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.

6 hours ago

Tuberville campaign bus catches fire; No one injured

(DeKalb County Sheriff's Office/Facebook)

Former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville’s campaign bus caught fire on an interstate in Northeast Alabama on Wednesday.

The DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office at 8:26 p.m. posted two pictures of the bus ablaze at the 227-mile marker of I-59 northbound.

Tuberville was not aboard the vehicle at the time.

The only occupant, a volunteer driving the bus, escaped unharmed. The exact cause of the fire was not immediately known.

136

The bus has been a staple of Tuberville’s “The People vs. The Swamp” campaign tour across Alabama during this election cycle.

In a statement to Yellowhammer News later in the evening, Tuberville campaign manager Paul Shashy said, “Coach Tuberville’s candidacy has obviously caught fire with voters…and our bus has, too. We are thankful that no one was hurt in the incident and for the remarkable first responders who assisted immediately. The fire occurred on a test drive shortly after maintenance.”

Tuberville will face former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on July 14 in Alabama’s Republican senatorial primary runoff. The GOP nominee will go on to face U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) in November.

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

11 hours ago

Army secretary visits Dynetics facility in Huntsville — ‘What you do protects our way of life’

(Henry Thornton/YHN)

HUNTSVILLE — Secretary of the United States Army Ryan McCarthy visited a facility in Huntsville on Wednesday. He talked about the necessity of cutting edge military technology and thanked employees for their hard work during the coronavirus pandemic.

The location McCarthy visited, the Dynetics MidCity Aerospace Integration Facility, is a new satellite building of Dynetics in Huntsville that is still under construction.

The facility will construct Hypersonic Glide Body for missiles that will be able to travel the distance between Huntsville and Los Angeles in under 13 minutes according to Paul Turner, the project manager at Dynetics who oversees the facility.

McCarthy said the military needed weapons like the ones produced in part in Huntsville “to ensure that we have the technological margin on the battlefield to win for decades to come.”

576

“The work you do here will affect our future,” added the secretary.

“Know what you do protects our way of life,” he told the Dynetics employees.

RELATED: Alabama leads development of U.S. Army’s hypersonic weapons — ‘A critical priority’

Tuesday was the 46th anniversary of Dynetics’ founding. The company, purchased in 2019, is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of Leidos Incorporated.

The MidCity expansion is due to completed by year’s end, according to Turner. The exact details of the manufacturing and production that will take place inside is classified by the federal government.

Details provided to the press say that the building will have an environmental testing lab for examining the effects certain conditions have on manufactured materials. The facility will also see an amount of assembly, production and integration of some of the most advanced hypersonic weapons in the military’s arsenal.

Hypersonic weapons can travel at MACH 5, five times faster than the speed of sound, or about 13,000 miles per hour.

The building is 190,000 square feet and will be used entirely for classified manufacturing and assembly.

(Henry Thornton/YHN)

Displayed outside of the facility on Wednesday was the type of truck that would transport and provide launching capabilities for the hypersonic weapons manufactured in part at the new Dynetics facility.

Before the weapons assembled in Huntsville are ready for integration into the military’s arsenal they are shipped to a Lockheed Martin facility in Portland, Oregon, where they undergo a final set of integrations according to Turner.

The goal is to have them deployed on the battlefield by 2023, he added.

“The reason why I wanted to come down here was to thank all of you for enduring the hardships of this COVID-19 pandemic,” said McCarthy to the assembled Dynetics employees on Wednesday.

(The secretary stayed for a few minutes after his remarks to thank personally several assembled employees.) (Henry Thornton/YHN)

Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-05), who represents the district containing the new Dynetics plant, told Yellowhammer News he would like to “thank Secretary McCarthy for taking the time out of his busy schedule to see the Tennessee Valley’s important and exceptional national security work on missile defense, hypersonics weapons, directed energy and the like.”

Brooks said he was voting on defense bills in Washington so he could not be there in person, but Brooks added that he was glad that it was being acknowledged that “[m]any of the world’s best engineers, scientists, and professionals make up the Redstone Arsenal community” in Huntsville.

Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) tweeted, “[Secretary of the Army McCarthy’s] visit to Dynetics in Huntsville highlights the critical role Alabama plays in defending our nation. Proud the [United States Army] is prioritizing the development of hypersonic systems and pleased Secretary McCarthy saw firsthand the progress being made in our state.”

Secretary McCarthy himself was bullish on the United States’ fight against the coronavirus during his speech.

“Our researchers at the U.S. Army Medical Research Development Command are central to the vaccine development, and grinding towards an outcome where we’re going to have advance therapeutics and vaccines delivering at scale to the American people by the late fall of this year,” McCarthy told the audience.

McCarthy acknowledged that the wait between now and late fall was going to feel like a long time.

“Hard times don’t last, hard people do,” he said near his conclusion.

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

12 hours ago

Alexander Shunnarah donates 777 pizzas to frontline workers at two Alabama hospitals

Alexander Shunnarah Personal Injury Attorneys, P.C. recently participated in a national challenge to feed frontline heroes across the United States.

A release from Shunnarah’s firm outlined that many essential workers are frequently working long hours while risking their own health and safety during these difficult times — so the firm wanted to do something to show their appreciation.

The challenge – for law firms to purchase 777 pizzas from their local pizzerias to feed frontline workers — was initially started by Larry Nussbaum of Boston’s Nussbaum Law Group, PC.

The number is a nod to the Seventh Amendment to the United States Constitution, which codifies the right to a jury trial in certain civil cases and inhibits courts from overturning a jury’s findings of fact.

141

Shunnarah purchased more than $8,000 worth of pizzas from Slice Pizza and Brewhouse and Pizzeria GM for health care workers at UAB Hospital and St. Vincent’s Hospital.

“Participating in this challenge was a true honor and small token of our firm’s appreciation for healthcare staff in our community and across the nation,” Shunnarah said in a statement.

“With this challenge we were able to help local restaurants and our frontline heroes who have been going above and beyond the call of duty throughout this pandemic,” he added.

Shunnarah accepted this challenge from Laborde Earles in Lafayette, Louisiana. After completing it in Birmingham, Shunnarah challenged Scott, Vicknair, Hair & Checki in New Orleans, as well as Disability Attorneys of Michigan.

RELATED: Alexander Shunnarah wins national Golden Gavel Award

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

15 hours ago

Birmingham’s Lee Styslinger praises Trump’s USMCA taking effect — ‘Historic chapter for North American trade’

(Altec/Contributed, YHN)

Altec Chairman and CEO Lee Styslinger III on Wednesday announced his endorsement of the formal implementation and “Entry Into Force” of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), the historic trade deal negotiated by President Donald Trump’s administration that replaces NAFTA.

