8 months ago

Sessions at Hoover law enforcement conference: ‘We have your back and you have our thanks’

HOOVER – Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday morning delivered the keynote address at the National Public Safety Partnership (NPSP) Symposium, reaffirming his staunch support of law enforcement and touting the Trump administration’s success in making “law and order” a national focus again.

The speech, which was peppered with college football jabs and followed remarks from Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, Jefferson County Sheriff Mike Hale and United States Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, Jay Town, served as a rallying call to the assembled crowd of approximately 200 crime-fighting officials from around the nation.

“On behalf of President Donald Trump I want to thank everyone here for your efforts to maintain law and order in America. Make no mistake about it: President Trump is a law and order president,” Sessions stated.

He added, “President Trump took office with a mission, a mandate, from the American people to restore public safety.”

In Sessions’ view, President Barack Obama’s administration did not do enough to combat violent crime, with the attorney general even saying that the Obama Department of Justice had been on the wrong side of the law.

“I believe that American law enforcement is unsurpassed. Some of these people don’t seem to [understand] how hard our people work … We’ve had some really confused thinking in recent years. We intend to put an end to that,” Sessions said.

He touched more on the topic, explaining, “Big mistakes were made, some saw police as the problem. And as a result, in the last two years of the previous administration, the violent crime rate went up by nearly seven percent. Assaults went up nearly 10 percent. Rape went up by nearly 11 percent. Murder shot up by more than 20 percent. That’s what was happening when we took office.”

He continued by outlining that crime, before Obama’s tenure, had been dropping in America since President Ronald Reagan had helped reverse a previous spike.

“This was especially shocking because from 1991 to 2014, violent crime had dropped by half. Murder dropped by half. So did aggravated assault. Rape decreased by more than a third, and robbery plummeted by nearly two-thirds,” Sessions detailed.

“From the beginning I have said, and let me say this loud and clear again: we will not let that progress slip away. We are determined, resolutely to get back to reducing crime rates,” he continued.

While Sessions and Trump are portrayed in the national media as being on rocky terms, Sessions talked about being on the same page as the president and carrying out his agenda.

“The day I was sworn in as Attorney General, the President sent me three Executive Orders that have guided the work of this Department ever since. We embrace the orders,” Sessions said.

He discussed these orders, saying “First, he ordered me to enhance officer safety and to ‘back the blue.’ Second, he ordered me to dismantle the transnational criminal organizations and the cartels that are responsible for so much of the violent crime in this country. And third, he ordered me to reduce crime in America—not to preside over ever-increasing levels of crime.”

Sessions said he believes that strong law and order policies, carried out by diligent officials, can reduce violent crime and improve public safety.

“Some people think that crime levels are like the tides—going up and down and there’s nothing you can do about it,” Sessions advised. “But not this President, and not this Attorney General. He believes that law enforcement can bring down crime rates—and he’s right.”

A key part of Sessions’ efforts is the NPSP – a Department of Justice program formed in 2017 after an executive order from President Donald Trump directing the department to “take the lead on Federal actions to support law enforcement efforts nationwide and to collaborate with State, tribal, and local jurisdictions to restore public safety to all of our communities.”

The program is a rigorous training and technical assistance initiative for selected cities across the nation, which is designed to help the locations develop and execute their own procedures intended to reduce violent crime. NPSP provides two complementary, but separate, levels of assistance – diagnostics teams and operations teams – tailored to the needs of respective communities. Birmingham was chosen as one of the pilot operations sites last year.

Monday, in his speech, Sessions announced the next steps in the program’s support of law enforcement officers, including grants to select cities. He also touched on another crucial initiative to provide federal expertise to local law enforcement.

“Since 2013, 650 school resource officers have been trained through our partnership with the National Association of School Resource Officers, or NASRO, which is based right here in Hoover. We have also provided funding to NASRO to expand and update their existing curriculum,” Sessions previewed.

He then made a big announcement.

“Today I am announcing that the Department will provide $200,000 to NASRO, and that they will use this funding to train school resource officers all across America,” Sessions declared. “We are currently in the process of developing an online training program with NASRO to increase the reach of training efforts. Today’s grant will result in training of approximately 230 school resource officers.”

Sessions, throughout his address, commended law enforcement officers and efforts being made to keep America safe. All of the speakers before him enthusiastically stressed collaboration between federal, state and local law enforcement and praised Sessions’ leadership in improving these relationships and working efficacy.

Selection to the NPSP stipulates that a respective city is in compliance with federal immigration law. Since that time when Birmingham was admitted to the program, Mayor Randall Woodfin has come out saying the city would go beyond being a sanctuary city when it comes to cooperating with ICE, declaring Birmingham a “welcoming city.”

While officials did not address this conundrum in their public speeches, speculation has been rampant about potential ramifications for Birmingham and Woodfin himself.

Sessions did give the example of how cooperation with federal officials will help the Magic City.

“[R]ight here in Birmingham, during a recent operation, ATF arrested more than 20 violent gang members charged with more than 800 crimes, averaging three felonies each. Officers seized more than 70 firearms as part of this operation. Jay [Town] is working with local prosecutors to determine the most appropriate jurisdiction in which to prosecute each of these criminals,” Sessions explained.

He added, “There are a lot more successes we could talk about. And I’m confident that there are a lot more successes ahead.”

Sessions made another exciting announcement during his Alabama speech, pointing to data that shows law enforcement efforts are working.

“I am announcing today the FBI will release its annual Uniform Crime Report, which will show that violent crime and murder have stopped rising and actually declined in 2017. That is something that we all should celebrate,” Sessions told the crowd.

“Those are the kind of results you get when you support law enforcement. Those are the kind of results we get when we work together,” Sessions continued.

For the nation’s top law enforcement official, the key to success is all about supporting the people doing the job, putting their lives on the line every day.

“And so we’re going to keep up this pace,” Sessions added. “We’re going to keep supporting you. We’re going to keep arming you with the tools, resources, and expertise that you need to make your communities safe.”

“Each one of you can be certain about this: we have your back and you have our thanks,” he concluded.

Watch:

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

 

6 hours ago

Can cleaning the ocean be marketed?

Trillions of pieces of plastic are creating huge garbage patches in the world’s oceans. One company’s efforts to do something about this problem can lead us to rethink some perceived economic wisdom.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates that two million tons of plastic enters the world’s oceans each year. Most of this waste results from irresponsible disposal. Ocean currents have created five major garbage patches. The most notable is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch between California and Hawaii, double the size of Texas and containing 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic. The patches are nuisances, can harm ocean life, and provide one rationale for banning plastic straws, silverware, and bags, although the wisdom of plastic bans is a topic for another day.

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Floridians Andrew Cooper and Alex Schulze witnessed the ocean trash problem while surfing in Bali and started 4Ocean in response. As the company’s website describes it, “Devastated by the amount of plastic in the ocean, they set out to find out why no one was doing anything about it.”
The problem was that no one could get paid to pick up the trash, and Mr. Cooper and Mr. Schulze hit upon an idea. For $20, customers can buy a 4Ocean bracelet made from recycled plastic and remove one pound of trash. To date, 4Ocean has removed more than 4.4 million pounds of plastic.
Can we trust that 4Ocean removes trash from the ocean? To assure customers, 4Ocean relies on Green Circle Certification. Green Circle provides third party certification of a variety of environmental claims, including recycled content in products, energy savings, and carbon footprint reduction. Companies like 4Ocean pay Green Circle to assess their operations. For certified claims, Green Circle lets the customer use their symbol and enters the product in their online database.

Certification seemingly faces a conflict of interest: Won’t Green Circle always certify the claims of paying customers? While this is a danger, ultimately a third party certifier really sells only its veracity. 4Ocean will only pay if Green Circle’s seal matters to potential customers. Green Circle, which has been in business since 2009, makes money over time only by being honest.

Third party certification has a long history. The case most studied by economists is Underwriters’ Laboratories, which tests consumer products for safety. The UL stamp assures insurers that lamps, toasters, and other products are not fire hazards.

How does this relate to government and environmental protection? Americans value protecting the environment, but conventional wisdom holds that business cannot make money protecting the environment. Any commercial venture must charge for its product or service, and normally does so by allowing only paying customers to get the product or service.

Yet allowing only paying customers to benefit from environmental protection is almost impossible: everyone benefits if the Great Pacific Garbage Pile is cleaned up. If businesses cannot market environmental protection, we will have to turn to government and taxes.

We have an incentive to let someone else clean up the ocean, but also like to contribute to good causes. 4Ocean taps into this sentiment, and their bracelet lets customers to show off their good deed. Environmental groups raise millions of dollars in a similar fashion. Charities do this too; Save the Children allows donors to learn the story of a child they “rescue.”

Proponents of government action will point with justification that the funds raised through markets to protect the environment are small relative to the scale of the problems. The 2,200 tons of plastic 4Ocean is just a drop in the bucket. Yet government efforts can be poorly funded, very costly, and of poor quality. The Government Accountability Office has repeatedly documented the flaws of the Energy Star labeling program.

Ultimately we must pay for environmental protection. Businesses and charities must deliver to continue being supported by their customers or patrons. Each success in marketing environmental protection enables a valuable alternative and should be celebrated.

Daniel Sutter is the Charles G. Koch Professor of Economics with the Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy at Troy University and host of Econversations on TrojanVision. The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Troy University.

7 hours ago

VIDEO: Alabama’s abortion bill gets plenty of attention, changes to a proposed lottery fund education, tariffs hurt Alabama farmers and more on Guerrilla Politics …

Radio talk show host Dale Jackson and Dr. Waymon Burke take you through this week’s biggest political stories, including:

— Is Alabama’s abortion ban good policy or good politics?

— Will the 25 percent allocated for education secure the passage of a lottery in Alabama?

— Will Alabama farmers blame President Donald Trump or the previous administration for the current impact tariffs are having on their livelihoods?

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Jackson and Burke are joined by Democratic activist Pam Miles to discuss plans to protest Alabama’s abortion ban and how Democrats in Alabama move forward.

Jackson closes the show with a “parting shot” at those perpetrating the “25 white men” narrative when discussing Alabama’s abortion ban.

https://www.facebook.com/303363616352436/posts/2418925051462938/

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN.

9 hours ago

Roby: A pro-life update from the federal level

Throughout my time in Congress, I have been staunchly and unapologetically pro-life. I will continue to use this platform to fight for life at every stage because unborn babies cannot fight for themselves. Since much of the news in our state and throughout the country lately has focused on recent pro-life efforts, I would like to take this opportunity to share an update about my work on the federal level to defend the unborn.

In February of this year, the Trump Administration’s Department of Health and Human Services issued a rule that would restrict Title X family planning grants from being steered to entities that are not physically and financially separate from abortion providers. A series of court injunctions have frozen these rule changes, and as a result, hundreds of abortion facilities, like Planned Parenthood, are still receiving federal tax dollars through Title X grants.

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While the rule is going through the judicial process, the Democrat majority on the House Appropriations Committee has elected to tie the hands of the Department of Health and Human Services through legislation stating that the Department may only act in accordance with regulations established prior to January 18, 2017, just two days before Donald Trump became President. This is unacceptable – we simply cannot handcuff the current administration to regulations of the past.

During the recent full Appropriations Committee markup of the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Subcommittee Fiscal Year 2020 funding bill, I offered an amendment that would allow the courts, rather than the Democrat majority in the House, to decide the fate of the Trump administration’s proposed rule restricting Title X family planning grants from being awarded to facilities that provide abortions. Despite the inclusion of the Hyde Amendment, abortion providers have been able to get their hands on American tax dollars through these Title X funds. I am unapologetically pro-life, so I don’t want this to happen, and the majority of the people I represent don’t want this to happen.

The Trump administration’s proposed rule would draw a clear, bright line between family planning services and abortion providers. Unfortunately, my amendment did not pass, but to ensure that the rule has a fighting chance of becoming law, we must allow it to go through our judicial process – not block it legislatively as part of a political game.

In addition to the Department of Health and Human Services, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is also taking measures to stand up for the unborn. Two foreign companies, Aid Access and Rablon, have been known to distribute chemical abortion drugs to customers in the United States by mail-order. This practice is already illegal, and the FDA has taken action against it, but it is still happening.

This abortion drug, called Mifeprex, is approved by the FDA, but it is only legally available to patients in the United States through health care providers. It is not available in retail pharmacies, and it is certainly not legally available on the Internet. However, these abortion-by-mail providers, primarily based in Europe, have widened their consumer base to include the U.S. They provide remote consultations, send prescriptions to be filled in India, then send the abortion drug to U.S. customers by mail.

By violating the FDA’s safety protocols, these companies are endangering the health of American women and their children. The FDA has been combating these practices, but I recently led a letter, signed by 117 of my colleagues, that was sent to Dr. Norman Sharpless, acting FDA commissioner, urging him to further crackdown. I was proud to join my fellow pro-life colleagues in sending the clear message that we will not tolerate these dangerous, illegal practices, and I applaud the steps the FDA has already taken to protect women and unborn children.

I share these updates to make the point that while we still face challenges, our pro-life momentum is strong, and I will keep pushing forward on the federal level. I want the people I represent in Alabama’s Second District to know that defending the unborn remains a top priority of mine, and I will continue to speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves.

Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. She lives in Montgomery, Alabama, with her husband Riley and their two children.

11 hours ago

University of Alabama, other Southern flagship universities see biggest bump in enrollment

Enrollment at several universities in the South jumped more than 50 percent in a decade, according to data from the College Board.

University of Arkansas saw its number of full-time students grow 63 percent from 2007 to 2016, the most of any flagship university. University of Alabama and University of Mississippi had the next largest increases at 55 percent and 51 percent, respectively.

In addition to the allure of football tailgate parties, students may have been enticed by lower tuition fees and living expenses. Among the 50 flagships, University of Arkansas ranked No. 38 in cost, while Alabama was No. 30 and Ole Miss came in at No. 44.

