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.

5 hours ago

UA’s CrossingPoints receives $4M in grants to enhance education efforts

(University of Alabama/Contributed)

The University of Alabama’s CrossingPoints Transition Program has received two federal grants totaling more than $4 million to enhance education efforts for young adults who have intellectual disabilities and to assist special education teachers and rehab counselors.

“Our ability to provide excellent preparation of our students in order to improve outcomes in their desired adult goals of employment, independent living, community participation and, not to mention, have a great college experience while they are preparing for their futures, is something we have worked hard to achieve,” said Kagendo Mutua, director and co-founder of CrossingPoints. “We want our students to have an enviable life after college.”

The first award from the U.S Department of Education Office of Postsecondary Education is a five-year grant totaling nearly $2.5 million that will allow CrossingPoints to expand and enhance the scope of its inclusive transition services and opportunities for accessing higher education by students with intellectual disabilities. CrossingPoints is one of six nationally recognized programs to receive this competitive funding for a second time.

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In addition to expanding services, the grant will allow CrossingPoints to significantly reduce the program fee for its Tier 3 program to $3,000 per semester. Peer institutions with similar programs have fees ranging from $9,000 to $15,000 per semester.

The project core team is Mutua, Amy Williamson, John Myrick and Jim Siders.

The second award from the Department of Education Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services is a five-year grant totaling more than $1.5 million that will prepare teachers and vocational rehabilitation counselors to work with secondary/transition-age students with high-intensity needs within a model called Service, Teaching, Advocacy and Rehabilitation (STAR).

The goal of the STAR project is to recruit, train and place 30 master’s-level scholars in positions as special education teachers and vocational rehabilitation counselors to work with transition-age students with severe disabilities and evaluate the impact of an evidence-based approach to interdisciplinary training.

“The grant will make it possible for UA’s College of Education to support graduate students to earn a master’s degree in either special education, severe disabilities or vocational rehabilitation counseling,” said Mutua. “STAR scholars will receive full tuition funding through the grant, as well as a stipend to enable them to participate in an on-campus summer institute hosted in the CrossingPoints program.”

The project team for this grant is Mutua, Williamson and George Mugoya.

This story originally appeared on the University of Alabama’s website.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

7 hours ago

State Sen. Elliott: Ivey prison proposal funding scheme prevents new facilities from being built at existing locations

(Contributed/State Sen. Chris Elliott)

All three of the locations named in Gov. Kay Ivey’s prison proposal in Bibb, Elmore and Escambia Counties have raised some local residents’ level of concern as some have said they were blindsided by the announcement.

While there are existing facilities in Bibb, Elmore and Escambia Counties, none of the proposed new facilities, which would be privately owned and leased by the State of Alabama for prisons to be operated by the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC), are adjacent to existing ADOC infrastructure.

The reason according to State Sen. Chris Elliott (R-Daphne) is the private entities named by the Ivey administration to build the new facilities, Alabama Prison Transformation Partners and CoreCivic, can legally build on state-owned land, which has presented challenges.

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“I suspect the initial answer as to why we’re not building on state property is the nature of the administration’s funding scheme, and that is the private companies are going to own this facility,” he explained during an interview with Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5’s “The Jeff Poor Show.’ “That means you can’t build it on state land. Right out of the gate, even if the state has land on existing prison facilities or near existing prison facilities, the state can’t simply give that to a private entity and build on. That’s not allowed. The scheme that is set up now to lease these prisons, for the state to lease these prisons, precludes building on state land. That means you’ve got to go out and buy additional land, and finding a track of that size in a lot of these areas close by has really proven difficult, and again negates new infrastructure, not just roads — sewer, water, power — everything that it takes to essentially build a small town, you know, when we start talking about the size of these facilities, you’ve got to start over. And that’s all being driven by the administration’s choice to go down this particular delivery method of these leasebacks instead of owning them and doing them ourselves.”

Elliott’s colleague State Sen. Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) has previously expressed skepticism whether there was much the legislature could do given the timing of Ivey’s efforts. Elliott acknowledged that difficulty but said Ivey proceeding would have consequences.

“I think Senator Ward is likely right,” Elliott said. “But that is probably because of the timing here. The Governor has indicated they’re going to sign these deals and break ground prior to the legislature coming back into session in February. Well, if that’s the case, then the horse is out of the gate, and I don’t know that you can undo that, even with consensus among legislators. Now, if the Governor slows up a little bit — even just a few months — I think there is an opportunity to compare and contrast the delivery methods being offered here with some state funding as opposed to this long-term leaseback, this 30-plus year leaseback. And we talk about the devil being in the details — we haven’t seen the details of this contract, what it really looks like. There could be significant pushback on that. The problem is the administration seems to not be willing to release the details of the contract until — ready for this — after it is signed. That’s going to be interesting to see what we’ve gotten ourselves into with the administration signing the contract the legislature is going to be on the hook for without ever seeing the details of it. And if all of that happens like that, the legislature is not going to have an opportunity. The Governor is going to have beaten us to it, if you will, and probably done so at a significant cost to the taxpayers.”

@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 Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

8 hours ago

Historic storm cleanup: Alabama Power linemen working around the clock to restore service

(Alabama Power/Twitter)

Alabama Power now has more than 300,000 customers back online after Hurricane Zeta tore through the state, and lineman from Alabama and 19 other states and Canada continue their efforts to finish restoration of power.

The damage left behind from the historic storm, which left nearly one-third of all Alabama Power customers without service, is comparable to that of Hurricane Katrina and the April 27, 2011 tornadoes, according to the company.

“Since early Thursday morning, we’ve been working to restore service for customers affected by Hurricane Zeta,” Scott Moore, Alabama Power senior vice president of Power Delivery, told Yellowhammer News. “We’ve made significant progress and are working through some tough conditions due to the number of downed trees and extensive damage across our state. I’m proud of our team members and their commitment to serving our customers. During this challenging time we will not stop until our customers’ service is restored,”

Alabama Power expects to have service restored to 80% of its affected customers by noon on Sunday. More than 500,000 of its customers were without service, at one time.

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Past storms have seen Alabama deploy more than 1,500 team members across the state. Those same crews were joined this week by than 1,700 lineworkers and support personnel from outside the state.

Service to Lamar, Franklin, Winston, Barbour, Covington, Coffee, Geneva, Dale, Houston, Henry, Clayton and Russell counties has been fully restored, while restoration for customers in the hardest hit areas of Eastern, Central and Southwestern Alabama could extend into next week.

The company issued a statement on Friday apologizing to customers for some confusion surrounding information on power status for certain locations:

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

10 hours ago

Study highlights link between depressive symptoms and stroke risk

(UAB/Contributed, YHN)

People with multiple depressive symptoms have an increased risk for stroke, according to findings recently published in Neurology: Clinical Practice. The collaborative study led by investigators at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the University of Alabama showed that individuals who scored higher on a test designed to measure depressive symptoms had a higher stroke risk than those with lower scores.

The study involved 9,529 Black and 14,516 white stroke-free participants, age 45 and older, enrolled in the UAB-led REGARDS study. REGARDS is a national, population-based longitudinal study designed to examine risk factors associated with racial and regional disparities in stroke incidence and mortality.

Depressive symptoms were assessed using the four-item version of the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale, known as CES-D-4, administered during a baseline evaluation of each participant. The four-item scale evaluates a subset of symptoms and assesses how often respondents felt depressed, sad or lonely or had crying spells.

