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.

1 hour ago

AlabamaWorks announces results of inaugural Innovator Awards

(AlabamaWorks/Contributed)

The inaugural AlabamaWorks! Innovator Awards were presented by Governor Kay Ivey and Deputy Secretary of Commerce Ed Castile on Thursday during the AlabamaWorks virtual conference.

A release outlined that the awards were developed to highlight people and programs across the Yellowhammer State that take an innovative approach to solving workforce challenges and help advance Ivey’s Success Plus attainment goal of adding 500,000 skilled workers by 2025.

At the time of the inception of the awards, Alabama was unaware of the impact COVID-19 would have on the state’s workforce. Although the attainment goal has not changed, economic and workforce recovery post-COVID-19 will hinge on innovators like those recognized.

“The workforce challenges that we face today are not the same ones that we faced six months ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has completely reshaped the workforce landscape,” stated Ivey. “The State of Alabama is relying on those who are leading the charge by implementing innovative solutions in their cities, counties and regions to further economic and workforce development.”

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AlabamaWorks’ release said that award recipients are visionaries who utilize outside-of-the-box thinking to solve problems and effect positive change.

“It is important to recognize these leaders of innovation and to thank them for their hard work and dedication to the citizens, communities and industries of Alabama,” said Castile, who is also AIDT director. “Their innovative approach to workforce development will be key to opening doors, breaking barriers and propelling Alabamians forward.”

The recipients of the first-ever AlabamaWorks Innovator Awards are as follows:

Region 1 – North AlabamaWorks – Beth Brumley, Colbert County Schools
Beth Brumley built the Health Science Program for Colbert County Schools from the ground up by using her experience in the healthcare field to provide critical, real-world skills to her students. She developed key relationships within the healthcare community to provide her students enhanced learning opportunities and exposure, which resulted in increased demand for program graduates. Beth was also named the 2020 National New Teacher of the Year through the Association for Career and Technical Education. By bridging the gap between education and employer, Beth has created a formula for success that positively impacts the workforce.

Region 2 – East AlabamaWorks – The Sylacauga Alliance for Family Enhancement (SAFE).
SAFE has been a model for supportive services to empower individuals and families while fostering positive and healthy development of the community for nearly 25 years. In their program, SAFE combines occupational and employability skills to help job seekers be ready to enter the workforce regardless of barriers they may have faced in the past. Their dedication to providing practical solutions to modern problems is a testament to their heart for service and passion for helping their community and region.

Region 3 – West AlabamaWorks – Dr. Mike Daria, Superintendent Tuscaloosa City Schools
Dr. Daria has played a crucial role in the success of West Alabama’s workforce development by fostering important relationships between industry and education. His leadership has focused on increased Career Technical Education (CTE) enrollment, supporting local Worlds of Work events and the Educator Workforce Academy. Dr. Daria’s emphasis on the importance of identifying career pathways for the students in his district and then providing viable opportunities for students to take those paths, make him invaluable to West Alabama.

Region 4 – Central Six AlabamaWorks – Ed Farm
Ed Farm is the signature program of TechAlabama that focuses on encouraging children and adults to discover and pursue STEM careers. Ed Farm has a vision for a world full of invention, led by citizens who have been equipped with the necessary tools to fill or create the careers of the future. Through equipping educators and communities with innovative tools, strategies and programs they are able to support active learning for all students. With three signature tracks, Ed Farm is poised to help increase educational equity and improve learning outcomes through technology all while preparing the future tech workforce.

Region 5 – Central AlabamaWorks – Tiger Mochas, Auburn City Schools
Tiger Mochas is a collaborative effort between special education students, FCCLA (Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America) members and peer volunteers at Auburn High School. This student-led organization is serving up a lot more than hot cups of coffee to their peers because through their work, students are provided meaningful, hands-on work experience that teaches important functional, social and daily living skills. Graduates of the program leave with not only work and employability skills, but in-demand soft skills that will help them succeed in life and work.

Region 6 – Southeast AlabamaWorks – WeeCat Industries
WeeCat Industries uses a simulated workplace model to meet the growing demand for a skilled workforce. WeeCat saw an opportunity to begin teaching work ethics and employability skills as early as preschool, and rose to the challenge. Their students clock into work, run an assembly line, fill orders, check invoices, meet production quota, interview for new positions and implement quality control all while earning a “paycheck” to be spent at the WeeCat Store before they can even spell the word “school”. WeeCat Industries places invaluable skills at a crucial age in development which will shape the future of the workforce.

Region 7 – SAWDC AlabamaWorks – Ed Bushaw
Ed Bushaw with the South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce researched and developed initiatives to address the region’s workforce supply to meet the needs of the growing hospitality and tourism industry in his region. His collaborative efforts with business and industry officials resulted in the development of the first Hospitality and Tourism registered apprenticeship program in Alabama. Apprentices receive classroom instruction as well as valuable real-world experience within the hospitality and tourism industry and finish the program with a credential that can be used to advance their career. Ed’s ability to adapt to the needs of industry and implement programs that address those needs are vital to the continued success of southwest Alabama.

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

2 hours ago

AT&T gives $100,000 to Hurricane Sally relief efforts in Alabama

(AT&T/Contributed)

AT&T announced Monday that it is giving $100,000 to help the citizens of South Alabama recover from the destruction caused by Hurricane Sally.

The donation was given to the Governor’s Emergency Relief Fund (GERF), a pool of money to which anyone can donate that the State sets aside for use in the wake of natural disasters.

“I appreciate AT&T for immediately mobilizing their employees and their resources to offer support to our citizens, first responders and communities,” Alabama Governor Kay Ivey said in a statement on Monday.

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The telecommunications giant also temporarily waived all overages in impacted areas, essentially giving unlimited talk, text and data to their customers in 195 Alabama and Northwest Florida zip codes from September 16 to September 23.

AT&T, along with all other major wireless carriers in the United States, has turned on a system that allows charitable giving via text message.

Anyone with a cellphone can text HURRICANES to 90999 which will trigger a $10 donation to the American Red Cross’ hurricane relief efforts.

Wayne Hutchens, president of AT&T Alabama, commented, “As our teams are working alongside their neighbors along the gulf coast to restore their communities, we are proud to support our first responders and organizations that are dedicated to helping our friends and families as they get back on their feet after the devastation of Hurricane Sally.”

The GERF, to which AT&T donated, is administered by the Governor’s Office of Volunteer Services and was created after Hurricanes Ivan and Katrina in 2004 and 2005, according to its website.

Any person with a credit card can donate to the Relief Fund here, via a portal made possible by the United Ways of Alabama.

“Even as we see tremendous suffering in the aftermath of Hurricane Sally, we also see shining examples of commitment and care. This is a time for the entire state to rally behind the good people of South Alabama,” Ivey remarked on Monday.

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

3 hours ago

Doug Jones backs keeping Senate’s 60-vote cloture threshold, opposes packing the Supreme Court

(Doug Jones campaign/Facebook)

U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) has addressed whether the United States Senate should end the filibuster as we know it.

Certain national Democrats, including U.S. Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) over the weekend, have come out in support of ending the filibuster if Democrats take back the Senate in November’s general election.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has said Democrats will consider this, as well as drastic options such as packing the court.

“Nothing’s off the table,” Schumer said.

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This type of rhetoric came after Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away on Friday and it became clear that President Donald Trump plans to put forward a nominee to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court of the United States.

The Senate’s current rule requires 60 votes to end a filibuster, otherwise known as invoking cloture.

Former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) in 2013 dropped the threshold from 60 votes to end a filibuster to a simple majority for all executive branch nominees. This paved the way for the same being done for judicial nominees, including SCOTUS nominations.

Reid in recent days told Fox News the filibuster will soon be completely gone.

“It’s not a question of if (the filibuster) is going to be gone. It’s a question of when it’s going to be done,” Reid asserted. “The filibuster is history. It won’t be in existence next year at this time.”

However, Alabama’s junior senator is pushing back.

In an interview with Vox published on Monday, Jones voiced support for the 60-vote threshold needed to invoke cloture.

Transcript as follows, courtesy of Vox:

Ella Nilsen:

I wanted to get your thoughts on filibuster reform. Do you think that’s an option Democrats should pursue if you are in the majority in the Senate but you’re dealing with an obstinate Republican minority?

Doug Jones:

I know there’s a lot of talk about that. And also know, if Joe Biden is president of the United States, Biden has a 40-year history of working with Republicans. And no matter what happens during the election season, they all like him; I’ve heard that time and time again. Joe is the kind of guy that’s a Senate institutionalist. I really believe he will want to work with Republicans to try to get things done. This ability to just go from one Senate majority to the other with or without the president, it’s not good for the country.

