2 weeks ago

COVID-19 vaccine studies give us hope, but a vaccine may not happen this year

The purpose of vaccination is to stimulate the immune response to prevent a disease. A person who is rendered resistant to a disease by vaccination is termed “actively immunized.” Active immunity may also result from recovery from a natural outbreak of a disease. Immunity transferred from plasma from a donor, which contains antibodies from a prior infection or vaccination is referred to as “passive immunity.” This type of immunity is immediate, but only temporary and is used mainly for treatment of hospitalized individuals. Various laboratories are also developing synthetic antibodies called “monoclonal antibodies” in cell cultures, which can be mass-produced for treatment of seriously ill patients.

Vaccines can contain either live or inactivate organisms. In the development of a live vaccines, the organism can be “attenuated” or weakened. Because live vaccine can replicate in humans, they can be given by nasal or oral route but may produce a mild form of the disease. Vaccines containing inactivate organisms are safer because they cannot produce a mild form of the disease. However, inactivated vaccines must be injected and require an adjuvant, a kind of immune response booster, which will increase the immune response. Adjuvants are usually composed of an oil base that serves to slowly release vaccine particles, which continually stimulate the immune response over time. The adjuvants are typically what causes some pain and inflammation after injection.

For some vaccines only a portion of the organism can be used to immunize. This is referred to as a subunit vaccine. Subunit vaccines are commonly used against influenza. SARS-CoV-2 virus vaccines have been recently developed using only the immunogenic spike protein of the virus or the RNA or DNA viral genes, which code for the spike protein. In the case of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the portion of its spike protein can induce antibodies which may block the entrance of the virus into the human’s cell membrane. Another type of vaccine is molecular (recombinant) vaccine, which contains an attenuated adenovirus vaccine (vector) combined with genes of the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 to trigger production of the immune system to destroy both the adenovirus vector and the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The adenovirus, which can cause a cold in humans, has been genetically altered so it is not able to replicate in humans and will not produce disease making it a safe vaccine.

There is always an interval of time between the administration of a vaccine and development of immunity. This varies between vaccines, but usually takes from seven to 14 days. Vaccines can induce a state of immunity, which can persist anywhere from one year to a lifetime. In the case of vaccine lasting only one year, partial protection can last for longer periods. Older individuals or those with reduced immunity do not respond well to vaccines. The capacity to fully respond to vaccines is termed “immunologically competence.” Similarly, to influenza virus vaccines immunologically compromised individuals may need a larger amount of vaccine to induce adequate immunity. At this time no one knows how long immunity will last against a COVID19 vaccine or if a booster vaccine will need to be administered.

Currently there are more than 160 potential vaccines for COVID-19 under study; optimistic experts hope that a viable vaccine may be ready by the end of 2020. Other experts caution that the timeline may be unrealistic. Only a small number of those vaccine candidates are being tested on people, and chances are many of the other projects won’t survive beyond the laboratory stage. Even so, vaccine experts point out that funding has been plentiful, many different approaches are under study and collaborations have developed between small firms developing the vaccines and large drug companies with the capacity to mass produce them—all giving reason for hope. The U.S. said it would fund and conduct the phase III trials—the final step to determine how well the vaccine works and if it’s safe—of three candidates: Moderna Inc., AstraZeneca Inc. and Johnson & Johnson Inc. The Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines are already being tested in people, while Johnson & Johnson recently announced that it will begin its testing in the second half of July.

Here are some of the vaccines that are furthest along, with details on how the vaccine works. Moderna’s vaccine, mRNA-1273, uses messenger RNA, an approach that does not require a virus to make the vaccine. The messenger RNA, or mRNA, carries instructions for making the spike protein, a key protein on the surface of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that allows the virus to enter cells when a person gets infected. When the vaccine with this instruction molecule is injected, it goes to the immune cells and instructs them to make copies of the spike protein, acting as if the cells have been infected with the coronavirus. Allowing other immune cells to develop ways to protect you gives immunity.

