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1 week ago

Where ‘Great Gatsby’ writer lived, an Alabama museum with an Airbnb

As she sat in the house where “Great Gatsby” writer F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda, once lived, a visitor contemplated the famous Jazz Age couple.

“I tried to imagine how maybe Scott would tell a joke and Zelda would laugh,” said Farong Zhu, a Fulbright scholar from China who translated Zelda’s only novel, “Save Me the Waltz,” into Chinese. “Everything was very beautiful. I was so excited to be close to the Fitzgeralds, I couldn’t sleep well the first night.”

But you don’t have to be a literary scholar to stay in this apartment upstairs from the F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum in Montgomery, Alabama. The Fitzgeralds lived in the house in 1931 and 1932, and for $150 a night, anyone can rent the apartment on Airbnb. There’s nothing else quite like it in the rental website’s inventory, according to Airbnb spokeswoman Alyssa McEwan.

It’s also the only site on the Southern Literary Trail open to the public for overnight stays. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for travelers,” said trail director Sarah McCullough. “And of course it generates revenue,” always a challenge for historic sites.

Fitzgerald Museum director Sara Powell said she worried when rentals began in April that visitors might throw wild “Gatsby”-style parties. But those concerns proved unjustified. As McCullough put it, “Most of the people who would want to stay there probably have a great love for the writer and the writer’s work and would have great respect for the property.”

The house dates to 1910. The apartment is furnished in casual 20th century style: sofa, armchairs, decorative lamps, Oriental rug, and pillows embroidered with quotes from Zelda like this one: “Those men think I’m purely decorative and they’re fools for not knowing better.” It has two bedrooms, a working kitchen and Wi-Fi, but the ambience evokes another era, with a record player and jazz albums, a balcony and flowering magnolia trees in the yard, all tucked away on a quiet street in Montgomery’s historic Old Cloverdale neighborhood.

“It’s hard for writers to be disconnected from their own world, even for a second,” Powell said. “We’ve had people tell us it was so good to be up there, even for a couple of days. You do unplug and get out of your headspace.”

Though the Fitzgeralds didn’t live in the house for long, Montgomery was important in their celebrated, tumultuous lives. Zelda was a Montgomery native, and they met at a country club here in 1918 during World War I. She was a teenage debutante and he was stationed at a nearby military base.

Once married, rich and rootless, they moved from place to place, including Paris and New York, where a stay on Long Island planted the seed for “Gatsby.” In Montgomery, he worked on “Tender Is the Night” and she wrote “Save Me the Waltz.” It was the last place they lived together with their daughter, Scottie, who turned 10 there and later was sent to boarding school. F. Scott, an alcoholic, died at age 44. Zelda battled mental illness and perished in a hospital fire at age 47.

In the 1980s, the house was threatened with demolition to make way for condos. Local lawyer Julian McPhillips and his wife, Leslie, bought the house and established a nonprofit for it. McPhillips is a Princeton University alumnus; Fitzgerald also attended Princeton, and the museum displays a copy of his Princeton transcript, showing many dropped courses before he left school to join the military. The museum also owns 11 of Zelda’s paintings, personal belongings like an inkwell and beaded purse, and first editions of Fitzgerald’s novels.

As a tourist destination, Montgomery is best-known for civil rights history. This is where Rosa Parks refused to surrender her seat on a bus to a white man, sparking a bus boycott by African-Americans that resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court declaring segregation on public buses unconstitutional. That protest also turned a young Montgomery minister, Martin Luther King Jr., into the leader of the civil rights movement.

In April, two new sites opened in Montgomery that are already attracting a lot of attention: a memorial to victims of racial terror lynchings, and The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration.

Powell is looking for ways to connect with visitors coming to experience these other attractions. She’s developing a workshop for 2019 looking at how race relations were impacted by an 1890s election law named for Zelda’s father, Judge Anthony Sayre, that made it harder for illiterate and semi-illiterate citizens to vote. And while Fitzgerald scholars like Zhu are a natural fit for writers’ residences, Powell is open to proposals on any topic.

Katherine Malone-France, vice president of historic sites at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, says the Airbnb rental and writers’ residencies are great ways to keep places like the Fitzgerald house “financially sustainable and culturally sustainable” while remaining “respectful and relevant to their pasts.”

“That is the best way to preserve something: To use it,” she said.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)
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49 mins ago

Alabama city again refuses to release body camera recordings

Officials in one of Alabama’s largest cities stand by their refusals to release recordings from police body cameras.

WHNT-TV reports the city has once again refused a request to release a recording.

The latest request came after a bystander’s video appeared to show a Huntsville police officer punching a suspect while trying to make an arrest. The department cleared the officer Monday, saying the video was part of a longer struggle.

Huntsville City Attorney Trey Riley says recordings are a “public record to a certain extent” but that doesn’t mean they’re “automatically available.”

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Riley says Huntsville will generally withhold recordings while a criminal case is ongoing.

The lawyer says the public can see videos if a case goes to trial, but acknowledges most cases don’t go to trial.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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1 hour ago

How the Russia investigation helps Trump

This week, for the first time in months, a generic ballot poll showed Republicans beating Democrats in the midterm elections.

According to Reuters, Republicans are now leading by six points. And while that poll is obviously an outlier, the movement of the generic ballot in the direction of Republicans isn’t: The average lead for Democrats has been dropping steadily since late February, from a nine-point lead to a four-point lead.

Why?

Certainly, the economy has something to do with it: The job market continues to boom; the stock market continues to hover around 25,000; and GDP continues to grow steadily. And, certainly, foreign policy has something to do with it: There are no catastrophic foreign wars on the horizon, and President Trump’s gutsy calls to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal and move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem resulted in zero serious backlash.

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Democrats opposed the Trump tax cuts and have whined incessantly about Trump’s Middle East foreign policy, even going so far as to demonstrate a certain level of warmth toward terrorist group Hamas. This isn’t exactly brilliant politicking.

But there’s another reason Democrats seem to be dropping like a stone, too: their Russia obsession. The reality is most Americans think the Russia investigation is going nowhere. As of early May, just 44 percent of Americans though the FBI special counsel investigation of President Trump and his associates is justified; fifty-three percent thought that the investigation is politically motivated. Three-quarters of Americans think Trump should cooperate with the probe, but Americans are skeptical that there is a there there.

And so far, Americans have been right. Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation has resulted in indictments of Trump associates on a charge of lying to the FBI, but there have been no indictments related to the original brief of his investigation: election collusion with the Russians. Meanwhile, each day seems to bring new headlines regarding the extent of the FBI investigation, dating all the way back to mid-2016. Americans aren’t going to read all the details of the various stories — they’re just going to take away that law enforcement was all over the Trump campaign, has come up with nothing thus far and continues to hound the Trump White House.

Furthermore, Democrats are getting discouraged. They were promised a deus ex machina — an alien force that would swoop in to end the Trump presidency. They hoped it would be Mueller; they were convinced the election was stolen. It wasn’t, and it’s unlikely Mueller will end Trump’s presidency.

So when Trump fulminates about the supposed sins of the “deep state,” few Americans are exercised. Most shrug; some even nod along. Democrats seethe but have no new fodder for their ire — and every day that passes with the media chumming the waters and coming up empty drives down enthusiasm even more. And Trump’s focus on Russia means that he spends less time tweeting about other topics — which helps him, since he’s less likely to make a grave error on those fronts.

If Mueller truly has nothing, there’s a serious case to be made that the Russia collusion investigation actually helped Trump more than it hurt him. And Democrats might just have to come up with a plan for dealing with Trump’s policies other than praying for an avenging angel to frog-march him from the White House.

Ben Shapiro, 34, is a graduate of UCLA and Harvard Law School, host of “The Ben Shapiro Show” and editor-in-chief of DailyWire.com.

(Creators, copyright 2018)

2 hours ago

Here are Alabama’s population gainers and losers

Baldwin County long has been Alabama’s fastest-growing county, so perhaps it should be no surprise that one of its towns is the state’s fast-growing municipality.

According to population estimates released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau, Loxley added 335 new residents from July 2016 to July 2017. The 16.7 percent growth rate over that 12-month period topped the state.

It came in just ahead of fellow Baldwin County towns Summerdale (12.3 percent) and Silverhill (12 percent).

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Three other Baldwin cities also made the top 20 — No. 9 Spanish Fort (5.1 percent), No. 16 Fairhope (3.7 percent) and No. 17 Foley (3.3 percent).

They were among 179 Alabama municipalities that saw growth from mid-2016 to mid-2017. Meanwhile, 244 cities and towns lost population, while another 36 remained exactly the same.

Census figures show much of the rest of the South remains booming. Of the 15 American cities with the greatest numerical gains over the past year, eight are in the region. The South also has 10 of the 15 fastest-growing cities on a percentage basis.

While the biggest cities get most of the attention, that is not where most people live — either in Alabama or across the country. Nationally, only 3.9 percent of cities have 50,000 residents or more. Only nine Alabama cities meet that threshold. The nearly 1.7 million people who live in those cites make up about 34 percent of the state’s residents.

“The U.S. is a nation of small cities and towns,” Census Bureau demographer Joseph Bowman said in a statement. “Of the 19,500 incorporated places, about 76 percent had fewer than 5,000 people and almost half of these places had fewer than 1,000 people.”

Most of Alabama’s populous cities followed well-established trends over the past year. Birmingham retained its position as Alabama’s biggest city but shrank by about a quarter of a percentage point, to 210,710.

Montgomery and Mobile also lost residents. They and Birmingham have lost population since the 2010 census.

Huntsville, which passed Mobile in 2017 to become the third-biggest city, added another 2,629 residents. That was the most of any municipality in the state. Since 2010, the Rocket City’s population has jumped 8 percent. It now trails second-place Montgomery by just 4,933 people.

Among the top 10 cities, two others have outpaced Huntsville on percentage basis. Auburn grew by 2 percent since mid-2016 and is up to 63,973 residents. That is up 20 percent since 2010. And Madison jumped 2.2 percent on year and 13.8 percent since 2010, to 48,861.

Alabama’s 20 biggest cities got a new member over the past year — Daphne, in Baldwin County, replaced Homewood at No. 20. And Prattville swapped places with Gadsden at 13 and 14, respectively.

Here is a look at Alabama’s fastest-growing municipalities since the 2010 census:

  • 1. — Hayden, which has grown 203.6 percent.
  • 2. — Pike Road, which has grown 72.4 percent.
  • 3. — Summerdale, which has grown 60 percent.
  • 4. — S. Florian, which has grown 49 percent.
  • 5. — Loxley, which has grown 43 percent.
  • 6. — Fairhope, which has grown 36.6 percent.
  • 7. —Westover, which has grown 32 percent.
  • 8. — Uniontown, which has grown 30.7 percent.
  • 9. — Priceville, which has grown 30.3 percent.
  • 10. — Chelsea, which has grown 27.8 percent.

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

 

2 hours ago

7 Things: Kushner security clearance HUGE news, paper targets Alabama immigration law, Trump wants to withhold aid from countries who send ‘animals,’ and more …

1. A conclusion that is obvious, but not being drawn: Jared Kushner is probably in the clear

— Kushner had his temporary security clearance revoked months ago, leading to speculation that he was dirty. He just got that clearance approved.

— If he was under any threat of being compromised this would not have happened, so this is big news for the whole Trump-Russia narrative.

2. Alabama is to blame for losing a Congressional seat, not rampant illegal immigration

— The Decatur Daily editorial team accuses Alabama of being responsible because they did not create a friendly environment for illegal aliens, they even took them to task for daring to pass anti-immigration laws (Arizona will pick a seat and they had a similar law).

— Congressman Mo Brooks and Attorney General Steve Marshall have filed a lawsuit seeking to make sure only legal citizens are counted for Representation.

3. President Trump continues to beat the drum on MS-13, threatens to withhold aid for countries who won’t stop them

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— Ramping up his previous rhetoric, Trump added a nugget: He wants to cut foreign aid for the countries that send illegal immigrants and he will base aid on the number of their citizens who crossed the border.

— The ACLU and top Democrats continue to moan about Trump’s willingness to demonize gangs, so he called them “animals” again.

4. The NFL decided having a large portion of their fan base pissed-off was a bad idea, players still don’t get it

— The owners are attempting to end a multi-year controversy over kneeling by telling the players to “respect” the anthem or stay in the locker room.

— In spite of an almost $100 million dollar “social justice” play by the owners, the players have decided to keep fighting, claiming “management has chosen to squash the same freedom of speech that protects someone who wants to salute the flag in an effort to prevent someone who does not wish to do so.”

5. Democrat outreach to middle America continues, proposals to raise taxes roll out

— Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) plans to introduce a bill Wednesday that would undo tax cuts passed late last year, which has support softening under constant misleading media attacks.

— The repeal will coincide with new spending of taxpayer money toward erasing student loan debt and improving college affordability, which doesn’t make college more affordable.

6. Huntsville student sent to ICU after being slammed by a security guard

— The security guard was attempting to break up a fight between Steven Franklin and other students, he was slammed on the ground and hit his head.

— Huntsville City Schools is investigating the incident, the guard is no longer on campus and he will not return for the rest of this school year.

7. If a politician has blocked you on Twitter, that politician violated your 1st Amendment rights, or something

— A federal judge says the president’s Twitter account constitutes a “public forum” and using its block feature silences voices.

— This ruling will obviously be challenged, and it is not applicable to Alabama yet, but if it stands, get ready for people to slide into politicians’ DMs with public records requests.

3 hours ago

2 struck by car in Birmingham parking lot after argument

Police are searching for a driver they say tried to run over a woman and her daughter in a fast food parking lot.

Birmingham police tell news outlets an unnamed 40-year-old woman was hospitalized Wednesday with serious injuries after she and her 21-year-old daughter were struck at a McDonald’s.

Witnesses say one of the victims had been arguing with a second woman and spit on the second woman’s car. That’s when police say the second woman hit the mother and daughter with the red car she was driving.

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The red car left the scene and hit another vehicle. Police are also trying to determine whether a gun was fired and whether that is linked to the hit-and-run.

The driver of the red car could face felony assault charges.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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