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.

34 mins ago

Alabama automakers adopt COVID-19 safety measures as production ramps up

(Made in Alabama/Contributed)

Alabama automakers have been ramping up production following the COVID-19 outbreak, with strict new protocols in place to prevent the spread of the virus.

Toyota, Honda, Hyundai and Mercedes-Benz all are implementing similar measures as employees return to work, including temperature checks, staggered shifts, frequent sanitizing and additional protective gear.

The restart of operations at the Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama engine plant in Huntsville has been smooth since it began in mid-May, officials said.

Employees are having their temperature taken each time they return to work, answering a questionnaire to identify any potential exposure to the virus and practicing social distancing on the job, during all lunch breaks and during shift changes.

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There are also staggered shift patterns; frequent sanitizing in high-traffic areas; reconfigured conference rooms, cafeterias and other meeting spaces; and an increase in the use and availability of personal equipment such as face masks, face shields, gloves and hand sanitizer.

“Our phased approach to resuming operations allows employees and stakeholders at Toyota North American manufacturing plants and administrative facilities to return to a work environment that has implemented a number of policies and procedures to help ensure their health and safety,” the automaker said in a statement.

ELEVATED PRECAUTIONS

Honda Manufacturing of Alabama in Talladega County also gradually began resuming vehicle, engine and transmission production earlier this month.

Prior to resuming production, the automaker trained front-line leaders on new procedures and activities related to COVID-19 prevention, and employees learned about the new safety measures and re-trained on work processes.

Among the new safety efforts are temperature scanning of all Honda employees, suppliers, contractors and visitors. No one with a temperature of 100 degrees or higher is allowed inside Honda facilities.

Masks and cloth face coverings are required at all times inside all buildings unless people are eating or drinking, and Honda plants and offices are providing one new mask per day for every employee. Face shields also are required in certain areas, and cleaning and disinfecting activities have increased.

The plant has also staggered shift start times to reduce the number of people entering and leaving at one time; staggered lunch and break times, with reconfigured seating in those areas; limited capacity in restrooms and locker rooms; adjusted processes and workstations to achieve social distancing on the production line as much as possible; and increased signage to remind employees of social distancing, good hygiene and other safety measures.

“Honda will continue to maximize opportunities for associates to work remotely, while practicing social distancing for associates performing essential roles that require them to work at Honda facilities,” the company said in a statement.

SAFETY PROTOCOLS

Hyundai Motor Manufacturing of Alabama in Montgomery has been running a one-shift operation of its vehicle assembly processes since May 4, said company spokesman Robert Burns.

“Our engine machining and assembly operations are on a modified schedule to complement the needs of the automotive assembly processes,” he said.

HMMA benchmarked safety protocols implemented in Hyundai’s auto plants in South Korea, Burns added. The company also participated in idea-sharing conference calls, coordinated by the Original Equipment and Suppliers Association, to determine measures it would take to protect employees’ health.

Safety practices include: thermal temperature scanning and mask distribution upon arrival; requiring face masks to be worn at all time unless eating or drinking; staggering lunch breaks and shifts to reduce congestion in high-traffic areas; installing barriers in workstations and partitions on break tables; continuous cleaning of high-contact and high-touch surfaces; and promoting social distancing where possible.

At Mercedes-Benz U.S. International in Tuscaloosa County, production restarted in late April. The automaker said it had monitored and learned from other Mercedes plants around the world as Alabama workers returned, and the facility also implemented safety practices gleaned from groups like the West Alabama Chamber of Commerce, Alabama Automotive Manufacturers Association and the Alliance for Automotive Innovation.

Measures adopted include the mandatory wearing of face masks, temperature checks at entry and separation of workers in break rooms, cafes and common areas.

Production at the plant was suspended this past week due to supplier delays in Mexico, but it is expected to resume this week. MBUSI will also produce during the planned summer shutdown.

“We will continue to monitor federal and state guidance and regulations throughout this ramp up period, and will make whatever changes as may become necessary to ensure our team members’ safety and to ensure the required production capacities of the highly demanded SUV models coming out of Alabama,” the automaker said in a statement.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

1 hour ago

Alabamians support NASA mission returning astronauts to space from American soil

(NASA)

As soon as NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley lifted off atop a SpaceX rocket from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, reaction from all corners of Alabama was swift.

Saturday afternoon’s launch set forth the commercial crew era of U.S. human spaceflight, and significant support for the mission is taking place at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville.

“What a great day for NASA, what a great day for SpaceX, and what a great day for the United States of America,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine at a Saturday evening press conference. “It’s been nine years since we’ve launched American astronauts on American rockets from American soil, and now we have done it again.”

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After the launch was scrubbed earlier in the week due to inclement weather, the NASA Marshall team prepared for the next launch window during the days in between.

Following the successful launch, Congressman Robert Aderholt (AL-04) congratulated Behnken and Hurley through a series of tweets, adding, “Success in space has always required close work between the private sector and NASA. I look forward to a regular tempo of crewed flights to the Space Station followed soon by flights of the Space Launch System program.”

Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01) sought to convey the historic nature of the launch.

“FANTASTIC for America!” were the words of Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-05).

The spacecraft arrived to orbit and separation occurred about 12 minutes into the flight. The crew has spent several hours performing maneuvers to prepare for docking at the International Space Station on Sunday morning. Hatches should open and the crew will board the station sometime around 11:45 a.m. CST.

At the conclusion of their time on the International Space Station, Behnken and Hurley will depart aboard the spacecraft on their way to reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere. Targeted splashdown is off of Florida’s Atlantic coast.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

2 hours ago

Alabama doctor treats, then beats COVID-19

(Dennis Washington/Alabama NewsCenter)

Dr. Brandon White has never drowned before. But after fighting the battle of his life with COVID-19, he has experienced the closest thing to it.

“Just sitting on the bed, I felt like I couldn’t get my breath. While I have never drowned, that would be the best way I could describe the sensation,” White said. “I was on oxygen, and I still wasn’t getting any better. That was the most concerning part of it.”

White, a doctor at UAB Medical West in Bessemer, was working long hours in the hospital’s intensive care and isolation units treating some of the worse coronavirus cases when the unthinkable happened: He was knocked down by the disease. Now, nearly a month later, with much of that time in the ICU, he is back on his feet and has returned to his job on the front lines of the pandemic.

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“I’m a pretty young person,” the 42-year-old said. “I don’t have any underlying medical conditions, and I have never been a smoker. I would never in my wildest dreams have expected to be one of the folks who ended up that sick.”

Alabama doctor talks about surviving COVID-19 from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

After the pandemic began, White’s schedule became more hectic than ever.

Along with working 12-hour shifts for seven days every other week, White was on call around the clock as a hospice doctor and had a telemedicine practice. In addition, he launched BHMCares, which he was overseeing almost single-handedly until his illness forced him to pass the reins to his friends. BHMCares is a coordinated effort to provide meals from local restaurants to health care workers at Birmingham-area hospitals, cancer centers, COVID-19 drive-thru testing sites and labs.

It was in late April during one of his weeks away from the hospital when White started feeling tired and a bit lightheaded – symptoms that were short-lived.

“If nothing else had developed, I wouldn’t have thought of myself as being sick,” he said. “I live by myself, and I hadn’t been anywhere since I had left work on Sunday. I would have just chalked it up to being tired and underrested.”

By the next night, White, who had been experiencing body aches and a lack of energy earlier that day, began running a fever of about 104 degrees F. He woke up, with his sheets and clothes soaked with sweat. That happened again and again. From that point, it was a “rapid downhill decline,” White noted.

Two days later, White tested positive for the virus at a nearby COVID-19 drive-thru facility. He then began experiencing a shortness of breath and was extremely fatigued.

“I couldn’t eat or drink, and I lost my sense of taste and smell,” White said. “I felt so bad I didn’t even want to get out of bed. It was a struggle to walk from one end of my small apartment to the other.”

That’s when White drove himself to his hospital in Bessemer, thinking that some intravenous fluids and oxygen would put him on the road to recovery. When nothing seemed to work, he was moved downtown to UAB Hospital’s ICU for more aggressive treatment.

As the days passed, White continued to grow worse.

“I’m not an excitable person,” he said. “But as a doctor who works in ICU every day, I knew what my chances were. It was also alarming to see the doctors, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and nurses hovering outside my door, and cautiously looking in at me. I knew exactly what that meant. They’re just waiting for the bad thing to happen.”

White said the turning point was when the doctors decided to treat him with “convalescent plasma” that has been taken from patients who have recovered from the disease. The hope is that the plasma is filled with antibodies that will fight the infection.

The plasma was not an instant fix, White said.

“For a couple of days, I continued to get worse,” White said. “The fevers were worse, the body aches were persistent, and I could feel myself being more short of breath, just lying in bed – not speaking, not moving, not doing anything. Then, a couple of days after I received the plasma, I felt myself plateau.”

White said that’s when his stamina and energy began to increase slowly, day by day. He has lost 15 pounds and has not yet regained his sense of taste and smell.

“I get hungry and so I eat,” said White. “But I don’t taste it, so I eat until I’m not hungry and go on to something else.”

Although White took a lighter patient load when he returned to work last week, it was business as usual. His first stop was to treat a patient who was in the worst throes of COVID-19.

White said as an added precaution, he now wears a full-face respirator, instead of an N95 mask, while treating patients.

“I wear a mask everywhere except at home,” he said. “The thing that bothers me the most is the number of people walking around who don’t have a mask on and are not social distancing. Take it seriously. Just because the restrictions are being lifted, it doesn’t mean the disease has gone away by any stretch of the imagination.”

White said no one is immune.

“If you don’t work in health care and don’t see it, most of us don’t think it will happen to us,” he said. “I’m proof that somebody relatively young and healthy can get severely sick. You can die from it.”

White has also returned to lending a hand with BHMCares, which has now delivered more than 4,800 meals to area health care workers.

“It’s probably the most fun thing I’ve done in my life,” he said. “I never thought it would be as big as it is, and I never thought it would be as rewarding as it is. It has been really fun.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 hours ago

UAB says thank you to area restaurants and others for supporting Meals for Heroes program

(UAB/Contributed)

A campaign to feed front-line health care workers caring for coronavirus patients raised more than $76,000 and served more than 16,000 meals in less than five weeks. Meals for Heroes, which launched April 1 and closed in early May, was a collaboration between the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s advancement office and the UAB Department of Food and Nutrition Services. It was created to feed health care providers and administrative staff at UAB hospitals and the remote COVID-19 testing site where long shifts and busy schedules often leave them no time to purchase food.

“The donation through Meals for Heroes provided meals to lab personnel on April 20, during National Lab Appreciation Week,” said Sherry Polhill, associate vice president for Hospital Laboratories, Respiratory Care and Pulmonary Function Services at UAB Medicine. “UAB Hospital Labs appreciate the Birmingham community for their generosity and acts of service.”

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UAB Football head coach Bill Clark and his wife, Jennifer, along with the Heart of Alabama Chevy Dealers, gave $10,000 to the campaign, which placed orders with local restaurants and caterers in an effort to help support community partners and bolster Birmingham businesses. Many partners provided in-kind meal donations, including Milo’s Tea Co., Jimmy John’s, Newk’s and other restaurants. UAB Food Services worked with businesses to ensure specific food safety guidelines were met, and also served more than 5,800 meals to compassionate care caregivers.

“The outpouring of support from churches, synagogues, restaurants, businesses and individuals in our community has been amazing,” said Charlotte Beeker, associate vice president for Food, Nutrition and Guest Services at UAB Medicine. “The donations made by these groups and so many others to support the Meals for Heroes campaign just shows what a great community we live in. Our health care workers have been heroic in their efforts during this pandemic and our community has been equally heroic in their flood of care and encouragement.”

At the end of the Meals for Heroes campaign, the remaining gift balance was $21,000, which Beeker says will be used to continue feeding health care workers caring for COVID-19 patients.

This story originally appeared on the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s UAB News website.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

18 hours ago

Southern Company turns to Alabama manufacturer for face masks

(Homtex/Contributed)

With government guidelines recommending people use protective face masks and practice safe social distancing during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Southern Company has turned to local businesses to supply its needs and protect public health while also helping support the economy.

Southern Company’s partnership with HomTex, a family-owned textile company in Cullman, is one recent example. Alabama Power is a subsidiary of Atlanta-based Southern.

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Founded in 1987, HomTex has transitioned from producing bedding and home products to manufacturing up to 300,000 masks per week. That number is expected to continue to ramp up as the company becomes more familiar with the process.

The shift to mask production has allowed HomTex to keep all 150 of its employees working, with an expansion in the works.

“When this opportunity presented itself, a lot of people in the textile industry looked to HomTex to lead,” said Maury Lyon, HomTex vice president of apparel. “It has been a tremendous blessing to provide a high-quality and filtered product that hopefully is helping keep people safe. It is also unique that we could provide a U.S.-made product that we could put into our communities.”

So far, Southern Company has ordered over 1.5 million dust masks from HomTex, along with 500,000 cloth masks. The masks are shipped to Alabama Power’s Materials Distribution Center before being sent all across Southern Company’s footprint.

“Southern Company is committed to helping our communities thrive no matter the time or circumstances,” said Jeff Franklin, Southern Company senior vice president of supply chain management. “HomTex is doing critical and tremendous work for our community and we are thrilled to partner with them. Southern Company will continue to do our part to keep our communities healthy during the national response to COVID-19.”

Last week, Alabama Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth visited the HomTex facility in Cullman. He is working alongside the company to help it receive U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for its masks. Lyon said the company expects FDA approval within the next week.

FDA approval is only needed for masks used in medical settings. It isn’t required for facial coverings recommended for most workers and for members of the public when social distancing can’t be effectively maintained.

Last month, HomTex announced a $5 million project that is expected to create an additional 120 jobs in Cullman and position HomTex as a permanent U.S. producer of personal protective equipment at a time when domestic production of the gear is considered a national security priority.

According to a story posted on the state Department of Commerce website Made in Alabama and reported by Alabama NewsCenter, the company secured a $1.5 million loan from the Cullman County Economic Development Agency to cover the down payment on the equipment. It has worked with the commerce department and others on incentives to accelerate the project.

In addition to its headquarters and plant in Cullman, HomTex has a distribution center in Vinemont and manufacturing facilities in North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

“Nothing moves this fast in the textile industry, and the fact we were able to do this over the course of days is amazing,” said Jerry Wootten, HomTex CEO. “We really just wanted to help our community and find a way to serve them first.