Altec, headquartered in Birmingham, is a leading equipment and service provider for the electric utility, telecommunications, contractor, lights and signs and tree care markets. The Alabama company provides products and services in more than 100 countries across the globe.

Not only does Styslinger bring his experience running Altec to the table, but the respected businessman also currently serves as a member of the Business Roundtable, a board member of the National Association of Manufacturers and a board member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Additionally, he was a key member of President George W. Bush’s Export Council and was responsible for advising Bush on government policies and programs that affected U.S. trade performance and export expansion opportunities.

Styslinger is a member of the Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations (ACTPN), providing policy and procedural advice on trade to the United States Trade Representative (USTR) and the Trump administration. For the past 18 months, Styslinger has been working closely with USTR Robert Lighthizer and ACTPN members to help finalize USMCA.

225

He was previously vocal in calling on Congress to ratify the important trade deal, which they soon thereafter did. USMCA went into effect on Wednesday, July 1.

“The formal implementation and ‘Entry Into Force’ of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement is an important milestone and historic chapter for North American trade,” Styslinger said in a statement.

“USMCA will provide more balanced, reciprocal trade along with a modernized approach to market access, intellectual property, manufacturing, digital trade, financial services and labor,” he explained. “These enhancements will create more jobs, expand market access and generate new opportunities for American workers. The implementation of this trade agreement comes at a critical time as the U.S. economy begins to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Alabama Secretary of State John H. Merrill on Wednesday also released a statement of his own lauding USMCA taking effect.

“Alabama’s international engagement fuels job growth and increases exports. The success of Alabama businesses depends on the participation and competitiveness of our global counterparts. Alabama totaled $6.6 billion in exports to Canada and Mexico in 2018, supporting families and businesses across the state,” Merrill said. “I was delighted to join President Donald J. Trump in January of this year as he signed this mutually beneficial agreement, and I look forward to its future success.”

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

15 hours ago

Doug Jones releases campaign ad urging Alabamians to wear masks, social distance — ‘Our health depends on each other’

(Doug Jones for Senate/YouTube)

U.S. Senator Doug Jones’ (D-AL) 2020 reelection campaign on Wednesday posted a new video ad entitled, “For Each Other.”

The 30-second spot encourages Alabamians to wear masks and social distance amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Jones narrates the entire ad himself, saying, “The COVID crisis has shown how our health depends on each other, on our neighbors, our loved ones, our co-workers.”

“Wearing masks and social distancing is about protecting each other, our parents and grandparents, the friend who has diabetes or a heart condition we didn’t know about, the front-line workers who put themselves at risk, and so our small businesses open safely and get our economy moving,” he continues.

104

“[I]n Alabama, we do this for each other,” the senator concludes, while putting on a mask.

Watch:

This comes after Jones last week released his first TV ad of the cycle; that spot centered on racial justice in the wake of George Floyd’s death while in Minneapolis police custody.

The Jones campaign is currently running TV ads across all of the state’s media markets. Public FCC filings showed that “For Each Other” was at least scheduled to traffic for a portion of Jones’ latest ad buy.

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

16 hours ago

Special unit to treat nursing home patients with COVID-19 to serve Jefferson County

(UAB/Contributed, YHN)

The University of Alabama at Birmingham and the Jefferson County Commission, in conjunction with NHS Management, will establish a special 25-bed unit to treat patients from nursing home facilities who have COVID-19.  The unit will be housed in a wing of the Aspire Physical Recovery Center at Hoover, operated by NHS Management. The establishment of the unit is the first step in a larger plan to assist the community in managing and mitigating the pandemic.

The unit is designed to isolate nursing home residents who test positive and are asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic, while providing the appropriate level of skilled nursing care that those patients require.

577

“The unit will continue our mission to provide evidence-based care for these vulnerable patients across the care continuum,” said Kellie Flood, M.D., associate professor in the UAB Division of Gerontology, Geriatrics and Palliative Care. “Our goal is to provide them with the same care elements they receive regularly in their skilled nursing environments, such as rehabilitation, during these unprecedented times. We are also partnering with our infectious disease, infection prevention and PPE experts to provide this unit’s team with best practices for COVID-19 management and processes to keep team members safe.”

The Aspire facility has a separate wing that will be used for the unit, with a separate entrance and ventilation system. Nursing staff for the unit will be coordinated and trained by UAB.

“Nursing home residents have special needs, and for those with mild illness from the virus, an acute care hospital is not necessarily the right environment,” said Tony Petelos, Jefferson County manager. “This program will blend the hospital and skilled nursing environments to make sure all their needs are met.”

The unit will also ease pressure on hospitals that are facing a surge in COVID-19 patients by freeing up beds for acutely sick patients. It will also help reduce the potential spread of infection within a skilled nursing facility by providing a transition of care for patients who cannot be isolated in their home facility.

The unit will begin accepting patients in early July. On June 25, the Jefferson County Commission voted to allocate up to $1.9 million of its Coronavirus Relief Fund allocation — money received through the CARES Act — in support of this initiative.

“Our team at NHS Management is excited about this cooperative venture with one of the nation’s flagship health care institutions,” said Nick Beckham, regional director of NHS. “This effort will bring new resources to the fight our dedicated staff members have been waging against this virus and will provide additional options for the residents in our care. With the virus so prevalent in our community, this program allows us to be proactive instead of reactive in our fight. NHS believes this collaborative venture can become a best-practices model for the nation.”

“This unit is the first step of a broader collaboration between the UAB Health System, the Alabama and Jefferson County health departments, local area hospitals, and our affiliated nursing homes, to create a care continuum structure to develop a prevention and mitigation plan to respond to potential nursing home outbreaks of COVID-19 in Jefferson County,” said Brian Spraberry, chief administrative officer for the UAB Health System.

That plan will establish a line of communication with representatives from acute care, post-acute care, public health, the Alabama Nursing Home Association and Alabama

Hospital Association with the following goals:

  • Coordinate consistent infection-control practices and provide practical guidelines for PPE utilization and conservation for both the COVID unit and community collaborative.
  • Create a centralized process to track and test nursing home residents and employees to help inform and implement surveillance protocols for persons under investigation (PUI) by using a reporting structure through the county EMA or other such monitoring protocols as available.
  • Create a four-stage response plan to mitigate any resurgence occurring in the Jefferson County region to include exposure notification, PPE utilization, infection control, testing protocols and staffing.

UAB proposes to create an assessment team to provide consulting services to any facility needing expertise in the development of infection-control policies and procedures, staff education, and the development of other strategies related to prevention and mitigation of COVID cases.

(Courtesy of UAB)

16 hours ago

Dr. Barbara Cooper takes helm at Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education

(Office of Governor Kay Ivey/Contributed, YHN)

Governor Kay Ivey on Wednesday announced the appointment of Dr. Barbara Cooper as secretary of the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education (DECE), effective immediately.

The position was vacated effective June 1 by the retirement of longtime DECE Secretary Jeana Ross. Dr. Trellis Smith has been serving as acting secretary of the department since then.

According to a release from the governor’s office, Cooper brings significant experience and expertise to the role, and she has previously held senior level positions with both DECE and the Alabama State Department of Education.

“Dr. Barbara Cooper has spent her professional career dedicated to helping students achieve their greatest potential. She and I share the same goal, and that is to make Alabama a better place, which begins with our youngest citizens,” Ivey said in a statement.

406

The appointee has more than 30 years of education experience and most recently has served at DECE since 2018. She previously served as the department’s director of the Office of School Readiness and the Birth to Grade 12 advisor for the Ivey’s Office of Education and Workforce Transformation. Notably, she was appointed by the Alabama State Board of Education to serve as the chief administrative officer during the Montgomery Public Schools intervention, where she worked to improve leadership and governance.

Additionally, Cooper’s administrative experience includes prior service as deputy state superintendent/chief academic officer of the Alabama State Department of Education, deputy superintendent of Huntsville City Schools, chief equity and engagement officer of Aurora Public Schools (Colorado) and a principal with Denver Public Schools. She has teaching experience ranging from elementary to teacher instruction.

“With her vast experience in various administrative positions, Dr. Cooper is more than qualified, and I have no doubt that she will continue the impressive work of the Department of Early Childhood Education. I am confident that Alabama will continue leading the nation with the best early childhood education system,” Ivey concluded.

Among other important programs, DECE runs Alabama’s world-class, voluntary First Class Pre-K program.

The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) recently ranked First Class Pre-K as the nation’s highest quality state pre-kindergarten program for the 14th consecutive year.

Last year, a major study concluded that students who participate in the voluntary pre-k program are more likely to be proficient in math and reading, with no evidence of fade out of the benefits over time. These long-term results hold true even after the study controlled for student demographics and other variables such as poverty.

Cooper is currently in the process of earning a certificate in Early Education Leadership from Harvard University Graduate School of Education. She has a Ph.D. in Education Leadership and Innovation and a Master of Science in Administration, Supervision & Curriculum Development from the University of Colorado at Denver and a Bachelor of Science in Education from Western Illinois University.

“Education is the greatest profession and the work we do in our calling as educators will last beyond our lifetime,” Cooper stated. “I look forward to serving Alabama’s children and families for many years to come. I appreciate Governor Ivey’s confidence in selecting me to serve in this new capacity and I look forward to hitting the ground running.”

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

22 hours ago

Port of Mobile sets record for single-vessel export tonnage, ties record for largest bulk carrier

(Contributed/Alabama State Port Authority)

The Alabama State Port Authority this week welcomed the NSU VOYAGER, which loaded a Port of Mobile record 135,484 short tons (122,909 metric tons) of export metallurgical coal at McDuffie Coal Terminal.

This Newcastle Max class bulk carrier also matched the previous record bulk ship to call the port, tying the MARAN COURAGE in measuring 984.2 feet (300 meters) in length overall with a width of 164.3 feet (50 meter beam). The MARAN COURAGE, another Newcastle Max, called on Alabama’s seaport earlier this year.

During their respective McDuffie calls, both vessels exclusively loaded Alabama met coal bound for Asian markets.

377

Alabama’s met coal market, already in high global demand, is on the upswing with approximately $1.4 billion in Yellowhammer State mining investments being announced recently. Currently, the state holds about four billion tons of economically recoverable coal reserves, with 80% of those reserves comprised of met coal, according to an economic impact study conducted by an expert at Auburn University Montgomery.

And, as previously reported by Yellowhammer News, Alabama’s met coal industry and the Port of Mobile enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship.

RELATED: Study: Alabama coal industry has nearly $3 billion impact; met coal reserves to last centuries

Rick Clark, deputy director and chief operating officer for the port authority, noted in a Tuesday release that the increased Newcastle Max calls match growing Post-Panamax vessel calls into Mobile, in part due to ongoing infrastructure investments.

The port authority, its partners and the federal government have recently invested over $1.2 million combined in further shore-side and channel improvements to service growth in the region’s mining, manufacturing, agriculture and retail distribution industries.

The crown jewel of these continuing improvements at the Port of Mobile is now on the horizon and is expected to bring even further record-shattering growth. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the port authority in recent weeks signed the project agreement to complete the historic deepening and widening of the Mobile Harbor Ship Channel by late 2024 or early 2025.

“We’re rapidly achieving our goal to deepen the channel to -50 ft. draft, and shippers are seeking ports where they can soon leverage capacity opportunities,” Clark advised in a statement.

“When our channel is deepened, the Newcastle Max will be able to load far more tonnage, generating more capacity and better rates to service international market opportunities,” added Clark.

The harbor improvements, along with the port authority’s recent terminal investments, technology and personnel training, primarily serve coal and containerized shippers using the larger bulk and container vessels.

“The ability of the Port team to handle this larger class of vessel in an efficient and effective manner is a tribute to our customers, assets and staff,” concluded Bernard Scott, manager of McDuffie Terminal. “It takes a team effort, and in today’s challenging markets, this is something to celebrate.”

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

22 hours ago

You can now pay for parking in Birmingham with your smartphone

(City of Birmingham/Contributed, YHN)

The City of Birmingham has entered into an agreement with a tech company that will allow anyone parking in the downtown area to pay for their spot with an app.

The company, ParkMobile, provides their app for free, and it is available on both the Android and iPhone platforms.

Consumers create an account in the app where they enter the license plate of their vehicle. They then enter the information that is posted on the parking meter to indicate where their car is located, and pay for the time they need.

ParkMobile then communicates with the Birmingham police which vehicles have paid for their spot.

148

The company already has a presence in Alabama, where cities Montgomery and Mobile both preceded Birmingham in partnering with ParkMobile.

The firm, founded and headquartered in Atlanta, says it has over 600,000 monthly users.

Payment methods that allow customers to make a purchase without interacting with another human or public surface, often termed “Contactless payment options,” have increased in popularity during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The City of Birmingham, Alabama is happy to partner with ParkMobile to provide our downtown with a contactless payment option for parking,” said Mayor Randall Woodfin in a statement.

“As a result of COVID-19, we’re seeing a rise in contactless parking payments in cities across the country as people and it is good to see that people in Birmingham will now have this option,” remarked Jon Ziglar, CEO of ParkMobile.

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

No Barons, Biscuits or Trash Pandas: Minor League Baseball officially cancels 2020 season

(Barons/Trash Pandas/Biscuits/Facebook)

Minor League Baseball (MiLB) announced on Tuesday that the 2020 season has officially been canceled.

Fans of Alabama’s three minor league baseball teams — the Montgomery Biscuits, Rocket City Trash Pandas and Birmingham Barons — will have to wait until 2021 to see their respective squad return to the diamond.

The Major League Baseball season has been greatly constricted by the coronavirus pandemic; the 30 MLB teams will play a schedule of 60 games beginning in late July, instead of the normal 162.

As a result, according to Minor League Baseball, the major league “will not be providing its affiliated Minor League teams with players for the 2020 season.”

242

The demise of the 2020 MiLB season had been all but certain before Tuesday’s announcement but not yet officially confirmed.

“We are disappointed we will not host a 2020 Birmingham Barons season at Regions Field this summer,” said Barons general manager Jonathan Nelson.

“We look forward to continuing the tradition of Barons baseball at Regions Field in 2021,” he added.

The news is perhaps most disheartening to fans of the nascent Trash Pandas. Formerly the Mobile Bay Bears, the Huntsville-area team never got to play a game of what would have been their inaugural season.

“Obviously, this is an incredibly disappointing day for our fans, staff, and partners,” commented Trash Pandas president and CEO Ralph Nelson before adding, “[b]ut the health and safety of our families and community is paramount above all else.”

Nelson continued, “Baseball has always been part of the healing when our country has come back from tragic times, and I firmly believe the Trash Pandas will help heal North Alabama when we come out on the other side of this pandemic an even stronger community.”

“With the help of our fans, sponsors and the River Region community, we’ll be back as strong as ever. Together, we will get through these unprecedented times and make the Biscuits 2021 season an unforgettable celebration. Until we meet again, stay safe, friends,” concluded Biscuits CEO & managing member Lou DiBella.

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

Alabama Republicans express disappointment over Supreme Court striking down Louisiana abortion restriction

(SCOTUS)

In a 5-4 decision handed down Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Louisiana law requiring all abortion providers in the state to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

Many of Alabama’s Republican elected officials responded with various forms of disappointment about the ruling.

U.S. Representative Mike Rogers (R-Saks) said he was very frustrated the Supreme Court had struck down, in his view, a “commonsense law [that] sought to protect the health and safety of women and their unborn babies.”

“This reckless decision is just further evidence of activist judges pursuing their political agenda,” he argued.

476

Congressman Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville), long a staunch pro-life advocate, remarked, “To say this decision by the Supreme Court is extremely disappointing is an understatement. The Court’s ruling sides in favor of abortion providers rather than the health of the women they claim to care for.”

Aderholt also pointed out that Louisiana law had enjoyed bipartisan support, including from Governor John-Bel Edwards, a Democrat.

Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a statement saying, “The Supreme Court’s abortion decision today is another disappointment for the law and a failure to protect the constitutional rights of unborn children.”

He continued, “Again, Chief Justice Roberts’s attempts to keep the Supreme Court from making controversial decisions have interfered with his commitment to be a neutral umpire who calls balls and strikes. He should rule on the law, and nothing more. I am disappointed in today’s ruling, but I proud of my proven pro-life record and will continue to fight to protect the unborn, defund Planned Parenthood, and approve commonsense judges to the federal bench.”

Current AL-02 candidate and former State Representative Barry Moore (R-Enterprise) issued a statement that said in part, “I’m disappointed, especially in Chief Justice Roberts, for this blatantly political decision.  The Chief Justice held the opposite opinion just four years ago when a virtually identical Texas law was before the court.  Now it looks like he’s changed his opinion purely to keep the coastal elites happy at the expense of the unborn, and those women who suffer complications during an abortion.”

Alabama State Representative Wes Allen (R-Troy) tweeted, “Chief Justice Roberts continues to be a disappointment on the Supreme Court. His willingness to continue to support abortion is disgusting.”

State Senator Clyde Chambliss (R-Prattville) sponsored the Human Life Protection Act of 2019, Alabama’s strongest-in-the-nation law that would essentially ban all abortion if allowed to go into effect. Yellowhammer News reached out to see what his thoughts were on the ruling.

Chambliss responded, “I was disappointed by the anti-life ruling from the Supreme Court yesterday, and I was deeply disappointed by the statement from Justice Roberts indicating that they had to follow precedent. That’s malarkey… If they always had to follow their own precedent, many landmark civil rights rulings would have never been made and our country would still be in the dark ages. The Court needs to do their job, not hide behind an old case because it is the easy way out. Many, many more babies will be murdered due to this dereliction of duty.”

Chambliss added, “Because of the way the Alabama law was drafted, the precedent excuse is not applicable. Therefore, I remain optimistic that the Supreme Court will rule favorably once the Alabama case reaches the Court.”

RELATED: Alabama AG says state’s abortion ban ‘fundamentally different’ from Louisiana measure struck down by SCOTUS

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

2 days ago

Ivey appoints Jim Naftel as presiding Jefferson County probate judge

(Maynard & Cooper/Contributed, YHN)

Governor Kay Ivey on Tuesday appointed James P. “Jim” Naftel II as presiding probate judge of Jefferson County.

Naftel, a shareholder at the prestigious Birmingham-headquartered law firm of Maynard Cooper & Gale, fills the vacant Place 1 spot on the probate court and becomes the chief elections official of Alabama’s largest county. Longtime Probate Judge Alan King recently retired from this position.

Ivey made the appointment in a letter to Naftel which was released to the media.

287

“As one of my appointees, you will be making important decisions that directly affect the citizens of Alabama,” the governor wrote. “I have made honesty and integrity a priority in my Administration, and I know that you will embody these two virtues while serving the people of Alabama.”

Maynard Cooper’s website describes Naftel as a “member of the Firm’s Estate, Trust and Business Planning Practice, Fiduciary Advisory Services Practice, and the Fiduciary, Trust and Estate Litigation Practice groups.”

He is a fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and past chair of the Birmingham Bar’s probate section. Naftel has earned recognition from The Best Lawyers in America in the areas of Trust and Estates and Litigation: Trusts and Estates. He received his J.D magna cum laude from the University of Alabama School of Law in 1998.

Naftel told Yellowhammer News in a written response to a request for comment that he is thankful to “Governor Ivey for this honor.”

“I look forward to serving Jefferson County in this important role,” he wrote.

Naftel advised that he has not made a decision on whether he will seek election to this office after the appointment term expires, however Naftel added that he would run as a Republican if he did run.

Per Title 17 Section 17-14-6 of the Code of Alabama, “The appointment of a judge of probate is for the remainder of the unexpired term.”

The term filled Tuesday by Naftel will next be up for its regularly scheduled election in 2024. No Republican won countywide in Jefferson County in the 2018 election cycle.

Editor’s note: This article was updated at 4:55 p.m. to reflect Naftel’s response

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

2 days ago

Lake Guntersville named nation’s second-best bass lake of the decade

(Lake Guntersville State Park-Alabama,Facebook)

Alabama’s Lake Guntersville was ranked No. 2 in Bassmaster Magazine’s “Best Bass Lakes of the Decade” list released on Tuesday.

Bassmaster has released annual rankings of the country’s best bass fisheries since 2012. However, 2020 rankings were not compiled because tournament data could not be gathered due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, the publication crunched the numbers and put together an all-decade list rather than an annual one.

Lake Guntersville was the highest placing lake in the Southeast, only finishing behind California’s Clear Lake nationally.

Pickwick Lake, located in Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee, was named as America’s 13th-best bass lake of the decade, also representing the Yellowhammer State well.

183

“Typically, creating the rankings takes more than two months as we dig through current tournament data as well as state fishery information on stocking efforts, catch rates and angler access,” explained Bassmaster Magazine editor-in-chief James Hall in a statement. “Instead, we used all of this research and rankings from the past eight years to create an incredible — and somewhat surprising — ranking of bucket-list destinations for anglers.”

Lake Guntersville was also ranked second in the 2019 annual list.

“Like Clear Lake, the Big G has never been named the Best Bass Lake in the nation, but it is rarely out of contention. Guntersville is known for its breathtaking scenery and easy access, but big fish swim there as well. Most big-bass prizes are awarded to fish topping the 8-pound mark, with 10-plus-pounders taking center stage on occasion,” Bassmaster said in a Tuesday release.

While it did not make the national best-25 list, Alabama’s Lake Eufaula was named as one of the best bass lakes in the Southeast for the decade.

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

2 days ago

Alabama counties receive almost $1.5M total from Department of Interior in annual federal lands compensation

(Trey McMeans, Outdoor Alabama/Flickr, YHN)

U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt announced this week that 59 counties in Alabama will receive a total of $1,477,641 in Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) funding for 2020.

In a statement, Bernhardt said these types of payments “will help small towns pay for critical needs like emergency response, public safety, public schools, housing, social services, and infrastructure.”

Federal lands are exempt from taxes. Simply put, PILT provides payments to counties to offset losses in property tax revenues and also to reimburse counties for the critical services they provide on that land.

287

Per the Department of Interior (DOI), PILT payments are made annually for tax-exempt federal lands administered by DOI agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Payments are also made annually for lands administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s U.S. Forest Service, for federal water projects and for some military installations.

Using a statutory formula, the annual PILT payments to county governments are computed based on the number of acres of federal land within each jurisdiction and on the population of that jurisdiction.

The funding stems from DOI collecting revenues from commercial activities on federal lands, such as oil and gas leasing; livestock grazing; and timber harvesting.

Alabama’s latest annual PILT total is up from last year ($1,375,444) but still down from 2018 ($1,592,542).

According to DOI, individual county payments may vary from year to year as a result of changes in acreage data, which is updated annually by the respective federal agency administering the land; prior-year federal revenue sharing payments reported annually by the governor; and population data, which is updated using information from the Census Bureau.

Conecuh, Etowah, Geneva, Jefferson, Lee, Marshall, Shelby and St. Clair Counties were the only counties in Alabama not receiving PILT payments in 2020.

Winston County received the most funding. For 90,069 acres, the county received a $181,008 PILT payment.

It was followed by Cleburne County ($176,909 for 98,910 acres) and Lawrence County ($171,829 for 90,272 acres).

Coffee County received the lowest non-zero PILT payment in the state ($113 for 40 acres).

You can view Alabama’s county-by-county breakdown here.

The PILT announcement came after Bernhardt recently visited federally-managed lands on Alabama’s Gulf Coast.

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

2 days ago

Club for Growth hits AL-02 hopeful Jeff Coleman for campaign contributions to Hawaii Democrat Neil Abercrombie in new ad

(Screenshot/YouTube)

For the second consecutive day, Club for Growth Action, the federal super PAC associated with the Washington, D.C.- based Club for Growth, announced it was coming into play in Alabama politics in a significant way.

On Monday, Club for Growth announced it was launching television ads promoting the U.S. Senate candidacy of former Auburn head football coach Tommy Tuberville. On Tuesday, the organization told Yellowhammer News exclusively it was starting television spots attacking Alabama Second Congressional District Republican hopeful Jeff Coleman for campaign contributions, specifically those given to former Democrat Hawaii governor and U.S. congressman Neil Abercrombie.

The 30-second spot focuses on Abercrombie’s support for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). It claims Coleman indirectly financially supported Pelosi while not offering any financial support for Donald Trump in his 2016 presidential bid against Hillary Clinton.

299

30-second spot:

“Hawaii is a long way from Alabama,” the ad’s narrator says. “So why did Jeff Coleman give thousands in campaign cash to a liberal Democrat running for Congress there? True facts: The guy Coleman helped went on to back Nancy Pelosi for speaker. All tolled, Coleman has handed out $39,000 to candidates. But when Donald Trump faced Hillary Clinton, Coleman didn’t give him a dime. Jeff Coleman — his money helped Nancy Pelosi, not Donald Trump.”

Coleman faces former State Rep. Barry Moore on July 14 in a runoff election. The contest has not been without controversies. Last week, Alabama Daily News reported Moore failed to vote in the 2016 Republican presidential primary, despite having endorsed Trump very early on at a 2015 Trump rally in Mobile, one of the first of its kind for Trump.

Dalton Dismukes, Coleman’s campaign manager, referenced Moore’s lack of participation in Alabama’s 2016 GOP presidential primary in response to the Club for Growth Action ad through a statement given to Yellowhammer News.

“This ad is pretty rich just days after it was revealed that Trump-poser Barry Moore never even voted for him in the 2016 primary,” Dismukes said. “Now, he’s going on to embrace more big D.C. spending from the original #NeverTrump Super PAC. Jeff, like President Trump, is an outsider and successful businessman, who’s run a worldwide business that created jobs right here in AL-2. Barry is a backbench legislator, who’s spent more time figuring out how to get his name on a ballot over creating a single job. We’re confident voters will see the difference.”

15-second spot:

@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.

2 days ago

Alabama AG says state’s abortion ban ‘fundamentally different’ from Louisiana measure struck down by SCOTUS

(Wikicommons, S. Marshall/Facebook, PIxabay, YHN)

Alabama’s attorney general says his defense of the state’s 2019 abortion ban is proceeding, despite Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling, and aims to challenge the two main SCOTUS decisions that allow abortion across the nation.

Pro-choice voters cheered and pro-life voters were dismayed when the Supreme Court handed down a decision on Monday that struck down Louisiana’s law requiring all doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

It was the first abortion case taken up by the court since Trump-appointed Justice Brett Kavanaugh replaced frequent swing vote Justice Anthony Kennedy in 2018. As such, many conservatives were hoping the court would uphold the restriction on abortion providers.