I think the filibuster rule is a way that you have to reach out. That’s what I do every day when I’m in the Senate, and sometimes I have to reach out within my own party to try to pull people together. I think Joe’s gonna give this a chance, and I’m very hopeful that Senate Republicans will take the opportunity to move together.

Let’s get the Senate back to some regular order where we can debate the issues of the day, have amendments on the issues of the day, vote on them up or down, let the president do what he’s going to do. But give the president an opportunity to find that common ground.

It is by finding common ground that we move forward, not by just doing it by simple whim of who happens to be in the majority, because then you’re gonna see, just like we’re seeing with executive orders playing out — a new president comes in, gets rid of all his predecessor’s executive orders, those new ones that we don’t need to see that’s happening with legislation.

We need to see some consistency. I think filibuster rule, the 60-vote margin, is a way to do that.

On Monday, Jones also addressed the potential of packing the court and other general actions Democrats could take in response to Trump nominating and the Senate confirming a new Supreme Court justice in the coming weeks.

In a Facebook livestream hosted by his reelection campaign, Jones was asked if he supported “packing the court” by increasing the number of justices on the Supreme Court. Theoretically, a Democratic-controlled Congress could pass legislation doing so, to be signed by 2020 Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, if the upcoming election goes their way. Biden could then fill the court with liberal justices, who would only need a majority vote in a Democrat-controlled Senate.

Jones on the notion of packing the court said, “I don’t agree.”

“I don’t believe in retaliatory measures,” he explained. “I just think that that is crazy.”

The senator subsequently outlined that packing the courts would destroy the U.S. Constitution’s system of checks and balances.

“I am not for retaliatory measures,” Jones added. “I think, you know we’ve had nine folks on the Supreme Court since 1869, I believe. And it’s worked out pretty well over the years. … I just don’t think that people should start trying to threaten or do retaliation measures like that.”

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

4 hours ago

Tuberville drops ad — Anyone who burns U.S. flag ‘should go to prison’

(Screenshot/YouTube)

On Monday, the Tuberville campaign announced a new 30-second TV ad that highlighted his father’s World War II military service and calls for individuals who burn the American flag to be put in “prison.”

According to a release from the campaign, the ad will be airing on broadcast and cable stations throughout Alabama as well as digitally on social media outlets.

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Transcript as follows:

Tommy Tuberville walking through empty football stands and speaking into camera Tuberville: Hello, I’m Tommy Tuberville. I’m proud to have won a lot of big football games, but I’m prouder to be the son of a veteran.

My Dad was 18 when he stormed the beaches of Normandy, and we live in the greatest nation on Earth because of patriots like him.

I’ll stand with President Trump to keep American great, and anyone who burns this flag should go to prison.

I approved this message because in the Senate, I’ll donate my salary to the veterans of the great state of Alabama.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

8 hours ago

Three SW Alabama counties approved for federal disaster assistance after Hurricane Sally

Governor Kay Ivey and Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01) on Sunday confirmed that President Donald J. Trump has approved a major disaster declaration authorizing aid to the parts of Alabama most impacted by Hurricane Sally last week.

The disaster aid will come through FEMA’s Public Assistance and Individual Assistance programs for the counties of Baldwin, Mobile and Escambia.

Byrne said in a statement, “Help is on the way to Alabamians impacted by Hurricane Sally. I offer my sincerest thank you to President Trump and FEMA for quickly approving additional disaster assistance as we begin the difficult rebuilding process along the Gulf Coast. While there is work to be done, Alabama will come together to rebuild after this storm as we have in the past.”

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To check eligibility for disaster assistance programs, call 1-800-621-3362. The news came the same day that FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor was in Baldwin County to tour storm damage.

Ivey stated, “When I was on the coast Friday, it was clear that there has been significant damage, and people are in need of relief. My Office has been working on putting in the request for individual and public assistance to help bring the needed aid, and I appreciate FEMA for quickly delivering to the people of Alabama. Being approved for individual and public assistance is an important step in the recovery process. Coastal Alabama, we are with you the whole way!”

RELATED: Ivey tours battered Gulf Coast; Area officials say progress being made, ask for patience

The Trump administration had already approved Ivey’s Monday request for a pre-landfall Emergency Disaster Declaration.

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

8 hours ago

Lisa Thomas-McMillan is a 2020 Woman of Impact

For Lisa Thomas-McMillan, it is the newness of each day that motivates her from the minute she opens her eyes.

Thomas-McMillan, founder of Drexell & Honeybee’s in Brewton, told Yellowhammer News in a recent interview that the excitement of discovering what each day holds propels her out of bed and to her restaurant as soon as she awakens before dawn.

“I don’t know what my day is going to bring,” she offered. “I don’t know what that day is going to bring to me. You don’t ever know who you are going to help and how you are going to help them.”

Helping people is something she has made her mission for a large part of her life. A donation-only restaurant, Drexell & Honeybees is a frequent deliverer of the unknowns in which Thomas-McMillan so often revels.

She recalls one day finding a note in the donation box with a message saying that Thomas-McMillan had provided meals for a family of four who had no means to do so themselves. Being unable to recall who might have fit that description in her restaurant the previous day was exactly the way she wanted it. According to her, the “beauty” of the unknown is that names and faces are less important than the simple act of service.

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Stories like that shed light on why Thomas-McMillan took up the cause of hunger and has built a model recognized across the nation as an innovative charitable solution to feeding those in need.

“People suffer from hunger in silence,” she remarked.

So she decided to do something about it.

“People know a lot more about hunger now than 20 years ago,” Thomas-McMillan explained. “It was kind of something that people didn’t talk about. Getting around town and speaking to the elderly people in my hometown I realized a lot of them were choosing between medicine and food. So I started a non-profit food bank called Carlisa, Inc. By doing that I got a chance to go out in the rural areas delivering food, but I was also learning a lot about how people were living, some of the things they were kind of missing out on in life. Over the years, I said in my mind, wouldn’t it be nice to have a place where people could just go and eat and not have to worry about paying for anything.”

It was reading about a restaurant called “Soul Food,” and started by musician Jon Bon Jovi, that got her wheels turning.

“It fascinated me that he was doing this pay it forward thing,” she remembered.

Inspired by the story, she decided she wanted to open a similar restaurant.

After presenting the concept to her husband, Freddie, the couple set in motion plans which resulted in the opening of Drexell & Honeybees.

“We wanted it to be a place where everyone could fit in and feel comfortable and know they were in a good place with good food,” Thomas-McMillan said. “We wanted also to set it up where nobody would know who paid or if they paid or how much.”

And, so, they devised a private box for donations, a key feature of the restaurant’s function.

“One thing I learned over the years in delivering food is that people might not have money but they have pride,” she said. “I knew a lot of people would not come in if their pride would be questioned. So we set it up where they keep every inch of their pride, come in and enjoy a meal and walk out just like anybody else.”

Another part of the payoff for Thomas-McMillan is seeing what happens when people and food happen at the same time.

“I love to see people enjoy food,” she said. “Food is a great, warm thing that brings people together, makes them fellowship. When you see a group of people sitting around and enjoying food, they’re fellowshipping and enjoying each other. And that’s what the restaurant is all about, bringing different people in and saying, ‘I don’t even know you, maybe, but I’m sitting around this table sitting around this table having a good meal, enjoying the food, and I’m fellowshipping with a stranger.’ It is the best feeling in the world.”

It took quite a leap by Thomas-McMillan to arrive at this point, and along the way, it was her faith which played “the biggest role,” according to her.

Facing doubts from the outside that she and Freddie could make Drexell & Honeybees work, they were undeterred. As far as they were concerned, God gave them a mission, and they were going to fulfill it.

“The good feeling, the joy deep down in your stomach that you get from doing something like this,” she pointed out. “Money can’t buy the faith or the joy or the peace of mind. Those are priceless benefits that we get from this.”

People travel from all over asking if she thinks they would be able to replicate her mission. To which she replies, they can, and all it takes is faith and a sincere desire to serve others.

“Being in service to others is the best thing you can do,” said Thomas-McMillan. “After all, we were put on earth to help each other. Serving others is the highest compliment you can pay God for Him giving you your health and strength and keeping you sustained through everything. No matter what happens, God is going to take care of you.”

This does not mean her faith has not been put to the test during her years fighting hunger.

“I didn’t think people were taking [hunger] serious enough,” explained Thomas-McMillan.

So she prayed for guidance and felt a call to walk to Montgomery — from Brewton. Her goal was to hand-deliver a letter outlining her concerns for the hungry to then-Governor Bob Riley. After walking the approximately 115 miles, that is what she did.

