4 weeks ago

‘Hero’: One of last original Tuskegee Airmen dies at 99

Lt. Col. (Ret.) Robert “Bob” Friend, one of the last living original Tuskegee Airmen, died at age 99 on Friday.

After training at Alabama’s Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University), Friend flew 142 combat missions in World War II. He served in the Air Force for a total of 28-years, including time in the Korean and Vietnam wars.

He was living in California at the time of his death and passed away at a hospital in Long Beach.

His daughter, Karen Friend Crumlich, told The Desert Sun, “My dad was my hero. He was always there for me and at the end I wanted to be there for him. He passed with family and dear friends surrounding him with love and affection.”

“He is truly a National Treasure who I will carry in my heart,” she added. “I promise to keep his legacy alive by telling his story to anyone who wants to hear it.”

Friend, in a 2017 interview, told The Desert Sun that he did not view himself as a man of color, not letting race define him.

“I never felt that I was anything but an American doing a job,” he said.

Friend’s death came less than two weeks after the 76th anniversary of the Tuskegee Airmen’s first battle during WWII.

RELATED: Red Tail Scholarship Foundation honors legacy of Tuskegee Airmen

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

28 mins ago

U.S. Rep. Rogers: ‘The Squad’ is in charge of the Democrats

By now, you’ve likely heard of “The Squad,” a foursome of freshman congressional Democrats that wield power and influence given their heightened presences in the media.

The group, consisting of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN), have also been a problem for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).

During an appearance on Birmingham radio’s Talk 99.5 on Thursday, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Saks) acknowledged the group was indeed in charge of the Democratic Party and said that “The Squad” has some more moderate members within the House Democratic caucus concerned.

176

“They are in charge and that’s a thing a lot of folks on the outside don’t recognize,” Rogers said. “The reason why they have so much power in the conference is because their party has moved far to the left. That where the energy is. That’s why you see Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren and [Pete] Buttigieg, whatever his name is – those folks,  that is where the energy is. So, the more mainstream Democrats are worried about their primaries. And AOC, and Tlaib and the other two in what they call ‘The Squad’ have made it clear: They’re going after some more mainstream members in their primaries. They intend to take them out. That’s paralyzed a lot of these people because in most of these districts, you’ve got to worry about the primaries, not the general elections.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.

1 hour ago

‘Momentous’: Alabama shatters five economic records

Alabama Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington on Friday announced that Alabama achieved five economic bests in June, setting a new record low unemployment rate, high jobs count, high employment count, high labor force count and low unemployment count.

June’s preliminary, seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 3.5%, breaking the previous record low of 3.7% from the month previous. June’s rate represents 2,160,931 employed people, another fresh record high, which was 10,456 more employed than last month’s count and 48,952 more than in June 2018.

“Another month, and yet another set of broken records,” Governor Kay Ivey said in a statement.

593

“It’s so exciting to be able to announce these great numbers month after month,” she continued. “It’s always positive to announce a new record low unemployment rate, but we also saw more people working than ever before, fewer unemployed than ever before, more people in the workforce than ever before, and finally, more jobs than ever before. These gains are momentous, and we certainly hope they continue as the year progresses.”

The civilian labor force increased over the year by 39,099 to a record-high 2,240,309. The civilian labor force represents the number of people, aged 16 and over, who are either working or looking for work, excluding the military and those in institutions.

The number of people counted as unemployed dropped to a new record low of 79,378, which represents a drop of 9,853 people from June 2018.

“Let’s talk about jobs. Our economy is supporting more jobs than ever before,” Washington outlined. “There are over 37,000 more jobs in Alabama today than a year ago. Those jobs are coming with the second highest average weekly earnings in history. Workers are earning an extra $44.76 per week than they were a year ago, and $21.91 more than they were just last month. Two of our employment sectors saw their highest average weekly earnings: the trade, transportation, and utilities sector and the professional and business services sector. So not only are we gaining jobs, but Alabamians are bringing home more in their paychecks.”