Yellowhammer News asked Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall what he thought of the decision and where it left anti-abortion laws like the one Alabama passed in 2019.

351

Marshall said that he strongly disagreed with the ruling and was saddened that the “Court continues to embrace the erroneous conclusion that the Constitution grants the right to an abortion.”

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson issued an injunction last fall blocking the state of Alabama from enforcing the Human Life Protection Act. This was “welcomed” by State Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur), as the sponsor’s stated purpose for the law is for it to reach the Supreme Court.

The deciding vote in Monday’s decision was Chief Justice John Roberts, who joined the court’s four Democrat-appointed justices in ruling that the Louisana law imposed an undue burden on a woman’s right to get an abortion.

A similar law in Texas was struck down by the court in 2016, and Roberts said in his Monday decision that he did not want to break the precedent set by that position. This came despite Roberts in 2016 dissenting in that very case.

The latest decision by Roberts left many observers wondering whether he would cite precedent if a future case, like one over Alabama’s 2019 law, came before the court.

Yellowhammer News asked that question of Marshall, and he responded with a statement that said in part that Alabama’s case is “fundamentally different from the case the Court ruled on [Monday].”

He added that no party in Monday’s case “asked the Supreme Court to reassess the validity of Planned Parenthood v. Casey. In contrast, Alabama intends to put that very question to the Supreme Court.”

Marshall advised that “[u]nlike Louisiana’s law which requires abortion doctors to obtain admitting privileges at local hospitals, Alabama’s Human Life Protection Act directly challenges the legal grounds for an abortion in most all circumstances except to protect the life of the mother.”

The attorney general said that Alabama’s “objective is to advance our case to the Supreme Court where we intend to submit evidence that Roe v Wade and Planned Parenthood v Casey were wrongly decided and that the Constitution does not prohibit states from protecting unborn children from abortion.”

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

Una, University of North Alabama’s female mascot, passes away

(UNA/Contributed, YHN)

Una, one of two live mascots of the University of North Alabama (UNA), passed away at the age of 17 on Tuesday morning after a brief illness.

A release from UNA advised that the female lion died “peacefully” at the George H. Carroll Lion Habitat on the UNA campus. A memorial will reportedly be planned for Una later this year.

“All of us at UNA are saddened by Una’s passing,” UNA President Ken Kitts said in a statement.

377

Una was born in 2002. She and Leo (her brother) moved into the university’s on-campus habitat in 2003. Since arriving on campus, the duo have represented UNA as mascots, appearing at events early on in their tenure and celebrating birthdays with the community.

Leo is expected to have a time of mourning for his sister, and Anne and Dan Howard are expected to remain in place as his volunteer caregivers.

“[Una] and her brother, Leo, are part of the UNA family, and we mourn her death,” Kitts continued. “We also are grateful for the many years she had representing the University as part of the lion mascot duo as well as to Anne and Dan Howard for the gracious care they have provided, and continue to provide, to our lions.”

Una was the first female African lion mascot for UNA; she joined her brother Leo III, who succeeded Leo I and Leo II.

“Una’s passing was peaceful, and her brother and caregivers were at her side,” explained Dr. Brandon Fisher, one of the two local veterinarians who provide care for the two lions. “It has been a remarkable part of my career to be able to care for Una since she was a cub, to watch her grow and to see her very distinctive personality develop.”

Leo will continue in his current service as UNA’s mascot. Una will reportedly be prominently featured as part of the university’s Sesquicentennial Celebration of the Year of the Woman beginning next year.

“Leo is in very good health for an African lion that is almost 18 years old,” added Dr. Matt Connolly. “We have done a full health assessment on him which did not reveal any abnormalities. We fully expect him to mourn his sister and will continue to monitor his appetite and activity closely during this time.”

UNA has a well-known tradition of housing a live lion on campus since Leo I lived in his enclosure beginning in 1974. After his passing in 1988, Leo II came to campus and was voted “Second Best Mascot” by Sports Illustrated in 1997. He died in 2002.

You can view UNA’s website dedicated to Una and Leo III here.

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

2 days ago

Alabama airports awarded almost $11M in federal grants — ‘Important for economic development’

The U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded 16 local airports across the state of Alabama a total of $10,750,845 in Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grants for infrastructure improvements.

The grant funding was made available through annual measures facilitated by U.S. Senator Richard Shelby’s (R-AL) leadership of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, as well as the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) of 2020.

In a statement announcing the grants, Shelby said, “Improvements to infrastructure at the local level are important for economic development in our communities.”

344

“I am pleased that these 16 airports will receive nearly $11 million to enhance safety and boost aviation advancements. This is great news for each of these areas and will advance economic growth. I look forward to the positive impact this funding will have throughout Alabama,” he concluded.

The FAA grants are administered through Fiscal Year 2020 Airport Improvement Program annual and supplemental awards. Additionally, funds provided through the CARES Act serve as the local match for the infrastructure grants.

Grants were awarded for the following Yellowhammer State airport projects:

  • South Alabama Regional Airport-Bill Benton Field, Sanford, Alabama – $166,666 to construct, extend, and improve the safety area
  • Auburn University Regional Airport, Auburn, Alabama – $2,085,581 to rehabilitate a runway
  • Bibb County Airport, Centreville, Alabama – $150,556 to reconstruct a taxiway
  • Cullman Regional Airport-Folsom Field, Vinemont, Alabama – $774,251 to rehabilitate a runway and reconfigure an existing taxiway
  • Jeremiah Denton Airport, Dauphin Island, Alabama – $588,888 to reconstruct runway lighting and airport lighting vault
  • Demopolis Regional Airport, Demopolis, Alabama – $166,666 to update the airport master plan or study
  • Weedon Field Airport, Eufaula, Alabama – $137,765 to acquire land for development and for obstruction removal
  • Evergreen Regional Airport-Middleton Field, Evergreen, Alabama – $455,663 to construct a taxiway
  • Richard Arthur Field Airport, Fayette, Alabama – $150,000 to reconstruct an apron
  • Posey Field Airport, Haleyville, Alabama – $604,575 to install perimeter fencing and for obstruction removal
  • Headland Municipal Airport, Headland, Alabama – $282,500 to install weather reporting equipment
  • Huntsville Executive Airport-Tom Sharp Jr. Field, Meridianville, Alabama – $204,934 to acquire land for development and construct an airport-related environmental study
  • Mobile Downtown Airport, Mobile, Alabama – $3,000,602 to rehabilitate an apron
  • Northwest Alabama Regional Airport, Muscle Shoals, Alabama – $517,600 to conduct a study, rehabilitate a taxiway, and seal runway pavement joints
  • Prattville Airport-Grouby Field, Prattville, Alabama – $1,129,018 to seal apron pavement joints, seal runway pavement joints, and seal taxiway pavement joints
  • Craig Field Airport, Selma, Alabama – $335,580 to rehabilitate a taxilane

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

2 days ago

Ivey extends current health order to July 31 with no major changes

(Henry Thornton/YHN)

MONTGOMERY – Governor Kay Ivey and State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris on Tuesday extended the state’s current health order until July 31 at 5:00 p.m. with no major changes.