Still feeling unsettled, Thomas-McMillan then felt called to walk all the way to Washington, D.C. to draw attention to her cause.

She laughs now looking back at hearing people say the walk was staged.

Thomas-McMillan remembers saying, “’Are you crazy? Do you know what it would have taken to fake a 53-day walk to Washington? It would not have been worth my time [to fake it].’”

Not only did the walk to Washington gain notice, but it also allowed her to explore the depth of her own conviction to help feed the hungry.

Before she had even left the state of Alabama, someone near Tuskegee asked her how much she was getting paid to complete the walk. She thought about it for a minute, and the answer became clear.

“’You know, they couldn’t pay me to walk to Washington,'” she recalled saying. “And that’s when I realized how great this was because you could not pay me to walk to Washington. But the fact that I’m trying to help people with hunger, I would do it for nothing. Just that one question made me realize, ‘Oh, Lord, Lisa, this is pretty awesome because you couldn’t pay me to do this.’”

Her mission statement is: “Feed the Need.” And this is a calling which she believes can be applied to anything and any situation.

Serving the food line one extremely cold day in January, Thomas-McMillan overheard a couple talking about how they did not have enough money to buy an electric heater. She took it upon herself to offer them the needed funds, with the request that they bring the receipt back to her.

They brought back the receipt, and some change, but it was what happened next which had the greatest impact on Thomas-McMillan.

“The man said to the woman, ‘Boy, those youngins gonna sure be glad to see this heater when they get home,’” she recalled. “That tore me up because I didn’t know anything about the children, and I could only imagine that they were so cold that night before, and I could only see them sitting around that little heater. That’s what I mean by ‘Feed the Need.’ People have to realize that I have learned over the last few years, and I’ve known this all my life, I think I have, the more money you give away, the less money has control over your life.”

While the mystery brought by each new day inspires Thomas-McMillan, it also never disappoints.

“Every day you can go home with this special moment from being here,” she said. “You leave with a special moment from things unfolding.”

Yellowhammer News is proud to name Lisa Thomas-McMillan a 2020 Woman of Impact.

Editor’s note: Yellowhammer Multimedia recently announced the third annual Women of Impact Awards. Honorees are being featured on Yellowhammer News each weekday through September 30. We will tell their stories one-by-one, utilizing written and video formats. Check back daily for more of Alabama’s best and brightest.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

17 hours ago

Alabama Power completes restoration following historic Hurricane Sally

(Alabama NewsCenter/Contributed)

Alabama Gulf Coast residents are a step closer to recovery following Hurricane Sally, which battered the Alabama and Florida coastline Wednesday.

Sally was the first hurricane to make landfall in Alabama since Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and brought severe flooding and high winds that knocked down poles and power lines in southern and central Alabama before the slow-moving storm exited the state Thursday. Power was disrupted for more than 680,000 Alabama Power customers.

As of Sunday, power had been restored to 99% of Alabama Power customers able to receive service.

Throughout the multiday restoration, teamwork was paramount as company crews worked diligently to address outages in affected communities, getting the lights back on before originally projected times.

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By Friday, outages in central and southeast Alabama had been resolved and all efforts were focused on the Mobile area, as the coastal communities sustained the most damage.

Prior to Sally making landfall, Alabama Power positioned extra crews from across its service territory in the Mobile area so that they were ready to move quickly once the weather improved. From the moment it was safe, company crews were in the field, working day and night.

“Hurricane Sally will be remembered as the most damaging storm to affect Mobile since Hurricane Katrina in 2005,” said Patrick Murphy, Alabama Power Mobile Division vice president. “We appreciate our customers’ patience as we worked to restore power, and we’re committed to working alongside community leaders on full recovery efforts for the area.”

More than 4,000 lineworkers and support personnel from 14 states joined forces working to get the lights back on along the coast. Crews worked through rainy conditions over the weekend as Tropical Storm Beta loomed offshore.

By noon Sunday, crews had replaced more than 400 poles, more than 500 transformers and more than 1,500 spans of power lines that were damaged or destroyed during the severe weather.

“Our crews and industry partners worked safely and quickly through difficult conditions,” said Scott Moore, Alabama Power senior vice president of Power Delivery. “I am proud of their hard work and steadfast commitment to our customers, especially during times of need.”

Sally is just the latest severe storm in what has been a very active hurricane season. With more storms possible before the season ends later this fall, Alabama Power customers should remain vigilant and have their storm-readiness plans in place. Learn more about how to prepare at AlabamaPower.com.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

1 day ago

Doug Jones fundraises off of late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death

(Screenshot/Act Blue)

Less than 24 hours after it was announced that Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away on Friday evening, U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) was fundraising for his own reelection campaign off of her death.

In an email sent out at 5:46 p.m. CT on Saturday, Jones began by saying, “This is a time for us to reflect on the life and legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg – to honor the barriers she broke and those she helped break for others. She always fought for equality and civil rights, even and especially when she was outnumbered.”

Alabama’s junior senator then pivoted to politics in the second paragraph, selectively pointing fingers at Republicans.

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“I’m saddened – though not surprised – by how quickly this has turned into a political power play by Trump and McConnell,” Jones claimed. “It not only dishonors the legacy of an American icon, it distorts the Constitutional process – a deliberate process that the Senate has always used to uphold the independence of our judicial branch.”

Jones did not mention that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) was the first to bring politics into this discussion on Friday evening. Before Schumer even tweeted condolences for, or honored Ginsburg, the senate minority leader wrote, “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”

In contrast, President Donald Trump did not mention anything about filling the seat on Friday night, and McConnell’s comments came as a rebuttal to Schumer.

Additionally, it is not clear what “process” issues Jones could already have — as a nominee has not even been named yet, nor has a confirmation process been outlined.

Nevertheless, Jones in his email continued to use Ginsburg to fit his political purposes:

She stood for what was right and for the constitutional principles of equality and democracy that she held dear, even if it meant she was in the minority on the Court. She knew we are on the verge of a crisis for our democracy:

“My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed,” she said this week.

The “Constitutional process” Jones touted earlier in the email, of course, does not allow justices to dictate to the president or the Senate regarding their successors. It is unclear how this would “uphold the independence of our judicial branch,” as Jones asserted he aims to do.

Jones’ email subsequently contained a clear falsehood.

“Mitch McConnell has other plans,” Jones continued. “He is systematically dismantling the rules of the Senate. He’s changing the rules to fit his own agenda.”

To be clear, the Senate rules are not being dismantled, changed or ignored if the Senate proceeds to consideration of a nominee made by Trump in the coming days. Presidents have nominated justices to the Supreme Court of the United States 29 times during an election year previously in history.

Jones’ email concluded as follows:

So much depends on this Senate seat. Our win in November will be a defeat of Mitch McConnell’s hypocrisy and cynicism.

As Justice Ginsburg said in 2015: “Waste no time on anger, regret or resentment, just get the job done.”

Immediately below Jones’ electronic signature on the email is a large, blue “Donate Now” button. This links to a donation page for Jones’ reelection campaign headlined in all caps, “PROTECT JUSTICE GINSBURG’S LEGACY.”

RELATED: Doug Jones has previously vowed to oppose Trump’s Supreme Court nominee — ‘I’ll do everything I can’

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

1 day ago

Rotating Detonation Engine test-fired for first time at UAH’s Johnson Research Center

(Michael Mercier/UAH)

A new kind of rocket engine has been test-fired for the first time at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), a part of the University of Alabama System.

It’s called a Rotating Detonation Engine (RDE), and UAH mechanical and aerospace engineering (MAE) master’s student Evan Unruh says it took him about a year to design and build it through UAH’s Propulsion Research Center (PRC). Unruh is advised by Dr. Robert Frederick, PRC director.

Seed funding was provided by Dr. Gabe Xu, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and a PRC associate, through the National Science Foundation’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research: Connecting the Plasma Universe to Plasma Technology in Alabama.

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“Once I have finished the developmental testing of the engine. Dr. Xu and his student Michaela Spaulding will be using the engine for that program to research the effects of transient plasma ignition on the detonation reactions within the combustor,” says Unruh.

Besides Unruh, Dr. Frederick and Dr. Xu, the RDE team is Dr. David Lineberry, PRC research engineer; Tony Hall, PRC test engineer; James Venters, PRC undergraduate research assistant; Jon Buckley, shop supervisor at the UAH Engineering Design and Prototyping Facility; Scott Claflin, director of power innovations at Aerojet Rocketdyne; and Spaulding, a graduate student who is also working on detonation engine research at the PRC.