This mRNA-1273 vaccine is in phase II of its clinical trial, designed to evaluate safety and effectiveness. Moderna, working with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, intends to enroll 600 healthy volunteers equally divided into two age groups: 18 to 55, and 55 and older. The company announced on June 11 that it will start phase III of its trial in July with 30,000 volunteers. Phase III, the final clinical trial phase, evaluates effectiveness in a much larger group and compares how well the vaccine works compared to a placebo (a substance that does not contain the vaccine). Moderna will test a 100-microgram dose and said the company is on track to deliver 500 million doses per year. In mid-May, the company announced that all eight initial trial volunteers given two different dose amounts reached or surpassed the level of antibodies capable of neutralizing the virus.

University of Oxford scientists are partnering with AstraZeneca to develop a COVID-19 recombinant adenovirus vaccine made from a weakened version of a common cold virus taken from chimpanzees. A number of companies are using the recombinant adenovirus vaccine technique, because prior studies with the SARS and MERS coronaviruses have shown efficacy in animal studies. Recombinant adenovirus is genetically altered so it can’t reproduce itself in humans. A phase I/II clinical trial began in April in the U.K. to assess its safety and how well it works in more than 1,000 healthy volunteers 18 to 55 years old. Now, recruiting has begun for phase II/III trials, which will enroll up to 10,260 adults and children. For both phase II and III, volunteers will receive one or two doses of either the COVID-19 vaccine or a licensed vaccine that will be used as a control for comparison. In early June, Brazil, hard hit with COVID-19 cases, joined the clinical trials, planning to test 2,000 volunteers there. After reaching a license agreement with the University of Oxford and others, AstraZeneca agreed to supply more than 2 billion doses globally, anticipating delivery of 400 million doses before the end of 2020.

Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech Inc. are testing four vaccines, each using messenger RNA, with a different combination of mRNA to targeted antigens (to produce antibodies). Called BNT162, volunteers in Germany and the U.S. have received the vaccine in a phase I/II clinical trial. This trial will evaluate the safety, ability to give immunity and the optimal dose of the four candidates in a single and continuous study. Initially they are testing the vaccine on people 18 to 55 years of age. Once a given dose level is proven safe and effective, older adults will be immunized. Pfizer is predicting the production of millions of vaccine doses in 2020, increasing to hundreds of millions in 2021. Manufacturing sites have been identified both in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Inovio Inc. has developed a vaccine, INO-4800, which is a DNA vaccine in phase I clinical trials, with 40 volunteers. The technology uses DNA designed to produce a specific immune response. A handheld smart device uses a brief electrical pulse to open small pores in the skin to deliver the vaccine. Once the DNA is inside a cell, it instructs it to make many copies of the artificial DNA, and this stimulates the body’s natural immune response. Results from the U.S. phase I trial are expected in June, and a phase II/III trial is expected then to begin. Human trials are also expected to begin this summer in China and South Korea. Multiple partners and collaborators are involved, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and others.

CanSino Biologics Inc. in Tianjin, China, is working with the Beijing Institute of Biotechnology on a coronavirus vaccine using a type of genetically altered adenovirus known as Ad-5. The platform has been used successfully to develop the Ebola virus vaccine. In late May, researchers reported on results of the phase I safety study, in which 108 people got three doses (low, middle, high) of the vaccine. Most volunteers developed immune responses, but fewer had the neutralizing antibodies experts say are crucial to fight off the virus. The company launched phase II in mid-April, with over 500 enrolled.

Sinovac Biotech’s Inc. vaccine, CoronaVac, uses an inactivated version of the virus. Early results of a Phase II clinical trial released in June show that the vaccine induced antibodies to neutralize the virus after 14 days in 90 percent of people who received it. The vaccine requires two injections, given two weeks apart, according to the company. No serious side effects have been reported in either phase I or II trials, which included 743 healthy volunteers. Sinovac will partner with Instituto Butantan Inc. in Brazil to launch a phase III trial. The company said it will develop the vaccine for global use.

Scientists at Imperial College London have developed a vaccine using a concept called ‘”self-amplifying RNA.” The vaccine uses synthetic strands of genetic code, or RNA, based on the genetic material known about the coronavirus. Once injected, that RNA makes copies of itself, then instructs the body’s cells to make copies of the spike protein found on the outside of the virus. This is meant to train the immune system to respond to and fight off the coronavirus. Investigators launched a combined phase I/II study the week of June 15, initially giving the vaccine to 300 healthy volunteers. They will receive two doses over two visits, separated by a four-week interval. If the vaccine is shown to be safe and to produce an immune response, phase III trials would be launched later this year with about 6,000 volunteers. Investigators hope the vaccine could be available by spring 2021.

