was commenting on, the governor extended the mask order designed to protect Alabamians amid a pandemic that has claimed nearly 1,500 lives in the state.

Reynolds defended himself in an interview with Alabama Media Group following the press conference, claiming, “It wasn’t derogatory, it was an observation.”

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

5 days ago

Publication gives Alabama high marks for business climate, workforce training

(Made in Alabama/Contributed)

Alabama received high rankings for its workforce development programs and auto manufacturing strength in a new report from Business Facilities magazine, which also picked Birmingham and Huntsville as top cities for business climate.

In the 16th installment of its Annual State and Metro Rankings Report, Business Facilities rated Birmingham as the No. 1 mid-size metro area for its business climate, while Huntsville was No. 1 among small-size metros. Overall, Alabama ranked No. 4 for business climate.

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Alabama’s workforce development and talent attraction programs ranked No. 2 among the states in the ranking, while Business Facilities rated Alabama’s automotive manufacturing strength No. 5.

“Alabama’s economic development team will continue to work tirelessly to recruit high-caliber companies, and this ranking is another testament to the advantages that our state possesses for businesses across the globe,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“One of those key advantages is our workforce training programs, which are a key component of the support system we have in place in Alabama to help companies in many different industries find and develop the skilled workers they need to achieve success,” he added.

AIDT, the state’s primary workforce development agency, is a central player in Alabama’s strategic economic growth efforts, having worked with 5,200 companies and training nearly 1 million workers since its founding in 1971. Last year, AIDT’s economic impact on Alabama was calculated at $7 billion.

“Any success we have in Alabama regarding workforce development and talent attraction is due to a myriad of things,” said Ed Castile, director of AIDT and head of Commerce’s Workforce Development Division.

“This includes an available workforce with an extraordinary work ethic, world-class companies that choose Alabama and hire our citizens, a business-focused Governor and Legislature who are totally engaged in our workforce strategies, and a Secretary of Commerce who helped create the Accelerate Alabama strategy that is the foundation of all our work.”

Castile added: “The AIDT staff is among the best in the business of both workforce development and talent attraction, and I commend them and many others involved in this work for this recognition. We are very proud to be part of the ‘Made in Alabama’ and the ‘AlabamaWorks’ team.”

Alabama’s auto industry is poised for growth as Mazda Toyota Manufacturing completes its new assembly plant in Huntsville, and Hyundai and Mercedes-Benz move forward with major expansions in the state.

GROWTH PROJECTS

Other Business Facilities rankings for Alabama included:

No. 6 – Foreign Trade Zone activity (exports)

No. 7 – Manufacturing Output (percentage of GDP)

No. 10 – Birmingham/Hoover (GDP leaders, mid-size MSAs)

Both the Birmingham and Huntsville areas have recorded high levels of economic development activity.

Last year, Jefferson County, the heart of the Birmingham metro area, attracted $456 million in new capital investment, along with more than 1,100 jobs, according to Commerce’s 2019 New & Expanding Industry Report.

Major projects included the recruitment of a Carvana automobile distribution center in Bessemer with a projected 450 jobs and a $215 million expansion at a U.S. Steel facility, adding 150 jobs.

Madison and Limestone counties, comprising the Huntsville metro area, landed projects valued at nearly $2 billion in 2019, with more than 3,500 job commitments.

Companies such as Lockheed Martin and Toyota announced growth projects in the Huntsville region last year, as did several suppliers to Mazda Toyota Manufacturing.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

5 days ago

NASA head: Alabama-powered mission is history’s first aimed specifically at finding life on another planet

(Wikicommons, YHN)

Alabama is once again set to make history with the scheduled Thursday morning launch of NASA’s Mars 2020 mission.

Atop a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket, the Perseverance rover is set to blast off from Space Launch Complex-41 at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The rocket was built at ULA’s world-class facility in Decatur.

This was highlighted at a NASA press conference on Wednesday ahead of the scheduled launch.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine of the Mars 2020 mission said, “I’m exceptionally excited about what we’re about to do.”

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He explained this will mark the ninth robot that the agency has landed on the planet. ULA and its heritage rockets have launched every previous U.S.-led mission to Mars, beginning in the 1960s. In fact, the launch of this latest mission will mark ULA’s 20th trip to Mars.

While the discoveries already made from prior missions are amazing — including that liquid water once was prevalent on Mars and that life might still exist under the Red Planet’s surface, Mars 2020 is expected to reveal even more groundbreaking information, Bridenstine outlined. He thanked ULA for making the mission possible.

“[T]his is the first time in history where we’re going to go to Mars with an explicit mission to find life on another world — ancient life on Mars,” he emphasized. “It’s a great day.”

“Are we going to be able to do that? We don’t know. We don’t know if life existed there or not. But we do know that Mars at one point in its history was habitable. We don’t know that it was inhabited, but we know that it was habitable,” Bridenstine continued. “And now we’re actually, no kidding, going to do an astrobiology mission to the surface of Mars.”

He then mentioned that President Donald Trump has challenged NASA with planting an American flag on Mars in the near future as part of the Artemis program.

“In order to do that, we’re going to need to send humans,” Bridenstine noted. “And when we send humans to Mars, they’re going to have to be able to breath, and we can’t take all of that oxygen with us [to the planet]. So in this mission (Mars 2020), we have a technology demonstration called ‘Moxie.’ We’re going to take the carbon dioxide atmosphere of Mars and we’re going to turn it into oxygen, so that when humans get there, we know that we know that we know that we’re going to be able to create the oxygen necessary for life support.”

He further stressed that another important Mars 2020 technology demonstration will come in the form of the Ingenuity helicopter.

According to NASA, the helicopter will ride to Mars attached to the belly of the Perseverance rover. The vehicle will eventually deploy and operate on its own throughout the planet; the helicopter will become the first aircraft to attempt powered flight on another planet, per NASA. Ingenuity, weighing four pounds and operating under solar power, was named by an Alabama high school student.

Per a tweet from NASA, Vaneeza Rupani — the Tuscaloosa County high school student who named Ingenuity — will attend Thursday’s launch in-person.

“Ingenuity is going to transform how we think about exploring worlds in the future,” Bridenstine advised.

You can watch the full press conference below:

You can follow along with the Mars 2020 mission here, courtesy of NASA, including a launch countdown clock.

The launch is scheduled for 6:50 a.m. CT on Thursday; you can watch the launch live via NASA TV or ULA’s website here. The broadcast will begin about 50 minutes prior to the two-hour launch window opening.

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

5 days ago

Sen. Larry Stutts: ‘I think schools ought to open up, period’

(Jeff Poor/YHN)

While many school systems around the state are opting for online schooling-only for the first nine weeks, the debate as to whether or not schools should open in Alabama remains unsettled given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

During an interview with Huntsville radio WVNN’s “The Jeff Poor Show,” State Sen. Larry Stutts (R-Cherokee) argued for the opening of schools.

According to Stutts, there would be consequences that go beyond the academics of schools remaining closed, which may result in societal damages in the long-term.

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“I think schools ought to open up, period,” he said. “The mortality rate among young people is extremely low — way, way lower than the general population. The problem is there are implications to not having school besides the possibility of a viral illness. When you look at the percentage of children that get two meals a day at school, when you at children that may be in a less-than-ideal home situation, and you take school away from them, that’s a problem.”

“When you look at the gap between the haves and the have not in the education system — you know, the children that are from a wonderful family with educated parents and have high-speed internet at home and have parents that are disciplined to know they are going to do their schoolwork at home, all those children are going to do fine. But everybody is not in that situation,” Stutts continued. “So if we spend a year with no real school, for a large percentage of children, they’re not going to make any educational progress during that year. They’re not going to develop socialization skills they would have developed in school. And academically, they’re going to fall way, way behind. If we do this for a whole year — we’ve already done it for the last nine weeks of the last school year, and if we do it for the majority of this school year, all of this school year, when the fall of 2021 rolls around, the gap between the children that are prepared academically and those not is going to be much wider than it is right now. There are implications with what you’re going to do with the schools besides prevent the spread of the virus.”

“I’m in favor of opening schools up,” he added. “And I understand the risk of maybe a child taking it home to a grandparent. I understand all that risk, but if you’re in that category, then you need to take those precautions at home. But for everybody else, we need to open up the schools.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly and host of Huntsville’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN.

5 days ago

Ex-wife of Amazon CEO gives Tuskegee University $20M, largest gift in history of institution

(Tuskegee University/Facebook, YHN)

MacKenzie Scott, who for 25 years was married to Amazon.com founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, gave $20 million to Tuskegee University in recent days. The donation is the largest gift in the history of the school.