Claflin’s RDE expertise has come in an unofficial capacity, Unruh said, adding, “The Propulsion Research Center is open to working with companies that are interested in researching and developing detonation engines.”

The engine was first test fired at UAH’s Johnson Research Center in late August and has had several firings since.

RDEs are a tantalizing engineering concept that could be transformative for rocket propulsion, offering better fuel efficiency than continuous-burn solid or liquid propellant engines if the inherent instabilities that make them run can be better controlled. Instead of a continuous burn, RDEs use a continuous spinning explosion to create supersonic gas and generate thrust.

“As a concept, RDEs may facilitate the design of more efficient rocket engines. This would enable rockets that could fly higher, faster and more efficiently, thereby enabling greater access to space than what we see today,” says Unruh, who completed his MAE undergraduate career at UAH before going on to his master’s.

“There are still practical roadblocks to overcome before detonation engines become a viable option, but if there weren’t, we wouldn’t need to research them. We hope to overcome these obstacles by better understanding how the detonation process works inside these engines.”

The UAH engine is intended as a test-bed to allow researchers at the PRC to study various phenomena related to detonation combustion in RDEs, Unruh says.

Most RDEs are cylindrical but Eagle Creek, Oregon, native Unruh’s engine is designed in a racetrack-like shape.

“By designing ours to have a racetrack shape, we are able to add optical windows in the straight sections that allow us to directly observe the detonation wave inside the combustor,” he says. “In particular, this optical access will allow us to observe interactions between the detonation wave and the spray plumes of the propellants as they are injected into the engine.”

Another innovation is the use of shear-coaxial injectors, the spray nozzles that inject the propellants into the engine. Shear-coaxial injectors have previously been used extensively in traditional rocket engine designs, most notably in the Rocketdyne J-2 engines on the Saturn V rocket, and in the U.S. Space Shuttle’s main engines, but not commonly in RDEs.

Designed for research versatility, the engine runs on a variety of propellants. It’s currently being tested on liquid propane and gaseous oxygen.

Typically, a liquid or solid fuel rocket engine – or a jet engine combustor – relies on the deflagration phenomenon to react fuel with an oxidizer, Unruh says.

“This deflagration phenomenon is typically a subsonic burning process that is propagated through heat transfer mechanisms,” he says.

In contrast, he says that a detonation reaction in an RDE consists of a strong supersonic shock wave that adiabatically compresses a fuel/oxidizer mixture, bringing it up to its ignition temperature. Adiabatic systems are more efficient because they transfer energy to surroundings as work without transferring heat or mass.

“The reaction then occurs behind this high-pressure shock, and the expanding gasses from the reaction in turn drive the shock wave forward, continuing the propagation of the detonation. This detonation reaction happens much faster than the deflagration-based reactions currently used in jet and rocket engine combustors,” Unruh says.

“Theoretically, the detonation reaction is more efficient, because it produces a lower increase in entropy than the deflagration reaction,” he says. “Furthermore, the chemical reaction in a detonation happens in the high-pressure zone right behind the shock wave.”

Think of the detonation shock wave in an RDE as acting similar to a piston in a car engine. Combustion happens at a pressure that is higher than the initial pressure of the fuel and oxidizer mix because each prior shock wave compresses the incoming mixture before combustion, a phenomenon known as pressure gain combustion.

“From thermodynamics, we know that when chemical potential energy is converted into thermal energy during combustion, the higher the pressure of the combustion, the more efficiently the released heat can be converted into useful work,” Unruh says.

“So, detonation-based combustion is more efficient than deflagration combustion because of a lower increase in entropy when converting the chemical potential energy into thermal energy and because the pressure gain phenomenon facilitates a more efficient conversion of that thermal energy into useful work.”

But theory can be tough to put into practice. So far no one has designed an RDE that is more efficient. The challenge is that in an RDE the propellants must be exploded supersonically rather than burned subsonically.

“As you might expect, exploding propellants are harder to understand and control,” Unruh says. “The RDE is one concept for an engine that shows promise of being a design that can detonate propellants in a controlled fashion and finally provide a practical realization of the theoretical promise of an increase in efficiency through detonation.”

RDE theory has been around since the 1940s and some primitive experiments were conducted in the past, but Unruh says that modern data acquisition equipment, better modeling and a greater historical collection of research is leading to a resurgence of RDE research. Engineers now have the capability to design engines that function in a rotating detonation mode.

“The next challenge,” he says, “is to further understand the detonation phenomenon so we can figure out how to finally build an engine that is more efficient than traditional deflagration-based engines.”

(Courtesy of UAH)

2 days ago

¡HICA! and Fiesta serve Alabama Latino community, offering free COVID testing, authentic cultural experience

(¡HICA!/Contributed)

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, ¡HICA! and Fiesta are providing a lifeline to Alabama’s Latino community.

Though it is difficult working through a major health crisis, staff of the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama – ¡HICA! – have worked from home since March to serve their community. ¡HICA! champions economic equality, civic engagement and social justice for the state’s Latino and immigrant families. In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, ¡HICA! is providing free COVID-19 tests and emphasizing educational efforts to increase Latino’s health, safety and economic well-being.

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José Gutiérrez is thankful for the many services offered by ¡HICA!, particularly the convenient access to coronavirus testing. While he wears a mask in public and remains healthy, the Blount County resident finds peace of mind knowing he can receive a free test, as costs usually range from $300 to $1,000, depending on the area. Gutiérrez’s first cousin in Dallas, Texas, died in June after a monthlong hospitalization with the novel coronavirus. A few weeks later, his uncle in Houston, Texas, died from the illness. Gutiérrez is mindful about the need to take precautions.

A highly skilled construction worker, since March Gutiérrez has declined lucrative out-of-state remodeling jobs to avoid contracting COVID-19. He said that he cannot afford to bring home the coronavirus to his wife and son.

“The pandemic hit communities of color the worst,” said Isabel Rubio, executive director of ¡HICA! for nearly 20 years. “COVID-19 has laid bare the inequities in our society, hitting the Latino community very hard. The pandemic has had such a severe impact, it’s been mind-boggling. Thank goodness for the generosity of the community at large.”

¡HICA! has partnered with three community health groups to provide free COVID-19 tests in nine Alabama counties. In July, 143 residents received free testing, while more than 40 people were tested in June at Cahaba Medical Care in Birmingham and another group received free testing Sept. 11. Rubio noted that ¡HICA!’s long-term mission is to improve the access and affordability of healthcare for the Hispanic population.

“The big story is trying to provide healthcare for people who don’t have health insurance,” Rubio said. “We’re joining with other entities in thinking about how to make solutions for the Latino community. We either all succeed, or we all fail. We are determined to succeed.”

Supporting families with children is another important way that ¡HICA! works to build community.

“We’ve done online housing education workshops and had incredible attendance,” with numerous clients taking part in zoom meetings,” Rubio said. “Even in the pandemic, we’ve helped people purchase new homes. We’ve helped people make sure their kids are connected for remote learning. One of our staff has helped individuals install programs on their computer.”

In April, several staff provided drive-through assistance with income taxes.

“If it takes us helping one person at a time, we do it,” Rubio said.

¡HICA! delivered more help to underserved Latinos in April and May. Staff handed out more than 500 boxes of food donated by the United Way of Central Alabama. Underserved families picked up the food at ¡HICA!’s Birmingham headquarters.

Fiesta 2020 accents culture, safety and education

Because of the ongoing pandemic, Fiesta Birmingham on Sept. 15 through Oct. 15 will host a virtual “30 days of Fiesta” program. For nearly 20 years, the celebration was held in Linn Park in Birmingham. This year’s celebration promises daily, impactful service with numerous entertainment and/or educational opportunities through online events, said Fiesta Birmingham President Teresa Zuñiga-Odom.

“Live cooking and mixology demonstrations, seminars on health and financial wellness, a Latin film series, and family arts and crafts projects featuring Hispanic artists are just a few of the activities we have in store,” said Zuñiga-Odom, who has helped organize Fiesta since its 2002 inception.

Each day has a theme. “Wellness Mondays” features services and resources to stay healthy and safe; “Taco Tuesday and Titos” offers cooking and cocktail demonstrations; “Cultural Wednesdays” showcases the people, culture, history and traditions of Latin American countries; “Throwback Thursdays” treats viewers to 18 years of Fiesta photos; and Financial Fridays” provides insights from Wells Fargo on how to build credit and savings. On the weekend, “Celebration Saturdays” presented by Alabama Power includes Facebook Live showings with the best of Latin art, food, movies, music and dance. “Family Sundays” offers the chance to gather and observe the importance of family and community.