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Admissions officers should take note. The high school class of 2012 ushered in a first wave of declines in the number of graduates nationwide, according to a report by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education in Boulder, Colorado. The trend will worsen after 2025, when the impact hits from a drop in births that began with the 2007 recession.

Some of the boost in enrollment at schools in warmer locales coincides with a rise in the region’s population growth, with exceptions. Florida’s population grew by 2.45 million since 2010 while its flagship university saw enrollment slide 4.4 percent from 2007 to 2016.

Studying in the Sunshine State comes with a hefty price tag for non-residents. Out-of-state students at the University of Florida pay more than four times what their in-state counterparts pay, the largest premium among the 50 flagship schools. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill ranks second. Out-of-state students there pay more than $35,000 in tuition while those in-state pay less than $9,000.

University of Michigan is the most expensive flagship university for out-of-state students, at close to $50,000 per year. Next are University of Virginia and University of California at Berkeley. All three are consistently among the top-ranked U.S. public colleges.

Meanwhile, the cost gap for in-state and out-of-state students decreased the most at University of Georgia over the last decade.

University of MontanaUniversity of Idaho and University of Alaska saw the biggest declines in enrollment despite their in-state tuition costs trailing their faster-growing counterparts. Enrollment also tumbled at University of South Dakota, which has the best deal for out-of-state students. Tuition and fees for the 2018-19 school year there were just $12,425.

(With assistance from Janet Lorin and Marie Patino. Contact the reporter at shagan9@bloomberg.net.)

This article first appeared on Bloomberg.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

13 hours ago

Birmingham Botanical Gardens water features get a makeover

Every spring, visitors stream into the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Children dart among the uprights at the Granite Garden fountain and dash to the Rose Gardens to see if the roses have started to bloom, or humor their parents and pose for photos.

Whether they’re coming for exercise or inspiration, guests of all ages and interests have a chance to enjoy the sights and sounds of springtime, and among these – in no small part – are the artistry and lyrical babbling of the gardens’ beloved water features.

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Over the past two years, more than half of the gardens’ 14 water features have undergone a transformation, thanks to membership support and the combined efforts of Jane Underwood, operations manager with the Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens, and Virgil Mathews, district horticulture supervisor with the city of Birmingham. During your next visit, check out these newly refurbished water features – a testament to the dynamic relationship between garden and water landscape.

The Cochran Water Wall in the Hill Garden was the first to be rehabbed. Dedicated in 1988, it is the focal point of the garden.

“The water wall had stopped sheeting over the entire top edge. As a result, the basin was not filling up and recirculating,” Underwood says. “We had to figure out where water was going and how to repair it.”

Underwood and Mathews worked with Alabama Aquatics, which removed the tile on the back wall and sealed the wall before replacing the tile. Problem solved.

They then turned their attention to the 1967 Japanese Garden streambed because the water was not cascading over the waterfalls.

“It was flowing into cavities before it ever reached the waterfall,” Underwood says.

Parrot Structural Services pumped the cavities with hydraulic cement to fill the voids. They applied the same treatment to the Abroms Rhododendron Species Garden basin, the Curry Rhododendron Garden pond and the Fern Glade streambed.

The team was excited to discover a way to have the iconic North and South Urns repaired on-site. Dedicated in 1988, the urns are fixtures of the Formal Garden and help frame the space. Estes Paintingused epoxy to fill rust holes in the cast-iron vessels, sanded the urns and repainted them.

Alabama Aquarium & Pond Services (AAPS) then installed new pumps and placed them in such a way that they’re not visible from the paths,” Underwood says.

Other improvements were less extensive but no less important. In the Curry Rhododendron Garden pond, “horticulturist Tiffany Sutton had been filling the pond with a hose when the water level dropped,” Underwood says. A new pump with an auto-fill feature now fills it as needed.

The 2006 Loblolly Pine Cone fountain by sculptor Brad Morton in the Southern Living Garden also received a new pump. The Abroms Rhododendron Species Garden basin, which like most streambeds at the gardens was created with shotcrete applied directly to the soil without rebar to reinforce it, was rebuilt using reinforced concrete. Thanks to the combined efforts of Bright Future Electric and AAPS, the quaint pond in the McReynolds Garden greets visitors with the gentle welcome of a bubbly fountain.

“It’s amazing – the feel of the place – when the fountains are up and running,” Underwood says. “When you walk through the Japanese Garden or sit in the new swings in the Abroms Rhododendron Species Garden, water makes such a difference in the aesthetic of these spots. The gardens feel so alive.”

This story first appeared in the spring 2019 issue of The Garden Dirt magazine published by Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)