“It is unique that we could use our skills to help the community this quickly. It has been a blessing to supply these needs,” Wootten said.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

1 day ago

Hyundai and Sony ink multi-movie promotional partnership

(Alabama NewsCenter/Contributed)

The next Alabama movie star may hail from Montgomery, have four wheels and a Smartstream engine.

Hyundai Motor Company and Sony Pictures Entertainment announced a new multi-movie promotional partnership Wednesday that will see Hyundai cars and technology promoted in five upcoming feature films.

The announced movies include “Uncharted,” based on the popular video game of the same name and due out July 2021 starring Tom Holland, Mark Wahlberg and Antonio Banderas. Sequels to “Spider-Man: Far from Home,” due in November 2021, and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” due in October 2022, are two other announced titles.

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Two other undetermined Sony feature films will also be included in the deal.

Specific Hyundai models to be featured have not been disclosed. Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama produces the Sonata and the Elantra sedans and the Santa Fe SUV. Beginning next year, it will add Hyundai’s first pickup, the Santa Cruz crossover, to its lineup.

The pickup launch in 2021 seems ripe for a major movie promotion that year.

A friendly, neighborhood Santa Cruz, anyone?

HMMA’s $388 million engine plant in Montgomery is also one of the first in the world to produce the Smartstream G1.6 T-GDi engine that will feature the world’s first continuously variable valve duration (CVVD) technology.

“It is exciting to see the Hyundai brand involved with upcoming movie productions,” said Robert Burns, vice president of Human Resources & Administration at HMMA. “Even though the release doesn’t specify an Alabama-built vehicle, we can hope a Sonata or Santa Fe will get a cameo.”

Beyond movie appearances of existing and concept vehicles, the partnership presents opportunities to leverage Sony for marketing content and immersive entertainment, to co-create virtual reality and gaming experiences, and to co-produce events.

“This strategic partnership with Sony Pictures will allow customers to understand and experience our  human-centered future mobility vision through innovative vehicles and technologies, illuminating a way forward for transforming how we move, interact, and design our lives for optimal benefits,” said Wonhong Cho, executive vice president and Chief Marketing Officer of Hyundai Motor. “We will offer various ways to inspire our customers and movie fans around the globe.”

Hyundai Motor will also offer substantial marketing support and the companies will collaborate on a wide range of ancillary content-creation.

“This deal embodies the true definition of the word partnership,” said Jeffrey Godsick, executive vice president of Global Partnerships and Brand Management and head of Location Based Entertainment at Sony Pictures Entertainment. “The deal has many layers, including substantial marketing support, but its real potential and impact come from groundbreaking content that we will develop together.”

At the consumer technology showcase event CES 2020, Hyundai Motor Company unveiled its innovative vision for urban mobility to help revitalize human-centered future cities. The three-pronged approach to realize the vision includes:

  • Urban Air Mobility (UAM), a new form of mobility utilizing air space to drastically reduce transit time;
  • Purpose Built Vehicle (PBV), an eco-friendly urban mobility device allowing customization for diverse lifestyles; and
  • Hub, a space for mobility transfer and community activities.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

Shipt logo tops Birmingham’s tallest building

(Michael Sznajderman/Alabama NewsCenter)

The whirring of helicopter blades and streets blocked by police barricades interrupted a quiet Saturday in downtown Birmingham as one of the city’s most prominent corporate residents put its new mark on the city’s tallest building.

Shipt, the online grocery-delivery service founded in Birmingham in 2014 that has since grown into a nationwide force, needed the helicopter to carefully place its shiny green logo on top of the old SouthTrust Tower. The skyscraper, on Birmingham’s north side, was most recently called the Wells Fargo Tower – before Shipt began leasing space in the building last year.

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Shipt takes a higher place in the Birmingham skyline from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Shipt adopted a new logo early this year, switching from a throwback flying saucer to a look that includes the company name in bold letters plus a stylized “S” that resembles a shopping bag – a nod to the bright green bags used by Shipt shoppers.

“Shipt is excited to bring our new logo to one of the tallest buildings in Alabama, the Shipt Tower, and to show our continued commitment to the city of Birmingham.” a company spokesperson told Alabama NewsCenter.

“Earlier this year, Shipt made the investment to show who we are, what we do and the quality in how we do it,” the spokesperson said. “Our new logo is bold and distinctive, yet human and approachable, and will allow us to stand out in markets while still resonating with our target audiences.”

The 34-story tower, in what used to be known as Birmingham’s financial district, was completed in 1986 for what was then SouthTrust Bank, also founded in Birmingham. It later merged with Wachovia Bank, which later merged with Wells Fargo.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

1 day ago

UA kick-starts six projects related to COVID-19 and future pandemics

(University of Alabama/Contributed)

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Six projects designed to deepen understanding of the coronavirus pandemic and future pandemics and positively influence society will receive seed funding from The University of Alabama.

The projects come from across disciplines on campus, and were selected through the University’s Joint Institute Pandemic Pilot Project, sponsored by the UA Office for Research and Economic Development and UA’s research institutes.

“It is essential as the flagship university in the state that UA contributes to improving the lives of Alabamians in the face of this pandemic and future pandemics,” said Dr. Russell J. Mumper, vice president for research and economic development. “All of our institutes are coming together in recognition that the nature of the problem and its solutions require an inherently interdisciplinary approach.”

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Support for the projects comes from the Alabama Transportation Institute, Alabama Water Institute, Alabama Life Research Institute and the UA Cyber Initiative.

The effort was guided by the strategic plan for the Office for Research and Economic Development that encourages interdisciplinary and transformative research.

Along with the viability of projects to garner external funding after being established, the review process of proposals emphasized a project’s potential to sustain beyond the current global pandemic stemming from COVID-19 and scale to other large challenges.

Projects include:

  • Development of a model to track transmission of infectious diseases that can help develop testing and quarantine strategies that contain infections without locking down a region. It could also evaluate the effectiveness of stay-at-home orders. The project is led by Dr. Jun Liu, assistant professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering.
  • Using a bacteria’s immune system known as CRISPR-Cas, sequences of genetic code inside bacteria that store information on invading viruses, to develop a low-cost, point-of-care test for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The goal is to offer an alternative diagnostic test that uses a smart phone app to detect a color change in the sample instead of the labor-intensive test used now on expensive lab equipment. The work is led by Dr. Jack Dunkle, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry.
  • Determining if lifestyle factors such as vaccination history, diet and outdoor activity may impact severity of COVID-19 symptoms through a nationwide survey of adults younger than age 50 who recovered from a diagnosis. Survey data can be used to conduct future clinical study with blood and genes investigation. The project is led by researchers from human nutrition and hospitality management, Dr. Han-A Park, assistant professor, and Dr. Amy Ellis, associate professor.
  • Exploring and understanding how adolescents and parents dealt with school closings and confinement at home during the spring and summer pandemic. The aim is understanding the differences among families in the decisions, opportunities and losses that occurred and carried forward into the next school year. The research team wants to understand the positive and negative ripple effects on children’s peer experiences and behavioral adjustment while evaluating the effectiveness of affordable school-based medical and behavioral services to support families and children. The project involves collaboration among developmental and educational psychologists, nursing educators, experts in marriage and family therapy, social work experts, and experts in evaluation and school improvement. The cross-campus research is led by Dr. Jeffrey Parker, associate professor of psychology.
  • Creating a transformative training program to equip rural Alabamians with skills needed for the evolving job market since it is predicted many of the jobs lost during the pandemic will not return. The project will identify skills associated with programming jobs, conduct a needs assessment of rural communities and identify residents and community leaders willing to participate in training and development. Dr. Kimberly Stowers, assistant professor of management, leads the project.
  • Assessing emergency messaging used during the pandemic in Alabama and the perceptions of the public and decision-makers of the response to messaging. Interviews, surveys and workshops with emergency managers around the state will help develop a pandemic and catastrophic event planning guide for dissemination to government officials. The project will be led by Dr. Laura Myers, director and senior research scientist at the Center for Advanced Public Safety.

(Courtesy of the University of Alabama)

2 days ago

UAH Hockey saved after supporters successfully raise over $750K in less than five days

(UAHHockey.com/Facebook)

Just one week after the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) announced that its men’s hockey team would be discontinued, UAH on Friday confirmed the program has been saved by supporters.

The university last Friday had listed financial shortfalls caused by the COVID-19 pandemic as the reason for cutting the popular program.

Following that announcement, a GoFundMe was launched on Monday evening in an effort to raise $500,000 by close-of-business on Friday. That ambitious goal was reached shortly after noon on Friday, with hours to spare.

As of 2:30 p.m. CT, the GoFundMe had garnered a total of $516,585 from more than 2,200 donors. Additionally, a t-shirt fundraising page had raised an additional $29,792.

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In addition to these crowdfunded donations, UAH in a statement advised that two long time hockey supporters, Taso Sofikitis and Sheldon Wolitski, have each gifted $125,000 to support the program.

In a statement to Yellowhammer News, UAH Athletic Director Cade Smith confirmed that these funds, combined with the crowdsourced funds, will enable the program to continue for the duration of the 2020-2021 season. The total amount of almost $800,000 in private dollars is the largest athletic campaign contribution in the history of UAH.

In addition to the private funds, UAH President Darren Dawson has committed dollars from the university to cover the balance of the hockey team’s operations during the upcoming season. The program will continue to compete in Division I.

Moving forward, supporters of the program will still need to secure long-term funding and competitive stability.

“We are thankful and gratified from the loyal support that has been demonstrated this week by the fans and alumni of Charger hockey,” stated Dawson. “We are hopeful that this support will translate into a sustainable funding model that will allow the UAH hockey program to rise again to high levels of success.”

Smith said, “The university is fully committed to the upcoming season. The university will work with the supporters of the UAH hockey program and a newly formed Hockey Advisory Board to develop a plan that will allow the Chargers to thrive in 2021-2022 season and beyond.”

One key obstacle moving forward besides funding will be UAH Hockey finding a new conference, as their current conference is disbanding following this upcoming season.

Smith stressed that “UAH is committed to building a world-class D1 hockey program with a permanent conference home that will allow the Chargers to continue past the 2020-2021 season.”

To continue beyond the current season, UAH said that the Chargers must develop a five-year philanthropic funding model and resolve the associated conference-related issues.

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

2 days ago

Alabama Lt. Governor Ainsworth comments on death of George Floyd

(Will Ainsworth/YouTube, Benjamin L. Crump, Esq./Facebook, YHN)

The death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis Police Department custody on Monday evening has sparked bipartisan national outrage, including in the Yellowhammer State.

The situation on-the-ground in Minneapolis has gradually deteriorated since video footage of Floyd’s death surfaced. Four officers have been fired, however no one had — as of Friday morning — been charged. What began as peaceful protests demanding justice for Floyd have escalated into heavily publicized rioting, looting and arson.

President Donald J. Trump on Friday tweeted that the Minnesota National Guard has arrived in the city to get a hold of the situation.

This came shortly after Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth (R-AL) in a social media post warned, “Chaos rules without law and order.”

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“The death of George Floyd In Minneapolis was inexcusable and angers me greatly, but we must remember that all but a few officers are dedicated servants who risk their lives daily,” Ainsworth said. “My thanks to those who serve in law enforcement. Your brave service is appreciated. Chaos rules without law and order.”

Earlier in the week, Oxford Police Chief Bill Partridge shared a photo of the since-fired officer who was video taped kneeling on Floyd’s neck, with Partridge saying, “This is not a police officer. This is not American law enforcement. This is someone who has no integrity, honor, emotion, or respect.”

Partridge currently serves as president of the Alabama Association of Chiefs of Police.

“These four people have stained every professional law enforcement officer who swore an oath to protect and defend the communities they serve,” he continued, referring to the former Minneapolis PD officers.

“It is up to every officer, supervisor, and administrator to stand against this type of abuse of power. Each of these four officers will be prosecuted, as they should,” Partridge advised.

“As a police officer, I do not see color; I see human beings with thoughts, feelings and I will be the first to stand and say enough is enough to this type of rogue behavior by anyone,” he added. “To see this type of brutality makes me sick and disgusted. But, I know justice will prevail in this case. We just need to allow the system to work.”

Partridge remarked, “While Americans have the right to peacefully assemble and protest, they do not have the right to riot, loot and destroy innocent people’s property.”

“Please know that 99.9% of American law enforcement officers do the job flawlessly every day and risk their lives doing so. We work extremely hard to make inroads into the community and build strong relationships,” the Alabama police chief concluded.

UPDATE:

Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis PD officer who knelt on George Floyd’s neck, has been arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter, media outlets reported Friday afternoon.

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

2 days ago

Alabama’s OWA to reopen amusement park on June 5

OWA this week announced that it will officially reopen its popular amusement park on Friday, June 5, at 11:00 a.m. CT, incorporating enhanced health and safety measures that were developed based on guidance from the CDC and health officials.

The heightened health and safety measures are being implemented for guests and team members to ensure the well-being of everyone visiting OWA, which is located in Foley, Alabama.

The new policies, which can be found here, will include health screenings for guests before entering The Park at OWA, installation of additional hand sanitizing stations throughout the resort, enhanced cleaning and sanitization practices, and added signage to encourage social distancing.

“Our entire team has worked tirelessly the past few months to get The Park ready for guests. We are excited to see guests enjoying the rides and share special family moments once again,” stated Kristin Hellmich, OWA’s director of marketing/PR.

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“We have always taken great pride in our Parks’ safety and cleanliness,” she continued. “The upcoming Park reopening will be no exception as we continue to implement recommended health and safety practices to ensure our guests have a great experience.”

Additional steps are being implemented to accommodate social distancing, such as limiting the number of guests allowed in the amusement park at one time. Riders will continue to purchase an attractions wristband to enjoy a day filled with unlimited access to amusement park rides. Guests wishing not to partake in any attractions can purchase a $5.00 Non-Rider Pass, which allows guests to enjoy strolling The Park and watching loved ones without having to purchase a full-priced ticket.

Downtown OWA businesses began reopening in April consistent with state health orders and continue to welcome guests using recommended health and safety standards.

Restaurants now open at OWA include Groovy Goat, Crazy Donuts, Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen, Lucy’s Retired Surfers Bar & Restaurant, Trattoria Pizza & Italian, Hershey’s Ice Cream Parlor, C’est Le Vin Wine Bar & Shop, Auntie Anne’s and Cinnabon.

Retailers currently open include Fairhope Soap Company, Parker & Co. (a women’s boutique), Alvin’s Island, The Spice & Tea Exchange and Body Tune Plus.

Brandon Styles Live is currently welcoming guests to both his Magic and Variety shows six days a week. Clash eSports Center, OWA’s state-of-the-art video gaming venue, and Sweet Tooth at OWA are set to open on June 5 in conjunction with the amusement park.

The Park will be open seven days a week during the summer season. Learn more at OWA’s website here.

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

2 days ago

Auburn offering on-campus instruction beginning with second summer mini-term

(Auburn University/Flickr)

Auburn University on Friday announced plans for its second summer mini-term that include a variety of instructional delivery methods, including on-campus instruction.

In March, the university announced its decision to suspend on-campus instruction for the full 10-week summer session and the first of two summer five-week mini-terms following guidance from public health officials due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The decision announced Friday comes following months of careful preparation, with the recently amended State Health Order allowing for increased access to educational institutions beginning June 1.

Beginning June 29, Auburn plans to offer multiple course sections during the second summer five-week mini-term through a variety of instructional delivery methods. Consistent with the updated order, the university’s options incorporate important measures designed to protect students, faculty, staff and the broader campus community.

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“Following the Governor’s guidelines, Auburn is preparing to start re-opening our campus to students slowly,” stated Auburn University Provost Bill Hardgrave.

“While the pandemic has not affected our ability to offer quality instruction, it did restrict our options for delivering instruction,” he continued. “With the new guidance from the state, we can utilize instructional delivery modalities that will enable our campus to implement important protocols as we prepare for the broader re-entry of students this fall.”

In addition to the face-to-face and online options Auburn traditionally offers, the university will also offer blended and Hyflex courses. With blended courses, students utilize both face-to- face instruction and remote learning. Hyflex courses provide a structure that gives students the flexibility of attending sessions in the classroom, participating online or doing both through synchronous delivery. As the university prepares to implement physical distancing guidelines across campus, both blended and Hyflex options will reportedly enable students to experience some face-to-face instruction while remaining flexible to accommodate the institution’s safety protocols.

Auburn advised that more than 3,000 students are currently registered for courses in the second summer mini-term, with almost 150 faculty slated to teach. By working with their colleges and schools, faculty can select which of the four modalities best align with the learning outcomes for their courses to deliver instruction. The type of delivery method will be published so students can make informed choices when building their course schedule.

Opening academic buildings and offering face-to-face instruction during the latter part of the summer will allow the university to begin implementing several new protocols developed for students preparing to return in the fall.

Among these, the university will employ a mobile COVID-19 health check for all students and faculty, and appropriate social distancing will be followed in classrooms.

Following the university’s transition to remote teaching this spring, all faculty going forward are being asked to create a “syllabus B” in the event of a resurgence of the coronavirus that requires the institution to once again transition to full remote instruction.

“The second summer mini-term will allow us to glean important information for the fall,” Hardgrave concluded. “The current plan is to implement some key elements for summer that we see as necessary for fall and prepare to welcome our students, faculty and staff back to learning environments that support the well-being of our campus.”

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

3 days ago

Jones: ‘Whole lot of blame to go around’ for COVID deaths — Points to Trump administration, China, WHO

(Jeff Poor/YHN, WH/Flickr)

U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) on Thursday hosted a live-streamed availability with Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris regarding the coronavirus.

Jones and Harris each made opening remarks, including updates on Alabama’s COVID-19 data as well as ongoing efforts to combat the pandemic.

The two officials then answered questions from members of the media that were submitted ahead of time.

For example, Jones was asked, “What would you tell people now that the number of deaths from coronavirus in the U.S. has surpassed 100,000? Many commentators are blaming the White House response. And are the current reopening strategies of Alabama and other states premature?”

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“Well, you know, look, I’ve seen the commentators — and I don’t think we’re at a point where we should be pointing a whole lot of blame,” Jones answered, before appearing to do just that.

“There’s a whole lot of blame to go around,” he continued. “I think we have to point to China for some of the issues that they raised. I was disappointed at some of the early response from the [World Health Organization], even though we could have done a better job with testing in this country.”

Jones then placed some “blame” at the feet of President Donald J. Trump and his administration.

“I’ve been disappointed in the administration and their early responses,” the junior senator advised. “You talk about ‘cavalier attitudes,’ I think the president had one early on. All of that has, perhaps, affected where we are in this country.”

“But I think the key right now is where we are today and what we’re planning on doing going forward,” Jones added.

He subsequently questioned the notion that reopening strategies for Alabama and other states in general are “premature.”

Jones outlined that reopening can be done safely if people continue to listen to health experts like Harris and follow social distancing/sanitation guidelines.  Jones urged Alabamians to wear masks in public.

“I don’t think that reopening is inconsistent with trying to stop this spread by [doing] the same things that people have been saying since this virus came to this country,” he said. “And that is to social distance, that is to make sure you wear the masks… to protect you and others. If we continue to do that, if we could just get used to that — I think that’s been the biggest issue right now. Some people just don’t want to be told to do it, and I get that. But the fact is if people could just get used to doing this, we could stop the spread.”

Earlier in the live stream, he was complimentary of recent state-level efforts led by Harris and Governor Kay Ivey related to the pandemic.

“Alabama is still seeing a significant number of cases. We have begun to open up, and we’ve begun to open up — I think — carefully and wisely, following the science,” Jones commented. “And I think the governor has done a very good job of trying to get two messages out. Yes, we want to open up, we want to get the economy rolling again. But at the same time, we’ve got to do it safely. And it’s that latter message that I’m not sure folks are hearing as much. You only have to see the pictures from the beaches and other places in Alabama and around the country to see that folks are not quite getting the message that this virus is still out there, it is still dangerous, it is still deadly. And we want to open up, but opening up is not inconsistent with what we should be doing to protect ourselves and our families and our communities.”

Jones further remarked that Harris “has done a great job” helping lead Alabama’s response to the pandemic.

Other topics covered during the live stream included Jones’ hope that live sports can return with fans in attendance this fall, as well as Harris explaining that while increased testing could explain a portion of Alabama’s rising number of positive COVID-19 cases, community spread is occurring in multiple hotspots.

You can watch the entire live stream below:

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

3 days ago

Huntsville doctor using hydroxychloroquine for some COVID-19 patients

(Made in Alabama, Southern Research/Twitter, YHN)

An infectious disease doctor at Huntsville Hospital says he continues to use the drug hydroxychloroquine to treat some patients with the coronavirus.

The drug, often championed by President Donald Trump, has been the subject of intense nationwide discussion during the pandemic.

A recent retrospective study published in the scientific journal The Lancet showed evidence that hydroxychlorquine had no positive results for hospitalized patients.

WAFF asked Dr. Ali Hassoun of Huntsville Hospital about the article published in The Lancet. He said the type of study and characteristics of the subjects meant that it was not good enough evidence to stop using hydroxychloroquine.

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Hassoun says he continues to treat patients with the drug as long as they are not at risk for the side effects.

A top infectious disease expert at UAB Hospital recently told Yellowhammer News that he and his team do not recommend hydroxychloroquine for hospitalized patients.

Most of the published evidence used to fuel media articles on hydroxychloroquine’s ineffectiveness have used studies done on hospitalized subjects.

Another member of the team at UAB, Dr. Turner Overton, is currently helping conduct a trial studying hydroxychloroquine’s ability to treat the coronavirus in its earliest stages.

Hassoun did not reveal in his interviews the condition of the patients to whom he is giving hydroxychloroquine.

Another drug, remdesivir, has shown in studies to be effective at treating hospitalized COVID-19 patients, but the supply is low.

Hassoun told WAFF he is prescribing remdesivir as well.

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

Wind Creek facilities in Alabama reopening June 8

(Wind Creek Hospitality/Facebook)

Wind Creek Hospitality has announced that it is reopening all three of its resort-style gaming properties in Alabama over the next two weeks.

A release detailed that a soft opening to small groups of invited guests will begin Thursday, June 4, followed by a public opening for the “new” full operation on Monday, June 8.

The Wind Creek properties affected are in Atmore, Wetumpka and Montgomery, resepctively.

The company is instituting new policies to ensure that guests can enjoy themselves as safely as possible. This will include temperature checks for all guests and employees, and masks or face coverings will be required for everyone.

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Guests are asked to bring their own mask, however players who do not have their own mask will be able to acquire one on property for a small donation supporting local first responders, health care providers and COVID-19 patient relief funds.

Smoking will only be allowed in designated spots separate from the gaming floor, restaurants and other public areas.

To accommodate social distancing, all of the properties will be limiting the number of guests on the casino floor; this new maximum capacity will be roughly one-third of normal operations. All locations are employing increased distances between tables in dining venues and clearly marking appropriate distances near hotel check-in, player services and other areas where lines historically formed.

Upon reopening, the casino floor will be open to the public for four sessions each day and deep cleaning will be conducted between sessions. These deep-cleaning efforts will come in addition to the cleaning of each machine before and after every guest.

Once Wind Creek properties open for general admission on June 8, special waiting areas will be available for guests at each property if a property is at capacity.

For those who want to plan ahead, Wind Creek is introducing a new reservation system that lets guests make a reservation for a particular session up to 14 days in advance.

According to Jay Dorris, CEO and president of Wind Creek, “Just like your favorite restaurant on a Friday night, a reservation isn’t required. But if you absolutely want to join us on a given day and time, reservations are available.”

With limited capacity, demand is sure to be high. By encouraging guests to reserve a visit, Wind Creek is hoping to eliminate any lines that make it difficult to maintain a six-foot distance.

The reservation system will be open to guests by June 3 online here. Reservations can also be made by calling (866) WIND-360 [866.946.3360] or a casino host.

It has not yet been announced when the Wind Creek-owned Mobile Greyhound Park will reopen. All of Wind Creek’s properties across the globe voluntarily closed in early March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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

3 days ago

Sessions says DoJ regulations requiring recusal ‘basically had the impact of law’; Questions Tuberville’s commitment to Trump’s China, trade policies

(TIME/YouTube)

What happened regarding the 2017 decision by then-U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to recuse himself from involvement in any investigation into allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election will have a lasting impact on presidential appointments for the foreseeable future.

Future presidents and presidents-elect will be reluctant to appoint anyone politically active to the U.S. Attorney General post in the future given the interpretation of the Department of Justice regulations on investigations into campaigns.

During an interview that aired on Auburn radio’s WQSI, Sessions, candidate for U.S. Senate in Alabama, explained the regulation he was following and how it was “basically” the law. He also called his decision fundamental in that a law enforcement official could not investigate himself.

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“The code of federal regulations is where it is,” Sessions said. “It’s not just guidance, letter or a policy point from the attorney general or something. It is a notice. It is published nationwide. People can hear it, make complaints to it, and then it becomes adopted. For the people at the Department [of Justice], it basically has the impact of law. The attorney general can’t change it, number one. Number two, it’s just basic. The district attorney in Lee County can’t investigate if he worked at a bank the bank he worked at, where he would be a witness to the investigation, in which they may have suggested he was involved in wrongdoing at the bank. You can’t investigate yourself. This is a fundamental principle. But the regulation says if you participate in a political organization in a substantial role, you’re not able to investigate yourself.”

Sessions noted former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), U.S. Attorney General William Barr, and former U.S. Attorneys General Ed Meese and Mike Mukasey agreed with his decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation.

When asked if he would accept the appointment now knowing what he knows, Sessions offered his mindset on the 2016 offer from then-President-elect Trump.

“Look, I believe that I was ready to lead that department,” he said. “I spent 14 years in that department. I had supervisory oversight for 20 years. I knew what the problems were, and we did some tremendous things.”

When asked for a yes or no answer regarding what he might do had he known about the obstacles that were to lie ahead for him when offered the post, Sessions declined.

“You can’t go back on those kinds of things, Jeff,” he replied. “That’s just a silly thought, frankly. I don’t mean to be dismissive, but we’re not going there. I took the job. I did my best duty. I serve at the pleasure of the president. The question is right now — we talked about my situation over and over and over again. Let’s talk about Tommy Tuberville.”

Sessions went on to raise his July 14 GOP primary opponent Tommy Tuberville’s comments about U.S. policy regarding China, trade.

“Who is going to help the president carry out his agenda?” Sessions added.

@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.

3 days ago

State Sen. Tom Whatley: ‘Everything we’ve seen points to’ Auburn football being back in the fall

(Screenshot/APTV)

AUBURN — State Sen. Tom Whatley (R-Auburn) offers reason for optimism for Auburn University football season to take place this fall.

During a sitdown interview that aired on Auburn radio’s Talk 93.9 WQSI, Whatley said the decision would not be made by Auburn University, which is in his Senate district, nor will it be the University of Alabama’s decision for their program across the state.

However, he said he there are efforts underway to get students back on campus, which is one of the required objectives to getting campus athletic activities underway.

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“Everything we’ve seen points to that being back,” Whatley said. “That is a decision that neither Auburn or Alabama get to make. That is above their heads. But every indication is that is going to happen. And I hope it happens just like it happens last year with everybody back in the stands if they want to be there. I’m focused on getting Auburn back to school here in the second mini-mester, which will start the last week of June. And that would get kids back on campus back at the end of June. Then you would have a way to plan for the fall. I know Auburn has got a plan for the fall. I know it has got a plan for the second mini-mester if they come back for that. So I am pleased with what they are doing, and they are committed to getting students back on the Auburn campus.”

Whatley also expressed his confidence that Auburn University will implement safety protocols and procedures.

“I go for walks on campus, 5:30 or 6,” he said. “The other day, one of my friends who works in the athletic department. I called him and said, ‘I want to stop by and say hello if you’re back on campus.’ He said, ‘Well, we are, but you can’t get in here. You’ve got to have a temperature [taken] when you go in, and only essential personnel can be in here.’ So, they’re really limiting who can be in the athletic complex. You’re going to have some controls there. They’re going to have controls in place to make sure the place is safe for themselves and for the athlete. And they’re going to be hypersensitive to that, at least this year. That’s just my feeling.”

@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.

3 days ago

Rural Alabama awarded almost $8 million in federal funding for water infrastructure

(Pixabay, YHN)

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Bette Brand on Wednesday announced that the department is investing more than $7.9 million to improve water and wastewater infrastructure in rural communities across Alabama.

USDA is funding the projects through the Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant program. Investing in rural America has been a key priority of the Trump administration.

“Modernizing rural water systems in Alabama not only improves public health and safety for our rural communities, but it spurs economic growth,” USDA Rural Development State Director for Alabama Chris Beeker said in a statement.

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Eligible applicants for the federal program include rural cities, towns and water districts. The funds can be used for drinking water, stormwater drainage and waste disposal systems in rural communities that meet population limits.

Investments announced Wednesday for Alabama include the following:

  • The Centreville Water Works and Sewer Board in Bibb County will use a $1,237,000 loan and a $546,000 grant to improve their sewer system by removing old pumping stations and buildings and replace them with new pumping stations. A portion of funds will be used to make repairs to multiple wet wells, install a new generator and install Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems. These much-needed repairs and upgrades will provide a more efficient water operation.
  • The Waterworks, Sewer and Gas Board of the City of Childersburg in Talladega County will use a $1,305,000 loan and a $1,030,000 grant to replace all manual read water meters with new automatic read water meters, to purchase a service truck and to construct an office building. The automatic read meters and service truck will allow for more efficient processing and reduce billing errors. The office building will be accessible to individuals with disabilities and be equipped with up to date office management software and equipment.
  • The City of Henagar in DeKalb County will use a $2,573,000 loan and a $678,000 grant to increase the wastewater treatment plant’s capacity and approved technology for the treatment and disposal of the collected sewage. The proposed upgrades have anticipated corresponding growth for the next 10 years; serving existing and anticipated customers. Improvements include upgrades to the plant’s headworks to include influent screening to remove grit and non-biodegradable solids that can hinder the treatment process and equipment from achieving the level of treatment required to meet their NPDES permit. Install membrane bioreactor system (MBR), utilizing the existing plant’s basin (with modifications). Upgrade the existing effluent pump station to handle the increased flow and upgrade the discharge force main from a 4″ to an 8″ force main. Install a sludge dewatering system capable of handling a 300,000-gallon-per-day wastewater flow. Install an emergency back-up generator to provide electrical service for continued waste treatment during electrical outages. The project will provide a more efficient wastewater operation for the rural community.
  • The Utilities Board of the City of Linden in Marengo County will use a $394,000 loan and a $173,000 grant to improve their wastewater treatment facility. This project will increase treatment quality, provide sustainability, and will allow the treatment facility to be monitored remotely increasing reaction time when problems occur. The Board provides sewer service to approximately 2,123 residents. This is phase two of the project and will address some much-needed health and safety issues.

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

3 days ago

National baseball showcase events relocate to Hoover

(Perfect Game USA/Twitter)

America’s best high school baseball players are set to descend on Hoover in late June to exhibit their skills.

Baseball company Perfect Game announced it is moving its 2020 National Showcase events to the Hoover Met Complex. The showcases will take place from June 17-25.

“Even though it’s a challenging time for all of us, we are glad we can serve as the host site for these prestigious Perfect Game tournaments. … We will make sure both the Junior National Showcase and National Showcase get that type of attention they deserve so it will be a quality time for those that attend,” Hoover Mayor Frank Brocato said.

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The Perfect Game National Showcase will include all of the best talent from the high school class of 2021. It will be held June 17-21 in Hoover.

Perfect Game has held the National Showcase every year since 2001, and it has included 404 players who went on to play in the MLB.

Following the big event is the Perfect Game Junior National Showcase, which will display the skills of the top high school sophomores and juniors in North America.

Both events are invitation only.

The two showcase events had planned to be held at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida, but they relocated due to the possibility of Major League Baseball needing that location.

The Hoover Met Complex outlined on its website the following procedures being taken to limit COVID-19 transmission:

  • Routine washing down of all flat surfaces
  • Pressure washing and disinfecting of dugouts, bleachers, and other such areas
  • Additional cleanings of all bathrooms both during and between events
  • Sanitation stations located throughout the complex, including at all Concession Stands
  • Signage in all restrooms regarding best practices for hand washing and sanitizing
  • Limited spectator capacity within the complex
  • HMC Food Services staff is required to wear gloves
  • Event staff is required to wear face masks.

Jerry Ford, founder and president of Perfect Game said, “The City of Hoover will, no doubt, prove to be a fabulous host of an event of this magnitude as they have on countless occasions through the years. We also understand the importance of athlete, family, scout and staff health and safety and are committed to the highest of standards at this year’s event.”

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

COVID-19 is not the only game in town

(UAB/Contributed, YHN)

You may have heard about this virus going around. But with all the attention rightly paid to COVID-19, the rest of the aches, pains, ailments and injuries that afflict the population and that the health care system deals with on a daily basis have not gone away.

People still get sick. People still get injured.

May is National Trauma Awareness Month, designated by the American Trauma Society, and the news from the world of trauma is mixed as the pandemic wraps up its fifth month. The good news is that trauma cases at major trauma centers such as the University of Alabama at Birmingham are down overall. But the numbers are not all rosy.

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“The number of trauma cases we are seeing now are down some 10-12 percent from last year,” said Jeffrey Kerby, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Division of Acute Care Surgery in the UAB Department of Surgery, part of the School of Medicine. “The numbers that are not dropping are falls, especially with the elderly, and gunshot wounds.”

Kerby says that, at some trauma centers around the nation, falls, particularly falls by the elderly, make up about 80 percent of their patient visits.

“We don’t see as many falls at UAB, but the volume is going up,” Kerby said. “Unfortunately, gunshot wounds and assaults are holding steady, or even growing.”

The numbers back Kerby up. According to the Birmingham Regional Emergency Medical Services System, the number of patients to which the BREMSS trauma system responded in Jefferson County dropped from 381 in March and April 2019 to 339 in March and April of this year. Injuries to pedestrians did not drop, and penetrating injuries, such as from bullet or knife wounds, went up — 103 during March/April this year, against 100 in those months last year.

“People are driving less but walking more, so it’s not surprising to see a drop in vehicle crashes while pedestrian injuries hold steady,” Kerby said. “There are a lot of people out walking, running and biking in my neighborhood. I know I drive a bit slower now as a result.”

Trauma cases that result from violence trouble Kerby.

“It is discouraging to see the numbers of patients from violence increase, especially as we continue to cope with the pandemic and people remain tense and on edge,” Kerby said. “At the UAB Trauma Center, we can save about 97 percent of the gunshot victims who make it to the hospital alive. I just wish we saw fewer victims of violence in our community.”

Kerby has advice as states reopen and society begins to return to a more normal setting.

“We don’t need to see a rash of injuries as we open up from people overcompensating as they are released from stay-at-home orders,” he said. “We need to be careful, to have awareness of our situations and to think. We’ve all had a lot of angst and concern over the pandemic. As we ease back into more normal life, we need to also ease back into our usual routines and avoid injuries. I think a lot of people are going to be pushing the envelope, trying to make up for activities or projects that were put on hold by the pandemic. That’s a good way to find yourself in a trauma center.”

Kerby says he does not expect Americans to celebrate National Trauma Awareness Month. But he does hope that people take a moment to think, and try to avoid becoming a trauma statistic.

(Courtesy of UAB)

3 days ago

Tuberville dismisses Sessions’ five-debate challenge: ‘I’m not used to punting on first down — That’s pretty much what I’d be doing’

(Tommy Tuberville, Jeff Sessions/Facebook, YHN)

Earlier this week, former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a candidate for the Republican nomination in the election for Alabama’s open U.S. Senate later this year, challenged his opponent former Auburn head football coach Tommy Tuberville to a series of five debates before the voters of Alabama in an open letter posted on his campaign website.

According to Sessions, the five debates give one for each major media market in Alabama, which he said would “allow us to discuss the unique issues of each geographic area, as well as national and international issues.”

Wednesday, during an interview that aired on Mobile’s FM Talk 106.5, Tuberville dismissed the challenge, likening it to “punting on first down.”

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“I’m not used to punting on first down,” Tuberville said. “That’s pretty much what I’d be doing. You know, he debated once or twice in his career. Obviously, he is behind. He wants a way to catch up. The best thing I can tell him is he needs to get out there and work like I’m working. I’m not sitting at home. I’m going around meeting and shaking hands. And that’s what I’ve done for the last year and a half. You know that. You’ve seen me out there. I have not slowed down. I think going to straight to the people in small towns, communities, and the cities and telling exactly what you’re doing and why you’re doing it is the most important thing.”

“Just getting up in front of the TV camera for an hour is not going to do a whole lot of good,” he continued. “I want to spend my time out with the people who are going to vote for me and people who I am going to represent. Good luck to him doing what he wants to do. They knew way back we were not going to get into a debate because he wouldn’t debate us the first three months he got in. We couldn’t even find him. He was missing in action. He didn’t want to answer the recusal question. Now he’s down 15-20 points, and he wants to debate. We’re not going to bite on that hook.”

@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.

3 days ago

Dynetics finishes critical hardware for NASA’s Space Launch System

(Dynetics/Twitter)

Huntsville-based Dynetics has finished a critical hardware component for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS).

As part of its effort to build the Universal Stage Adapter (USA) for SLS, the Dynetics/RUAG Space USA team recently completed the USA composite panel Manufacturing Test Demonstrator (MTD), according to a release from Dynetics.

The MTD is a full size USA panel, representing one of four panels that comprise a complete USA. The company noted that the demonstration panel is a significant step toward building the USA flight hardware at the Dynetics and RUAG facilities in Decatur.

“Our team has worked with the RUAG team to complete this MTD panel that will be used to validate manufacturing, handling and testing aspects of the design before steaming ahead to manufacture the flight hardware,” said Robert Wright, Dynetics’ USA project manager. “This panel is a result of our teams working closely with NASA to reach a high fidelity design baseline well ahead of the USA Critical Design Review, allowing us to purchase the long-lead bonding mold required to make full scale USA composite panels.”

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SLS will be the rocket that launches America’s next lunar mission planned for 2024 and is a specialized launch vehicle designed, developed and managed by Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. SLS has been billed as the only rocket powerful enough to carry the Orion spacecraft, astronauts and supplies to the moon in one launch.

A key piece of hardware for SLS, USA will measure 32.4 feet tall and 27.6 feet in diameter at its largest point.

The company outlined that once RUAG has completed the panel manufacturing demonstrations, Dynetics will begin system assembly manufacturing demonstrations. The final USA demonstration will take place at the Dynetics Aerospace Complex and involve a full length, vertical bonded joint.

“The vertical bonded joint technology allows the team to eliminate splice plates and fasteners that are typically used in composite joints,” said Wright. “This results in lower mass for the USA and improved payload lift capability for the SLS rocket.”

RELATED: Watch — Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft prepped for final phase of testing

Following completion of the MTD operations at the Decatur facilities, the team will begin working at Marshall’s test stands to perform full-scale damage tolerance testing.

NASA announced last week that it has resumed Green Run testing of SLS’s core stage, an essential step toward the rocket’s completion.

“Green Run is the step-by-step testing and analysis of the new SLS rocket core stage that will send astronauts to the Moon,” said Richard Sheppard, the SLS Stages Green Run Test Lead from Marshall Space Flight Center. “This testing will reduce risks for, not only the first flight, but also for the Artemis mission that will land astronauts on the Moon in 2024.”

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

3 days ago

Bill Hightower endorsed by National Right to Life Committee

(B. Hightower/Facebook)

Former State Senator Bill Hightower (R-Mobile) received the endorsement this month of the National Right to Life Committee, one of America’s oldest anti-abortion groups.

Hightower is currently in a runoff against Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl to be the Republican nominee in Alabama’s First Congressional District. U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) vacated the seat for an unsuccessful U.S. Senate campaign.

The NRLC cited Hightower being “a leader in Alabama’s state senate on life issues” as a key reason for their endorsement.

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“I am proud to be endorsed by the National Right to Life, America’s oldest and largest pro-life organization,” tweeted Hightower in response to the endorsement.

Carl placed ahead of Hightower by the narrowest of margins in the initial March 3 primary, but neither candidate reached the 50% of the vote necessary to secure the nomination.

Former State Rep. Chris Pringle (R-Mobile) and Restauranteur Wes Lambert, the third and fourth place finishers in the March 3 open primary, both endorsed Carl, who has taken strong pro-life positions during his congressional bid.

Hightower has been endorsed by Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) and the family values advocates at the Eagle Forum.

The conservative group Club for Growth has also endorsed Hightower and spent heavily to try and make him the winner of the race.

During Hightower’s losing gubernatorial bid in 2018 and in his 2020 campaign for Congress, Hightower has been outspoken on abortion issues, frequently mentioning in ads and campaign appearance the pro-life bills he sponsored as a state senator.

“I will be a voice for the unborn in Congress,” Hightower has promised in several social media posts.

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

4 days ago

UAB Hospital again named to 100 Great Hospitals list

(UAB/Contributed, YHN)

For the eighth year in a row, University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital has been listed on Becker’s Hospital Review’s 2020 list of 100 Great Hospitals in America. UAB has earned this distinction every year since 2013 and is the only hospital in Alabama to make the annual list published by Becker’s Healthcare, a leading source of cutting-edge business and legal information for health care industry leaders.

According to Becker’s, the hospitals included on this list have been recognized nationally for excellence in clinical care, patient outcomes, and staff and physician satisfaction. These institutions are industry leaders that have achieved advanced accreditation and certification in several specialties. The list also includes industry innovators that have sparked trends in health care technology, hospital management and patient satisfaction.

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Becker’s 100 Great Hospitals website describes UAB Hospital as a 1,157-bed hospital and home to more than 1,500 physicians. U.S. News & World Report recognized the teaching hospital as the No. 1 best hospital in Alabama in 2019-20 and nationally ranked it in six adult specialties, including cardiology and heart surgery and nephrology. In 2020, Healthgrades named University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital one of America’s 250 Best Hospitals.

“It is a tribute to the outstanding faculty and staff of UAB Hospital to achieve this distinction for the eighth consecutive year,” said Will Ferniany, Ph.D., CEO of the UAB Health System. “Exceptional patient care, world-renowned research and outstanding medical education are the keys to developing a hospital worthy of being called great. Every person who touches UAB Medicine in any way can take pride in this designation.”

Becker’s Healthcare selected hospitals for inclusion based on analysis of ranking and award agencies, including U.S. News & World Report’s 2018-19 rankings, CareChex, Healthgrades, CMS star ratings, Leapfrog grades, and IBM Watson Health top hospitals. Becker’s also sought nominations for this list. This list was compiled and developed before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States. Organizations cannot pay for inclusion on this list.

(Courtesy of UAB)