Zuñiga-Odom noted that Alabama Power will sponsor educational safety through its fun safety program for kids, Saf-T-Opolis.

“Alabama Power has been a presenting sponsor of Fiesta since the celebration began nearly 20 years ago,” said Zuñiga-Odom. “The company has always had a huge presence at the event, with many members of the Alabama Power Service Organization helping smooth the way. Obviously, we won’t have volunteers this year, but we are so thankful for the continued help from companies like Alabama Power which help make this event possible. We couldn’t do it without them.”

Since 2002, Fiesta has awarded more than $70,000 in scholarships to deserving Hispanic students, with that commitment continuing with this year’s “Fiesta in a Box.” For $18, families can buy a beautifully decorated keepsake box with all the goodies to revel in Fiesta at home. Proceeds will fund Fiesta’s 2021 scholarships. On Saturday, Sept. 19 at 10 a.m., viewers may watch the unveiling of the colorful, Hispanic-themed box. The lucky holders of a box containing golden maracas or golden piñatas will win a deluxe prize.

Hearkening to the success of years past, Rubio said the virtual Fiesta is a great way to highlight the Latino culture.

“We will miss the opportunity to connect with others and share our culture through the live Fiesta gathering, but we all recognize the importance of safeguarding families,” Rubio said. “Our goal is to empower Hispanic and immigrant families to integrate, engage and lead their communities to reach their families’ aspirations.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 days ago

Mo Brooks calls on state government leaders to close Confucius Institutes at public universities

(Congressman Mo Brooks/Flickr)

Earlier this year, State Rep. Tommy Hanes (R-Bryant) unveiled a bill that would ban Confucius Institutes from operating on publicly-funded college campuses in Alabama.

While it remains to be seen if his effort will gain traction in the Alabama Legislature, he has an ally in U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville), who during an interview on Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5’s “The Jeff Poor Show” underscored the perceived threat of Confucius Institutes to national security given the entities’ ties to the Chinese government.

Brooks said he had reached out to Gov. Kay Ivey and others in Alabama state government about the two facilities operating in Alabama, one at Alabama A&M in Huntsville and another at Troy University. Brooks said Ivey told him it was not her “job.”

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“The Confucius Institutes are dangerous to the United States of America,” Brooks said. “They are spying platforms for the Communist Chinese Party. They are propaganda platforms for the Communist Chinese Party. Dozens of states, out of patriotism, have shut down dozens of Confucius Institutes in their states. It baffles me that Governor Kay Ivey and the rest of our state government leadership persist in allowing Confucius Institutes, arms of the Communist Chinese Party to operate on campuses — Alabama A&M University in Huntsville or Troy University down in the Wiregrass.”

“I have personally in correspondence asked the governor’s office, along with other state leaders, to close down Confucius Institutes, to do what’s in the best interest of America, to pay heed to the intelligence that we have gathered that reveals how dangerous these facilities are,” he continued. “And the only reaction that I’ve got so far from the principle hierarchy of state government is, ‘It’s not my job. Let those universities shut them down.’ Well, to me, that’s an abdication of leadership, and I urge Governor Ivey, Lieutenant Governor Will Ainsworth, House Speaker Mac McCutcheon to use the power of the executive branch, the Governor’s office, and the legislative branch to help protect America from propaganda and spying and the dangers of the Chinese Communist Party.”

Brooks reiterated his response from Ivey was, “It’s not my job.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

2 days ago

University of Alabama researcher secures funding for tech-focused projects to support dementia patients, caregivers

(University of Alabama/Contributed)

The National Institute on Aging awarded $1.6 million to researchers from the University of Alabama and Florida International University to design touch-screen technology to improve communication between dementia patients and their caregivers.

Nicole Ruggiano, associate professor in the UA School of Social Work, said dementia patients often struggle to communicate about their daily care and symptoms they’re experiencing, like trouble sleeping or severity of pain. This can lead to “care-resistant behaviors” misunderstood by caregivers.

“Our technology will be similar to the sensory and communication boards we see with students with autism,” Ruggiano said. “It’ll be a customizable tablet with all the things the person really likes – pictures of their favorite foods, their favorite clothing. So, when caregivers are engaging with them, if they have trouble with words, or confusion due to cognition problems, it’ll make caregiving activities a lot easier.”

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The project will span five years and include a pair of clinical sites at the UAB’s Memory Disorders Clinic and Miami Jewish Health.

Since 2016, Ruggiano has worked extensively with families affected by Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia in Alabama and has a keen interest in alleviating burdens for caregivers. In Alabama, there are roughly 300,000 people providing care for someone living with dementia, Ruggiano said.

Beyond her research, Ruggiano has worked with the Alabama Department of Senior Services to provide statewide training on dementia care and caregiving. Ruggiano was recently appointed to the Alabama Lifespan Respite Coalition.

Ruggiano’s interest in using technology to improve dementia care spans several years and collaborations with Dr. Ellen Brown, associate professor of nursing at Florida International University. In 2016, the pair created CareHeroes, a multifunction app to improve communication between physicians providing dementia care and caregivers. The app aims to decrease caregiver burden and depression symptoms, which are often experienced because of the stress of caregiving. In 2018, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality awarded Ruggiano and Brown $300,000 to test the app with more than 60 participants at sites in Alabama and Florida.

Bridging the gap between those with less access to technology can remove complex barriers to care by understanding how different vulnerable groups experience technology, Ruggiano said. For instance, in her work in rural Alabama, where specialty care is limited, caregivers often lack education and information about dementia and are more likely to view symptoms of dementia as normal signs of aging.

“I’ve had people tell me that, for the first time, they really understand what’s going on with their loved one,” Ruggiano said.

Ruggiano, along with UA computer science faculty members Monica Anderson, Jeff Gray and Zhe Jiang, will develop a resource database for dementia care across Alabama through a $150,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

There’s no standard database or resource repository, so caregivers don’t know what’s available, Ruggiano said. This database would require crowd-sourced data from caregivers and providers.

“For instance, for incontinence supplies, they’d put how much they paid and where they were cheapest,” Ruggiano said. “Additionally, the database will self-assess that information for accuracy.”

After a year of development with focus groups, surveys and a prototype, researchers will apply for another NSF grant to build a web app for the database. The final product will allow users to perform needs assessments, and the app would provide resources and maps to match their needs.

“A lot of dementia care is being done in primary care, and those providers aren’t really sure about services, so they can’t make referrals for their patients and caregivers,” Ruggiano said. “This database can be extremely helpful.”

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

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 days ago

Doug Jones has previously vowed to oppose Trump’s Supreme Court nominee — ‘I’ll do everything I can’

(Screenshot/YouTube)

President Donald Trump has yet to name his next nominee to the Supreme Court of the United States, however U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) has already publicly promised to oppose the nomination.

Trump on Saturday confirmed he would soon be nominating someone to fill the seat vacated by the death of Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Addressing Republicans, Trump tweeted, “We were put in this position of power and importance to make decisions for the people who so proudly elected us, the most important of which has long been considered to be the selection of United States Supreme Court Justices. We have this obligation, without delay!”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), an Alabama native, tweeted, “President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”

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Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) opined that “this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”

RELATED: Alabama’s flags flying at half-staff in honor of late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

While Jones has yet to comment about Trump putting forward a nominee since Ginsburg passed away on Friday evening, Alabama’s junior senator last year stated what he would do in a hypothetical situation exactly like this current reality.

As caught on video and reported by Yellowhammer News in 2019, a Democratic constituent at Jones’ University of North Alabama town hall asked the senator how he would react to Trump nominating someone to fill a Supreme Court vacancy from then through the end of the president’s current term.

Asked by the constituent what he would do “to make sure [a confirmation of that hypothetical nominee] doesn’t happen,” Jones responded, “I’ll do everything I can.”

The Democrat from Mountain Brook continued to lament that Republicans are in charge of the Senate rather than Democrats led by Schumer, thus allowing the GOP to confirm qualified nominees.

“Under the rules of the United States Senate, Mitch McConnell can just do about any damn thing he wants to,” Jones decried.

“I can go to the floor and speak about it, I can raise hell about it, but under the rules, there is virtually nothing I can do — except try to shame him, which I’m sure that that will happen should we have that vacancy,” the senator remarked.

“All we can do is speak up and speak out,” he noted.

Jones added, “I wish I could do more, but I’m just one of 47 [Democratic Caucus] voices to say, ‘Stop. Hold on.’”

WATCH:

Jones voted against Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation in 2018 but had not yet been elected to office at the time of Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation earlier in Trump’s term.