Ivey and Harris made the announcement at a 10:00 a.m. press conference in the Alabama State Capitol.

The order allows every company and institution in the state to remain open but continues to limit capacity for several businesses. It also keeps in place certain requirements like masks for restaurant employees, as well as various social distancing and sanitation measures.

You can view the new order here.

488

You can view Yellowhammer News’ live tweet thread from the press conference here.

Ivey told the public that she and Harris “reserve the right to come back and reverse course” with regards to the state’s reopening plans.

Yellowhammer News has contacted the governor’s office and the Alabama Department of Public Health for clarifications on what benchmarks Alabama would need to hit that the governor would start seriously considering measures that would “reverse course” on the state’s reopening.

“When you’re in public, for goodness sake, wear a mask,” urged Ivey at the press conference.

The governor that she would not put in place a statewide mask order, which has been implemented by more than 10 states, because in her view such an order would be unenforceable at the state level.

The governor did not comment on the local mask ordinances put in place by cities around the state, which she has chosen to leave in place up to this point.

“We’re still in the thick of this virus and disease, which is deadly,” warned Ivey at the beginning of her remarks.

Ivey briefly took questions at the end of the remarks and was asked why she hadn’t chosen to take more extensive measures like Texas and Florida, which have both closed their bars and breweries again.

She said she believes the real problem is that people “aren’t following the restrictions we’ve already put in place” and therefore new restrictions would not be helpful.

Harris responded to a question near the end of the briefing and said in part that “there is not an appetite for new restrictions” at the current time.

He followed Ivey at the podium to give an update on the state’s health statistics, saying that Alabama has seen around 10,000 new confirmed cases in the last 14 days, which makes up almost a third of everyone who has been diagnosed in the state since the pandemic began.

Harris added that the percent of tests coming back positive for COVID-19 is “as high as it has ever been,” which means that the rise in cases is not due to increased testing capacity.

Alabama’s state health officer said that people over 65-years-old have made up more than 75% of Alabama’s coronavirus deaths, while only being around 18% of the state’s total confirmed cases.

He said one in nine of Alabama’s seniors confirmed to have caught COVID-19 perished from the disease.

Alabama currently has 715 COVID-19 patients in the hospital according to BamaTracker, and Harris said on Monday that the state has 275 intensive care unit beds left open.

State Representative Dexter Grimsley (D-Newville) joined Ivey and Harris at the press conference on Tuesday.

He spoke with emotion about his sister, a healthcare worker, who recently died from COVID-19 at age 58.

“It is not too hard to wash your hands,” said Grimsley. He further urged mask-wearing and social distancing.

This is breaking news and will be updated.

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

Status of thousands of airport and utility board employees back up in the air

(Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport/Facebook)

The legal battle over who is deemed a public employee under Alabama’s ethics law is not over, quite yet.

The Alabama Ethics Commission is asking for revisions to a court order issued earlier this month saying the Birmingham Airport Authority’s (BAA) employees are not considered public employees because they are not paid through tax dollars. BAA employee salaries come from user and landing fees paid by airlines, as well as rental and concession fees at the airport.

In its motion filed on Friday, the Ethics Commission requested Montgomery County Circuit Judge Brooke Reid reconsider her order and redefine the type of funding which would exclude employees from certain Ethics Act requirements, such as filing annual income reports.

303

In her order granting summary judgment for BAA, Reid outlined that “the funds used to pay [BAA] employees are self-generated revenues that are not derived from or linked to actual taxpayer contributions, and therefore those funds do not constitute ‘state, county or municipal funds’ as that phrase is used in the Ethics Act.”

The Ethics Commission is petitioning Reid to redefine airport revenue as money coming from “commercial arms-length transactions” rather than simply saying it does not come from taxpayer funds.

Mark White, an attorney representing BAA, believes any effort to clarify this particular provision of the ethics law would be thwarted by the commission’s proposed revisions to Reid’s order.

“Unfortunately, and for reasons unknown, the Ethics Commission is trying to change the facts and the law that resulted in Judge Reid’s order by simply ignoring both,” White told Yellowhammer News.

RELATED: Birmingham Airport Authority wins appeal of major ethics ruling

Nearly 40 utility boards from across the state filed briefs in the case supporting BAA’s position. It is estimated that the decision could affect thousands of people in Alabama who are employed by these entities in a wide variety of jobs.

BAA sought clarification more than a year ago out of fear that an employee who simply worked the jetway or on the tarmac at the airport could unknowingly be subject to Ethics Commission filing requirements.

It is unclear how the “commercial arms-length transaction” standard would impact employees of local utility boards which generate revenue from set rates.

Tom Albritton, executive director of the Ethics Commission, explained in a statement to Yellowhammer News that the agency’s purpose in filing its most recent motion was for Reid to “clarify her previous order so that we can have clearer guidance moving forward in similar cases.”

A hearing on the matter is set for July 13.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

2 days ago

Auburn College of Veterinary Medicine partners with Humane Genomics Inc. on COVID-19 vaccine development

(Auburn University/Flickr, YHN)

AUBURN, Ala. — Researchers from the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine are partnering with Humane Genomics Inc. to develop a potential vaccine for the COVID-19 virus currently at the heart of the ongoing global pandemic.

According to Dr. Bruce Smith, director of the Auburn University Research Initiative in Cancer, professor in the Department of Pathobiology and scientist in the college’s Scott-Ritchey Research Center, the collaboration between Auburn and Humane Genomics is an outgrowth of cooperation between the two in the field of cancer research. Much of the science used in this particular vaccine development is adapted from the company’s cutting-edge research into precision virus-based cancer therapies.

445

“We had previously worked with Humane Genomics in the area of cancer treatment,” said Smith, “specifically an attempt to custom synthesize viruses to target tumors. The same basic concept can also be used to develop a vaccine. All that is necessary is to have the virus’ genome—a genetic map of its DNA—in order to create a vaccine to target it.”

The COVID-19 genome is available, so the custom development of a vaccine tailored to its specific vulnerabilities, a so-called “synthetic vectored vaccine,” was a relatively rapid process. In this case, that process involved genetically synthesizing via computer modeling a harmless virus called vesicular stomatitis virus, or VSV, and giving it the same “spike” protein characteristic of COVID-19. This spike protein binds with so-called ACE2 receptors on human lung cells to allow the harmful virus to infect them. But if the vaccine functions as hoped, the immune system would be triggered to produce antibodies to recognize this spike protein and block infection, but in a harmless virus. That same triggered immune reaction—in theory—would then protect against COVID-19.

“The idea of developing vectored vaccines by ‘cutting and pasting’ virus DNA to alter its characteristics is a proven method of vaccine development and has been in use for more than a decade,” Smith said. “In the case of animals, vectored vaccines have been successfully developed for rabies and fowl pox. In human medicine, a vaccine approved in 2019 for the deadly Ebola virus was developed using the same technique.

“What makes the Humane Genomics approach unusual,” added Smith, “is that they are skipping the traditional cutting and pasting process of removing and substituting DNA and instead synthesizing their targeted viruses using computer modeling. It allows for a much quicker process. If they have the target’s genome, they can develop a vaccine in about a week.”

It is the testing phase that takes time, and currently the company’s COVID-19 vaccine is in the safety testing phase, which is where Auburn’s contribution comes in. The Auburn College of Veterinary Medicine is testing the vaccine on rats to see if they develop the proper antibodies or become ill due to unforeseen side effects. Later, another vaccine partner will perform similar tests with guinea pigs, and if all goes well, the vaccine can then move on to human testing.

Smith says that, while he is cautiously optimistic a working vaccine will eventually be developed, there is still a long road ahead despite the urgent need.

“With a tremendous amount of luck, we could have a vaccine by the end of the year,” he said, “but more likely, we won’t know for sure if a vaccine is going to be successful until some time in 2021.”

(Courtesy of Auburn University)

2 days ago

Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce will hold virtual Military Appreciation Day event July 2

The Military Appreciation Day luncheon will be held virtually July 2. (Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce)

The Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce will host this year’s Military Appreciation Day luncheon virtually due to COVID-19 precautions. The Zoom event will be held July 2, from noon to 1:30 p.m.

The luncheon and awards presentation will pay tribute to the military and recognize several individuals, including JROTC cadets, for their contribution and service.

The awards presentation will include:

137

  • Honoring Army Lt. Col. Louis J. Lartigue Sr. (Ret.) with the Maj. Gen. Gary Cooper Outstanding Service Award.
  • Recognizing Mobile County High School JROTC Cadets.
  • Additional recognitions by the U.S. Coast Guard ATC, Spouse of the Year; and the U.S. Navy League presenting the Hugh M. Casteix and Rear Adm. J. Lloyd Abbot awards.

Gov. Kay Ivey will provide the keynote address at 12:30 p.m. with the awards presentation to follow.

The cost for virtual attendance is $20, and ticket holders will receive a $15 gift card to one of seven restaurants to cover their lunch: Briquettes Steakhouse, Chicken Salad Chick, Foosackley’s, Lucky Irish Pub and Grill, Simple Greek, Sonny’s BBQ or Taco Mama.

To register for the event, visit the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce, or for additional information contact Mallory Tyson.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 days ago

Ala. Dept. of Labor to begin offering extended unemployment benefits to eligible citizens

(ADOL/Facebook)

The Alabama Department of Labor announced Monday that Alabamians who have exhausted all other unemployment benefits will be eligible for the Extended Benefits (EB) program.

To qualify for the Extended Benefits program an individual must have gone through both the normal 14 weeks of unemployment provided for by the State of Alabama and the additional 13 weeks provided by the federal government as part of the CARES Act in March.

All recipients of the EB program in July will be paid the extra $600 per week the federal government began attaching to unemployment claims as part of the CARES Act; however that additional amount is scheduled to cease by July 31.

334

The Extended Benefits program is a federal project offered only when a state’s insured unemployment rate goes over 5.9%. The last time it was offered in Alabama was during the Great Recession of 2008.

The 13-week extension of normal unemployment paid for by the federal government is called the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program.

EB will start being available to eligible unemployed Alabamians on July 5.

Once the extra $600 from the federal government stops being added the EB program will pay the standard unemployment benefit amount for Alabama, which is $275 per week.

Per the Department of Labor, “Claimants must not be eligible for unemployment compensation benefits in another state or Canada, must have no disqualifications, have qualifying wages, and must have at least one week in the benefit year that begins in an EB eligibility period.”

ADOL will notify those eligible for EB benefits via the online UI Claims Tracker and by mail. Claimants will not have to apply for these benefits but should continue to file weekly certifications, per the department.

The department added, “Individuals are only entitled to benefits if they are no longer working through no fault of their own and they MUST be able and available for work. The EB program has more stringent work search requirements and requires claimants to engage in a ‘systematic and sustained’ effort to obtain work during each week and to provide evidence of efforts. Due to the pandemic, the submission of required work search contacts has been TEMPORARILY waived due to Covid-19 restrictions. However, claimants should continue to look for work where possible, and maintain a record of their efforts on a weekly basis. This waiver may end at any time. Once this waiver ends, claimants will be required to provide a minimum of three (3) work search contacts each week during the weekly certification process.”

A detailed information sheet on who can received Extended Benefits 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

‘Law and order’: Shelby County sheriff backs Russell Bedsole in Alabama’s HD 49 special election

(Russell Bedsole/Contributed)

Shelby County Sheriff John Samaniego on Monday announced his endorsement of Russell Bedsole in the special election for Alabama House of Representatives District 49.

A longtime public servant, Bedsole has 21 years of experience with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office.

“As a longtime member of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, Bedsole knows firsthand how crucial law and order are to our nation,” Samaniego said in a statement. “Bedsole will be a powerful voice in the Alabama House of Representatives. He will fight for the hardworking law enforcement officers and first responders serving our communities.”

Bedsole is running in the Republican primary for the seat vacated by former State Rep. April Weaver (R-Brierfield) resigning to join the Trump administration. Bedsole announced his candidacy for the open District 49 seat on June 2.

238

RELATED: Here are the Republican candidates for Alabama House District 49

He has also been elected twice previously by the citizens of Alabaster to the city council. Bedsole has already received an endorsement from the Shelby County Fraternal Order of Police in the HD 49 race.

“I have spent many successful years with my family by my side serving my community and demonstrating the type of leadership the people of District 49 will appreciate,” Bedsole stated when announcing his candidacy. “I am patient enough to listen to those who have something to say, but bold enough to speak up for those who feel like they do not have a voice.”

“I believe that life starts at conception, that the 2nd amendment should be protected, that our taxes need to be low and fair, and that our cities and counties need their fair share of infrastructure support,” he added.

A release from Bedsole’s campaign advised that he “will work to improve District 49’s infrastructure and traffic flow, increase economic development, and advance school systems” if elected to the House.

The special primary election will be held on August 4. If a run-off election is needed, it will be held on September 1. The special general election will be held on November 17.

“I humbly ask for your vote on August 4th to allow me to serve District 49,” Bedsole said.

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