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There were 1,262 strokes over an average follow-up of nine years among the study cohort. Compared to participants with no depressive symptoms, participants with CES-D-4 scores of one to three had a 39 percent increased stroke risk after demographic adjustment. Participants with CES-D-4 scores of more than four experienced a 54 percent higher risk of stroke after demographic adjustment. There was no evidence of a differential effect by race.

“There are a number of well-known risk factors for stroke, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease; but we are beginning to understand that there are nontraditional risk factors as well, and having depressive symptoms looms high on that list,” said Virginia Howard, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Epidemiology in the UAB School of Public Health and senior author of the paper. “These nontraditional risk factors need to be in the conversation about stroke prevention.”

One goal of the study was to see if depressive symptoms might help explain the increased risk that Black populations have for stroke, especially in the southern United States.

“The traditional risk factors don’t explain all the difference in stroke risk between races,” said Cassandra Ford, Ph.D., R.N., Capstone College of Nursing at the University of Alabama and the study’s first author. “The results have been mixed among the few studies that enrolled Black participants and examined race and depressive symptoms in relation to stroke. Depression often goes undetected and undiagnosed in Black patients, who are frequently less likely to receive effective care and management. These findings suggest that further research needs to be conducted to explore nontraditional risk factors for stroke. The implications of our findings underscore the importance of assessing for this risk factor in both populations.”

The takeaway, according to Howard, is that medical professionals need to recognize that stroke risk from depressive factors is high.

“The standard questions asked in the typical physician/patient encounter need to be updated to include questions regarding depressive symptoms,” she said. “Physicians in primary care, internal medicine and geriatrics need to consider asking their patients about depressive symptoms.”

“As nurses, we care for the entire person,” Ford said. “When a patient has a particular condition, such as diabetes, hypertension or stroke, that is the focus of diagnosis and care. Our study provides support for considering nontraditional risk factors during patient assessment, particularly conducting some mental health screenings.”

The study was funded by grant No. U01 NS041588 co-funded by the National Institute of Neurologic Disorders and Stroke and the National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health. Additional support was provided by the Deep South Resource Center for Minority Aging Research grant P30AG031054.

In addition to Ford and Howard, co-authors on the paper are Martha R. Crowther, Ph.D., University of Alabama; and Marquita S. Gray, MSPH, Virginia G. Wadley, Ph.D., and Michael G. Crowe, Ph.D., University of Alabama at Birmingham. Additional co-authors are Audrey L. Austin, Ph.D., Tuscaloosa Veterans Affairs Medical Center; LeaVonne Pulley, Ph.D., and Frederick Unverzagt, Ph.D., Indiana University School of Medicine; and Dawn O. Kleindorfer, M.D., and Brett M. Kissela, M.D., University of Cincinnati School of Medicine.

(Courtesy of UAB)

12 hours ago

Kith Kitchens to open cabinet factory in Florence, creating 131 jobs

(Kith Kitchens/Contributed)

FLORENCE, Alabama — Kith Kitchens, an Alabama-based maker of high-quality cabinets, plans to invest $11 million to open a new manufacturing facility in Florence that will create 131 full-time jobs.

Kith Kitchens will purchase a 150,000-square-foot speculative building pad and 11.5 acres in the Florence-Lauderdale Industrial Park. The company plans to start construction soon with a goal of beginning operations next summer.

“We are excited to work with the Shoals Economic Development Authority, the State of Alabama and the Tennessee Valley Authority to build this facility and hire a new team in Florence, which, working in conjunction with our team in Haleyville, will help us continue the growth and success of Kith Kitchens,” CEO Mark Smith said.

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GROWTH PLANS

According to the Shoals EDA, demand for Kith Kitchens’ cabinets has outgrown the capacity at the company’s current facility in Haleyville. The organization says the company chose the Shoals because of the availability of a first-class workforce and shovel ready industrial property.

“A couple of years ago the Shoals EDA developed an aggressive product development plan that included the construction of a new road and speculative building pad in the Florence-Lauderdale Industrial Park,” said Adam Himber, vice president of the Shoals EDA.

“The speculative building pad will allow Kith Kitchens to become operational quicker to meet the ever-growing demand in their industry,” he said.

The Shoals EDA said the success of the project can be attributed to a collaborative effort with the Alabama Department of Commerce, AIDT, and TVA.

The Shoals EDA  began building this 150,000-square-foot speculative building pad earlier this year in preparation for future development.

Kith is a family owned business, founded in 1998.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

1 day ago

Brooks, Byrne, Aderholt, Marshall file legal briefs supporting exclusion of illegal aliens from congressional apportionment

(Wikicommons, AL Attorney General's Office/Contributed, YHN)

Four prominent Alabama Republicans on Friday went to bat for the Trump administration’s effort to only count legal American residents when apportioning congressional seats after the 2020 Census is over.

U.S. Representatives Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville), Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) and Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville) along with Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall were behind respective amicus briefs filed with the Supreme Court supporting the president.

Brooks, Byrne and Aderholt filed one brief together, and Marshall filed his own.

The legal question the four officials center their briefs on is whether the president can lawfully exclude illegal aliens from the count of people that determines how many seats each state gets in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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All four of the Alabama Republicans believe that he can — and should.

That holding is key to a legal battle between President Donald Trump and the State of New York regarding the president’s memorandum that illegal aliens not be included in apportionment.

The implementation of the memorandum was blocked by a panel of three federal judges from the Southern District of New York in September, and the case has now been appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States.

SCOTUS said earlier in October that it is going to fast track the case, titled Trump v. New York, and oral arguments will begin on November 30.

Both Brooks and Marshall have previously been vocal in their support of Trump’s effort on the matter.

In the apportionments following previous census years, the number of illegal aliens has been counted by the government, a practice the president and many other Republicans feel is unjust.

The court’s decision could have a major impact on Alabama, as many observers have noted the Yellowhammer State is one of those most likely to lose a seat in Congress after the 2020 Census is concluded; that loss could lead to a devastating loss of federal funding for core government services.

Trump v. New York is one of the most consequential cases to ever come before the U.S. Supreme Court,” commented Brooks in a release on Friday.

“The Census determines political representation for the body politic—’the People.’ Illegal aliens stand outside the body politic, having neither affirmed allegiance to our country nor been recognized by it as lawfully residing here. Thus, including them in the apportionment dilutes the representation afforded to citizens and lawfully-present aliens who do form ‘the People,'” Marshall stated in summary of his thoughts on the case.

“Any apportionment that includes illegal aliens thus violates the Constitution’s process for apportionment and promise of equal representation,” Marshall concluded.

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

1 day ago

Palmer-led Republican Policy Committee releases brief detailing ‘high costs of socialized medicine’

(Gary Palmer/Contributed, YHN)

The Republican Policy Committee, which is chaired by U.S. Rep. Gary Palmer (AL-06), on Friday released a policy brief warning of the downfalls of socialized medicine for the United States, including studies of rationed care, high wait times and denied treatment in countries with government-run healthcare.

The brief advised, “As debate continues [on systemic healthcare reform], it is essential to review patient outcomes across international models of socialized medical care. Decision-making between patients and physicians is generally based on individual circumstances or critical medical need. Socialized healthcare systems distance that relationship. Instead, socialized treatment plans are predetermined by bureaucrats, based on broad categorizations. Cost savings for individuals are achieved in exchange for rationed services, long wait times, and controversial ethical standards.”

In a statement coinciding with the brief’s release, Palmer said that socialized medicine in America would “cost human lives.”

For example, the brief noted that a 2014 report found that between 1993-2009, increased wait times in Canada may be associated with over 44,273 female deaths.

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The Fraser Institute reported that Canadian patients in 2019 waited an average of 20.9 weeks from the time their general practitioner referred them to a specialist until they received treatment.

Additionally, the brief underscored that 18% of patients in the United Kingdom requiring urgent cancer care do not receive treatment within two months of referral.

Overall, the Royal College of Surgeons in 2019 found that more than 227,569 U.K. patients waited over six months for treatment due to National Health Service hospital backlog.

“Socialized medicine will not merely mean immense taxpayer expense and a bankrupt government: it will cost human lives,” said Palmer.

“Whether you call it Medicare For All, Single Payer, or anything else, the schemes pushed by Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and Nancy Pelosi call for less patient choice, heavier burdens on doctors and hospitals, and government bureaucrats deciding who gets which treatment, and when,” he concluded.

In Alabama, U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) has come out in favor of having a “public option” — meaning government-run healthcare that competes with private insurance companies. Alabama’s junior senator has also said that he will back the Biden-Harris ticket’s healthcare plan “if we cannot achieve Medicaid expansion.”

RELATED: Palmer: Joe Biden, Kamala Harris ‘think that the average American is stupid’

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

1 day ago

Doug Jones attacks longtime Alabama law enforcement officer as ‘fool’

(Tuberville for Senate/YouTube)

U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) on Friday lashed out at one of Alabama’s most respected, longtime law enforcement officials.

In a tweet, Jones shared a television ad that Republican U.S. Senatorial nominee Tommy Tuberville’s campaign is running.

That ad features Supernumerary Sheriff Mike Hale, who served as Jefferson County’s sheriff for five terms.

In the spot, Hale begins, “The lawless, violent mob wants to defund our police and erase our proud American history.”

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“Liberal Doug Jones is standing with them, not us,” he continues. “Jones spoke at a liberal rally in Alabama that turned into a riot where a monument was destroyed and buildings were damaged. Doug Jones is undermining law enforcement and coddling dangerous criminals and putting Alabama families at risk.”

Hale, a Republican, was defeated in 2018 in the solidly blue Jefferson County; however, the close race (51.4% to Hale’s 48.54%) underscored Hale’s continued bipartisan credentials and popularity in Alabama’s most populated metropolitan area.

He entered into the world of law enforcement as a Homewood Police Department officer in 1973, embarking on a 45-year career protecting and serving Alabamians of all stripes.

Hale went on to receive national, non-partisan recognition for his tenure as sheriff on several occasions.

Among a litany of achievements, he successfully fought to strengthen Alabama law, making it a felony when convicted sex offenders violate the state registry laws. This change made the Yellowhammer State’s law the strongest in the country in relation to convicted sex offenders.

Next, Hale created an Identity Theft Unit and Computer Forensics Unit, both of which were the first of their kind in the region.

In 1999, he also created the sheriff’s office groundbreaking School Resource Division for county schools to fight domestic terrorism. This was pre-Columbine and that division has since been lauded as a national model for law enforcement agencies.

Under Hale’s leadership, the department was also effectively released from a consent decree that dated back to 1982, well before he became sheriff, regarding the hiring and promotion of African-Americans and females. In doing so, a federal judge emphasized that under Hale, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office’s hiring and promotional practices had been fair and that they did not discriminate against African-Americans or females. The judge complimented Hale on his commitment to diversity and compliance with federal law. These plaudits are reflected in the objective numbers: nearly 30% of the county’s deputy sheriffs were African-American, and nearly 20% of the deputy sheriffs were female, both as of 2018. Additionally, more than one-third of the officers were African-American.

“I’m proud I turned a white-male-dominated sheriff’s office into one that reflects the community we serve,” Hale told Alabama Media Group after his 2018 defeat. “I’m very pleased that I was inclusive. I believe in my heart that prejudice cannot survive and thrive in a department that needs to reflect its community.”

Another shining jewel of Hale’s leadership was the creation of the Metro Area Crime Center (MACC). The MACC has 13 different agencies staffing a work center that allows them to share information about suspects and crime trends on a daily basis. Additionally, the MACC is a law enforcement resource for any agency in the state that needs assistance with difficult investigations. MACC investigators use state-of-the-art technology and software to assist in solving the most complex of cases. The MACC also has a video center that is staffed 24/7/365 to prevent and reduce crime through the use of deployable mobile surveillance platforms (camera trailers). Overall, the MACC is bringing crime fighting into the modern age and revolutionizing how law enforcement agencies fight crime.

However, in his Friday tweet, Jones blasted Hale as a “fool.”

Alabama’s junior senator referred to the ad as “crap” while affirming that he had indeed featured at what he even referred to as a “liberal rally.”

Less than two hours after being posted, Jones’ tweet had boosted the reach of Tuberville’s ad by more than 10,000 views.

This is not the first time rioting has come into play in Alabama’s U.S. Senate race. The NRSC previously released a video ad tying Jones and his fellow Democrats to riots that occurred across the nation over the summer. Jones has not condemned Antifa during his time in the U.S. Senate.

Voters will decide between Jones and Tuberville in November 3’s general election.

Tuberville has the endorsement of the Alabama Fraternal Order of Police in the race.

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

1 day ago

Anheuser-Busch donating hand sanitizer to Alabama polling places

(Anheuser-Busch, John Merrill/Facebook, YHN)

Anheuser-Busch is helping to brew democracy this fall.

The famous American beermaker is producing and donating more than 8 million ounces of hand sanitizer to polling places across the country.

A partnership between Anheuser and the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) is helping to bring some of that free sanitizer to precincts in Alabama.

Secretary of State John Merril, Alabama’s chief elections official, says his office has distributed 1,579 gallons of hand sanitizer among 44 counties that requested the substance. Merill is heavily involved in NASS, including currently serving as the organization’s vice chair for the southern region.

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“It is critical that counties are supplied with adequate sanitation supplies, personal protective equipment, and other items necessary to protect voters, poll workers, and others involved in the electoral process,” he said in a release on Friday morning.

Facilities that create alcoholic beverages have the ability to switch to making alcohol-based hand sanitizer quickly. It is a substance easily made with the equipment and materials on hand at such beverage producers.

Breweries and distilleries in Alabama and across the nation switched to making sanitizer for a time when the coronavirus began spreading in the United States this past spring.

Cesar Vargas, Anheuser-Busch chief external affairs officer, remarked in a statement, “Anheuser-Busch is committed to uniting our communities, strength­ening our democracy and encouraging even greater participation in the political process.”

“One part of this commitment is shifting our production capabilities to donate hand sanitizer so that election officials and voters throughout the country can take part in a safe election this fall,” he added.

Anheuser has donated over 500,000 bottles of hand sanitizer since COVID-19 reached the United States.

Additional groups helping to distribute the sanitizer are the National Association of State Election Directors and the online payments company PayPal.

Grace Newcombe, press secretary for the secretary of state’s office, told Yellowhammer that “because such a high volume of hand sanitizer was requested, PayPal provided an additional 630 bottles of hand sanitizer on top of those provided by Anheuser-Busch.”

Merrill credited the multi-group partnership with helping to make it so that “voters can confidently head to the polls on Election Day to cast their ballot in a safe and sanitary environment.”

The general election will occur on November 3; Alabama’s precincts will be open for voters from 7:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m.

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

1 day ago

How to vote if you test positive for COVID-19 before Election Day

(PIxabay, YHN)

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall has issued guidance for voters who receive a positive coronavirus test between Friday, October 30, and the day before the election, Monday, November 2.

Marshall says that a positive COVID-19 test during that period qualifies a voter to apply for an emergency absentee ballot.