In defending his vote against Kavanaugh, Jones asserted that representing the majority of his constituents is not “the be all to end all.”

An early and fervent backer of Joe Biden’s presidential bid, Jones voted twice to remove Trump from office earlier this year.

RELATED: Doug Jones, Tommy Tuberville react to passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

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

2 days ago

Alabama’s flags flying at half-staff in honor of late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

(Jeremy King/Twitter)

Governor Kay Ivey has ordered flags to half-staff in Alabama following the Friday death of United States Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

A memo from Ivey to all state agencies on Friday night said, “In accordance with the U.S. Flag Code, I am directing flags to be flown at half-staff immediately to honor U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who passed away today, September 18, 2020.”

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“Flags shall be flown at half-staff from the day of death until internment…” the governor added.

A private interment service will reportedly be held at Arlington National Cemetery in the coming days. No public memorial service has yet been announced.

RELATED: Doug Jones, Tommy Tuberville react to passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

When Associate Justice Antonin Scalia passed away in 2016, then-Governor Robert Bentley also ordered Alabama’s flags to half-staff.

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

2 days ago

Aftermarket wheel supplier Wheel Pros expands with Auburn facility

(Wheel Pros/Contributed, YHN)

AUBURN, Alabama – Wheel Pros, a U.S. aftermarket wheel supplier, has acquired the assets of an aluminum wheel manufacturing facility in Auburn and plans to open its second U.S. operation there.

“We welcome Wheel Pros to Alabama and congratulate them on choosing Auburn to establish their largest U.S. manufacturing presence,” Governor Kay Ivey said. “This multimillion-dollar investment will add 300 new jobs and represents another feather in the cap of our state’s growing automotive industry.”

Alabama is globally recognized as a major contributor in automotive assembly and engine manufacturing, and the state has a rapidly growing supplier network. Nearly 1 million cars and light-trucks are produced in Alabama annually, along with over 1.5 million engines.

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“This investment secures our position as a leader in our industry and provides us with full control of the entire manufacturing process, ensuring that our customers receive nothing but the best quality products,” said Randy White, CEO and co-founder of Wheel Pros.

“This was the ideal opportunity for expansion — the manufacturing assets and experienced workers are already in place. We look forward to joining the Alabama automotive sector and the Auburn community,” he added.

Colorado-based Wheel Pros is the only branded automotive aftermarket wheel supplier with cast wheel manufacturing capabilities in the U.S. The company designs, manufactures and distributes branded automotive aftermarket wheels, performance tires and accessories.

GROWTH PLANS

Wheel Pros expects production of casted aluminum wheels at the new Auburn facility to be up and running in the next few months. The company forecasts that its U.S. manufacturing operations will produce approximately 1.5 million wheels each year.

“Wheel Pros has joined a robust network of automotive manufacturers and suppliers that call our state home,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“We are glad that the company sees the potential in Alabama for sustainable growth and long-term success.”

The company’s facility is located in Auburn’s Technology Park North and operations include casting, machining and painting operations.

“We look forward to the impact Wheel Pros will have on East Alabama at a perfect time,” Auburn Mayor Ron Anders said. “We have a manufacturing facility and a workforce that are ready and more than able to meet the company’s needs.

“Wheel Pros’ arrival will bring more jobs to our community, which is great for our residents and our economy. We are grateful for Wheel Pros’ investment in our region,” he added.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

2 days ago

Doug Jones, Tommy Tuberville react to passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

(Wikicommons)

United States Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away on Friday evening at age 87 following a battle with metastatic pancreas cancer.

A release from the Supreme Court outlined that the liberal icon died while surrounded by family at her home in Washington, D.C. She is survived by her two children, Jane Carol Ginsburg (George Spera) and James Steven Ginsburg (Patrice Michaels); four grandchildren, Paul Spera (Francesca Toich), Clara Spera (Rory Boyd), Miranda Ginsburg and Abigail Ginsburg; two step-grandchildren, Harjinder Bedi and Satinder Bedi; and one great-grandchild: Lucrezia Spera.

Ginsburg was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton in 1993. She was the second woman appointed to the Court and served more than 27 years.

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Born in Brooklyn, New York, she received her B.A. from Cornell University, attended Harvard Law School and received her LL.B. from Columbia Law School. She served as a law clerk to the Honorable Edmund L. Palmieri, Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, from 1959–1961. From 1961–1963, she was a research associate and then associate director of the Columbia Law School Project on International Procedure. She was a Professor of Law at Rutgers University School of Law from 1963–1972, then Columbia Law School from 1972–1980 and a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences in Stanford, California from 1977–1978. In 1971, she was instrumental in launching the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. Ginsburg served as the ACLU’s General Counsel from 1973–1980 and on the National Board of Directors from 1974–1980. She was appointed a Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 1980 by President Jimmy Carter

A private interment service will reportedly be held at Arlington National Cemetery.

The news of her passing rocked the nation on Friday night; reactions poured in from across the country, including from the two Alabamians running for the U.S. Senate in November’s general election.

U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) released a statement, which read as follows:

This news is a devastating loss for our country and for all those who have been inspired by the inimitable Justice Ginsburg during her long and historic career. Justice Ginsburg led a life guided by principle and filled with purpose. A true trailblazer in the legal field in her own right, she inspired generations of young women to reach for heights that previously felt impossible. Through her quiet dignity, her willingness to bridge political divides, and her steady pursuit of justice, she was a standard-bearer for positive leadership.

Her bold dissents in the Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. and Shelby County v. Holder cases are particularly meaningful to me, and to so many in Alabama and across the country. She stood for what was right and for the constitutional principles of equality and democracy that she held dear, even if it meant she was in the minority on the Court. As only the second woman to ever serve on the Court, she made full use of her opportunity to serve as a voice for women on the bench.

Beyond her legal acumen, Justice Ginsburg will also be remembered for her sharp wit, her tireless advocacy for voting rights, and her historic role in fighting for a more equal society for women across the country. She will be greatly missed.

Louise and I extend our sincerest condolences to Justice Ginsburg’s loved ones. We’re praying for them as they grieve this tremendous loss.

Republican U.S. senatorial nominee Tommy Tuberville reacted in social media posts.

“Justice Ginsburg should be honored for her service to our nation as a trailblazing attorney and as a jurist,” Tuberville said. “She fought hard for her beliefs and carried the respect of her fellow justices, liberal and conservative alike. I am certain that at this moment, Justice Antonin Scalia is greeting his old friend at the Pearly Gates.”

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

3 days ago

Ivey tours battered Gulf Coast; Area officials say progress being made, ask for patience

(Henry Thornton/YHN)

MOBILE – Alabama Governor Kay Ivey toured via helicopter on Friday the parts of Alabama hit hardest by Hurricane Sally. She was accompanied at two different stops by several local officials who praised how the response had gone so far, but warned there was much work left to do.

The governor in public remarks called seeing the damage firsthand an “eye-opener,” saying the reality could not be properly conveyed by the news broadcasts she watched before traveling down on Friday.

“The damage is huge, our people are hurting,” she said of witnessing the destruction. “I’m sure it could be worse, but from what I’ve seen this morning in the flyover… it is really, really bad.”

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U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope), who represents the hardest hit parts of the state, was praised by Ivey and several other officials for his work on the hurricane response at the federal level.

Byrne explained that large supplies of water and other necessary relief supplies had been stored by the federal government at an old Air Force base in Selma last week, out of the reach of the storm.

He added that the supplies were now being brought to the area as he spoke around noon on Friday.

Baldwin County bore the brunt of the damage inflicted on the state by Sally. As of 5:30 p.m. on Friday, over 100,000 households remained without electricity. “For Baldwin County this storm is worse than Hurricane Ivan,” said Byrne.

The congressman said he has met with officials at the White House and FEMA, and he said every relevant federal resource would be forthcoming.

As reported by Yellowhammer News earlier in the day, thousands of people from across the United States are pitching in to help restore power in Baldwin County.

Yellowhammer News, in traveling through Baldwin to get to the governor’s event, noted continued long lines at gas stations with many citizens filling up red gas cans once they got to the pump.

 

One of Baldwin County’s commissioners, Billie Jo Underwood, joined the governor during a briefing at Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores.

“I want to stress that we need to continue to have patience,” Underwood told the public, urging those listening to follow signs put up by law enforcement and other first responders, who are working around the clock.

Underwood concluded by saying, “We are strong here in Baldwin County, we are resilient.”

The commissioner’s comments echoed Byrne, who said that Baldwin would have a full recovery, “but it won’t happen real quick.”

The governor said on Friday that her main mission for the day was to listen to local leaders to so she could best coordinate the state and federal response.

“We’ve already heard we need ice and water and food,” said Ivey.

Yellowhammer News spotted one church that was giving out free ice and had a long line with many interested.

(Henry Thornton/YHN)

One Baldwin County resident told Yellowhammer they had been forced to throw out all of their perishable food items, a situation the individual presumed was common in the area.

Across the bay in Mobile County the situation was far less dire, apart from the town of Dauphin Island which experienced a similar treatment to its counterparts on the Eastern Shore.

Around 37,000 households in Mobile County do not have electricity as of 5:30 p.m. on Friday.

“I’m proud to report the government is working here in Mobile County,” said Commissioner Jerry Carl on Friday, adding, “I’m proud to say politics have been pushed aside.”

Carl is the Republican nominee for Alabama’s Second Congressional District but did not mention his campaign for higher office on Friday.

He joined Ivey, U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL), Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson and a cadre of other local officials at a briefing at Dauphin Island’s city hall.

Stimpson said he wanted to join his fellow local officials in “thanking Governor Ivey and Senator Jones for their work.”

“We know the things that need to be done… We will come up with solutions,” remarked Stimpson.

Carl told Yellowhammer News after the official briefing ended that “getting the trees out of the yard and the power on is 99% of getting back to normal after a storm.”

“We are all used to that… we are Alabama tough,” Carl said of his neighbors on the coast.

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

University of Alabama System COVID-19 numbers continue to decline sharply — ‘You can be proud’

(UAH/Contributed, YHN)

The University of Alabama System on Friday afternoon released its weekly update with COVID-19 related data from each of its three distinct institutions: the University of Alabama, the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH).

The data — covering the seven-day period from Friday, September 11, through Thursday, September 17 — was impressive for all three universities.

The University of Alabama saw another tremendous decline in the number of new cases week-over-week. This comes after the previous week showed a 65% decline in new cases compared to the week prior.

Only 119 students tested positive at UA in the latest period, compared to 294 positives the previous week.

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Another incredible sign at UA is the amount of quarantine/isolation rooms available on-campus. Only 3.88%% of these rooms are occupied (23/593).

Additionally, numbers at UAB and UAH continue to look good. In Birmingham, 18 students tested positive compared to 19 at UAH over the last week.

At UAB, only 2% of isolation rooms are being used (2/100 rooms); at UAH, that number is 26.4% (23/87 rooms).

Finally, sentinel testing of students, faculty and staff is ongoing System-wide, with less than 1% of individuals from this form of sample testing being positive. A release from the System advised this indicates a minimal rate of asymptomatic positive cases. System officials also explained this “demonstrates the effectiveness of the mitigation strategies that were imposed before the campuses reopened in August.”

Dr. Ricky Friend is dean of the College of Community Health Sciences at the University of Alabama and a member of the UA System Health and Safety Task Force.

“I am pleased to report that our number of daily cases, active cases and use of isolation and quarantine space have all dramatically declined,” Friend said in a Friday statement. “This is encouraging and reiterates that, when the health and safety precautions are followed, they work very well to contain and minimize cases across the UA campus and throughout the UA System.”

This week’s data comes seven days after Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, visited the University of Alabama for discussions with students, faculty and staff, as well as administrators and officials from the System and UA.

She effusively praised the System and university for their “strong leadership” and return-to-campus efforts as a whole, while urging everyone to continue following COVID-19 guidelines and orders.

RELATED: Birx: ‘Strong leadership’ from Univ. of Alabama System results in successful return-to-campus

At the latest UA System board of trustees meeting on Thursday, Chancellor Finis St. John confirmed the System’s Comprehensive Health and Safety Plan is working well.

“We faced worrisome trends on our campuses, but we were prepared. We addressed the issues as they arose and made informed decisions,” he outlined in the virtual meeting.

“We trusted our plan and our people, and everyone had the courage to see this through,” St. John added, thanking the trustees for setting the bar high to overcome historic challenges. “You can be proud of the innumerable people who have worked to execute your vision.”

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

3 days ago

Former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard’s attorneys ask for resentencing

(M. Hubbard/Facebook, Wikicommons)

Attorneys for former Alabama Speaker of the House Michael G. “Mike” Hubbard on Friday filed a motion for resentencing.

This comes seven days after Hubbard reported to the Lee County Sheriff’s Office to begin serving what is currently a four-year prison sentence. He is being held in Russell County and will eventually be turned over to the Alabama Department of Corrections.

Hubbard in 2016 was convicted on 12 of 23 ethics charges brought against him by the Alabama Attorney General’s Office.

One of those 12 convictions was reversed by the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals in August 2018. An additional five convictions were tossed by the Supreme Court of Alabama earlier this year.

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Although half of the original convictions have been tossed to-date, Hubbard still faces four years in prison, which was the original length of imprisonment imposed by the trial judge. Of the original charges brought against him, only 26% have stuck.

The new motion by Hubbard’s attorneys argues, “Give these changed circumstances and in the interest of justice, Hubbard respectfully requests that this Court resentence him…The convictions in this case alone have resulted in a wide range of punishments which include his removal from office, the loss of his right to vote, the divestment of his business interests, and his current incarceration.”

The motion further noted that Hubbard is not a danger to society. Hubbard’s counsel pointed to sentencing guidelines which state that “the sentence imposed in each case should call for the least restrictive sanction that is consistent with the protection of the public and the gravity of the crime.”

“Judges should be sensitive to the impact their sentences have on all components of the criminal justice system and should consider alternatives to long-term institutional confinement or incarceration in cases involving offenders whom the court deems to pose no serious danger to society,” counsel wrote.

“In short, from arrest to reentry into the community, a web of sanctions haunts defendants and their families,” the motion added. “An arrest and criminal charges alone can have a devastating impact. These hidden sanctions can have a more severe impact on the arrested or convicted, their children and their families than the immediate sentence.”

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

3 days ago

NRA endorses six Republicans in Alabama’s U.S. House races

(Jerry Carl for Congress/Facebook, Barry Moore Campaign/Contributed, Wikicommons, YHN)

The National Rifle Association’s (NRA) political arm has released its grades and endorsements for candidates running for the United States House of Representatives, including incumbent members.

In Alabama, only the Seventh Congressional District did not see the NRA Political Victory Fund make an endorsement. This race only features U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell (AL-07), who received an “F” grade. No Republican qualified to run.

The NRA did make an endorsement in each of Alabama’s two open-seat races.

In Alabama’s First Congressional District, the NRA is backing Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl, the Republican nominee. Carl will face Democrat James Averhart, who received an “F” grade. The Republican received an “AQ” grade, the highest possible rating for someone who has never been a legislator or in another position that decides Second Amendment-related policies.

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Holders of an “AQ” grade are officially described as: “A pro-gun candidate whose rating is based solely on the candidate’s responses to the NRA-PVF Candidate Questionnaire and who does not have a voting record on Second Amendment issues.”

In the Second Congressional District, the NRA endorsed former State Rep. Barry Moore (R-Enterprise), who was awarded an “A” grade. Moore’s record in the Alabama House of Representatives was used along with the candidate questionnaire to formulate this grade. Democratic nominee Phyllis Harvey-Hall received an “F” grade.

“I appreciate being recognized for my support of the Second Amendment, but being recognized isn’t why I support our right to keep and bear arms,” Moore said in a statement. “I support our Second Amendment because it is the ultimate guarantee of our other freedoms. The Founders had to use firearms to free themselves from the tyranny of British rule, and they crafted the Second Amendment to make sure they could protect themselves from tyrants that might come later. They also recognized that firearms were essential to being able to defend one’s self, one’s family, and one’s property, and this is as true today as it was then.”

“I’ll continue to defend our Second Amendment, and all our other rights and freedoms, because I truly believe in them. I’m thankful for the NRA, for being an organized voice for millions of Second Amendment supporters, and I truly do appreciate their endorsement and giving me this ‘A’ rating,” he concluded.

The NRA also endorsed the incumbent Republican congressmen in the rest of the Yellowhammer State’s districts: U.S. Reps. Mike Rogers (AL-03), Robert Aderholt (AL-04), Mo Brooks (AL-05) and Gary Palmer (AL-06).

All of these members received an “A” grade besides Rogers, who scored an elusive “A+.”

RELATED: Tommy Tuberville lands highest possible NRA rating, Doug Jones gets a ‘D’

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

3 days ago

Help pours in to South Alabama from across the U.S. as over 180,000 remain without power

(Henry Thornton/YHN)

GULF SHORES — Linemen have poured into Alabama’s Gulf Coast to help with the recovery from Hurricane Sally in recent days, as an all-hands-on-deck effort to restore power to the people in Alabama’s coastal area is underway.

According to Poweroutage.us, a site that tracks power outages across the United States, 185,598 households in Alabama are currently without electricity, including 123,453 in Baldwin County and 56,020 in Mobile County. Some providers are not tracked by Poweroutage.us so the total number may be higher.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey said on Friday that, to her knowledge, 4,000 electric professionals had been sent to Alabama from other states.

“It is just neighbors helping neighbors and states helping states, cause nobody expected this storm to be as strong as it was,” remarked Ivey about the display of generosity.

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Mark Ingram, an executive with electricity provider Baldwin County EMC, told Yellowhammer News that in addition to the 90 linemen his company has working, 800 more are at the EMC’s disposal from a dozen other states including as far as Illinois and Texas.

Alabama Power Company tweeted that lineworkers from 14 states were assisting their crews on Friday.

As of 12:45 p.m. on Friday, Baldwin EMC had the most customers without power of any provider, followed by Alabama Power and Riviera Utilities.

“The real focus of our efforts is going to have to be here in Baldwin County,” U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne (AL-01) said at a press conference on Friday. Byrne’s congressional district encompasses all of the hardest-hit counties in the state.

Byrne also cautioned that some amount of citizens may be without power for “a long time” due to the sheer number of trees that fell during the slow-moving Hurricane Salley.

Evidence of the all-out effort to restore power was evident along the main roadway through Baldwin County on Friday morning.

Yellowhammer News witnessed a procession of several trucks from Carolina Power, a company headquartered in Fayetteville, NC.

Help also came from Mississippi, as a shipment of new utility poles could be spotted in the parking lot of a closed bowling alley.

(Henry Thornton/YHN)

Giving a new light to the term SEC linemen, a shipment of more utility poles on a truck with license plates from Georgia was also spotted.

(Henry Thornton/YHN)

Yellowhammer News is on the ground in the Gulf Coast, so expect more updates later in the afternoon.

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

Mike Rogers leads Republicans in introducing ‘Keep America Secure Act’

(Screenshot/C-SPAN)

United States House Homeland Security Committee Republicans, led by ranking member Congressman Mike Rogers (AL-03), on Friday introduced the Keep America Secure Act, legislation providing a comprehensive two-year reauthorization of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

“After 20 months of Democrat dysfunction and caving to the left-wing of their party, it was clear the Democrats would not be able to build consensus to put forth their own reauthorization package,” explained Rogers in a statement.

“I’m proud of the collective effort of my Republican colleagues to put together a bill that positions the Department to best combat new and emerging threats to our country,” he continued. “We owe it to the folks who work day-in and day-out to protect our homeland to pass a comprehensive reauthorization that provides them with the authorities and resources they need to effectively do their jobs.”

Highlights of the bill reportedly include the following:

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  • Topline: The bill includes a comprehensive two-year authorization of all DHS activities, providing $59 billion for FY2021 and $60 billion for FY2022.
  • COVID-19 Response: Protects the health of critical frontline employees and ensures DHS can effectively carry out its vital mission during this pandemic.
  • Chinese Espionage: Protects American research and innovation by establishing new vetting tools and enforcement mechanisms to halt the entry of foreign spies.
  • Border Security: Enhances border security by providing critical resources and authorities to increase manpower, improve border barriers, and modernize ports of entry.
  • Cybersecurity: Improves the nation’s cybersecurity capacity by authorizing new approaches to enhance workforce development and retention at DHS and providing grants and other resources to state and local partners.
  • Transportation Security: Ensures TSA has access to the funding it needs to carry out its mission, improves existing security programs, and reforms the security screening process to increase checkpoint efficiency and alleviate passenger stress.
  • Emergency Preparedness: Reauthorizes FEMA for the first time in 14 years and provides increased funding for critical state and local terrorism preparedness grants and other programs.
  • Intelligence: Reforms the DHS intelligence enterprise and focuses it on emerging threats and improved information collection, analysis and dissemination.
  • Departmental Management: Reforms the operations and structure of DHS to promote unity of effort, improve employee morale, and ensure accountability and oversight of taxpayer dollars.

RELATED: Rogers: Remembering 9/11 as we evaluate today’s emerging threats

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

3 days ago

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill backs USPS election mailers

(ALSOS, Pixabay)

A release from Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill’s office advised that Merrill spoke via video conference with Postmaster General of the United States Louis DeJoy on Thursday.

The call reportedly was between the postmaster general and members of the National Association of Secretaries of State, of which Merrill is a leader.

DeJoy on Thursday “confirmed that election mail would be the Postal Service’s top priority between now and Election Day,” according to Merrill’s office.

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Alabama’s secretary of state reportedly thanked the USPS “for their increased communication and awareness surrounding the mail-in process, reiterated the importance of keeping Americans armed with accurate, up-to-date, and complete information.”

In a statement, Merrill specifically applauded mailers sent out nationwide by the USPS about voting by mail, whether that be absentee voting by mail in Alabama or different forms in other states.

The mailers are identical nationwide, intended to only be general information on how the Postal Service handles election mail and not taking into account different election procedures and laws from state-to-state. This has been criticized by officials in certain states. Colorado has even gotten a court to block the USPS from distributing them in that state for the time being.

The mailers say voters should “request your mail in ballot… at least 15 days before Election Day.” This is intended to remind voters not to wait until the last minute to turn their applications or ballots in, because the USPS wants ballots to be turned in on time to be counted.

The Postal Service has defended the mailers from criticism in a recent statement.

“Our mail-piece provides general, all-purpose guidance on the use of the mail, and not guidance on state election rules,” USPS spokesman Dave Partenheimer said. “The mail-piece … contains a single set of simple recommendations for voters throughout the nation, regardless of where they live and where they vote. At the same time, we are aware that each state has its own specific rules, deadlines and requirements, and the mail-piece acknowledges that fact.”

In his statement, Merrill backed the USPS on the issue.

“The mailers that have recently been sent to homes across America are great reminders of the importance of early participation in absentee voting,” Merrill commented. “Anyone who is concerned about voting in-person on Election Day should apply today for their absentee ballot and return it as soon as possible.”

DeJoy on Thursday also reportedly stressed the importance of returning applications and ballots early.

Find official information on how the USPS handles election mail here.

For questions about voting in Alabama, click here.

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

3 days ago

Alabama’s unemployment rate drops to 5.6%, representing one of nation’s best recoveries

(YHN/Pixabay)

Alabama Department of Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington on Friday announced that the Yellowhammer State’s preliminary, seasonally adjusted August unemployment rate is 5.6%, down significantly from July’s rate of 7.9%.

Last month’s rate, while still double August 2019’s rate of 2.8%, represents a major recovery from the worst point Alabama faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. The state’s unemployment rate was 13.4% in April.

The latest WalletHub study of the “States Whose Unemployment Rates Are Bouncing Back Most” released on Friday showed Alabama experiencing America’s ninth best recovery.

August’s rate represents 127,186 unemployed persons, compared to 176,556 in July.

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“The drop in the unemployment rate is certainly good news for Alabama,” stated Governor Kay Ivey. “We have worked extremely hard to open Alabama’s businesses safely, and to put our hard-working families back to work. We know that challenges remain, and we will endeavor to meet them so that we can get back to our previous, pre-pandemic record-setting employment numbers.”

More good news occurred in that several industries saw their average weekly earnings reach record high levels, including manufacturing and construction.

“August showed a larger drop in the unemployment rate than we’ve seen for a few months,” advised Washington. “We are continuing to see our initial claims drop, staying under 10,000 for the past several weeks. We regained another 22,200 jobs this month but are still down more than 86,000 from this time last year.”

“One highlight is that our civilian labor force, or the number of people who are working or actively looking for work, is at its highest level ever! This means that people are confident that jobs are there for them to find,” he concluded.

Fortunately, all Alabama counties and metropolitan areas saw a decrease in unemployment rates from July to August.

Counties with the lowest unemployment rates in August were: Clay County at 3.4%; Randolph, Franklin, Marshall, Cullman, Cleburne and Cherokee Counties at 3.6%; and Blount County at 3.7%.

Counties with the highest unemployment rates were: Wilcox County at 14.8%, Lowndes County at 13.8% and Greene County at 10.9%.

Major cities with the lowest unemployment rates were: Vestavia Hills at 3.0%, Homewood at 3.2% and Madison at 3.3%.

Major cities with the highest unemployment rates were: Prichard at 15.4%, Selma at 12.9% and Bessemer at 10.7%.

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