Johnson & Johnson said it expects to start testing its recombinant vaccine in people in the second half of July. The vaccine combines spike protein gene from the vectored coronavirus with a modified adenovirus. The first trial will include more than 1,000 healthy adults aged 18 to 55 and others 65 and older and will take place in the U.S. and Belgium.

The Trump administration has chosen five companies for “Operation Warp Speed,” the national program to accelerate the development, production and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, treatments and diagnostics. They are: Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, Merck Inc., Pfizer and BioNTech, and AstraZeneca/Oxford University. Beyond investing in the vaccines, the U.S program will also oversee a plan to streamline and coordinate the testing of vaccines. The five potential vaccines will be evaluated using the same measurements to make comparisons easier, and a single, independent monitoring board will decide if any of vaccines have been proved to work.

Researchers will have access to at least 72 testing sites that have been identified across the country and an equal number in other countries, said Dr. Larry Corey, an expert in vaccine development at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center who is helping to orchestrate the government program. The plan relies heavily on testing networks that have been built over the years for work on vaccines against HIV and other pathogens, according to Drs. Corey and Fauci. Testing sites are often based at university medical centers. If researchers can recruit a sufficiently large pool of participants in areas where the virus is infecting high numbers of people, less time probably will be needed to know if a vaccine works. Doing so can be a challenge, especially when dealing with a new virus that is poorly understood. Where the virus will be most active when a vaccine is ready for large-scale testing, for example, is “a moving target,” Corey said. “We have a virus that is sweeping through different areas,” Corey said. “How do we match our clinical trial sites with where the viral activity is the highest?” Brazil and other countries that may be experiencing outbreaks could be chosen for rapid efficacy testing.

The participation of 25,000 to 30,000 people for each vaccine will be needed in the final phase III stage of tests for each of the five vaccines. But it will be up to an independent board of outside experts to decide if that is actually the case for each vaccine. Moderna and AstraZeneca and, later, the other vaccines will be tested in the U.S. government program. To do so, statisticians on the board will perform complex calculations based on the data collected in the large trials to determine whether a vaccine has had a genuine effect that cannot have been due to chance and to estimate the specific level of protection it provides. If a vaccine is, in fact, very effective, those results will become clear quickly because the difference between people who are vaccinated and those who receive the placebo will be stark. In that case, the monitoring board could declare the vaccine a success, clearing the way for it to be put into use. The board probably would need longer to reach a decision about a lower-performing vaccine since it would take time to collect sufficient data to establish its effectiveness.

How many doses of a vaccine could be made by the end of the year is an open question? Pharmaceutical companies have announced partnerships with manufacturing companies as well as plans to begin mass-manufacturing their vaccines before it is known if they work. When the operations are up and running, tens of millions of doses of a vaccine could be produced each month, but getting the specialized equipment, staff and materials needed to produce the vaccines takes time.

At this time, few, if any, viral vaccine experts believe that an effective vaccine will be developed before the first of the year. Politicians are pressuring for a vaccine to be marketable before the end of the year. However, marketing a vaccine which has not undergone sufficient safety and efficacy studies could result in serious long-term effects in the public’s perception of the proficiency of scientific and medical agencies, and they may be hesitant to receive a more safe and effective vaccine developed in the future to prevent COVID19, influenza or other common diseases. Vaccines typically take several years to develop with testing for efficacy and longevity against natural infection being required. Additionally, some viruses can mutate, requiring new vaccines to be developed as currently required for influenza viruses. However, no significant mutations have been noted in the spike protein gene with the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Regardless of when an effective vaccine is developed, the first doses will be given to front line individuals, which would include medical personal, EMTs, fire medics, police officers, firemen and military personnel, etc. Next in line would probably be politicians, nursing homes patients and care takers, prisons, people with preexisting health problems and those workers employed in businesses considered essential by federal, state and local governments, such as pharmaceutical, agricultural, food service, banks, gas stations, funeral homes, etc. Vaccines available for the general public in the U.S. and other first-world countries could be given at least three months after these groups. Second- and third-world countries, which lack modern medical infrastructure, could take an additional six months to be vaccinated.

Regardless of when and if effective vaccines are mass produced to vaccinate the world’s population, there will a significant number of people, who, for one reason or another, will refuse to be vaccinated. Therefore, mandatory vaccination cards could be required by various federal, state or local government agencies to be shown to enter schools, planes, mass transit, obtain drivers licenses, entrance into foreign countries or large events with several thousand attendees, etc. The Trump administration has promised that vaccines will be free for all individuals regardless of whether they have medical insurance or can afford to pay for them. In addition, a small economic incentive may contribute to the number of those people willing to be vaccinated in poor neighborhoods, as is currently available for vaccination against influenza.

The term “herd immunity” is often used to determine the percent of population that has develop immunity either in the form of a vaccine or natural infections. Herd immunity occurs when a large portion of a community (the herd) becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. As a result, the whole community becomes protected—not just those who are immune. Often, a percentage of the population must be capable of getting a disease in order for it to spread. This is called a threshold proportion. If the proportion of the population that is immune to the disease is greater than this threshold, the spread of the disease will decline. This is known as the herd immunity threshold. For most diseases 60 percent to 90 percent of the population needs to have immunity to stop the spread on the disease. However, currently no one knows what percent is needed for “herd immunity “against the COVID19 virus.

So far, no vaccine has ever been developed against a human coronavirus. That being said, the most important current procedures, which are needed to prevent the spread of the virus, are continuation of CDC and other medical, research and governmental agencies recommendations. Keep in mind some people may have the COVID-19 virus and spread it to others, even if they don’t have symptoms or don’t know they have COVID-19.

Important viral mitigation procedures are to wash your hands often with soap and water for least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. Avoiding large gathering, practicing social distancing and wear a mask in public. Cover your mouth and nose with your elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw away the used tissue. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Avoid sharing dishes, glasses, bedding and other household items if you’re sick. Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces, such as doorknobs, light switches, electronics and counters, daily. Stay home from work, school and public areas if you’re sick, unless you’re going to get medical care. Daily testing of your body temperature is also effective. Use telemedicine if you are sick and need to talk with a doctor and use on-line communications for working at home when possible. Avoid public transportation, taxis and ridesharing if you’re sick.

Currently many people believe that the virus will disappear in hot weather and a second or third wave will not occur, and they want full opening of the economy and life to return to what it was prior to the dawn of the pandemic. Unfortunately, most medical experts do not believe that this scenario has or will occur, and that state and local governments have already rushed too fast to reopen society for economic reasons. The mantra of many people, agencies and companies is that they are tired of COVID19 isolation and will not adhered to important viral mitigation procedures. They believe that the economic pain of isolation is worse than the disease itself. Only time will tell if their beliefs are correct.

Regardless of when and if effective vaccines are developed, more rapid effective testing for the virus and/or antibodies with contact tracing needs to be developed and utilized to avoid the spread of the virus. Another avenue that needs to be addressed is the development of effective in-home antiviral medications, as are currently available for influenza and HIV infections, that will treat symptomatic people and prevent viral spread during a 14-day quarantine. Currently only in-hospital antiviral therapy is effective to reduce the severity of critically ill patients. Antiviral treatments will free up hospitals to treat none COVID19 infected patients. According to Dr. Corey, “A virus that we’ve never seen before is unpredictable … We have to anticipate all options.”

Joseph Giambrone is a professor emeritus in Auburn University’s Department of Poultry Science with a joint appointment in the Department of Pathobiology in the College of Veterinary Medicine. During his graduate research career at the University of Delaware, he was part of a research group that developed the first vaccine against an antigenic variant of an avian coronavirus. During a sabbatical leave during his tenure at Auburn, he was part of a research group in Australia that sequenced the entire genome of antigenic variant of a coronavirus of chickens. During his 42-year research career as a molecular virologist, immunologist and epidemiologist, he has made critical advancements in understanding the ecology of viral pathogens, led efforts to improve detection and surveillance of viral diseases and developed new and effective vaccines and vaccine strategies to protect commercially reared chickens as well as pathogens, such as avian influenza viruses, which have spilled over into human populations. His research has had a profound impact on practices used today to reduce the incidence and severity of viral diseases of commercially reared poultry as well in human populations.

14 hours ago

Brooks: ‘I oppose the Socialist Democrat and racist efforts to deface and destroy Mount Rushmore’

Count Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-05) as a steadfast supporter of Mount Rushmore.

Ahead of President Donald Trump’s planned Friday trip to the national memorial in South Dakota for a pre-Independence Day fireworks show and patriotic tribute, Brooks released a statement emphasizing his cosponsorship of H.R. 7358.

This bill, known as the Mount Rushmore Protection Act, was authored by Congressman Dusty Johnson (R-SD) and would prohibit federal funds from being used to alter, change, destroy or remove, in whole or in part, any name, face or other feature on the namesake memorial.

Liberal organizations in recent days have begun to target Mount Rushmore, with the Democratic National Committee even claiming the monument is “glorifying white supremacy.”

303

Brooks pushed back on this, saying, “Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Teddy Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln are exceptional American heroes. Each contributed monumentally to America’s greatness and share a common legacy of spreading freedom and liberty throughout the world. Their places on Mount Rushmore are well-deserved as exemplars of what it took to make America great, and efforts to denigrate their contributions are beyond reprehensible.”

The North Alabama Republican also outlined the contributions of each American icon memorialized on Mount Rushmore.

“Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence, the document that officially kicked off America’s quest for independence,” he continued. “George Washington won the Revolutionary War, served as America’s first president, and set the high standards of honor and leadership that have molded the republic to this day. Teddy Roosevelt protected America’s beautiful and special lands for public enjoyment forever. Abraham Lincoln held our young nation together through the most tumultuous period in American history, freed the slaves and gave his life perfecting of union. These men represent the best of us. Generations of Americans have celebrated their contributions to our nation. They embody American exceptionalism, freedom and liberty.”

Brooks said this issue exemplifies larger societal issues that are ongoing in America.

“With the exception of the Civil War, America has never faced greater internal threats,” the congressman warned.

“Socialist Democrats and racists, as evidenced by a recent Democrat National Committee tweet that said Mount Rushmore is ‘glorifying white supremacy’, are dead set on undermining American’s freedom and liberty,” Brooks continued. “In a frenzy of delirious ‘wokeness’, Socialist Democrats and those who promote racial division are hellbent on destroying the very fabric of our republic.”

“I oppose the Socialist Democrat and racist efforts to deface and destroy Mount Rushmore,” he stressed to conclude his statement.

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

16 hours ago

Auburn University gets $3 million grant to increase innovative conservation practices

AUBURN, Ala. – Auburn University College of Agriculture research and extension faculty will be using a $3 million grant to help forge a future for Alabama agriculture by encouraging the use of innovative conservation practices among the state’s row crop farmers.

The grant comes from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials (On-Farm Trials), a new component of the Conservation Innovation Grants first authorized in the 2018 Farm Bill.

Auburn’s $3 million grant is the largest to a single entity of the more than $24 million awarded. The grants are designed to help partners implement and evaluate innovative approaches that have demonstrated conservation benefits on farmland.

1001

These conservation practices are sorely needed on Alabama farms for several reasons, said Rishi Prasad, assistant professor and Alabama Extension specialist in the Department of Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences and leader of the research project.

“Many soils in Alabama are severely degraded and have low organic matter content,” Prasad said. “It is important to rebuild soil health to conserve soil for use by future generations. Increased adoption of cover crops by Alabama farmers can create sustainable row-crop production systems while protecting the state’s soil and water resources.”

Another aspect of the grant will be the demonstration of water-smart irrigation practices, he said.

“Summer droughts in Alabama are very common, often causing yield losses,” Prasad said. “The adoption of water-smart irrigation in Alabama is considered one of the most important strategies for mitigating the negative impacts of drought. This project will demonstrate the use of these technologies and help increase the adoption of irrigation in Alabama.”

The project also will help farmers evaluate nutrient losses and demonstrate the agronomic, economic and environmental benefits of improved conservation practices compared to farmers’ “business-as-usual” practices, he said.

“Fertilizer is one of the major inputs used in crop production,” Prasad said. “However, more than 50 percent of the purchased fertilizers ends up getting lost in air or water. This project will help farmers evaluate those losses.”

Three Alabama farms have been selected as cooperators for this project: Posey Farms in north Alabama, Lazenby Farms in central Alabama and L.C. Farms in south Alabama. These farms will be used to demonstrate the innovative conservation practices.

“The interesting part of this project is that any farmer who wants to adopt cover crops or smart irrigation technologies will receive incentive payments that include assistance for cover crop seed, planting and termination costs, labor charges and forgone income,” Prasad said. “Farmers also can borrow inter-seeder, roller crimper and soil moisture sensors from selected NRCS offices as a part of this project.”

A network of learning sites will be established at the extension offices located in Lawrence, Geneva and Lee counties, said Audrey Gamble, assistant professor and Alabama Extension specialist in the Department of Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences, who also is involved in the grant. Project meetings with cooperating farmers and neighboring farmers will be organized, and information on the project will be presented.

“Farmers will be called for face-to-face meetings, dinner meetings, workshops and field days where information on topics related to cover crops, water-smart irrigation strategies, nutrient budgets and nutrient-use efficiencies will be presented,” Gamble said. “As project data becomes available, information will be shared with farmers at learning sites. The project already is underway, and we will be instrumenting these demonstration farms in the fall of 2020.”

For Brenda Ortiz, professor and Alabama Extension specialist in the Department of Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences, the grant marks the continuation of on-farm irrigation projects she initiated in 2017.

“The important thing about this project is that we will look at the whole system—the impact of cover crops on soil health and soil structure that will impact soil water storage and movement which, in the end, will impact water availability for the crops and improved nutrient and water-use efficiency,” Ortiz said.

While technological changes take time, there is a greater awareness in Alabama now of what technology can do to increase irrigation efficiency, she said.

“Farmers and consultants have gained knowledge on the use of soil sensors for irrigation scheduling, and we have been able to demonstrate the impact of variable-rate irrigation at some sites,” Ortiz said. “However, more work is needed.”

Ortiz hopes the innovation grant will increase the adoption of practices such as irrigation scheduling.

“If we can accomplish this, it will be a great success story and will result in possible environmental and economic benefits,” she said. “The other piece of the puzzle is nutrient management. This project has a strong emphasis on environmental stewardship.”

Leah Duzy of the National Soil Dynamics Laboratory is working on the economic aspects of the grant. Innovation grant awardees are required to evaluate the economic and conservation outcomes from these practices and systems, giving NRCS critical information to inform conservation work in the future. That’s where Michelle Worosz, professor of rural sociology in the Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology, will play a role in implementing the grant.

“Production agriculture by its very nature is sociological—there is nothing that is not a product of human activity and/or social interaction,” Worosz said. “In the case of our grant, I will examine the conservation-based decision-making processes that take place on the three selected farms. These farms will serve as case studies of technological change, adoption and adaptation.

“I also will observe the extension team as they interact with a broader range of participants during workshops and field days. It is hoped that data from the case studies and the observations can be used by the team to improve conservation technology. In other words, this feedback loop is a means of co-developing knowledge about conservation strategies, particularly smart irrigation and cover cropping.

The grant’s implementation on “real” farms is important to its success, Worosz said.

“Understandably, producers can be quite skeptical of experimental plots on research farms,” she said. “Because research plots are often smaller, they may receive an unrealistic amount or type of care, they may not be subject to the same rules or regulations, the farm manager and researchers might have access to more or different resources such as advanced technologies, the plots are not required to produce the same yields or produce the same return on investment, and they may be located in a place that is not comparable to producers’ farms.”

It’s also important that the conservation technologies will be co-developed by faculty and extension specialists working alongside farmers, Worosz said.

“This is a way to develop a more robust set of bundled technologies—technologies that will be more user-friendly and better able to meet the needs of the user while also meeting larger environmental goals,” she said. “If the user has input, it will help with a broader buy-in of these conservation technologies by other producers.”

(Courtesy of Auburn University)

17 hours ago

Lara Trump: ‘We actually had never confirmed a rally in Alabama’

Senior campaign adviser Lara Trump has rebutted reporting from CNN that the president’s reelection campaign canceled a July 11 rally in Mobile, Alabama.

Trump — who is married to the president’s son, Eric — told Fox News’ Martha MacCallum this week that the rally was never finalized.