Such ballots, and the system to get one, already exist in Alabama law.

Citizens who test positive may designate an adult to assist with the emergency absentee ballot process, meaning an individual who tests positive will be able to remain in quarantine and still vote.

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The voter’s designee can deliver the emergency ballot application, pick up that ballot and bring it to the voter, and return the filled out ballot to the absentee election manager.

The space to assign the designee is at the bottom of the emergency absentee ballot application.

Voters can access an emergency absentee ballot application here, and citizens can find the address for their county’s absentee election manager here.

An application for an emergency absentee ballot requires the signature of a physician, or a physician can issue a signed report, and the voter can include that with their application.

Applications for an emergency absentee ballot must be turned in by the close of business on Monday, November 2.

Filled out emergency absentee ballots must be returned to the county absentee election manager by noon on Election Day.

In a typical year, emergency absentee ballots are used by individuals who find out suddenly that they must undergo a serious medical procedure on Election Day, or people who have their employer send them out of town for business at the last minute.

There appears to be no alternative to voting in person for someone who receives a positive coronavirus test result on Election Day.

The last day to apply for a standard absentee ballot was Thursday, October 29, creating the relatively narrow window of time for which Marshall has issued guidance.

People can also contact their absentee election managers by phone to get more details on hours of operation or answers to any questions they have about their emergency absentee ballot application.

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

State Sen. Albritton: ‘Still questions’ on Ivey prison proposal locations, including Escambia County site

(Screenshot/APTV)

Two of the three locations named in Governor Kay Ivey’s recently announced prison proposal have received a degree of public pushback from local residents.

A location near Brierfield had been the subject of public scrutiny by Bibb County and nearby Shelby County residents. Elected officials in Elmore County have also expressed concern over a site near Tallassee.

The third site in Escambia County near Atmore had been seemingly free of controversy. However, according to State Sen. Greg Albritton (R-Atmore),whose district includes the proposed Escambia County location, that is not necessarily the case.

During an interview with Mobile radio’s FM Talk 106.5, Albritton said there were some issues he and others were attempting to iron out with the Alabama Department of Corrections on the southern proposed site.

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“I spoke with Commissioner Dunn yesterday about this very issue, and there are still questions out there about all three of the sites selected, and we’re still trying to get some answers on some things,” he said. “But Jeff, we have got to have new prisons. There’s just no doubt that some construction has got to be done. We tried several times on the legislative side to put through a plan, and both times that we got it through the Senate and down to the House, the House killed it. The latest one, it had been through the House, it had been through the Senate. It had even been through the conference committee in the Senate and the House wouldn’t take it out of the basket. It just died. The governor — we challenged her, and she challenged us and said if I could depend on the legislature pass something, fine. But you haven’t. We’ve got to have a plan. At least the Governor has a plan. Whether I like it or don’t like it, it is a better plan than what we have right now.”

The Escambia County lawmaker said there had been complaints but said they had chosen not to take a public approach to their response.

“Of course, we’ve gotten complaints,” Albritton said. “We’ve got all unique circumstances. We have been pushing back. We haven’t been pushing back publicly. We have had discussions, and that was part of the discussion yesterday. We are trying to work out some of the details and finalize some of the matters and get some answers. But I did not see any particular gain in going public in this fight. We just need to try to work it out the best we could.”

@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 Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

2 days ago

Data: Doug Jones closer to Chuck Schumer, Mazie Hirono than to Joe Manchin on supporting Trump

(Wikicommons, Mazie Hirono, Doug Jones for Senate, Joe Manchin/Facebook, YHN)

Only four full days away from the November 3 general election, U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) continues to claim to be a moderate on the campaign trail. However, the data paints a much different picture.

The highly respected, non-partisan data and analytics site FiveThirtyEight.com hosts a comprehensive database tracking each member of Congress’ voting history. This includes a tally of how often representatives and senators vote with or against President Donald Trump’s position; this data is formulated into a percentage, comprising each legislator’s “Trump Score.”

The dataset also takes Trump’s margin of victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016 (in each state for senators and each district for representatives) and calculates a predicted Trump Score that hypothesizes how often a member is expected to vote with Trump based on that margin.

FiveThirtyEight then compares each legislator’s actual Trump Score to the predicted score to effectively see the approximate difference between the sentiment of a legislator’s constituents and that individual’s congressional votes.

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Examining Jones, the data showed Alabama’s junior senator has a Trump Score of only 34.8% since he took office in January 2018. The data is up-to-date, with Jones’ latest vote against Justice Amy Coney Barrett factored in.

In contrast, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) has a score of 51.6% and U.S. Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) came in at 51.5%; both are perceived-moderate Democrats.

Other Democrats who have been recently ousted from office by voters in red states also scored significantly higher than Jones, including U.S. Senators Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota (54.8%), Joe Donnelly of Indiana (54.2%), Claire McCaskill of Missouri (45.8%) and Bill Nelson of Florida (43.4%). Even current blue- and purple-state Democratic Caucus members had higher Trump Scores than Jones, including U.S. Senators Angus King of Maine (37.9%), Mark Werner of Virginia (35.5%) and Jacky Rosen of Nevada (35.1%).

In fact, Jones’ Trump Score is closer to the far-left wing in his party than the more-moderate senators. The Democrat from Alabama scored closer to the likes of U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) than to Sinema and Manchin; Jones scored closer to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and U.S. Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA), Ed Markey (D-MA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) than to Heitkamp.

Overall, Jones also scored closer to the extreme left of his party than he did to the left-most Republican, U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME).

Based on Trump’s 2016 margin, Jones’ predicted Trump Score was 85.5%. This means his actual Trump Score was 50.7 percentage points lower than expected. That massive margin was second-largest nationally, with only U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) having a higher negative differential.

The more recent data paints an even worse picture for Jones. Looking at only the 116th Congress, which began in January 2019 and is still in session, Jones’ Trump Score dropped to 23.1%. Simply put, the more time he spent in D.C., the further to the left Jones went.

The Yellowhammer State’s senior senator is a much different story; U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) has an overall Trump Score of 93.5%.

Jones will face Republican U.S. Senatorial nominee Tommy Tuberville at the ballot box on Tuesday.

RELATED: Tuberville: Jones’ vote against Barrett ‘represented the liberal beliefs of his high-dollar campaign donors in California and New York’

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

2 days ago

Alabama rocket CEO and former Air Force leader: Military threat from China now extends to space

(Pixabay, ULA/YouTube, YHN)

When an Alabama-built rocket powers another critical national security satellite into space next week, it will be the latest such satellite in the ever-increasing use of space to gain military advantage on the ground.

The satellite, operated by the National Reconnaissance Office, will enhance communication for America’s warfighters across the globe.

However, the United States’ ability to operate in space and leverage its potential for national security purposes could be made more difficult, according to two experts who participated in the AscendxSummit conference last week.

Tory Bruno, president and CEO of Alabama rocket builder United Launch Alliance (ULA), and former Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson both concluded that foreign governments are challenging America’s space superiority, with China being at the forefront of the effort.

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“The threat has changed,” explained Wilson. “The United States is heavily dependent on space for national security, and we need to respond to that emerging threat.”

That dependence on space comes from satellites which assist U.S. military operations around the world.

By the end of last year, the Air Force had 80 satellites in use, the Navy had 13, and the National Reconnaissance Office was utilizing 40. The smallest satellite being the size of a toaster and the biggest the size of a school bus.

Some serve important communications functions, while others serve as mechanisms for intelligence gathering, including the ability to provide missile warnings. These satellites are trained at the Earth and employ infrared technology to identify the hot plumes of gas that come from the end of rockets and then calculate the trajectory and warn the national command authority.

These capabilities have naturally drawn the attention of America’s adversaries.

Wilson has previously drawn attention to the threat from China with its launch of a missile the size of a telephone pole to destroy a dead weather satellite.

She said China and Russia have been developing the means to interfere with or destroy American military satellites in order to influence military operations on the ground.

Bruno expressed his belief that we stand at a pivotal moment in human history. He cited an “unprecedented set of decades that stretch out in front of us in space” with the potential to tap into near limitless resources which would allow for a self-sustaining economy on Earth.

At the same time, Bruno warned of a need for a national security space strategy which takes into account threats in orbit.

“We are heading back immediately today into an environment of pure competition,” he elaborated. “With a resurgent Russia, a rising China, countries that have ambitions around the world that not only potentially limit America’s influence but potentially limit the growth and expansion of democracy and freedom to be curtailed by totalitarian regimes and governments.”

Bruno sees access to space as essential for America to maintain its position of strength, saying that while the U.S. military is not the largest in the world, it is the most capable because it is enabled by space.

“For the first time in history, space, the previously historically peaceful domain is now being weaponized as we speak by these adversaries,” Bruno remarked. “That brings with it the potential to limit our unrivaled use of space to keep the peace around the globe.”

He said other nations seeking to weaken the U.S. military are attempting to take space away because that is a far easier approach than conventional warfare.

Wilson believes it is the space prowess of the United States which has made it a target of China and other countries.

“One of the reasons why this subject continues to interest me is that America is the best in the world at space, and our adversaries are seeking to develop the capability to deny us the use of space in crisis or at war,” she observed.

The White House earlier this month released a “National Strategy for Critical and Emerging Technologies.” The document outlines how the United States will promote and protect its competitive advantage in fields which include space and military technologies.

A statement from the White House addressed the need to develop such a national strategy:

As our competitors and adversaries mobilize vast resources in these fields, American dominance in science and technology is more important now than ever, and is vital to our long-term economic and national security. The United States will not turn a blind eye to the tactics of countries like China and Russia, which steal technology, coerce companies into handing over intellectual property, undercut free and fair markets, and surreptitiously divert emerging civilian technologies to build up their militaries.

When asked about the White House’s national strategy, Bruno acknowledged the country’s innovation chain is now susceptible to foreign interference in a way it never has been before.

“At least one of our adversaries has figured out, why spy when you can buy?” he remarked.

China’s ability to absorb U.S. technology and innovation is something which will demand significant attention, according to Bruno.

“There are a lot of elements to that innovation chain, and most of them are actually pretty open,” he concluded. “As a Chinese company, you can come and buy key elements of the supply chain where technologies reside. You can sponsor members of your intelligence community, or your armed forces, to go to America and receive the best STEM education on the planet and bring all of that home. You can even invest to influence companies through venture capital and even do that through shell companies so that your presence, influence and access is not as obvious. All of that is right now an open door to both of our adversaries.”

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

2 days ago

Alabama coronavirus cases and hospitalizations have risen in the last week

(Pixabay, YHN)

Alabama’s coronavirus caseload continued to increase in the last week, and the number of citizens hospitalized with the virus has gone up as well.

The state has averaged 942 new cases of COVID-19 per day over the last week, a 5% increase from the 848 cases per day the state was averaging on October 22.

From early September to mid-October, Alabama was averaging around 700 cases per day.

Hospitals in the state admitted 114 coronavirus patients per day over the last seven days, up from a 102 per day average a week ago, an 11% increase.

Just over 1,000 Alabamians are currently in the hospital with a case of COVID-19.

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Both new cases and hospitalizations remain far below the peaks they hit in July.

The scientific consensus on the coronavirus is that a surge in new cases is followed by a surge in hospitalizations around two weeks later, with a resultant increase in deaths two to four weeks after the uptick in hospitalizations.

Clicking image opens interactive chart in new tab. (BamaTracker)
Clicking image opens interactive chart in new tab. (BamaTracker)

Yellowhammer News used numbers from BamaTracker for the data in this report. BamaTracker collects statistics generated by the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) to provide graphs and information on the coronavirus in Alabama.

In the last 14 days, 21.23% of all coronavirus tests administered in Alabama have come back positive, which infectious disease experts say is incredibly worrying.

According to doctors at Johns Hopkins University, the ideal range rate of positive tests is 1% to 5% for a disease to be considered contained.

Sixty-one of 67 counties in the Yellowhammer State reported a new coronavirus case on Thursday, a lower number than last week, but still a figure that shows the disease is being transmitted in nearly all areas of the state.

Bigger counties like Mobile and Houston have generated especially concerning COVID-19 numbers in recent days, along with smaller counties like Lamar, Washington, Henry and Dekalb.

In more positive news, the seven-day average of deaths due to the coronavirus has gone down in the last week. Alabama is currently averaging eight COVID-19 deaths per day, down from 10 at this time last week.

Clicking image opens interactive chart in new tab. (BamaTracker)

The total number of Alabamians who have died with a confirmed case of the coronavirus is now at 2,718, with another 196 that ADPH thinks are “probable” COVID-19 deaths but have not been officially confirmed.

The slowdown in deaths is likely attributable to an increase in doctors’ knowledge of the virus, and the use of therapeutic treatments like remdesivir, which was discovered and tested at UAB hospital.

National Public Radio recently reported on scientific studies that confirm the slowing of COVID-19 death rates across the United States.

One study featured in the article showed the death rate among hospitalized patients dropped from 25.6% at the start of the pandemic to 7.6% currently.

A big date in the minds of Alabamians closely observing COVID-19 numbers is November 8, when the state’s mask order is set to expire.

November 8 is also around the time when statistics should begin to indicate whether a surge in new cases has resulted from gatherings on Halloween.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey has typically called a press conference around 48 hours before the mask order is about to expire, where she announces whether or not she will extend it.

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

NFIB presents Rep. Robert Aderholt with Guardian of Small Business Award — ‘Small businesses are the lifeblood of the American economy’

(Robert Aderholt for Congress/Facebook, YHN)

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) on Thursday formally presented its most prestigious legislative recognition, the Guardian of Small Business Award, to U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt (AL-04).

NFIB Alabama State Director Rosemary Elebash presented the award to Aderholt at NorthRidge Fitness, an NFIB member business in Northport owned by Mary Cartee.

The nation’s leading small business advocacy organization, NFIB earlier this week announced its 2020 national recipients of the award, which were earned by legislators for votes in the 116th Congress, which began in 2019 and is currently in session.

“NFIB presents its Guardian of Small Business Award to lawmakers who small businesses can depend on,” Elebash said in a Thursday statement. “Congressman Aderholt has supported Alabama’s job creators on the issues that our members are concerned about…”

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Aderholt stated, “Small businesses are the lifeblood of the American economy. It’s where new innovations and ideas are developed and nurtured. In fact, almost every large business in America started out as a small business. It’s both my pleasure and my duty to work in Congress to protect small businesses. We depend on these entrepreneurs and that’s why I will always fight for them.”

In Alabama, additional Guardian of Small Business Award honorees were U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Reps. Bradley Byrne (AL-01), Martha Roby (AL-02), Mike Rogers (AL-03), Mo Brooks (AL-05) and Gary Palmer (AL-06).

Elebash added that the award winners “have proven themselves to be real champions for small business.”

