The Wire

  • Three takeaways from Alabama’s Runoff Election


    With Alabama’s primary election runoffs now in the books, here are three takeaways from the results.

    North Alabama has spoken.
    When this election cycle began, it became evident that north Alabama saw a window of opportunity to increase its influence.  The results from the Republican primary runoff have shown the electorate in that area of the state was eager to flex its muscle.

    Will Ainsworth pulled out an impressive come-from-behind victory in the Lt. Governor’s race. Steve Marshall enjoyed a resounding win in his bid to retain the Attorney General’s office.

  • On Roby’s win: One false media narrative dies, a new one is born


    Like Lucy van Pelt of Peanuts comic strip fame repeatedly pulling the football away from Charlie Brown as he lines up to kick it, Rep. Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) once again has shown you can’t beat her in a Republican primary.

    Similar to when she defeated “Gather Your Armies” Rick Barber in the 2010 GOP primary and “Born Free American Woman” Becky Gerritson in the 2016 GOP primary, Roby defeated former Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright for a second time on Tuesday night, this time by a whopping 36 points.

    Heading into yesterday, many national media reporters were sent into Alabama’s second congressional district looking at the possibility that Roby might have to answer to a revolt for not sticking with then-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on the infamous Billy Bush weekend during the 2016 presidential campaign.

  • Mo Brooks Wins FreedomWorks’ Prestigious 2017 FreedomFighter Award

    Excerpt from a Rep. Mo Brooks news release:

    Tuesday, Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-05) was one of only 31 members of the U.S. House of Representatives awarded the prestigious 2017 FreedomFighter Award by FreedomWorks, a leading conservative organization with more than six million members nationwide. Only members of Congress who score better than 90% on the FreedomWorks scorecard receive the FreedomFighter Award. Congressman Brooks’ FreedomWorks score was in the top 4% of all Congressmen in 2017.

    Brooks said, “FreedomWorks is a leading organization in the conservative movement. I thank them for their work keeping members of Congress accountable and scoring key House floor votes which helps the American people better understand the impact of those votes. I was proud to receive the prestigious FreedomWorks 2017 FreedomFighter Award for my voting record in 2017. If America is to maintain its place as the greatest country in world history, more members of Congress must fight for the foundational principles that made America great. I’m fighting in Congress for those principles, and I’m glad to have a partner as effective as FreedomWorks in the fight.”

2 days ago

University of Alabama System chooses new interim chancellor Finis E. St. John

(Finis E. St. John IV)

The University of Alabama System has chosen an interim chancellor to replace the retiring of current chancellor Jay Hayes at the end of the month.

Finis E. “Fess” St. John, IV, who currently serves on the UA system’s Board of Trustees, will succeed Hayes on August 1.

St. John will take an unpaid leave of absence from St. John & St. John law firm in Cullman and will serve as interim chancellor without compensation.


“The fact that Fess St. John is willing to serve as our Interim Chancellor without compensation is a tremendous public service,” Board Trustee Joe Epsy said in a statement.

“We are extremely grateful that he is willing to step in and take on these complex administrative duties at a crucial time for our campuses and the UAB Health System,” Epsy continued, in part.

St. John graduated cum laude from Alabama in 1978, where he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Omicron Delta Kappa and Jasons. He went on to receive a law degree from the University of Virginia.

4 weeks ago

Far out: Univ. of Alabama astronomer helps discover a new type of black hole

(UA, Pixabay)

Astronomy news is always old news because of, you know, light years and such.

About 750 million years ago, in a galaxy far, far away (queue the Star Wars intro), a black hole consumed a nearby star in an event that has revealed to astronomers the existence of something new: a mid-sized black hole.

Dr. Jimmy Irwin, an associate professor of astronomy at the University of Alabama who is part of the team that discovered this new type of black hole, explained the revelation in an interview with Yellowhammer News.


Astronomers have established with good evidence the existence of “low-mass” black holes, which are judged to be between 3 and 30 times more massive than the sun, as well as “super-massive” black holes, one of which has been discovered in our own galaxy to be 4 million times more massive than the sun.

“We know that low-mass black holes form and we know that high-mass black holes form,” Dr. Irwin explained, “but between these two book ends, it’s not clear whether there’s a mechanism in nature that allows black holes to be formed with, say, a mass above one hundred times the mass of our sun and below one million times the mass of our sun.”

There’s pretty good evidence now, though, that such medium-sized black holes do exist.

As Dr. Irwin explained, when a black hole rips up and consumes a star, its debris becomes very hot and emits x-ray radiation, creating data that becomes observable over time.

“There’s already a built-in time lag, based upon the distance of the object,” Irwin said.

The observations that led to this discovery were made through what Dr. Irwin described as a detective-like process.

The astronomer who began the project, Dr. Dacheng Lin, was actually a post-doctoral researcher under Irwin in years past. Dr. Lin began looking back at data recorded by a variety of telescopes in Europe and the United States between 2003 and 2006 and discovered an observable change at a particular spot in this far-away universe.

“There was a bright x-ray source in one observation and it was dimmer in the next one,” Irwin explained.

“Piecing together the history he was able to discover that this probably happened, or at least this radiation reached the earth’s telescopes, probably sometime in 2003,” he said.

Irwin stressed that we’ve known about black holes for a long time, but not of this type.

“This idea of stars being torn apart isn’t a new idea,” he said. “What’s new is that we’re seeing stars ripped apart by one of these mid-sized black holes.”

@jeremywbeaman is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News

2 months ago

University of Alabama wins fourth straight championship — in robotics

(University of Alabama)

Make it four in a row.

University of Alabama students who competed in a NASA robotics contest came away with the top prize again, making it four straight years for the team from UA to win.

Alabama Astrobotics took the top prize at the NASA Robotic Mining Competition, besting student teams from more than 50 other institutions in the challenge to build a robot capable of navigating and excavating simulated Martian soil, or regolith.


Made up of about 65 students from across eight disciplines including engineering and computer science, Alabama Astrobotics is the only team to win more than once in the nine-year history of the NASA contest, placing first in 2012, 2015, 2016, 2017 and, now, 2018.

“Our team is just like a football team, you have seniors who graduate at the end and you have new people coming in at the beginning, so every year it’s a completely different team,” said team lead and electrical engineering student Max Eastepp. “For us to be successful this year says a lot for this team and says a lot for how we adapt to new challenges each year.”

Eastepp, a native of New Orleans, said teamwork is critical as students worked from July through the contest this month to design the robot and tackle the new problem NASA presented this year.

Contest organizers revised the rules and rubrics this year to reflect the discovery that water ice is prevalent throughout the Red Planet. The challenge is to mine the precious icy regolith, simulated with gravel in the contest, since water ice will provide oxygen, water and fuel for future off-world colonists.

What that meant for the contest, though, is no points were awarded to teams for digging the top foot of regolith. Teams earned points for collecting the gravel 12 inches below the surface.

UA’s robot mined more of the gravel than any other team in the contest, with many teams failing to mine any gravel.

Also, Alabama Astrobotics was the only team with a robot that competed entirely autonomously, meaning the robot used computer programming to guide itself, mine and deposit the soil and gravel without any directions from students during the contest.

The team placed first in five of nine categories: mining, autonomy, systems engineering paper, efficient use of communications power and outreach reports. In all, the students won $11,000 for use on next year’s robot.

Dr. Kenneth Ricks, team adviser and associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, said the team’s consistent success comes from a culture of sticking to a plan – meeting deadlines, testing thoroughly before competition and paying attention to detail.

“We know what needs to be done and when it needs to be done,” he said. “If our students buy into that process, they know they will have opportunities to be successful.”

The team received funding from the Alabama Space Grant Consortium, NASA, DyneticsFitz-Thors EngineeringCrank N Chrome and the university.

(Courtesy of University of Alabama)

2 months ago

UA Study — State crash data shows seat belt use critical in saving lives

(State Farm/Flickr)

Those involved in auto crashes while not wearing seat belts are 40 times more likely to die than those who buckle up, according to an analysis of state crash records from the past five years.

For the study, University of Alabama researchers at the Center for Advanced Public Safety examined crash records from 2013 through 2017 provided by the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, or ALEA.

Crash records showed about one out of every 25 unrestrained motorists involved in a crash will suffer a fatal injury, but only about one out of every 1,000 restrained motorists involved in a crash will have a fatal injury. This means that people are 40 times more likely to be killed without restraints.


One reason for this is those ejected from vehicles during crashes have 50 times the death rate as those who remain in the vehicles, and the probability of being thrown from vehicles increases about 337 times for those not restrained.

“There is no doubt that seat belts are the most effective way of reducing the chances of getting killed in a crash,” said Dr. David Brown, a research associate at CAPS who led the study. “The chances of avoiding a crash altogether that involves injury over your driving lifetime is very low, so these are not just hypothetical or extreme examples. They are real life-and-death probabilities.”

Along with an increased chance of dying in a crash if unrestrained, there is an increased chance of serious injury. About one in seven unrestrained motorists involved in a crash will sustain a serious injury, while only about one in 50 properly restrained motorists will have a serious injury.

The chances of serious injury for those unrestrained increase by more than a factor of seven. For those who buckle up, nine out of 10 are not injured during a crash.

Some of the other interesting factors include driver and passenger demographics and other correlations:

–Those between the ages 17 and 36 are unrestrained significantly more than average.
–Males are about twice as likely to be unrestrained as females.
–If all back-seat occupants were properly restrained, it would result in an estimated saving of 62 lives per year in Alabama.
–Unrestrained drivers are about 2.5 times more likely to have their crashes in the rural areas than in the cities.

Brown said there are many things drivers should do to prevent severe traffic crashes in addition to the use of seatbelts. They include, in the order of ability to prevent fatal crashes:

–Slowing down, as the probability of fatality doubles for every 10 mph increase.
–Pulling over to a safe stopping point until distractions, such as cell phones, are resolved.
–Never driving or riding with anyone who has had any alcohol or who has taken any mind-altering drugs, even if prescribed.
–Anticipating and avoiding bad weather, especially when coupled with darkness.
–Watching for deer if traveling just after dark and slowing down.
–Driving defensively to reduce risk by putting distance between others vehicles, staying out of the blind spots of large trucks and letting aggressive drivers pass.

(Courtesy of the University of Alabama)

2 months ago

Sheriff: Alabama lawsuit possible over social media comments

(Tuscaloosa County Sheriff)

An Alabama sheriff is threatening legal action against social media commenters and others who’ve criticized his department over the suicide of a one-time student at the University of Alabama.

Tuscaloosa County Sheriff Ron Abernathy raised the possibility Wednesday during a news conference to discuss the death of Megan Rondini and an investigation into her allegations of sexual assault.


Rondini’s parents last year sued Abernathy, two investigators and others over their handling of Rondini’s claims of sexual assault while attending Alabama in 2015. She killed herself in 2016.

Abernathy says a judge has now dismissed claims against him and his officers, and he says civil lawsuits are possible against people who have spread what he calls “slander” on social media.

Abernathy isn’t saying who might be a target of any lawsuit.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)
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2 months ago

Analysis: Alabama bioscience industry’s impact tops $7.3 billion a year

(Made in Alabama)

Alabama’s multifaceted biosciences industry generates $7.3 billion in economic activity annually while supporting 780 companies and nearly 48,000 direct and indirect jobs across the state, according to a new analysis by researchers at the University of Alabama.


The comprehensive study underscores the contributions and growth potential of the statewide life sciences sector, a robust combination of research institutions, medical labs, innovative startups, international pharmaceutical manufacturers, and more.

“We have exceptional strengths in biosciences, including world-class research organizations and a roster of cutting-edge companies, so it’s a natural growth area for the state,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“We’re committed to helping accelerate the development of the life sciences sector, and we want the state to become home to more of these high-paying jobs and the talented individuals to fill them,” he added.


The analysis, conducted for the BioAlabama industry trade group, shows that Alabama’s 780 life sciences companies directly employ 17,871 workers, each earning an average annual salary of $67,664. Total expenditures of those companies exceed $3.8 billion a year.

Other key findings in the University of Alabama (UA) report:

The bioscience industry’s 47,980 direct and indirect jobs in Alabama support a total yearly payroll of $2.3 billion.
The industry contributes $3.9 billion annually to Alabama’s gross domestic product (GDP), nearly 2 percent of the state’s total economic output.

The industry’s earnings impact generates $161.4 million in tax revenue annually, including $74.7 million in state income taxes and $86.7 million in state and local sales taxes.
In addition, the UA researchers examined the economic contributions of bio-industries such as agricultural feedstock and chemicals, and bioscience-related distribution.

They found that these activities magnified the impact of the core life sciences sector in Alabama, elevating overall economic output to $11 billion a year with more than 70,000 jobs and annual tax revenue topping $233 million.

“This analysis confirms the far-reaching impact of Alabama’s bioscience industries throughout the state, and demonstrates why we continue to pursue strategies that allow the sector to continue to grow and create even more high-caliber jobs across the state,” said Blair King, president-elect of BioAlabama and manager of economic development and existing industry at Alabama Power Co.


The foundations of Alabama’s bioscience research rest on the work conducted by the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), Southern Research, the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, and the University of South Alabama’s Mitchell Cancer Institute.

Their specialties of these organizations include drug discovery and development, genomics, and personalized medicine. They also frequently engage in collaborations such as the Alabama Drug Discovery Alliance, a partnership between UAB and Southern Research that has developed a pipeline of potential therapeutics for diseases such as cancer and diabetes.

Alabama is also home to multinational companies involved in pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturing. In March, Germany’s Evonik, for example, announced plans to expand production of biomaterials and launch a Global Competence Center for Medical Devices at its Birmingham facility.

“Evonik’s investments in the Birmingham site reflect its commitment to the medical device and drug delivery business as well as the city of Birmingham and its history of world-class medical research and technology,” said Kel Boisvert, Birmingham site manager for Evonik.

Other manufacturers operating in the state include Kowa Pharmaceuticals (Montgomery), Nektar Therapeutics (Huntsville), Baxter and Pharmavite (both Opelika), and Oxford Pharmaceuticals, Avanti Polar Lipids and Biohorizons (all Birmingham).