The Tuskegee donation was one in a string of contributions from Scott that totaled $1.7 billion. Scott has pledged to give away more than half of her $36 billion fortune during her lifetime. She is currently estimated to be the fourth-richest woman in the world.

“[W]ith this investment from Ms. Scott, we will be able to unfold the next phase of our mission in ways we simply could not have considered before,” Tuskegee President Lily McNair wrote in a statement.

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“We will focus on student scholarships, faculty and curriculum development, interdisciplinary programs, and campus infrastructure improvements,” added McNair.

Tuskegee University is a historically black university about 40 minutes east of Montgomery that serves around 3,000 students. Famous in many circles for being the location where the Tuskegee Airmen trained, the University was founded by Booker T. Washington and was home to George Washington Carver.

Scott said she targeted organizations promoting racial equality, LGBTQ+ equity, climate change and other causes she deemed important with her donations.

“The gift will allow us to become the Tuskegee of the 21st century – a university that integrates knowledge, leadership and service to solve the problems of a global, modern society,” concluded McNair.

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

5 days ago

Two indicted on federal kidnapping charges in death of Alabama’s Kamille ‘Cupcake’ McKinney

(Contributed)

A federal grand jury on Wednesday indicted two people previously charged on the state level in the death of Kamille “Cupcake” McKinney.

The tragic disappearance of McKinney, 3, captured the hearts of many across Alabama and the nation last fall. After being missing for more than a week, the Birmingham girl’s remains were located in a trash bin that had been taken to a landfill.

Patrick Devone Stallworth, 40, and his girlfriend Derick Irisha Brown (also known as Quentesa Jackson), 29, were both charged on the state level with murder upon the discovery of McKinney’s remains.

Stallworth and Brown on Wednesday were each indicted for one count of kidnapping and one count of conspiracy to kidnap a minor victim, announced Interim U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama Prim F. Escalona and FBI Special Agent in Charge Johnnie Sharp, Jr.

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RELATED: Technology that led to recoveries of Aniah Blanchard, Kamille ‘Cupcake’ McKinney could help solve Alabama’s prison crisis

“This case is an excellent example of the seamless cooperation and coordination by federal agencies and our state and local partners,” Escalona said in a statement. “Federal law enforcement stands ready to assist whenever our help is needed.”

If proven that McKinney’s death resulted from the charges alleged in the federal indictments, Stallworth and Brown would face a minimum sentence of life in prison, with a death sentence also on the table for each. At this time, the defendants have only been charged and remain presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

“The kidnapping of a child is one of a parent’s biggest fears,” First Assistant United States Attorney Lloyd C. Peeples added. “Despite their best efforts, federal, state, and local law enforcement were not able to bring the 3-year old victim home to her family. However, we hope that today’s charges will be a step towards bringing justice for her and her family.”

Peeples and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Robin Mark and Blake Milner are prosecuting the cases.

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

5 days ago

Trump administration names Alabama Farmers Federation president to advisory committee

(Alfa/Contributed)

Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell was recently appointed to a national agricultural trade advisory committee.

The president of Alabama’s largest farm organization is one of 25 new members to serve across seven different committees, announced U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer this month.

Parnell, a fifth-generation beef cattle farmer and logger from Chilton County, will serve on the Agricultural Technical Advisory Committee for Trade in Animals and Products.

He will also provide technical advice and guidance to the Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee (APAC). Parnell will serve in these roles until 2024.

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APAC advises the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative on trade policy matters, including the operation of existing trade agreements and the negotiation of new agreements.

“It is an honor to represent the real-world impact of international trade on farm families and our rural communities,” Parnell stated.

“It is imperative U.S. trade policy be responsive to the needs of American agricultural producers. I believe my roles at the state and national levels position me to serve as a voice for those farmers,” he added.

In Alabama, agricultural exports total more than $1.3 billion annually. Parnell advised that foreign trade is critical to the health and financial sustainability of the state’s livestock, poultry, cotton, feed grain, peanut and soybean commodities.

He was a vocal supporter of the United States-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) trade agreement, which was negotiated by the Trump administration to replace NAFTA. The historic trade deal took effect in recent weeks.

Parnell has also been fighting for better trade conditions with China, among other examples.

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