Total private industry average weekly earnings measured $860.73 in June, up from $838.82 in May and $815.97 in June 2018.
Over the year, wage and salary employment increased 37,300, with gains in the professional and business services sector (+8,000), the construction sector (+7,800) and the leisure and hospitality sector (+6,800), among several others.

Wage and salary employment increased in June by 6,600. Monthly gains were seen in the leisure and hospitality sector (+1,500); the trade, transportation and utilities sector (+1,100); and the construction sector (+1,000), among others.

The trade, transportation and utilities sector and the professional and business sector’s average weekly earnings measured $702.96 and $1,087.97, respectively, which represents both sectors’ record-high earnings.

For the second consecutive month, all 67 counties saw declines in their over-the-year unemployment rates, with drops ranging from half a percentage point to more than three percentage points. Wilcox County, which traditionally has the state’s highest unemployment rate, saw its rate drop by 3.4 percentage points to 7.3%, its third-lowest rate ever.

“To put this in perspective, take a look at Wilcox County. During the recession, the county’s unemployment rate peaked at 31% in February 2010,” Washington advised. “Nearly one in three people in that county’s labor force were out of work. Now, they are at a near record low unemployment rate.”

Counties with the lowest unemployment rates in June were Shelby County at 2.5%, Marshall County at 2.8% and Baldwin County at 2.9%.

Counties with the highest unemployment rates were Wilcox County at 7.3%, Greene and Perry Counties at 6.8% and Clarke County at 6.5%.

Major cities with the lowest unemployment rates were Vestavia Hills at 2.2%, Homewood at 2.3% and Alabaster at 2.4%. Major cities with the highest unemployment rates were Selma at 7.2%, Prichard at 6.6% and Anniston at 4.9%.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 hours ago

Why college football is so popular in the South

As college football prepares to celebrate its 150th birthday, answer this question: Why is this sport more popular in the southern United States than anywhere else in the country?

Three Southeastern Conference football legends offered their opinions Tuesday during the conference’s annual SEC Football Media Days in Hoover. Archie Manning says the answer to that question begins in high school.

“High school football is fantastic in the South,” Manning said. “We also have high school coaches that stay with it for their career. I admire that fraternity. Those men don’t coach high school football for the money. They do it because they love what they do.”

583

Manning also credits warmer weather, a fact Steve Spurrier says encouraged him to play and coach at Florida.

“I visited in late March when it was 72 in Gainesville and 32 in Johnson City, Tennessee,” Spurrier said. “All I know is I was blessed to go there.”

Herschel Walker says the SEC’s strong football programs help draw fans and players.

“The SEC stands with a lot of power,” Walker said. “People know when you’re going to play a team from the SEC — I don’t care who it is, you better bring more than your lunch because it’s going to be a tough game. Guys are going to play extremely hard.”

Why college football is more popular in the South from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

A number of events celebrating 150 years of college football are scheduled this fall at schools throughout the conference and around the country. In addition, ESPN will be airing “Saturdays in the South,” an eight-part documentary series chronicling the birth and growth of college football in the South.

“You will hear stories of greased railroad tracks, an era before the SEC chant was ever heard, and weave tales through the decades of the modern area of success experienced now by the Southeastern Conference,”  SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said.

Walker shared his own story of how he used a coin flip to choose between a career in the military or college.

“One Sunday in April, my mom asked me, ‘Don’t you think it’s time for you decide what you’re going to do?’ and before she could say anything, she said, ‘If your mind and your heart is pure of the Lord Jesus, it doesn’t really matter of your decision.’ So I decided to flip a coin. It landed on college. I then flipped a coin between Clemson and Georgia, and it landed on Georgia. I wanted to go to USC out in California, so I flipped a coin between those two schools, and it landed on Georgia again. I then pulled the names out of a bag, and I pulled Georgia, and that’s how I ended up at Georgia.”

“Sometimes when you’re naive and stupid, God will take care of you, because that was the right decision,” Walker added.

Why Herschel Walker used a coin flip to decide his plans after high school from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

He also praised a decision by Georgia to name its football field after Vince Dooley.

“He deserves it because he built men,” Walker said. “To name the field after him, I’m happy to be a part of it.”

All three men say they are honored to remain active in college football activities and discussions about the sport.

“I love the college game,” said Manning, who played quarterback at Ole Miss. “I’ve been involved in the National Football Foundation. I love that involvement. We stay close to the game and try to develop leaders through the game. I’ve certainly enjoyed that.”

“There’s something about football,” Spurrier added. “When you only have one game a year, you have bragging rights for the whole year if you win. There’s always a lot riding on the outcome, and it’s benefited all of us up here.”

“To be a part of anything that’s been around 150 years, you’ve got to be honored,” Walker said. “In today’s world, everyone wants to erase history, (which) I think is a shame. For me to be a part of something that’s 150 years old is incredible.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

4 hours ago

7 Things: Abortion ban takes a toll on Ivey, Doug Jones losing support and the feud between Trump and ‘The Squad’ rages on

7. Racial slur spray-painted on Birmingham real estate sign

  • Husband-and-wife real estate team Jeremy and Gina Miller from Birmingham found that one of their “For Sale” signs had a racial slur spray-painted on the sign, but the Millers won’t be pressing charges.
  • While the incident has gained viral attention, the identity of whoever spray painted the sign is still unknown. The Millers have declined to press charges because they don’t think anything good would come from it, and the Millers want to use this situation to spread a positive message to unite people.

6. Ivey taking action on the prison system

501

  • An executive order signed by Governor Kay Ivey will create the Governor’s Study Group on Criminal Justice Policy which will analyze data to help address the serious issues with Alabama’s prison system.
  • Ivey said this study group will lead to more reforms in the system, adding that “we are well on our way to making meaningful progress.”

5. Al Green thinks this impeachment vote was successful

  • After U.S. Representative Al Green’s (D-TX) latest attempt to impeach President Trump, he stated that this attempt wasn’t a complete failure since this time they got almost 100 votes in favor of impeachment, whereas before they had only gotten 58 the first time and 66 the second.
  • Green went on to claim that Trump is causing harm to society, and if he continues to do so “with his inciteful and hateful rhetoric then he will be impeached.”

4. House votes to increase the minimum wage to $15

  • In a brilliant piece of political theater, the House passed a bill that would increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour, setting up a nice battle over the measure in the media, even though it has no chance of passing the GOP-controlled Senate.
  • The bill would increase wages for some but the bill as passed in the House would kill close to 4 million jobs for the lowest earners, speed automation, drive up prices, hurt the economy, shrink family incomes and increase the deficit, inflation and interest rate, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

3. Trump and “The Squad” keep at it

  • According to U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN), President Donald Trump has moved away from politics, and now “we are in racism…we are in a fascistic government.” They believe criticism against them is violence.
  • Trump is backing away from the “Send her back!” chants at his rally, but continues to point out that he views this as a battle over ideology and love of America. He even tweeted a video that included a Lee Greenwood song and declared America was “ONE ‘SQUAD’ UNDER GOD!”

2. Doug Jones is a one-term Senator

  • Morning Consult released a poll that shows U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) is losing support in the state, with his 2019 first-quarter approval rating 20% lower than the first quarter of 2018.
  • The poll showed that 39% of registered voters approve of Jones, 37% disapprove and 24% are undecided. His overall his approval rating has gone down 3% since the beginning of 2019.

1. Kay Ivey loses far more ground than other governors that signed abortion bans

  • A flurry of one-sided national and local media attention after signing a bill ban most abortions in the state of Alabama, which her constituents supported, Governor Kay Ivey’s approval rating plummeted 17 points, according to a Morning Consult poll of Governor Approval Rankings
  • While Governor Ivey still sits with a +28 point approval rating, her fall was not mirrored by governors in Missouri, Georgia and Louisiana.

 

5 hours ago

Scofield: ‘Broadband is our infrastructure challenge of the 21st century’ — Crucial ‘to save some of the best areas of this state’

GUNTERSVILLE — Yellowhammer News on Thursday held the second event in its 2019 “News Shapers” series. Entitled “Connecting Alabama’s Rural Communities,” the forum regarding broadband expansion drew a great crowd and elicited insightful conversation from the four expert panelists: State Sen. Clay Scofield (R-Arab), Farmers Telecommunications Cooperative’s Fred Johnson, Central Alabama Electric Cooperative’s Tom Stackhouse and Maureen Neighbors of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA).

Tim Howe, Yellowhammer Multimedia co-owner and Yellowhammer News editor-in-chief, moderated the forum, which came days after the second round of grants was awarded under the Alabama Broadband Accessibility Fund.

1571

This fund was created through legislation sponsored by Scofield and signed into law by Governor Kay Ivey during the Alabama Legislature’s 2018 regular session. The first round of grants was awarded earlier this year. The legislature then passed another bill by Scofield updating the law during the 2019 regular session.

To kick the conversation off on Thursday, Howe noted Scofield’s successful efforts the past two years in passing his broadband expansion legislation, also pointing to HB 400 sponsored by State Rep. Randall Shedd (R-Fairview) and State Sen. Steve Livingston (R-Scottsboro).

Howe asked Scofield about this year’s update of the Alabama Broadband Accessibility Act and the feedback he heard prior to the 2019 regular session that led to him crafting SB 90.

“We passed the broadband expansion bill last year, and we knew that there would be some changes that needed to occur this year — some fine-tuning and some tweaking,” Scofield explained. “And we know that in the future, there will also need to be some fine-tuning as we look to make the program work better… SB 90 reflected some of those changes, and we heard that (the need for changes) from our providers.”

Scofield explained that it is not profitable in many rural areas for companies to install the necessary broadband infrastructure, which is why the Alabama Broadband Accessibility Fund is so important. The fund provides state grants for service providers to supply high-speed internet services in unincorporated areas or communities with 25,000 people or less. Under the law, grant awards cannot exceed 20 percent of the total cost of a project, meaning providers must still have significant “skin in the game” financially.

“At the end of the day, our providers are the ones who are going to be installing the infrastructure for the consumers to enjoy,” Scofield outlined. “So, it’s very important to listen to the providers. This whole thing began by listening to the providers. ‘What is it going to take to get you to expand in rural Alabama?’ And folks, it’s cost. It’s a business decision. The market size is just not there, so the cash flow is just more difficult.”

He likened modern government support of broadband expansion to rural electricity and water expansion of old.

“You’re looking out at Lake Guntersville,” Scofield told the crowd at Guntersville Town Hall, “and it’s a product of government being involved in infrastructure. In the 1930s, the government got involved in rural power. Our co-ops took advantage of that and delivered power to rural customers. And in the 1960s-70s, they expanded to rural water. Well, broadband is our infrastructure challenge of the 21st century.”

“Without our providers, and without government providing some incentive to bring their costs down, it simply wouldn’t occur,” he emphasized. “So, the changes that we’ve seen (through SB 90) are to make the job easier on these guys (the providers).”

‘We still live in a capitalist economy’

Asked to speak to the recommended changes from the provider side, Johnson stressed, “Good public policy has to be based on fact.”

“It’s really easy to blame people for why there’s not broadband in certain parts of the state,” he continued. “But we still live in a capitalist economy — for the time being — and it’s a business case. If it’s (broadband) not there, there’s a really good reason for it. What this legislation does, especially in connection with the federal legislation… what it does is give companies that want to step up to the plate the leverage it may take to swing the pendulum to where a business case can be built and you can serve areas where otherwise there’s no public policy support to build.”

Johnson said he personally thinks “the world of Clay Scofield, Steve Livingston and (House Majority Leader) Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville),” who were all in attendance.

“The neatest thing about this (2019 broadband expansion efforts) was you had the leadership in the legislature — and Representative Shedd certainly needs to be included [in that recognition] — they took the time to understand the issue,” he added. “It’s not a Democratic, it’s not a Republican issue. It’s not a partisan issue. It’s an issue that affects all rural Alabamians of every race, color, creed, sex and anything else you want to talk about.”

Of the legislative leaders, Johnson reiterated, “They took the time to understand the issue and ask, ‘What do we need to do to swing the pendulum?’ Quite frankly, I think we’ve got one of the more cohesive public policies in the United States [now]… so I think they’ve done an excellent job.”

Stackhouse affirmed just how important SB 90 and HB 400 were from the perspective of an electric utility provider serving a rural nine-county area in central Alabama.

“80 years ago in November, our [co-op’s] first electric customer was connected… and the area flourished because of getting electricity to an area where a lot said, ‘You can’t make money at that, there’s no use doing that,'” Stackhouse advised. “It was huge.”

Now, in modern times, Central Alabama Electric Cooperative’s board has created a subsidiary to handle communications services, like broadband.

“Communication is now the electricity, and without [the legislation], it just doesn’t happen,” Stackhouse said.

He praised Scofield for his leadership, adding of SB 90 and HB 400, “It has really helped us step up.”

“And we’re not building our [broadband efforts just] on grants, we’ve got a business model we believe we can make work,” Stackhouse continued. “But grants help a lot, though, especially when it’s sparsely populated areas that need it just as much.”

Without broadband expansion, ‘they’re going to die’

Following up on just how much many rural areas in the state really do need broadband access, Howe then recalled an op-ed that Scofield wrote and Yellowhammer News published during the 2019 regular session when Scofield stated the survival of rural Alabama depends on broadband expansion.

Howe asked Scofield to outline the various aspects of modern life that are affected by access to high-speed internet services in his district and others like it across Alabama.

“In about every way you can think of,” Scofield said. “Not just agriculture, but economic development — you’re not going to recruit a company with 21st century jobs to an area without a 21st century infrastructure. You’re not going to train a 21st century workforce without 21st century infrastructure.”

“Telemedicine is the future for our healthcare, which I believe is one of the things that’s going to help bring healthcare costs down for a lot of Americans,” he continued.

Scofield stated that this is especially true, “In rural areas where we see increased levels of diabetes and obesity and a lot of ailments that seem to go up, because the healthcare isn’t easily accessible.”

“So, the thought that a person can connect to MD Anderson for a cancer screening in Greene County, and never leave Greene County, can save that person’s life,” he explained. “It’s a game-changer for a lot of people, and I think that a lot of folks just don’t realize that 830,000 or 840,000 Alabamians still don’t have [broadband] access.”

He then reaffirmed just how crucial these broadband expansion efforts are.

“It’s critical that we get this infrastructure out, that we get people hooked up in our rural areas because they’re going to die — they’re going to be left behind, they’re being left behind right now,” Scofield emphasized. “So, I think the quicker that we do that, the quicker we’re going to save some of the best areas of this state.”

‘This is a legacy’

Later in the forum, Scofield did also caution that broadband expansion to all Alabamians logistically cannot and will not happen instantaneously.

However, success will be achieved only when “we get to a point where, like power … if you want high-speed internet [wherever you live] in the state, you can connect to it,” Scofield believes.

“I think that’s where we’ve got to get,” he said. “And that’s not going to happen overnight… Everyone’s got to be patient. Lake Guntersville didn’t fill up in a day, they didn’t build the dam in a day and they didn’t give power to rural Autauga County in a day — or even here. It’s going to take a long time to build this infrastructure out, but I believe that we are on the right track.”

Scofield wrapped up the forum by lauding the integral support and teamwork of some of his fellow legislators who were in attendance, including Livingston, Ledbetter and State Sen. Andrew Jones (R-Centre), along with Shedd, who was unavailable to make the event.

“I’m really proud of what we came out with,” Scofield said of SB 90 as signed into law. “And I think that whether you’re an elected official or not, if you had something to do with this, I think that this is a legacy that we’re going to be able to leave this state. It’s going to benefit generations. And that’s why I do what I do, and I know that’s why they (the legislators in attendance) do what they do. I think it’s going to be something that’s going to move this state forward in ways that we can’t even envision today.”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn