4 weeks ago

State Rep. Ball: One less thing

The Medical Cannabis Study Commission will soon hold its first official meeting in its quest to determine the best course for implementing practical and effective access to medicinal cannabis for Alabamians with medical needs.

There are probably more than a few skeptics who view the formation of this committee as just another attempt by Alabama politicians to avoid dealing with a hot-button issue for as long as possible. Given our history, skepticism is certainly justified, but I believe the circumstances surrounding the establishment of this commission clearly indicate that it is a deviation from the expected norm. This commission was constituted to determine how we should make medical cannabis available to those who need it, not if we should.

The formation of this commission represents the culmination of a journey that began for me in October 2013 with a late-night email from a desperate grandmother. The opening line of the email, which read, “I am asking for your support of Alabama Medical Marijuana,” almost resulted in its deletion.

At the time, I was committed to the mistaken notion that cannabis had no medicinal value, especially since my law enforcement career had placed me on the frontline of the decades-long war being waged against this misunderstood plant. Fortunately, being more investigator than politician caused me to read the entire email. Grief overtook my soul as I looked into the blank stare in the eyes of the baby girl in the attached photograph, taken on her first birthday. It awakened sleeping memories of other children that I’d been unable to help throughout the years.

As a grandfather, I empathized with the plight of this family willing to allow a glimmer of faith turn them into refugees rather than cower helplessly in fear as they watched the mind of this little girl being decimated by as many as 100 daily seizures. The email ended with a moral imperative: “Please help us if you can!!”

Although I believed that medical marijuana was a non-starter in the Alabama legislature, common decency dictated that I at least investigate the matter enough to fashion a reasonable response to what seemed to be an unreasonable request. Although my mind seemed set, this desperate grandmother deserved to know why I wasn’t planning to support Alabama Medical Marijuana.

An investigator’s thought process operates like a rotating cement mixer. Opinions within it are shaped and re-shaped by new evidence as it is acquired and tossed into the mix of ideas and theories stirring about. Thirst for truth supplies the impetus that keeps an investigator’s mind turning, with refreshing new discoveries acting like water keeping the conceptual mixture from setting up too soon.

Truth seeks those willing to humble themselves enough to recognize that they never know as much as they think they know and are not afraid to rethink their opinions. Those who think they know everything are incapable of learning much of anything, but those who assess themselves honestly and allow their opinions to be shaped and reshaped as they continue to think through new evidence are rewarded with refreshing drinks from the Fountain of Truth.

For days and weeks following that desperate plea, I was unable to find a legitimate reason to avoid facing the issue, unless one considers political expediency a legitimate reason. It created a moral dilemma just as candidate qualifying for the contentious 2014 legislative election season drew near. At first glance, it seemed the best choice was to avoid the issue until after the election, but that would require me to ignore the moral imperative to do what we can to ease the suffering of the helpless whenever we can. Political expediency could not justify a year of unnecessary suffering.

The decision to ignore political expediency and introduce Carly’s Law in 2014, decriminalizing possession of low-THC CBD oil, was neither noble nor courageous. It was simply a decision based upon avoiding what I feared most. I knew myself well enough to know that the potential political consequences associated with following my conscience paled in comparison to the spiritual turmoil associated with ignoring it.

I’ve learned much about medical cannabis since the introduction of Carly’s Law in 2014. I’ve learned that the nearly 50-year-old decision to classify cannabis as a Schedule I narcotic with no medicinal value was based more on politics and fear than medical evidence. Since that fateful decision was made, much effort has been expended in what seemed to be more about yielding to political fear than finding the truth about the therapeutic and palliative potential of this plant. It is difficult to assess the number of people that could have been helped had a more rational approach toward cannabis had been taken by President Nixon’s administration in the early 1970s.

Why so many for so long have neglected to question such a questionable decision is bewildering. One doesn’t have to be a scientist to recognize that had a more sensible approach toward cannabis been taken, its therapeutic and palliative qualities could have been utilized to allow innumerable patients to receive relief from pain and other neurological symptoms caused by numerous afflictions, including cancer and epileptic seizures.

I shudder to think of those who could have benefited from cannabis for treatment of pain who have become addicted to opioids and died directly or indirectly as a result.

The needless suffering of past victims caused by this tragic political overreaction cannot be undone, but I am hopeful that the Alabama Medical Cannabis Study Commission will move expeditiously to provide the legislature a clear path for toward allowing access for those who could benefit from the therapeutic qualities of cannabis.

The true success of their endeavor cannot be measured by a poll. The only measure that matters is the degree to which those who suffer can find a better life. Our meager efforts thus far have resulted in Carly’s Law and Leni’s Law and have already helped many, including the family that emailed me 6 years ago. Thanks to medical cannabis, the little girl whose plight captured my heart has just turned 7 and is now virtually seizure-free, sometimes going months without a seizure.