At the same time, a number of innovative startup companies have sprung up in Alabama, with many of them based at HudsonAlpha and Birmingham’s Innovation Depot, the Southeast’s largest technology business incubator.

Promising startups include Birmingham’s Blondin Bioscience, Huntsville’s GeneCapture, Mobile’s Swift Biotech and Auburn’s Vitruvias Therapeutics.

“We are fortunate to have started our business in Alabama because we have benefitted from the highly collaborative entrepreneurial spirit throughout the state, including Alabama Launchpad and the various Small Business Development Centers, and especially our connection with HudsonAlpha and the University of Alabama in Huntsville,” said BioAlabama President Peggy Sammon, CEO and co-founder of GeneCapture.

“We have been able to find highly skilled molecular biologists, chemical engineers, optical engineers and lab specialists,” she added. “Our membership in BioAlabama has connected us with other scientists and business professionals who have significantly helped us advance our business plan.”

Alabama’s research universities are key players in the bioscience ecosystem and contribute to the industry’s economic impact. The network includes Auburn University, USA, Tuskegee University, Alabama State University Alabama A&M University, and the three University of Alabama System campuses.


The analysis is the first to comprehensively examine the economic impact of the state’s bioscience sector. It was prepared by Senior Research Economist Sam Addy, Ph.D., and his team at the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Alabama’s Culverhouse College of Business, with assistance from BioAlabama.

Addy noted in the report that investing in life sciences should remain a pillar of the state’s overall economic development strategy.

“Alabama should continue to keep biosciences as a focus in its economic development strategy since these industries provide high-wage jobs and are highly productive,” he writes.


“Since launching its cancer program in 1946, Southern Research has discovered seven FDA-approved oncology drugs and made many significant discoveries that have helped patients with cancer and other diseases,” said Art Tipton, Ph.D., president and CEO of the Birmingham non-profit. “This highlights the vital importance of the groundbreaking bioscience work that continues to be done in labs in Alabama.”

“I see UAB as not only the hub for healthcare innovation in Birmingham, but definitely throughout the state and the region,” said Kathy Nugent, Ph.D., executive director of UAB’s Harbert Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “That means producing as many companies as possible. It’s harder to produce biotech companies, because it takes time to develop new drug therapies. What we’re trying to do is think about it strategically and give our faculty the resources they need to be entrepreneurial to turn their research into new life sciences ventures.”

“HudsonAlpha has gone from just a handful of startups and faculty to more than 35 life sciences companies and 15 faculty investigators in just 10 years,” said Carter Wells, vice president for economic development at HudsonAlpha. “It goes to show that Jim Hudson and Lonnie McMillian’s model works, and we’re proud to be a part of the biotech hub in North Alabama.”

(Courtesy Made in Alabama)

2 months ago

Bobbleheads celebrating Alabama national championship now available

(Crimson Tide)

The Alabama Crimson Tide celebrated the national football championship in front of millions of TV viewers and visited the White House.

But now the University of Alabama’s latest title truly is official — there’s a bobblehead.


The National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum announced Friday that the officially licensed bobblehead commemorating the 2017 title had arrived. A limited number of individually numbered bobbleheads are available at the museum’s online store.

The figure, featuring Crimson Tide Mascot Big Al on a gridiron base with the national championship logo and a replica of the champions trophy, sells for $35 and a shipping charge of $8.

“This bobblehead is the perfect way for Crimson Tide fans to commemorate the school’s 2017 national championship season,” museum co-founder and CEO Phil Sklar said in a statement. “These will be cherished collectibles that celebrate the tremendous success of this team and the 17th national championship in program history.”

The Crimson Tide blitzed top-seeded Clemson University 24-6 in the Sugar Bowl and then defeated the University of Georgia 26-23 in the national championship game. It was Alabama coach Nick Saban’s fifth national championship in Tuscaloosa and sixth overall.

Organizers announced plans for the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum in 2014 and hosted a preview exhibit in 2016. Founders plan a permanent location in Milwaukee this spring. The museum produces customized bobbleheads for organizations and individuals across the country.

FOCO — previously known as Team Beans LLC and Forever Collectibles — manufactures the bobbleheads. It has been a leading manufacturer of sports and entertainment merchandise for 17 years.

FOCO makes products licensed by all major sports leagues, including the National Football League, Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, NASCAR, Major League Soccer and more than 100 colleges and universities. It also has produced goods for entertainment companies like Disney, Warner Bros./DC Comics and Nickelodeon.

@BrendanKKirby is a senior political reporter at LifeZette and author of “Wicked Mobile.”

3 months ago

Druid City Brewing is an Alabama Maker fermented in Tuscaloosa

(B. Faush/Alabama NewsCenter)

Brewing beer in a college town known for tailgating, fraternity parties and celebrating national championships may seem like a no-brainer.

That’s what concerned Bo Hicks and Elliot Roberts.

“We had the idea one day that somebody might start a brewery that didn’t particularly care about the community and just wanted to capitalize on the university being here,” Hicks said.


So the two homebrewers outlined a business plan on the back of a napkin for what would become Druid City Brewing Co., which they opened in November 2012.

“It’s sort of been amazing from what we planned to how it evolved and to what it’s become,” said Hicks, co-owner and brewer at Druid City. “It’s something I’m really proud to have here in Tuscaloosa and to be a part of the community.”

Being part of the community means displaying art from Alabama artists on the wall, playing albums from Alabama musicians and hosting regional live acts regularly at the brewery.

It’s also in their name.

Tuscaloosa got the nickname “The Druid City” because of the large water oaks that once were dominant in downtown. The Druids were ancient Celtic people who worshipped oak trees, hence the connection. The local hospital was named Druid City Hospital (now DCH Regional Medical Center) and before integration, there was Druid City High School.

“When we opened we didn’t want to be, ‘Oh, we’re Tuscaloosa Brewing.’ We wanted to have a little bit of quirk and something that was a little more down home for people that were really familiar with Tuscaloosa,” Hicks said.

Then, there’s the chalkboard.

The chalkboard in the brewery changes frequently to include a temporary art creation that is often a play on an old album cover or a classical piece of art but usually substitutes the main subjects with University of Alabama football figures.

Coaches Paul “Bear” Bryant and Nick Saban stand in for Art Garfunkel and Paul Simon, respectively, on the most recent art work, which mimics the duo’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” album cover.

While the chalkboard may be the focal point of the taproom, the centerpiece of the brewery is the beer.

Druid City Wheat, Druid City Pale Ale, Lamplighter IPA, Riverside Saison and Tuskaloosa Stout are regular offerings. One of the standout beers is the Downtown North Porter, a rich, imperial porter that takes its name from Northport, the city across the Black Warrior River from Tuscaloosa.

“It’s like drinking a black velvet painting of Elvis. It is delicious,” Hicks said. “It’ll bring a tear to a glass eye.”

Druid City also works with area farmers such as Snow’s Bend Farm to take fruits that may not look good enough to sell but can be used to flavor some specialty brews.
Druid City Brewing Co.

The Product: Beers in a variety of classic styles available on tap at multiple outlets.

Take home: A growler of Downtown North Porter (prices vary).

607 14th St., Tuscaloosa

Follow on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 months ago

School shootings: Univ. of Alabama launches program to track student warning signs, prevent next Parkland

(Bama at Work/YouTube)

Warning signs are easy to spot in retrospect, but identifying them early can save lives.

That is the driving force behind an innovative partnership between the University of Alabama and a private company called Firestorm. They have launched a program called BERTHA — Behavioral Risk Threat Assessment, an online training program designed to help schools with grades kindergarten through 12th grade identify early signs of potential violence and then intervene.

The program, which went online last fall, is free for Alabama schools that sign up by Sept. 1. After that, schools will pay a $2,500 annual licensing fee.


Brenda Truelove, program manager for corporate engagement at the university’s College of Continuing Education, said the initiative is getting a good response from schools, both in and outside of Alabama.

“The goal is we don’t want anymore parents to realize, ‘My child’s not coming home today’ because somebody missed something,” she said. “Some of the benchmarks and clues were missed.”

Truelove said the school and Firestorm have been developing the program for about five years. She said as far as she knows, it is the only one of its kind in the country. She said schools are eager for help.

“They need resources, and this is a tangible resource,” she said.

Many troubled teenagers who have committed mass shootings have exhibited similar behaviors that might have predicted the outbursts.

Those are easy to see in retrospect. For instance, Nikolas Cruz — accused of the Valentine’s Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida — has lost his parents and gotten in trouble at school. Law enforcement officers had been called to his home 39 times.

Truelove said BERTHA helps schools develop systems to track students’ behavior over time, detect changes and provide help.

“It allows them to say, ‘Johnny had problems in the third grade, and now he’s still having problems in the fifth grade,” she said.

BERTHA aims to train local school officials to identify trouble signs that might be more subtle than the giant flashing lights Cruz presented. Those factors include:

— Student has experienced multiple losses.
— Student has suicidal thoughts.
— Student has made threatening, specific plans.
— Student is laughed at or talked about negatively.
— Student has demonstrated volatile mood swings.
Truelove said the response does not have to be punitive. Signs that a student might be a threat to commit violence often are signals that he or she is suffering. Getting a student appropriate help early may not only help him but prevent a tragedy years down the road, she said.

The university’s partner, Firestorm, bills itself as one of America’s leading crisis and risk management firms. It has been working with schools to prevent mass shootings since after the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre.

“We didn’t get into this to make money but to save lives,” founder and CEO James Satterfield said in a statement provided by the University of Alabama. “What we’re trying to do is get the issue back to where it needs to be. How do you act before there’s an act of violence? BERTHA is ready to address that.”

Truelove said she believes BERTHA should be a part of every school’s toolkit.

“BERTHA is not the answer to every problem,” she said. “But it’s a framework.”

@BrendanKKirby is a senior political reporter at LifeZette and author of “Wicked Mobile.”


3 months ago

Doug Jones addresses University of Alabama students on net neutrality — Argues to keep FCC over regulation of the Internet

(Jeff Poor/YHN)

TUSCALOOSA – Keeping the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in charge of regulating the Internet is a key in the net neutrality debate for Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook).

Friday at an almost-full Ferguson Center auditorium on the campus of the University of Alabama, Jones hosted a forum on net neutrality and argued that Internet service providers shouldn’t play favorites with content.

“What net neutrality does do is to say we don’t like to have Internet service providers that will try to block content, try to restrict content, try to throttle back content for favored businesses, for favored companies,” he said. “In other words, if you want to pay more for Netflix, here is the price. And by the way, if you want Hulu or Amazon Prime, we’re not offering that.”


Jones explained how recently the FCC had abdicated its role as the Internet’s regulator, which he said made “no sense.”

“The FCC came up with the Internet protections, the Internet regulations, the open Internet rule to try to levelize the playing field,” he said. “Make sure that everyone that had access to the Internet had essentially the same access from all places.”

“This past year, the recent FCC has decided to roll back that,” Jones continued. “They decided to change that and say, ‘We don’t really have this jurisdiction. It needs to be from somewhere else.’ The Federal Communications Commission, which I can’t really understand why – the Federal Communications Commission is saying we do not have the authority or should not have the authority to regulate the Internet because it is not under our jurisdiction. That makes no sense to me.”

According to Alabama’s junior senator, the hope by some is to put the Internet under the purview of either the Federal Trade Commission or the Department of Justice.

“Now, they want to put it over the FTC, the Federal Trade Commission, or the Department of Justice – none of that makes any sense to me,” Jones said. “It may make sense to you. If it does, I would like to hear, seriously.”

Jones argued the Internet was a communications device, and therefore should remain under the jurisdiction of the FCC.

“I’m having a hard time with the FCC deciding how someone else – particularly the Department of Justice,” he added. “I mean, I’ve done two stints with the Department of Justice, one as an assistant U.S. Attorney many years ago, and then as U.S. Attorney about 15 years ago.”

Jones explained how Congress could get involved and by statute put the Internet back under the FCC’s regulatory duties. He cited using the Congressional Review Act of 1996 to override the FCC’s decision.

“It is not used very often, but it gives Congress the opportunity to weigh in,” he said. “Right now there are 50 senators out of the 100 – not quite enough to get us over the hump – that have signed on to the congressional resolution, the Congressional Review Act, the CRA, that would roll back and halt the FCC’s doing away with their own rule that they had in 2015.

“I don’t know where that’s going to go,” he added, noting that it wasn’t something that would require the signature of President Donald Trump to put into motion.

Jones went on to pledge his support for a “free and open” Internet, and warned that without net neutrality big Internet companies would put profits ahead of consumers and perhaps created fast and slow “lanes.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and is the editor of Breitbart TV.

3 months ago

Trump hails championship Alabama football team

President Donald Trump is hailing the University of Alabama football team’s “win for the ages” in their latest championship season.

Trump hosted Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban and the players at the White House on Tuesday to honor their fifth national title in nine years.


The president attended the championship game in Atlanta, in which Alabama staged a second-half comeback to defeat Georgia, 26-23.

Trump watched the Jan. 8 game from a private box overlooking the Alabama sideline, flanked by ROTC students. The president departed the stadium during halftime as Georgia led Alabama 13-0.

Trump says Alabama’s triumph is “one of the greatest victories ever.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a former Alabama senator, was among those on the South Lawn for team’s visit.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

3 months ago

The bigot went down to ‘Bama: Controversy over ‘white nationalist’ speech in Tuscaloosa is sign of progress


So a racist is going to give a speech next week on the campus of the University of Alabama.

The speaker, Jared Taylor, has been called a white nationalist, a white supremacist, and a racist for advocating what he describes as “race realism.”

The student newspaper, the Crimson and White, denounced Taylor’s views as “abhorrent and incorrect” and the university made sure people knew it had nothing to do with the event.

“This speaker was invited by a registered student organization that followed appropriate policies and processes,” said Stuart Bell, the university’s president. “The best way to demonstrate distaste for hateful dialogue is not to give it an audience.”

I’ll provide some thoughts this week on Taylor’s views, the administration’s decision, and how students should respond, but before diving into all of that we should revel in this beautiful fact: If someone planned to deliver a racist speech on campus six decades ago, it wouldn’t have been called “abhorrent” and “hateful.”

It would have been called … Thursday night.


Nobody would have noticed.

Campus life would have moved along as if nothing controversial was happening.

And not a single reporter would have wasted their time writing about something so commonplace as a little-known racist saying racists things somewhere in Alabama.

But we have noticed. Students aren’t ignoring it. And as you clearly see, writers are indeed writing about it.

That’s undeniable progress, and Alabamians should use this moment to pause and recognize the substantial gains our state has made on the issue of racism.

Do we still have problems? You bet.

Have our hearts changed enough? Not yet.

But are we the same state … the same culture … that cheered as our governor stood in the way of a young woman attending class at the University of Alabama? Of course not.

And for that, we can be, and ought to be, quite proud.

You’ve come a long way, ‘Bama.

@jpepperbryars is the editor of Yellowhammer News and the author of American Warfighter

3 months ago

University of Alabama attracting more Illinois students

(University of Alabama)

Alabama colleges are luring more Illinois high school seniors away from in-state universities partly through financial perks.

The Chicago Tribune reports that more than 1,600 Illinois students enrolled at the University of Alabama last fall, up from about 150 students a decade ago.


Students cite financial incentives as one of the main reasons for flocking to Alabama. The university awarded more than 200 full-tuition scholarships to freshmen from Illinois last year.

Illinois’ public universities have increased tuition and fees over the past several years to make up for lost state revenue. State data say costs have increased by up to 56 percent at some public universities since 2008.

Almost 46 percent of Illinois high school graduates left the state in 2016, compared to almost 30 percent in 2002.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

3 months ago

Volunteers pave way to healing of JSU students after March 19 Alabama storms

(C. Thomas/University of Alabama)

With the havoc left by tornadoes and severe storms, many Jacksonville residents are facing many uncertainties after losing homes and possessions.

There’s been some uneasiness, as well, for students at Jacksonville State University (JSU), where some Gamecocks feared they’d return to a decimated campus. Even more so, many international students had the additional concern of trying to replace belongings lost to the storm.

But volunteers for the Center for Service and Leadership at the University of Alabama are helping ensure that Jacksonville students can return to class on April 9. A poster implored students to help: “Jacksonville State shouldn’t have to do it alone. Let’s help our neighbors.”


Many residents and students have long memories of the drastic hits on the community by F-5 tornadoes on April 11, 2011. There’s a strong empathy for the Jacksonville community.

“Remember, we were dealing with the same thing in Tuscaloosa a few years ago,” said Courtney Thomas, director of the Center for Service and Leadership.

The center took donations of air mattresses, cereal, cleaning supplies, dish soap, duct tape, dust pans, jelly, rakes, scrub brushes, laundry detergent, packing tape, peanut butter, plastic bins, ponchos, push brooms and zip ties.

On Saturday, March 31, about 50 University of Alabama students descended on Hugh Merrill Hall at the JSU campus. There, the volunteers painted, set new floor tiles, removed old office furniture and cleaned the building so the dean of the business school and other faculty can move in. Jacksonville State Facility Services employees and others helped spruce up the space.

Bama volunteers will return April 7 to finish cleaning and touch up any areas on the two floors where students will return to classes.

“It’s a good feeling,” Thomas said, “being able to help them. We’ve been there.”
For many JSU students, concerns about tests or selecting an exotic locale for spring break were eclipsed by the EF3 tornado on March 19.

Several international students, some of whom lived off-campus, lost almost everything they owned. But, thanks to efforts by members of the Eastern Division Chapter of the Alabama Service Organization (APSO) and the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce, life will soon be a little easier.

“We want to make things better for these international students with critical needs,” said Varnestra Jones, Eastern APSO 2018 president. “We are just thankful they were on spring break during the storms, it was pretty bad. The fact no one was killed is a real blessing.”

On April 3, Eastern Division Communications Specialist Jacki Lowry and Jones mobilized for a morning Walmart run. Armed with a long supply list from the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce, Jones and Lowry each pulled a shopping cart. They were quickly loaded down with backpacks, deodorant, 11 comforter sets, first-aid kits, pillows, snacks, suitcases, stationary products, 25 toothbrushes and toothpaste, and 16 towel sets.

“We tried to purchase brightly colored towels in peach and teal for the ladies, and gray and blue for the guys,” said Jones, Eastern Division training coordinator. “They’re young – we want to brighten up their day.”

The next day, Jones and Lowry, joined by Kiyunda Smoot, manager of Alabama Power‘s Jacksonville business office, packed the items into an SUV and delivered them for later distribution by the Chamber of Commerce.

Eastern APSO, along with the Jacksonville subchapter, provided 10 Walmart gift cards so students can buy essentials.

Jones said that APSO members realize the storm was especially trying for JSU students without family members in Alabama, who are trying to deal with replacing daily necessities.

“We are glad that we are able to help, but we don’t want our efforts to stop here,” said Jones, who has worked for Alabama Power for 17 years. “We’re looking to make repairs and help paint during a JSU cleanup day.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

4 months ago

Alabama ex-band director accused of touching student’s buttocks

(Jefferson Co. Sheriff's Dept.)

A former high school band director in Alabama is accused of touching a student’s buttocks.

News outlets report a March 9 indictment made public Wednesday charged 26-year-old Adam Bearden with having sexual contact with a student under the age of 19 as a school employee, a felony.

Bearden resigned from Pinson Valley High School amid the investigation in 2017, a year after he was rehired because of an outpouring of community support when he was laid off in 2016.

Bearden taught at the high school for three years, and had spent four years with University of Alabama’s official marching band, the Million Dollar Band.

According to Jefferson County Jail records, he was booked and released March 24. It’s unclear whether he has a lawyer.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

4 months ago

Alabama governor: Significant damage in areas

(Governor Kay Ivey/Flickr)

The governor of Alabama says there has been significant damage in parts of Alabama.

Gov. Kay Ivey said state resources were being sent to the affected areas, especially Jacksonville and Calhoun County, in her statement Monday night.

She added, “Our first priority is ensuring our people are safe. Please stay out of affected areas and let first responders do their job.”


Alabama Power Co. is reporting about 15,000 homes and businesses without electricity in areas including Calhoun and Etowah counties.

Significant damage has been reported at Jacksonville State University in Alabama.

Athletic director Greg Seitz said in a tweet Monday evening, “I can confirm we have major roof damage at Pete Mathews Coliseum, but The Pete is not completely destroyed.” He said there was extensive damage in Jacksonville.

The National Weather Service in Birmingham, Alabama, tweeted earlier that there was possibly a large tornado near Jacksonville and Calhoun County that was moving east into northern Cleburne County.

Severe storms have damaged buildings and downed trees in a northern Alabama county.

The Limestone County Sheriff’s Office posted photos on Twitter of houses without roofs and destroyed garages in Ardmore, Alabama, on Monday evening. But it had no reports of injuries from the storms.

The office also tweeted that downed trees and power lines were blocking roads in the county along the Tennessee border.

The National Weather Service in Huntsville, Alabama, issued a severe weather statement at 6:41 p.m. that a confirmed tornado was over Ardmore and moving east.

The University of Alabama planned to suspend normal operations Monday evening because of a severe weather threat.

The school said in a news release that operations would be suspended from 6:30 p.m. until midnight. That means classes and campus activities scheduled during that window are canceled.

University libraries were set to close at 6:30 p.m. and some dining halls were set to close early.

Campus shelters were open to students, faculty and staff at North Campus Storm Shelter, East Campus Storm Shelter and the Magnolia Parking Deck. The Magnolia Parking Deck accepts pets accompanied by their owners.

The university plans to provide updates on Twitter at @UA_Safety.

(Image: Governor Kay Ivey/Flickr)

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

4 months ago

Severe storms spawn tornadoes, damage homes in Southeast US


Severe storms that spawned tornadoes damaged homes and downed trees as they moved across the Southeast on Monday night.

Forecasters warned that the storms could threaten more than 29 million people, raising the risk of powerful tornadoes, damaging winds and hail the size of tennis balls.

Cities in northern Alabama reported power outages, and the National Weather Service in Huntsville reported at least three confirmed tornadoes in the area.


In Limestone County, an Alabama county on the Tennessee border, the sheriff’s office posted photos online of houses with roofs ripped off and outbuildings torn from their foundations. Several roads were closed because of power lines or trees, the office tweeted. But it had no reports of injuries from the storms.

The athletic director at Jacksonville State University said late Monday there was significant damage to the campus.

“I can confirm we have major roof damage at Pete Mathews Coliseum, but The Pete is not completely destroyed,” Greg Seitz said in a tweet.

Seitz later tweeted that they were still surveying the campus but that there was major roof damage to two halls, adding that his was thankful that JSU was on spring break this week and that most students are out of town.

Portions of northern Alabama and southern Tennessee were still under tornado warnings Monday night, and the National Weather Service issued a tornado watch for much of northern Georgia as the line moved eastward.

Forecasters said the storm threat is unusually dangerous because of the possibility of several tornadoes, some of which could be intense. The weather service says hail as large as 3 inches (7.5 centimeters) in diameter could fall, and there’s a possibility of wind gusts to 70 mph (115 kph).

“The potential for strong to violent, long-track tornadoes is a real possibility,” Alabama state meteorologist Jim Stefkovic said at a news conference.

Alabama Emergency Management Executive Operations Officer Jeff Smitherman raised the threat level and increased staffing at Alabama’s emergency management agency. The storms are the first severe weather to threaten the state this year.

School systems from central Tennessee as far south as Birmingham, Alabama, let out early, hoping students and staff would have time to get home before the storms moved through.

The threatened storms come one day before the official start of spring, and are “by far the most impressive setup we’ve seen so far this year,” said Kurt Weber, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Huntsville, Alabama.

“We can’t rule out a strong tornado east of Interstate 65 at this point with all the ingredients coming together,” Weber added. “Hopefully not, but definitely a possibility.”

He said golf ball to tennis ball-sized hail, which can do serious damage to buildings and cars, was possible.

“This is one of those days you want to put the car in the garage if you can,” Weber said.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey urged Alabamians to implement safety plans and get in a safe location.

“We are not taking the situation lightly,” Ivey said. “Severe weather is unpredictable and that is why it is paramount we prepare ahead of time.”

The University of Alabama suspended operations Monday from 6:30 p.m. to midnight, meaning classes and campus activities were cancelled, libraries closed and shelters were opened on campus.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

6 months ago

‘Spanking’ without consequences — University of Alabama sticks with leftist Anniston Star amid sexual harassment scandal


(Opinion) Last week, The Tuscaloosa News’ Drew Taylor reported the University of Alabama would continue its community journalism program at The Anniston Star, a newspaper in the public eye for sexual misconduct allegations committed by its longtime editor H. Brandt Ayers in the 1970s.

Monica Watts, the associate vice president for communications at the University of Alabama, verified The Tuscaloosa News’ reporting and told Yellowhammer News that this “excellent training program” would continue.

“The University considers the safety and security of its students as its highest priority,” Watts said in a statement offered to Yellowhammer News late Wednesday. “UA students have worked with the Anniston Star in the community journalism program since 2006, and absent additional information, this excellent training program will continue. Until the recent reports, the University was unaware of the allegations about Mr. Ayers from the 1970s. Mr. Ayers has not directly supervised UA community journalism students and, to our knowledge, has not played an active role in the newsroom training of our students during the program’s existence. Newsroom managers and UA faculty members directly supervise UA students.”

Far be it from me to question what a college student might learn from The Anniston Star’s newsroom. How to be hostile toward Republican politicians or working toward making Calhoun County a socialist utopia immediately come to mind.

However, how is it possible the University of Alabama in good conscience can continue its relationship with The Anniston Star?

Indeed, in this era of the political left (which includes the media and academia) being drunk on virtue, such behavior cannot go unanswered without some consequence.

Unlike, failed Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Roy Moore, who faced allegations with nearly the same amount time elapsed as Ayers, Ayers admitted to the wrongdoing.

But then again, unlike Moore, The Anniston Star’s editorial board holds a lot of opinions with which those that run the University of Alabama probably agree.

A quick glance of the University of Alabama’s website shows a policy with an emphasis on raising “awareness” about sexual assault. Numerous op-eds and staff editorials have appeared in The Crimson White, the university’s student newspaper, over the past year decrying sexual assault and touting the #MeToo campaign.

The University of Alabama severing ties with The Anniston Star to make a statement and “raise awareness” seems like a no-brainer at this point.

The brain trust that runs the Capstone offers the rationale that since Ayers wasn’t in contact with the students in the community journalism program, there’s no reason to discontinue this relationship.

Here’s the dirty little secret: The University of Alabama has a long-standing relationship with Ayers. In 2002, the University awarded Ayers what was reported to be its highest honor — The Henry and Julia Tutwiler Distinguished Service Award. He was also the featured speaker that year at the University’s winter commencement ceremony.

Yes, Ayers graduated with a degree from Alabama in 1959. But otherwise, why would he be considered for such an honor? Was it the grand overtures about the merits of communism in the former Soviet Union? Perhaps it was his stalwart defense of Bill Clinton against a scandal-driven media years earlier.

The likely answer was that Ayers at the time was a player in Alabama Democratic Party politics. He and Alabama Education Association head Paul Hubbert, a Democratic Party candidate for governor, were allies. And he was in their view justly rewarded with this honor from high academia and built a relationship that continues through today.

The Anniston Star shouldn’t cease publication because of its previous editor’s behavior.

However, it should not be rewarded with having the prestige of the University of Alabama’s seal of approval. It’s not as if there are dozens of other newspapers spread throughout the state of Alabama it could partner with for this allegedly valuable education program.

Jeff Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and works as the editor of Breitbart TV. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeff_poor.

6 months ago

Kirby Smart supposedly took a picture that might put a damper on his friendship with Nick Saban

Kirby Smart and Nick Saban (Wikimedia Commons)
Kirby Smart and Nick Saban (Wikimedia Commons)


The national championship matchup has a lot of people speculating about the publicly cordial relationship between Nick Saban and his former Tide coaching colleague Kirby Smart, and a recent story by Aaron Suttles of the Tuscaloosa News adds, let’s just say, some drama to the mix.

“The Tuscaloosa News learned that on his way out the door, Smart took a picture of Alabama’s recruiting board, which hangs in the inner sanctum of the Alabama football building, and showed it to recruits who weren’t necessarily at the top of that board,” Suttles wrote. 

Why this matters: Recruiting in college football is as competitive as the games themselves. It’s so big, in fact, that it elicits publications and pundits to rank coaches in terms of how well they do it. If Smart actually took that picture, he not only disrespected his friend in Coach Saban and the entire Alabama team – he committed football treason.

6 months ago

Left-wing activists call on Nick Saban to speak out against Trump’s NFL anthem protest criticisms, decline White House invite

( & White House/Flickr)

( & White House/Flickr)



In a press release issued Thursday, the liberal activist group CREDO Action boasted about a petition it claims that more than 72,000 people have signed calling on University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban to speak out against President Donald Trump.

The petition encourages Saban to “disavow” Trump’s criticism of the National Anthem protests by NFL players and to pledge to decline an invite to the White House should Alabama emerge victorious in Monday’s college football national championship game against the University of Georgia Bulldogs.

“Take a stand against Donald Trump’s racism. Disavow his hateful critique of NFL protesters who are speaking out against systemic racism and police brutality. Affirm your players’ right to protest and pledge not to take your team to the White House if you win the national championship.”

CREDO Action is the advocacy arm of CREDO, a self-proclaimed “social change organization” and offers fundraising methods for other liberal groups.

Jeff Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and works as the editor of Breitbart TV. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeff_poor.

7 months ago

That time Nick Saban chewed me out at a press conference


Looks like I have a new and improved excuse to stand firm as the only non-Crimson Tide fan in my family:

Nick Saban is my trigger.

I’ve been having some strange reactions to sports news lately but I couldn’t think why …

— First, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey announced that SEC Media Days will no longer be held exclusively at the Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover.

Thinking about SEC Media Days made my eyes start to twitch.

— Then, Phillip Fulmer was named Tennessee’s acting athletic director after John Currie was fired.

My hands began to shake.

— Next, Saban’s defensive coordinator signed on as head football coach for the Volunteers.

SEC Media Days … Phillip Fulmer … Nick Saban … Tennessee … Alabama …

Something about it all made me break out in hives.

And then the memory came back, washing over me in one big wave.

Remember back in the early 2000s when Coach Fulmer was Tennessee’s head coach and he secretly told the SEC and NCAA about a University of Alabama booster who cheated to recruit players? All that led to an NCAA investigation, the booster’s conviction and probation for the Crimson Tide.

I was a news and sports intern at Birmingham’s WBRC in 2003 when Coach Fulmer was one controversial guy in Alabama.

I can’t remember the exact details (and calls and emails to WBRC did not receive a response), but someone in the sports department sent me — unsuspecting, no-clue-me — into SEC Media Days with one question for all the football coaches, along the lines of: “What do you think of what Coach Fulmer did by telling on Alabama?”

Can you even imagine how then-LSU Coach Saban reacted when he realized I was asking him to gossip?

Oh. My. Word.

Whatever he said sent me into a terrified stupor.

In my mind’s eye, he went from looking something like this:


To something like this but worse:

(Alabama Football/Facebook)

So, that’s right: If people can claim that Donald Trump and spiders are legitimate triggers, then I’m claiming Nick Saban as my trigger and that’s why I can’t cheer for Alabama to get to the National Championship (okay, okay I do respect the guy and won’t cry if they win).

Maybe a Saban chewing is a rite of passage? This YouTube video from Josh Snead says it all (I feel ya, Josh):



Rachel Blackmon Bryars is managing editor of

(Are you scared of Coach Saban? What would you ask him at a press conference?)

7 months ago

University of Alabama student dresses as Christmas tree for class, goes viral

(University of Alabama)
(University of Alabama)


Forgive Kelsey Hall if she isn’t smiling for pictures – sometimes, celebrities get burned out.

Hall, a University of Alabama sophomore majoring in chemistry, has a festive lineup of Christmas-themed clothes. But, thanks to an unexpected gift from her mother and a not-so-serious tweet, Hall has worn a Christmas tree costume across campus this week.

On Dec. 2, Hall tweeted a picture of herself wearing the costume with the message, “1,000 retweets and I’ll wear this to all my classes for the rest of the semester.”

The tweet has since been retweeted nearly 19,000 times, and students have shared dozens of pictures and videos of Hall on social media. Hall has since been interviewed by state and national media outlets.

“I’m sure a lot of people on campus have wondered, ‘Why is she dressed like a Christmas tree?’” Hall said. “I never thought it would take off like this.”

University of Alabama: Why did your mother send you a Christmas tree costume?

Kelsey Hall: There’s a video on the Internet of a guy wearing this costume and dancing to Drake’s “Jumpman.” I love dressing up, and I love Drake, and it reminded her of me. So, she bought it for me to recreate the video.

UA: So, do you plan to shoot the Drake dance video? And how optimistic, given how the first tweet and photo went viral, are you that he’ll see it and respond to it?

Hall: I’d pass out if that happened. That’s the goal – meet Drake. I still have to learn the dance, though.

Kelsey Hall, UA chemistry major and a beacon of holiday cheer on campus, with the university’s famous mascot, Big Al. (Jeff Hanson/UA Strategic Communications)


UA: Is the tree costume comfortable?

Hall: It’s not very comfortable. The face-hole falls down a lot, and I have to keep readjusting it, especially with my backpack on. It’s very hot, and it’s getting a lot of water in it. But it’s light and airy.

UA: Why so serious in all of the social media pictures?

Hall: In the first picture, I just looked dead inside, and I’ve been trying to keep the same face to keep it going. But I hope people are laughing and having fun with it.

UA: Any regrets about the initial tweet?

Hall: I’m glad I didn’t post it the day I got it; there were still three weeks of class left. But yeah, there’s a little regret. It’s overwhelming with people contacting me and asking me for interviews when I have to study for finals. But as long as people are loving it and laughing at it, it’s fine.

UA: Have you thought about adding flair to it? It has some bulbs, but no personalized ornaments or lights.

Hall: I’ve thought about, as the days go on, adding some stuff so I don’t get completely bored of it and people start wondering, “Why is she still doing this?” It was a little hard today because it was raining. I’m thinking about it, though.

UA: How festive is your family during Christmas? Is this the wackiest of your Christmas activities?

Hall: We usually do the normal Christmas things. We exchange gifts, bake cookies, go look at lights – but nothing too crazy. But anyone who knows me knows I would do something like this.

UA: How tough is it balancing instant celebrity and classwork, especially at the end of the semester?

Hall: I’ve been sleeping a lot, so that hasn’t been affected. But I’ve had to turn off notifications so I can focus on work. I try to respond to people asking for interviews, but it’s kind of hard to balance with tests coming up. I haven’t had time to study, and I’m a little stressed about that.

UA: Do you plan to retire the costume after this week, or are you open to passing it down to another student?

Hall: I’ve thought about bringing it back next year. If anyone wants to join me and get a costume, I’d very much appreciate it. I’ve been getting a lot of weird looks being the only person dressed like this. And if someone wants to take over, I’d definitely pass it on.

UA: Please, tell me your favorite Christmas song is “O Christmas Tree”!

Hall: (laughs) It’s not. My favorite is “Baby Please Come Home for Christmas.” I like Michael Buble’s version.

UA: What do you want for Christmas?

Hall: Not sure yet. I’ve been thinking about school.

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

8 months ago

Alabama universities provide new business incubators to launch young entrepreneurs

The Tiger Cage Accelerator and Incubator celebrated its official ribbon cutting in October. (Image: Auburn University)



Alabama universities are providing new launch pads for entrepreneurs and their innovative business ideas across the state.

Several new incubators have opened or are in the works, and all of the projects have the potential to help spin out new jobs and investment for local communities.

At the University of Alabama, the Technology Villages program has kicked off with two partner cities – Cullman and Fairhope – and the goal of creating entrepreneurial hubs that will fuel tech business growth.

The program is a “unique bend on economic development” that will be especially useful in small and rural communities that don’t have a lot of money to spend on business recruiting efforts, said Dr. Rick Swatloski, director of UA’s Office for Technology Transfer.

“Successful communities are required to continue to aggressively recruit new companies, but also diversify to support vital new small company growth that represents over half of new jobs created in the United States today,” he said. “We look forward to communities, private companies, federal agencies, individuals and Alabama corporations joining the University in this critical job creation mission.”

The Technology Villages program assists communities in building and operating storefront technology-focused incubators. In Cullman, the city has renovated a 2,200-square-foot space for its Village in the downtown business district, and in Fairhope, BBVA Compass has pledged space for the Village, also downtown.

The goal of the centers is not to be traditional incubators; rather, they will function as start-up resource hubs for distance learning and consultant support. The university also will provide business development services, including help with research, patents and contract manufacturing strategy.

“Both communities have secured initial funding for the program, and identified the location,” Swatloski said. “The next critical step for both will be the hiring of a director to oversee the day-to-day operations. Additionally, the communities are continuing to identify additional key partnerships to help ensure the sustained success of the program.”

Technology Villages is based on a five-year pilot program conducted by Clemson University in five South Carolina cities. In the first 18 months of that initiative, programs in Bluffton and Rock Hill created more than a dozen companies and nearly 70 new jobs.


Meanwhile, Auburn University recently opened the Tiger Cage Accelerator and Incubator, a 2,700-square-foot space at the Auburn Research Park that provides student-led startups with office and meeting space, along with access to mentors.The facility is a collaborative effort between the Harbert College of Business’ Lowder Center for Family Business and Entrepreneurship and the Auburn University Research and Technology Foundation.

Harrison Evola is a recent Auburn graduate and founder of FetchMe, a concierge delivery service that has experienced significant growth over the past year.

Evola has been using the incubator space for his business operations, and he has also participated in Auburn’s Tiger Cage student business pitch competition.

“The Tiger Cage center is so helpful,” he said. “I have a place to meet with employees, keep my work stuff, work 24/7 and I’m surrounded by other kids who have ambition like me as well.”

The idea for FetchMe was born when Evola was a teenager working for Papa John’s Pizza, where he did everything from making and delivering pizzas to washing dishes and helping customers.

“I liked interacting with people, and I thought it would be cool to own my own business. I took that thought and applied it to FetchMe,” he said.

The startup, which delivers restaurant food, groceries, snacks, coffee and more, made its first delivery a year ago. Today, the firm does 1,500 orders per month and has partnered with more than 25 restaurants in the Auburn area, with plans to expand further. A complete list of partners and services can be found at


At the University of Alabama in Huntsville, construction is underway on the D.S. Davidson Invention to Innovation Center (I²C), which will serve as an incubator for entrepreneurs and new business development in the region.

The three-story, 46,650-square-foot building is expected to be complete by early 2019, and it features easy access to UAH’s College of Business, as well as the university’s library, engineering, and science and technology facilities.The facility’s mission is three-fold: stimulating growth of new and existing science and engineering high-tech companies; catalyzing formation of a resilient entrepreneurial ecosystem in the northern Alabama and south central Tennessee regions; and building partnerships with various entrepreneurial ecosystems and hubs to create pathways that empower, ignite, and motivate the community to make ideas happen.

“I²C facility and programs will support entrepreneurs on building scalable, investable, high-growth, technology-focused businesses that will serve as catalysts for economic development and regional innovation,” said Rigved Joshi, who oversees strategy, programming, partnerships and daily operations at the center.

The incubator is named for Huntsville businesswoman and philanthropist Dorothy S. Davidson, who made a $5 million gift to UAH in support of the project. Other funding came from the Alabama Department of Commerce’s Innovation Fund, Madison County Commission, City of Huntsville, UAH Foundation and U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration.

Davidson, who is chief executive and board chairman of Huntsville’s Davidson Technologies Inc., said she knows how hard it is to start a business when you don’t have the support you need. Most people fail, she added, not because they don’t have the technological expertise but because they lack business skills.

In the new incubator, small business owners will benefit from the university’s expertise and the close proximity of peers at Cummings Research Park.

“They won’t necessarily compete with the businesses in Huntsville, but they will be coming out with innovative ideas to improve what’s already here with help from the university,” Davidson said. “That will make the incubator an open door to creating small businesses, giving those with innovative ideas a place to go, get set up, and develop more technology.”

(By Dawn Azok, courtesy of Made in Alabama)

9 months ago

Shooting victim Scalise to be Saban’s guest at tonight’s Bama-LSU game

U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) and family at Tiger Stadium in September. (@stevescalise/Instagram)
U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) and family at Tiger Stadium in September. (@stevescalise/Instagram)


It’s not often that the University of Alabama honors a rabid fan of the opposing team, especially when that fan wears purple and gold.

But the Crimson Tide are making an exception tonight for U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), whose recovery from a nearly fatal gunshot inspired his colleagues and much of the country. Scalise is an honored guest at tonight’s Alabama game against his beloved Louisiana State University Tigers. He is watching the game with Alabama’s congressional delegation.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban — who has won national championships at both schools — extended the invitation, said Clay Ryan, the vice chancellor for governmental affairs at the University of Alabama System.

“We hoped the invitation would demonstrate the mutual respect between our universities and recognize the importance of this rivalry,” Ryan said. “Coach Saban has regularly acknowledged the fond memories he and Miss Terry have of their time in Baton Rouge. This is a special game.”

Scalise drew widespread sympathy when a gunman targeting Republicans shot him and four others at a practice of the GOP’s congressional baseball team on June 14. A bullet from James Thomas Hodgkinson’s rifle traveled across his pelvis and fractured bones. He underwent multiple surgeries.

Scalise provoked a rare bout of bipartisanship on Sept. 28 when he returned to the House of Representatives for the first time.

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) said fellow Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Hoover) took the lead in helping to organize the event. He said Scalise is well-liked among his colleagues but that the hosts’ hospitality will only go so far.

“After we get through recognizing him for what he’s been through, I hope, as an Alabama graduate, we whip LSU’s tail,” he said.

And don’t count on sympathy for Scalise to extend to his favorite team among the Bryant-Denny Stadium faithful.

“We’ve had to be strategic about where we placed him in the stadium so as not to set off an uproar,” Ryan quipped.