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

2 days ago

State Sen. Barfoot on Ivey prison proposal: ‘Maybe I’m a little skeptical’ on financing, ‘In her legal right to proceed’

(Screenshot/Facebook)

Although it is not currently a front-and-center issue, Gov. Kay Ivey’s prison lease proposal is still looming, especially as there are ongoing discussions about the new prisons’ proposed locations that include Bibb, Elmore and Escambia Counties.

Another issue that is among the discussion has been the financing for the new facilities, which the Ivey administration maintains can be accomplished without an increase of expenditures by the state of Alabama.

State Sen. Will Barfoot (R-Pike Road), whose district will be impacted by the proposal, says he has concerns about the financing. However, he acknowledged Ivey would be acting within her authority to proceed with the proposal.

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“I’m just completing the second year of my first term,” he said. “In years past, the legislative body has tried to come up with a plan, has been unsuccessful. I can understand the Governor at the very least was wary or didn’t think that could happen. And I believe that she probably has the authority to go about it the way she is going about it. I do think that [the Alabama Department of Corrections] says the savings for these new prison builds will offset the projected $88 million-a-year for a 30-year lease. Maybe I’m a little skeptical. Call me what you wish, but I don’t know that that will happen. Let’s hope that it does. Let’s hope that it’s a net-zero effect to the general fund. But I have some concern about that.”

“You’re right about bonding because the rates are so, so low now over a 30-year period,” Barfoot continued. “And I’m not a construction expert. Listen, I’m a lawyer. But I have to believe that it would be a cost-savings to the state of Alabama if we bonded that amount out. Again, the Governor hasn’t taken that position. And I think she is, you know, in her legal right to proceed probably as she is.”

@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 Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

2 days ago

East Alabama district attorney switches to Republican Party

(Alabama District Attorneys Association/YouTube, YHN)

District Attorney Jeremy Duerr of the 5th Judicial Circuit switched from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party at the Tallapoosa County Republican Party’s quarterly meeting in Alexander City, the ALGOP announced this week.

Alabama’s 5th Judicial Circuit is comprised of Tallapoosa, Chambers, Macon and Randolph Counties.

“District Attorney Duerr contacted me several months ago expressing his interest to become a member of the Republican Party citing several changes in the values of the Democrat Party which did not align with his conservative Christian values,” explained Tallapoosa GOP Chairman Terry Martin in a release.

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“He gave a moving speech to the Executive Committee as he shared his views stating that the attacks from the Democrat Party regarding the defunding of police were in direct conflict with him being the top law enforcement official in the Fifth Judicial Circuit,” Martin continued. “Following a brief discussion, DA Duerr was voted into the party by the Tallapoosa County Republican Party per the ALGOP governing bylaws.”

Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan welcomed Duerr into the Alabama Republican Party.

“We are honored to have DA Duerr as our newest member of the Grand Old Party. There’s a reason 66% of partisan elected offices in Alabama are held by Republicans. The Democrat party leaders and platform are too far out of the mainstream for Alabamians,” she stated. “He now joins 69% of the District Attorneys in Alabama as a Republican. We look forward to working with Mr. Duerr.”

This continues a line of local officials switching to the ALGOP, including Escambia County Probate Judge Doug Agerton earlier this month.

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

2 days ago

Huntsville’s Gary Bolton named president, CEO of national Fiber Broadband Association

(Huntsville Madison County Chamber/Contributed, YHN)

The Fiber Broadband Association on Thursday announced its board of directors has appointed Gary Bolton as the association’s new president and CEO, effective November 2.

The largest and only trade association in the Americas dedicated to the pursuit of all-fiber-optic network infrastructure to homes, businesses and more, the Fiber Broadband Association helps advance the strategic deployment of broadband networks with fiber optics.

Bolton, who brings to the association a wealth of communications industry experience, joins the association after most recently serving as vice president of Global Marketing and Government Affairs at Huntsville-based ADTRAN. Yellowhammer News has learned that he plans on remaining located in the Rocket City while at the helm of the Fiber Broadband Association, which could be beneficial to the state of Alabama.

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“Gary is a strong leader with a great breadth of industry experience,” stated Katie Espeseth, chair of the board and vice president of New Products at EPB. “This is an exciting and challenging time for our members, the Association, and the industry as COVID-19 has laid bare the profound importance of connectivity for all of us. We’re lucky to have found a leader with Gary’s deep understanding of our industry who can take the helm at this important juncture.”

Bolton is also an adjunct professor in the college of business at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) and was the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce president from 2018-2019.

“I am thrilled to join the Fiber Broadband Association in this role,” said Bolton. “Every day, our members work tirelessly to deliver the best connectivity to businesses and communities from coast to coast. I know this work well — in fact, I have built my career on it — and I look forward to bringing these experiences to help the Association work towards a faster, more efficient, better-connected world.”

Prior to ADTRAN, Bolton served on the executive team for two successful venture-backed broadband start-up companies and held executive and senior management roles at Ciena and Nortel. He has been deeply involved with the Fiber Broadband Association, previously chairing the finance and audit committee, the public policy committee and the marketing committee. He also served two terms as board treasurer and currently serves as vice chair of the board.

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

2 days ago

Trees down, roads blocked and power out across Alabama in wake of Hurricane Zeta

(@fmtalk1065, @mickeywelsh/Twitter, YHN)

Hurricane Zeta crossed Alabama overnight, leaving a diagonal path of fallen trees and households without power in its wake.

No Alabamian has yet been reported as having died or suffered a critical injury due to the storm, though many minor injuries have been reported in local outlets.

LifeSouth has put out a call for blood donors to donate, saying Hurricane Zeta has made a national shortage of blood even worse.

Pictures of impassable roads and homes damaged homes were shared on social media by many in the state on Thursday morning.

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As such, dozens of school systems have delayed or canceled school for Thursday, and in some harder-hit areas for Friday as well.

Zeta was an unusually fast-moving storm and made landfall as a Category 2 hurricane, stronger than analysts predicted earlier in the week.

Sean Sullivan, a talk radio host who lives in the Mobile area, tweeted an image of a road in his area.

Clicking image opens the original social media post in a new tab. (Sean Sullivan/Twitter)

John Sharp, a reporter for Alabama Media Group, posted images to Twitter that indicated several trees and power lines were down near Citronelle, Alabama.

The Alabama Power Company advises, “If you see downed lines, avoid them.”

Citizens can report downed lines to their local authorities, or they can call Alabama Power at 1-800-888-2726 to report a downed line.

As of 10:37 a.m. around 500,000 customers in Alabama remained without power, according to Poweroutages.us, a website that tracks power outages.

Some small providers do not report their outages to the website, so the totals it shows should not be considered definitive.

The graphic provided by the site of which counties have the most outages shows the path of the storm through Alabama.

(Poweroutages.us)

The number of customers without power is changing rapidly as numerous crews are working to restore power.

Update 3:20 p.m.

Poweroutages.us currently reports over 417,000 customers in Alabama remain without power.

Director Brian Hastings of the Alabama Emergency Management Agency has confirmed one person in Clarke County has died due to the storm.

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

Huntsville’s Diatherix a national leader in cutting-edge COVID-19 testing technology

(Eurofin/Contributed, Diatherix Laboratories/Facebook, YHN)

When reliable testing for COVID-19 became a national priority earlier this year, one company in Huntsville was already set up to take on a leading role.

Diatherix was equipped to offer testing through its cutting-edge technology, and it was able to do so in a way conducive to effective treatment of the virus by providing same-day results.

An infectious disease clinical laboratory located in the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, Diatherix provides testing capabilities for doctors’ offices, hospitals, reference labs and nursing homes.

In a recent conversation with Yellowhammer News, Diatherix president Jennifer Cart described her company’s role in confronting the coronavirus pandemic.

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“We essentially provide a laboratory service so that physicians can more accurately diagnosis their patients,” said Cart. “We are squarely seated in this rapid, providing of same day results for the specimen so we are giving very timely and accurate information in infectious diseases.”

Having been in business since 2008, that role is reflected in the company’s name, which Cart explained represents “where diagnostics meet therapeutics.”

While conventional laboratories provide more generalized testing on a broader range of specimens, Diatherix’s more tailored focus allowed it to rise to the occasion on the front-end of the COVID-19 outbreak in March.

“We are very uniquely specialized in infectious disease, and our proprietary technology is a very high-throughput multiplex that makes us able to run a high volume of specimens with multiple results,” outlined Cart.

The team at Diatherix began its assessment of the coronavirus in December 2019, according to Cart. This early evaluation allowed the company to hit the ground running when the need arose for mass testing.

“Because we are focused on infectious disease, we are always monitoring for emerging pathogens, so this was not our first emerging pathogen,” she remarked. “We have seen in the past MERS, which came from UAE, the Middle East. We are always looking and watching, and then we make determinations whether or not we think it is going to be a player in the United States such that we would need to develop the assay.”

That understanding brought about a testing procedure, or assay, in record time.

“In our history this was probably our fastest launch of a new assay because we actually have it as part of a very complex group of other viruses so we could right off the bat determine if it was COVID or flu right out of the gate,” said Cart. “We already had that capability in March. Everybody has been talking about having that now, having it for the fall. We have already been positioned for that and been able to run results since then.”

Since March, there have been 8.8 million coronavirus cases in the United States. Alabama has seen a little over 160,000 confirmed cases in that same period.

The volume of work at Diatherix has matched the country’s case counts throughout the year.

“From March through July, it was on a very rapid, accelerated incline,” Cart noted. “We then hit a bit of a stabilization in August and September. We are back to what I would not say as rapid of an incline, but a steady incline.”

The nation’s peak for new case counts occurred July 24 when 74,710 new cases were registered with the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Reported daily cases dipped to 23,301 on September 8. The United States hit a new daily high on October 24 when the CDC registered 83,851 new cases.

Without revealing specific internal data, Cart estimates that Diatherix has averaged around 100,000 tests per month, a figure which puts the company on track to process more than one million coronavirus tests by the end of 2020.

Heavily reliant on overnight shipping, specimens have arrived in Huntsville from providers across the country.

As an example, Cart recalled the work Diatherix did for numerous drive-thru testing sites in states like Michigan, Tennessee and Florida. The process, she said, was no different than a normal physician’s office except they received 300 to 400 specimens per day from places which would normally send them five.

To handle the volume, the layout of the facility had to change. The basement was cleared, and packages were routed down there for opening and specimen transport to the labs.

Even with state-of-the-art equipment and proprietary testing processes, Cart points to a single aspect of the company which has allowed Diatherix to weather an unprecedented strain this year.

“People are our greatest asset,” she emphasized.

Since the beginning of the year, Diatherix has hired 100 new employees, placing the company’s personnel total at 250.

“It is all hands on deck,” said Cart. “First of all, our lab, our R&D team and our client services has been consistently working since developing the test and running the test. There have been no breaks. It’s a pounding intensity that has been relentless and has not stopped.”

The paperwork that accompanies such a high volume of specimens has been daunting. Employees were called to fill multiple roles to handle more than 20,000 documents received daily.

“We had people outside of their normal job, and everyone still had their normal job to do, doing that just so we could get the results out,” explained Cart. “Because we know how important it is to have the same day results at the time when many labs are doing five, six, seven, ten days waiting for the results, which becomes less useful information to the physician once it gets past the date of collection.”

A graduate of the University of Florida, Cart mentioned to one of Diatherix’s employees, who was a native Alabamian, how impressed she was with the way the team was handling the increased workload during the COVID crisis.

“She replied to me, ‘That’s what we call hard stock,’” recollected Cart.

That can-do attitude prevalent among Diatherix’s employees has made quite an impression on the company’s leader.

“It brings tears to my eyes to think about what our employees have given up to be there every day, to do what we need to do not only for the company but for the state and for the country in the pandemic,” Cart remarked. “Their kids are at home getting home-schooled by their spouse or their with grandparents. We have done everything we can to support them but ultimately they are really carrying this company and carrying us forward. It will be something that, in my career I’ve learned a lot as a leader, but the biggest impact to me is how I’ve seen these employees and the people. I can’t even describe it. It is hard stock is the best way to put it.”

The United States has seen a surge in coronavirus infections during October, and several European countries are renewing lockdowns.

A forward-looking approach has helped Diatherix prepare for whatever is next in the fight against COVID-19, according to Cart.

“We have already been making changes,” she outlined. “As part of our normal process, with viruses in particular, viruses can mutate. They call it antigenic shift. We are always blasting the viruses, not just SARS-CoV-2, but influenza A, B, anything that essentially could have viral antigenic shift, and watching for that. We are always monitoring for the need to put in a different sequence or different target for our assay to be even more robust.”

As Cart and her team move forward, they see no signs of letting up, themselves.

“The ramp up has been all-consuming but we have been able to produce same-day results as we receive our specimens,” Cart concluded. “In today’s time, with everybody targeting 48 hours, the fact that we can essentially provide the results the day we receive them is still a feather in the Diatherix cap in comparison to all the other labs.”

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

3 days ago

Lt. Gov. Ainsworth back to work and channeling Trump on the coronavirus — ‘Don’t live in fear’

(Will Ainsworth/Facebook, White House/Flickr, YHN)

The last few weeks have been very interesting for Alabama Lieutenant Governor Will Ainsworth.

During a church gathering, he contracted the coronavirus and then passed it to his wife. Although he was not entirely asymptomatic, he did not require any medical treatment. He is now headed back to work and ready to do the people’s business.

This mirrors the recovery of President Donald Trump, who was back to work long before many expected he would be.

Wednesday morning, Ainsworth appeared on WVNN’s “The Dale Jackson Show” to speak about his experiences with this illness and how Alabama Democrats attempted to use the diagnosis to raise money for their party, a move Ainsworth said was “typical” of the behavior of their members. Ainsworth even noted that some in the leadership of the Alabama Democratic Party contacted him to check up on him before the fundraising email went out.

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For Ainsworth, the bigger issue was how they misrepresented his positions by claiming that he opposed masks and science. Neither position is true, he said.

Ainsworth advised that while he opposes the mandate, he doesn’t oppose mitigation efforts like masks and social distancing

“I’ve been wearing masks when I go to events. I practice social distancing, I use proper sanitation. I still got it,” he outlined.

His issue, as it is with many people, is the top down mandate.

“I do not think it’s the government’s role to mandate whether or not we should wear masks. I just don’t believe that,” he advised. “I believe in personal responsibility.”

Ainsworth believes that the fundraising email got sent because Alabama Democrats are in trouble, and they know U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) is going to lose. Ainsworth believes the message Democrats are selling just doesn’t work.

He stated, “They’re desperate, they’re grasping at straws, and I think Dems know in Alabama that their policies and positions don’t resonate with people so what do they do, they try spin stuff and lie.”

While Ainsworth mostly shrugged off the Democrats’ tactics, he also warned that people should take the coronavirus seriously and not weaponize for political gain as some in Alabama and on the national level are doing.

Like President Donald Trump, Ainsworth thinks America has to get back to work but it has to do it safely. He noted that “New York has ruined their economy” with shutdowns and restrictions yet they continue to have issues with the coronavirus.

His advice to Alabamians is simple: “[D]on’t live in fear. Continue to live your life but do it safely.”

Listen:

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 AM weekdays on WVNN.

3 days ago

Alabama AG Steve Marshall slams ‘Big Tech’ as greatest threat to free, fair elections in America

(Attorney General Steve Marshall/Facebook, YHN)

Attorney General Steve Marshall (R-AL) is continuing his leadership in calling on Congress to regulate tech monopolies’ control over the flow of information and political discourse in America.

In a tweet on Wednesday, Marshall commented on Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s testimony that day to the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary. This comes after Twitter blocked the distribution of bombshell reports, beginning with the New York Post, regarding the Biden family’s foreign business dealings. The New York Post’s Twitter account has been locked for two weeks and counting.

In calling for change to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, Marshall remarked, “Twitter is not the Ministry of Truth. It should concern us all when a platform that holds such tremendous power over information uses that power in contradiction of the principles of free speech and freedom of the press.”

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In a statement to Yellowhammer News on Wednesday afternoon, Marshall expounded on the topic in strong terms.

“In recent years, it has become increasingly clear that there is a need to reform Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996,” Alabama’s Republican attorney general advised. “The egregious actions taken two weeks ago by Twitter and, to a lesser extent, Facebook to suppress a news report of significant public interest—along with speech about it—published in one of our country’s oldest and most-widely-read newspapers in the run-up to a presidential election, has only made the need for reform more evident than ever.”

“Big Tech holds tremendous power over information and brazenly wields that power according to its social and political biases,” he continued. “Indeed, social-media platforms oftentimes appear less guided by the principles of American democracy—such as free speech and press—than by the principles of Orwell’s Ministry of Truth: amplify favored voices and viewpoints, censor disfavored voices and viewpoints.”

Marshall noted, “I agree with Justice Thomas’s recent assessment that courts have expanded Section 230 ‘beyond the natural reading of the [statutory] text,’ and support the recent announcement by Chairman Pai that the Federal Communications Commissions will undertake rulemaking to clarify the meaning of Section 230. But there are issues inherent in Section 230 that can only be fully cured by legislative action.”

“At today’s hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee, Senator Ted Cruz opined that Facebook, Google, and Twitter ‘collectively pose … the single greatest threat to free speech in America, and the greatest threat we have to free and fair elections.’ I concur and urge Congress to take action,” he concluded.

Marshall also published a must-read op-ed in Real Clear Policy on this same issue, calling Twitter’s and Facebook’s censorship of the New York Post’s reporting “un-American.”

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

3 days ago

Ivey administration’s allocation of CARES Act funds underscores importance of, support for first responders

(Alabama Association of Ambulance Services/Contributed, YHN)

Wednesday is National First Responders Day, and the importance of America’s tremendous first responders is even more magnified this year as the nation continues to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Alabama, Governor Kay Ivey’s administration recently established the Health Care and Emergency Response Providers grant program. This enabled first responders, including private ambulance and other emergency response service (EMS) providers, to receive federal funds through the state’s share of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

The grant program received a total allocation of $35 million, building on the Ivey administration’s total allocation of up to $250 million in CARES Act funds for healthcare-related purposes in Alabama.

This support for first responders and health care providers in general has drawn praise for Ivey and her administration. This includes the Alabama Association of Ambulance Services (AAAS).

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“We applaud Governor Ivey and her administration for recognizing the critical role that EMS and ambulance providers are playing in the state’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” stated Jason Trammell, president of AAAS. “This funding will support providers across the state, who are working around the clock to serve their communities in a safe and efficient manner while their workers are on the frontlines of the fight against this virus.”

The Health Care & Emergency Response Providers grant program includes cash grants in an amount of up to $15,000 for providers that meet certainly eligibility requirements.

“Our company serves some of Alabama’s largest cities as well as its more rural areas. No matter where our providers are operating, health and safety is paramount to our underlying mission,” advised Brett Jovanovich of Lifeguard Ambulance Service. “With the cold and flu season around the corner, and with the increased potential of another wave of COVID-19, we intend to utilize these funds to fully ensure that our paramedics have the PPE and supplies needed for their safety and for the protection of patients in the communities we serve.”

In a statement to Yellowhammer News on Wednesday, Ivey spokesperson Gina Maiola said, “Governor Ivey has the highest respect for the many first responders across our state, especially as they have faced unusual obstacles over the last several months.”

“As the governor remains committed to getting this money in the hands of those who need it, she was proud to award $35 million of the CARES Act money to establish the Health Care and Emergency Response Providers grant program. These providers play a critical role in our state’s response to COVID-19, as well as in our day to day lives, and especially as we celebrate National First Responders Day, Governor Ivey applauds them for their invaluable, tough service,” she concluded.

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

3 days ago

Mental health crisis care centers to be built in Mobile, Montgomery and Huntsville

(Henry Thornton/YHN)

MONTGOMERY — State officials gathered on the steps of the capitol Wednesday morning to announce the details surrounding three new mental health crisis care centers to be built around the state.

AltaPointe Health in Mobile, the Montgomery Area Mental Health Authority and WellStone Behavioral Health in Huntsville will be receiving grants from the State of Alabama to build the crisis centers.

Governor Kay Ivey, House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville) and Dept. of Mental Health Commissioner Lynn Beshear all spoke at the announcement.

Each center will be open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They are intended to keep people with mental illnesses out of jails and hospital emergency rooms, two places not designed to accommodate such patients.

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“Most importantly,” said the governor at the event, the centers will “improve the quality of life for Alabama families and communities.”

The three centers have been a top priority for Ivey and Ledbetter this year. The governor first mentioned the initiative in her State of the State address in January, and Ledbetter shepherded the funding of the project – $18 million – through the legislative process during the spring session.

Commissioner Beshear referred to the newly announced centers as “pilot grantees” who were selected by an “independent review panel comprised of national experts in crisis care along with subject matter experts in mental illness and substance use.”

Stays in the centers could be as short as a few hours and as long as a few days, according to Beshear, who noted the locations will be staffed by mental and physical health professionals.

Beshear called the type of care that will be provided “recovery-based” and relayed that patients will be given a “warm handoff” after their short stay to services or agencies that can provide longer-term assistance.

Each center will have a “mobile crisis teams” with a law enforcement component that will be able to go into nearby communities and deal with dangerous situations that have mental health issues at their core.

Beshear reiterated multiple times that her department will work closely with the centers to ensure they provide a “continuum of care” to the patients they take in. She said her department has the goal of “opening the gateway to care.”

In terms of size and design, the three centers will vary.

AltaPointe’s center in Mobile will have 21 beds with 15 designated for temporary observation. The center will be open for dropoffs from several nearby counties.

Montgomery Area Mental Health Authority is partnering with two similar organizations to have its center serve 11 counties. The building will be in the capital city, and it will have 21 beds with 10 for temporary observation.

The facility to be built by WellStone Behavioral Health in Huntsville will be the largest of the centers. Local governments in the area are providing an additional $2.1 million. It will have 39 beds, including 15 for temporary observation.

Ivey was asked near the end of the event about the decision not to locate a center in the Birmingham area. She replied that the three centers announced Wednesday were “just the beginning” and “plans for more” are already underway.

“Today is a day of celebration,” said Ledbetter about the approval of the funding for the three sites.

He further remarked he had “never seen a more bipartisan effort” than the legislative push around the project.

“Today’s announcement will not only change Alabamians’ lives. It will help to save lives,” Ledbetter advised.

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