The formation of this commission promises to help many others who suffer many other maladies. Regardless, the commission has already benefited me. My load is considerably lighter since the moral obligation placed on my shoulders by a grandmother’s emailed plea is on their shoulders now.

As the moral genius Forrest Gump would say, “That’s good. One less thang.”

State Rep. Mike Ball is a retired major crimes investigator for the Alabama Bureau of Investigation and has served in the Alabama House of Representatives since 2002. He chairs both the Ethics and Campaign Finance and Madison County Legislation committees and holds seats on the Judiciary and State Government committees, as well.

2 hours ago

Alabama postpones 50th anniversary tour over singer’s health

Country band Alabama says it is postponing the remainder of its 50th anniversary tour as lead singer Randy Owen battles health complications.

The group announced Wednesday that the 69-year-old Owen is suffering from migraines and vertigo, and doctors say he needs more time to recover.

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The news comes after a string of already-canceled shows due to the singer’s health.

Bass player and vocalist Teddy Gentry wrote in a statement that though he and the rest of the band are disappointed, Owen’s recovery is the priority.

The 50-city tour was scheduled through Nov. 23, where it would have ended in Salisbury, Maryland.

Rescheduled dates will be released in the coming weeks.
(Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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How Alabama’s Iron Tribe Fitness sets the standard for group workouts

Iron Tribe Fitness, founded in Birmingham, Alabama, is leading the way for workout programs across the nation. Ranked as one of the top five workouts in the nation, this 45-minute HIIT group workout class offers participants exciting and effective workouts in a time frame that works with any kind of schedule.

Recently, the gym hosted Coach 201, a weekend training session for their instructors in their downtown Birmingham corporate location. This session brought together all of Iron Tribe’s local coaching staff to review training guidelines and program goals.

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In hosting this training, Iron Tribe is living out their core value of delivering a consistent experience. Forrest Walden, Iron Tribe’s founder and CEO says this training session taps into the heart of what the program does — which is creating communities that change lives.

“It’s always great to see the entire team come together to fellowship and dive deep into why we do what we do every day,” Walden said.

During the training, Iron Tribe coaches were given the opportunity to learn more about the classes they teach and strengthen their relationships with each other. As a result, the coaches are empowered to return to their home gyms and lead their athletes with renewed skills and confidence.

“Kyle Sottung, our director of product development, is extremely thorough and talented at what he does. To see him lead our Birmingham coaches is always such a blessing. Our coaches are more empowered now than ever to pour into the Birmingham community,” Walden stated.

According to Walden, Iron Tribe is successful because the program is more than just a workout, but a way to strengthen the communities they serve.

“Iron Tribe stands on a list off essential core beliefs. These beliefs steer what we do every day, both inside and outside the gym. It’s our hope that by continuing to develop ourselves that we can be exceptional coaches and role models within our communities,” Walden said.

Ready to get in the best shape of your life? Learn more by visiting irontribefitness.com.

3 hours ago

Limestone County sheriff indicted, arrested on 13 financial theft, ethics charges

Attorney General Steve Marshall on Thursday announced that Limestone County Sheriff Michael Anthony Blakely has been indicted and arrested on several ethics charges.

Blakely, 68, surrendered to authorities and was later released on a $49,000 bond, according to the attorney general’s office.

The indictment includes 13 charges that cover a range of conduct over multiple years.

“Public officials are entrusted to perform their duties honestly and above reproach,” Marshall said in a statement. “When that bond of trust is broken, our society suffers undue harm. My office—working with our federal and state partners—is committed to ensuring that the violators of the public trust be held accountable under the law.”

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Specifically, the first four counts charge Blakely with four separate thefts from his campaign account that total $11,000.

Counts five through 10 charge him with theft or ethics charges stemming from his illegally taking money from Limestone County funds, including from the Sheriff’s Law Enforcement Fund.

Count 11 charges Blakely with soliciting a $1,000 wire transfer from a subordinate other than in the ordinary course of business.

Finally, counts 12 and 13 charge the sheriff with using his official position or office to acquire interest-free loans. Count 12 charges Blakely with using his official position or office to obtain interest-free loans in the form of a $50,000 cashier’s check and/or a $22,189.68 credit. Count 13 charges Blakely with using his official position or office to obtain interest-free loans by taking money from a safe that was used to store the Limestone County inmates’ personal funds.

“I would like to thank the Federal Bureau of Investigation for its investigative assistance in this case,” Marshall added. “Anyone with information regarding corrupt practices by public officials is encouraged to contact the Alabama Attorney General’s Office at reportcorruption@ago.state.al.us.”

The case is being prosecuted by the state attorney general’s Special Prosecutions Division.

“While the overwhelming majority of public officials serve honorably, those who corrupt the operations of government rob their communities—their friends and neighbors—of the fundamental right to honest government, and we must insist on absolute honesty, integrity and trustworthiness from everyone,” FBI Birmingham Special Agent in Charge Johnnie Sharp, Jr. commented.