Rumors had been swirling in previous weeks that President Donald J. Trump would come to the state to campaign in person for his endorsed Republican Senate candidate, former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville.

161

RELATED: Watch: Trump, Tuberville depart Air Force One together

MacCallum asked Lara Trump if the Alabama rally was canceled and, if so, why it was canceled.

“Well, we actually had never confirmed a rally in Alabama,” she responded. “We never talked about it, never announced anything. So, I’m not sure why everybody got so excited about an Alabama rally.”

The show host then interjected to followed up with, “So there never was an Alabama rally? That’s what you’re saying?”

Shaking her head to indicate a negative response, Trump added, “There was nothing official from the campaign. We never announced anything on that.”

It should be noted that the Tuberville campaign never confirmed the rally, either.

He will face former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in Alabama’s July 14 Republican primary runoff.

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

21 hours ago

New public pavilion opens at Smith Lake

Anglers and tournament staff now have a shaded place on Smith Lake to host their weigh-ins.

A new public weigh-in pavilion is open at the Lewis Smith Lake Dam boat ramp in Walker County. The pavilion was funded through a partnership between B.A.S.S. and Alabama Power, and constructed with the help of many others.

“Our great partnership with Alabama Power continues with this pavilion,” B.A.S.S. CEO Bruce Akin said. “It was exciting to see this come together, and we look forward to future tournaments that will benefit the local community.”

695

New fishing weigh-in pavilion opens on Smith Lake from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The pavilion provides shade for fish holding tanks during tournament weigh-ins, which reduces stress and increases survival rates of the fish.

“This facility was designed to make setting up for weigh-ins easier and more efficient for all sizes of tournament organizations,” said B.A.S.S. Conservation Director Gene Gilliland. “Having the pavilion close to the water, the boat ramp and the courtesy docks will improve the survival of fish released following weigh-ins – and that means more bass for everyone to catch in the future.”

Construction began in January and was initially scheduled to be completed by April but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Volunteer labor was coordinated by the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance that provided apprentices for all phases of the build.

“The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance was privileged to be a part of this great partnership to benefit local anglers and the community,” said Robert Stroede, conservation manager for the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance. “Our union volunteers donated more than 1,000 hours of their time and trade skills to help make this facility possible and benefit not only the community but also the valuable resources of Smith Lake. Partnerships like this one between corporate, public and nonprofit organizations are now, and will continue to be, a huge asset to the future of conservation.”

The new pavilion is the latest in a growing list of amenities offered at Alabama Power’s 65 public recreation sites. It is the second pavilion Alabama Power and B.A.S.S. have worked together to build. In 2014, B.A.S.S., Alabama Power, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Shelby County and volunteers from Alabama B.A.S.S. Nation teamed to open a similar weigh-in pavilion at Beeswax Landing on Lay Lake.

“We were thrilled to work with B.A.S.S., the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the local community to construct this pavilion,” said Zeke Smith, Alabama Power executive vice president of External Affairs. “Not only does this pavilion enhance this access point on Smith Lake, it also helps showcase the state of Alabama’s beautiful waterways.”

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources donated engineering expertise to the project, and added a ramp and docks to the nearby boat launch.

“We are very excited about the pavilion and the upgrades we have made to the access point at Smith Dam,” said Alabama Department of Conservation Deputy Commissioner Ed Poolos. “It all works together nicely and will offer a great experience for anyone interested in visiting this beautiful lake.”

Project leaders said the pavilion will boost the Smith Lake community.

“I have been involved with high school fishing for a number of years and the sport is rapidly growing,” said Casey Shelton, business manager, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) System Council U-19. “This has been a great partnership to see come together and will benefit the local community for years to come.”

Community leaders said the pavilion will attract more fishing tournaments, especially among high schools and amateurs.

“I am pleased to be involved in this project alongside Alabama Power and know that those that enjoy bass fishing, especially high school anglers in our community, will enjoy this pavilion and the facilities,” said Alabama Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed. “This partnership with B.A.S.S., IBEW, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Union Sportsmen’s Alliance and Alabama Power is a wonderful opportunity for Smith Lake and will promote the sport of angling for many years to come.”

“We so appreciate the investment Alabama Power has made in the Smith Lake Dam Pavilion,” added State Rep. Connie Rowe. “For several years this area has been utilized by The Chamber of Commerce of Walker County for fishing tournaments, which bring thousands of visitors and their tax dollars into our area. This pavilion will serve as a hub for those tournaments and other events.”

For up-to-date information about Alabama lakes, download the Smart Lakes app to your smartphone at smartlakes.com. For more information on this or other Alabama Power public recreation sites, visit apcshorelines.com.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

21 hours ago

7 Things: No confirmed ‘coronavirus parties’ in Tuscaloosa, Tuberville’s handling of a 2nd-degree rape case becomes political fodder, Ivey open to changing Confederate holidays and more …

7. Pelosi is just out here ‘trying to save the world’

  • Recently, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for not commenting on protestors who have taken to tearing down statues like the one of St. Junipero Serra at the Golden Gate Park in Pelosi’s district.
  • Pelosi said that McCarthy “hasn’t had the faintest idea of our dynamic in our district,” and that she’s “trying to save the world from coronavirus.” Now, as coronavirus cases have increased across the country, the Senate will take up the relief package HEROES Act, which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has called a “liberal wish list.”

6. Coronavirus cases in Madison County jail, Clanton mayor also positive

  • In Madison County, an employee at the jail has tested positive for the coronavirus, which is the first case at the facility, and Madison County Sheriff Kevin Turner has said that they are taking “precautions” within the facility “concerning the affected employee’s contact with the inmates prior to the positive test result.”
  • Mayor Billy Joe Driver in Clanton has also tested positive for the coronavirus and is currently at St. Vincent’s Birmingham for treatment. At 84-years-old, the mayor is at higher risk regarding the virus.
514

5. More than 1,100 coronavirus cases in one day

  • The Alabama Department of Public Health has added 1,162 coronavirus cases in the state in just one day. There were also 22 more hospitalizations bringing the total currently to 797, and there were 14 people who died, bringing total deaths to 961.
  • Ten counties have 57% of the new cases, which includes Mobile, Madison, Jefferson, Tuscaloosa, Marshall, Morgan, Baldwin, DeKalb and Montgomery counties. There were 5,788 tests conducted across the state in one day.

4. Record jobs numbers as economy continue to recover

  • The headlines screamed of June numbers far better than the experts expected. Much to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow’s chagrin, there were 4.8 million jobs created and an unemployment rate that fell to 11.1%, with President Donald Trump saying, “Today’s announcement proves that our economy is roaring back. It’s coming back extremely strong.”
  • But tens of millions are still out of work as the American economy continues to reel from the effects of rising coronavirus numbers and a patchwork of economic lockdowns that seem to be increasing in number again.

3. Ivey open to making changes

  • Governor Kay Ivey’s spokesperson Gina Maiola said that “Ivey is certainly open to the discussion” of changing Confederate holidays, but those decisions have to go “through the Legislature.”
  • Maiola added that Ivey “believes that while we cannot change the past or erase our history, she is confident that we can build a future that values the worth of each and every citizen,” and the holidays in question would be Robert E. Lee’s birthday, Confederate Memorial Day and Jefferson Davis Day.

2. Tuberville attacked for his handling of a player’s rape case from Auburn

  • With less than two weeks to go before the run-off for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination, voters are starting to see what type of attacks former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville could see in November from U.S. Senator Doug Jones and the media.
  • The attack stems from the 1999 season when wide receiver Clifton Robinson received a one-game suspension after pleading guilty to contributing to the delinquency of a minor (a misdemeanor) as a plea deal following being charged with the second-degree rape of a 15-year-old girl. Robinson would later be arrested on assault charges and subsequently convicted for the battery of an off-duty police officer years after leaving Auburn.

1. No, there were not coronavirus parties in Tuscaloosa

  • A Tuscaloosa City councilwoman repeated a stupid rumor that students at Alabama colleges and universities were hosting parties with bowls full of money as prizes for getting the coronavirus, and the national media ran with the story as if it was fact, but don’t expect a retraction.
  • There is obviously no evidence that any such events actually took place — not a single Facebook post, tweet or Instagram story supports this narrative, but the narrative was helpful for the media and the desires for a mandatory mask ordinance from Tuscaloosa’s leaders.