“I want the citizens of north Alabama to know that if they have information about potential wrongdoing by a public official or law enforcement officer, the FBI wants to hear from you,” he advised. “If you have information, call my office’s Public Corruption Tip Line at (844) 404-TIPS, share what you know, and join in the fight against corruption.”

Blakely, as is the case with all indictments, is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

UPDATE 1:20 p.m.

Blakely’s attorneys held a press conference emphasizing that he will plead not guilty to all counts, per WHNT.

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

3 hours ago

NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace: Talladega Superspeedway renovations ‘a whole different level’ — Expect to see other facilities follow its lead

On Wednesday at the Talladega Superspeedway, former NASCAR great Rusty Wallace, the 1989 champion of the sanctioning body’s premier series, took part in a tour with members of the media that showcased the finishing touches being put in the facility’s “Transformation” renovations with its October fall race weekend fast approaching.

The $50 million “Transformation” project comes as Talladega Superspeedway celebrates its 50th anniversary. Among the improved amenities are the Talladega Garage Experience, which is made up of the Open Air Club. Also included are a new Race Operations tower high above the track’s tri-oval and the new Pit Road Club that offers race fans a close-up view of team pit stops.

On Wednesday, Wallace appeared on Huntsville radio’s WVNN to discuss the facility’s overhaul and other changes to NASCAR over the past few decades.

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“These guys have taken it to a whole different level,” Wallace said. “I got there today, and we’re talking about all brand-new garage areas and they made it so all the fans can come down in the garage and stand literally three-foot in front of the race cars, watch the race cars pull in, watch the drivers get out, watch them run their motors, watch all the behind the scenes stuff. And that’s like nothing I’ve ever seen in our sport at all.”

“It adds some aspects to the new builds – the Daytona build, Phoenix, Ariz., Richmond, Va.,” he continued. “And those are fantastic. But Talladega is probably the best I’ve seen. I mean, you literally – you’re a fan. You can stand right in front of that car. It’s neat having that much access.”

When asked how it compared to another time in NASCAR when things were much more accessible, Wallace explained this offered an organization that that era did not provide.

“What it does is it organizes a lot better,” Wallace explained. “There’s places to watch. There are ways to watch. They’re even telling the pit crews where they can put their big toolboxes that they operate out of so it won’t obstruct the view of a fan that has come down there to see these cars.’

Wallace also touted the new 35,000-square foot Talladega Social Club with its 41-foot television and 71-foot wide bar, which was adjacent to the garage area.

The 1989 champion said he expected other NASCAR facilities around the country to follow Talladega’s lead.

“I think you’re going to see all these facilities around the country trying to keep up the facilities and make them the best you can,” he said. “If you ask Rusty Wallace, ‘Hey, do you want it hard or easy to sit inside of a race track,’ I’m going to tell them I want it easy. Do I want to go inside with the air conditioner when it is 100 degrees outside, I’m going to tell you yes. That’s the reason I like these new facilities they’ve got.”

Access to drivers and internet access also compliment the new facility, according to Wallace.

The track, along with its parent company, International Speedway Corporation, announced last year it’s “Transformation,” an approximate $50 million redevelopment that is part of ISC’s long-term capital allocation plan and reinvestment into its major motorsports complexes.

Full completion of the modernized project is anticipated for October. For ticket information for the 1000Bulbs.com 500 and Sugarlands Shine 250 doubleheader NASCAR Playoffs weekend, October 11-13, visit www.talladegasuperspeedway.com or call 855-518-RACE (7223).

@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.

4 hours ago

Alabama-made ULA rocket powers another GPS satellite into orbit

Alabama rocket builder United Launch Alliance (ULA) conducted its 135th mission Thursday morning when it powered yet another Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite into its targeted orbit.

The GPS III Magellan, built by Lockheed Martin, will enable the U.S. Air Force to continue modernizing the nation’s worldwide navigation network with improved accuracy, better anti-jam resiliency and a new signal for civil users.

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GPS satellites are frequent payload into space. Today’s launch was the 73rd GPS payload powered by ULA.

Of the 81 Air Force satellites in orbit, 34 are GPS satellites.

This fact recently led former Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson to quip, “The blue dot on your phone is not provided by your cellphone company; it comes from the United States Air Force.”

She elaborated that the Air Force provides GPS coordinates for about 1 billion people every day and enables an $80 billion piece of our economy. With its satellites, the Air Force takes pictures, gathers intelligence, facilitates global communication, monitors weather and conducts the critical task of providing timing signals for the New York Stock Exchange and every ATM in America.

This was the final flight for ULA’s Delta IV Medium rocket. The powerful Delta IV Heavy, with its three common booster cores, will continue to fly U.S. government missions.

The Delta IV’s main engine, manufactured by Aerojet Rocketdyne, consumed nearly a ton of fuel per second as it pushed the rocket in flight.

ULA’s 1.6 million square-foot manufacturing facility in Decatur is the largest of its kind in the Western Hemisphere.

Watch the launch:

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer News