3 years ago

World’s most endangered sea turtle species in big trouble off Alabama’s coast

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By Katherine Shonesy

Newly examined video of Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, which are found primarily in the Gulf of Mexico, shows that the species’ recovery from endangerment has stalled at less than one-tenth of historic nesting levels.

Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham came to that conclusion after being tasked with identifying the qualifying measure of endangerment for the species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, or IUCN.

Kemp’s ridley turtles are classified as critically endangered on the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species. The species was on the brink of extinction in the 1980s, but a Mexico-U.S. binational conservation program initiated in 1978 was able to reverse its decline.

The decades of intense conservation efforts were evident by 2009, with the Kemp’s ridley exhibiting an exponential recovery rate that was expected to continue for many years. However, an unanticipated downturn occurred in 2010 when the amount of nesting dropped significantly, and since that time, the species has not regained an upward trajectory to recovery.

How many Kemp’s ridley turtles should there be in the gulf? Scientists and conservationists weren’t sure; there was a lack of data between 1880, when the species was discovered, and the start of the conservation efforts in 1978.

UAB’s study, led by Thane Wibbels, Ph.D., a biology professor in the College of Arts and Sciences, and doctoral student Elizabeth Bevan, set out to answer that question through the evaluation of a historic film recorded in 1947 by Andres Herrera, a Mexican sportsman, on the Kemp’s ridley’s primary nesting beach in the western Gulf of Mexico near Rancho Nuevo, Mexico.

The film captured a mass-nesting event known as an arribada, involving tens of thousands of nesting turtles on a single day in 1947. It would help provide a rare benchmark for evaluating the historic population size of a species prior to its becoming endangered, which is usually not available for endangered species.

Uncovering the original riddle of the ridley

Prior to the film, the location of the Kemp’s ridley nesting grounds was a mystery. After hearing about a large mass nesting of sea turtles from locals, Herrera recognized the significance of such a unique biological phenomenon and became committed to documenting this unique event for society.

During a two-year period, Herrera flew his own plane 33 times over the Gulf Coast north of Tampico, Mexico, conducting aerial surveys in search of the mass sea turtle nesting. In 1947, he finally uncovered the event, but his discovery would remain unknown to the scientific community for more than a dozen years.

“At the time of the film’s development, no one was able to connect the dots between the phenomenon of the mass nesting and that the nests belonged to the Kemp’s ridley sea turtles,” Wibbels said. “Herrera was a hobby enthusiast who wasn’t aware of the pursuit in the scientific world to uncover this location. Meanwhile, Archie Carr, who was considered to be the world’s leading sea turtles expert, had been searching for the nesting beaches for this species for decades.”

Carr searched for the Kemp’s ridley nesting beaches in all of the usual nesting regions – Florida, the Caribbean and the northern Gulf of Mexico; but after 20 years, he had found nothing.

“He had no logical explanation for the fact that this abundant turtle was seemingly not breeding or nesting,” Bevan said. “Scientists began to wonder whether the Kemp’s ridley could actually be a hybrid turtle.”

The dots were finally connected, and part of the mystery debunked, by Henry Hildebrand, Ph.D., from the University of Corpus Christi, who heard about the film and viewed it in 1961. Later that year, Hildebrand presented that film at the annual meeting of the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, revealing the news to the scientific community for the first time.

Breaking down the nesting numbers

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It was estimated by some who viewed the original black-and-white footage that there were more than 40,000 nesting Kemp’s ridley sea turtles on the beach that day. Wibbels and Bevan’s recent study reflects more conservative, but still remarkable, numbers.

Wibbels and Bevan calculate that there were 26,000 sea turtles on a 1- to 2-mile stretch of beach on the day the film was taken.

The results from UAB’s study published this week indicate that about 120,000 to 180,000 nests were laid over the entire 1947 nesting season in contrast to about 14,000 nests in the most recent nesting season.

This new information on the historic population size greatly increases the mystery surrounding the abrupt decline in the recovery of this endangered species since 2009. The number of nests laid in the 2015 nesting season represents a 34 percent decline in comparison to 2009, and this occurred during a time when exponential growth of the population back toward historic levels was expected.

What this means for conservation

Intense conservation efforts are continuing, and this critically endangered species is protected throughout its range.

“Because the Kemp’s ridley is so protected, scientists believe that potential factors limiting its recovery may be habitat-related,” Bevan said. “Another hypothesis among the field is that environmental pollution, in particular the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, may have significantly impacted the population, and many years may be required before the species regains an exponential recovery rate.”

An alternative hypothesis is that the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem may have changed over the past seven decades since the Herrera film was recorded, and can no longer support the abundance of Kemp’s ridleys documented in the 1947 film. For example, studies have shown that the abundance of blue crabs, a preferred food item for the Kemp’s ridley, has significantly declined in the northern Gulf of Mexico in recent decades.

“The Kemp’s ridley could be significantly impacted by long-term changes and the overall health of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem because of its near exclusivity to the area and presence as a higher-trophic-level predator,” Bevan said. “That’s why it’s so important that we continue our research into the mystery of its stalled growth.”

“Solving the mystery will require continued monitoring of turtles on the nesting beach, a better understanding of the ecology of the Kemp’s ridley in its foraging and developmental habitats, and an evaluation of potential changes in the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem since the 1947 Herrera film,” Wibbels added.

Wibbels’ and Bevan’s work was published in Ecosphere this month.

9 mins ago

WOTM to show top Alabama High School Athletic Association events — ‘One of the best broadcast packages anywhere’

The Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) on Tuesday announced that a locally owned, in-state company will broadcast the premier high school sporting events in the Yellowhammer State for the next three years.

An agreement has been reached between the AHSAA and PlayOn Sports/the NFHS Network (NFHSN — affiliated with the National Federation of State High School Associations) in which Sylacauga’s WOTM/Broadway Communications, along with its Alabama Cable Network (ACN), will bring the most anticipated high school games to viewers across the state.

This is considered a major marker for WOTM, which has long been known for its local and high school sports programming.

In a statement, WOTM president Vincent Earley emphasized that the company is proud of its partnership with the AHSAA.

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“We are an Alabama company and look forward to working hand-in-hand with the AHSAA and PlayOn Sports/NFHS Network to bring such outstanding sports events to viewers,” Earley said.

“We believe in the AHSAA mission and purpose and we believe in the young men and women in Alabama’s high schools who are working daily to make themselves better students and better athletes,” he added. “We are also looking forward to recognizing the administrators, teachers, coaches and communities that are making such a positive difference in the lives of these students. We look forward to working with the AHSAA and NFHS Network in building a relationship that will benefit our schools and citizens.”

WOTM will be producing both games in the Kickoff Classic at Cramton Bowl August 22-23 as part of the new agreement: Jeff Davis vs. Carver-Montgomery on Thursday night and the Central-Phenix City vs. Hoover game set for Friday night.

The company will provide live digital streaming exclusively through the subscriber-based NFHS Network and live television coverage over many of the state’s cable network carriers – including major affiliates Charter, Comcast, Cable One, ATT U-verse and Anniston/Oxford area TV affiliate WEAC TV 24. In Montgomery and other counties, the games will be shown on Charter’s channel 80 (ACN).

However, the kickoff week offerings are just the beginning.

WOTM will also produce the AHSAA Super 7 State Football Championships, the AHSAA State Basketball Finals, the AHSAA Game of the Week each Thursday during the football regular season and the AHSAA Playoff Game of the Week during the four playoff rounds leading up to the football finals.

The company will also produce for the AHSAA TV Network the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Football Game; Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Boys’ and Girls’ Basketball Games; the AHSAA State Softball and Baseball Finals; and the State Cheerleading Finals. WTOM will also produce a weekly “Inside the AHSAA’’ 30-minute TV program to be shown over its network of television stations and the NFHSN beginning in September.

In a statement, AHSAA executive director Steve Savarese extolled the benefits of this new agreement.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with PlayOn Sports, the NFHS Network and WOTM,” Savarese remarked.

“This partnership is important to us and will take us into the next decade with one of the best broadcast packages anywhere,” he stressed. “WOTM and (ACN) in Alabama is included on many of the state’s cable affiliates and covers much of the state. The NFHS Network will continue to provide outstanding programming via live-streaming. This partnership will no doubt provide enormous exposure of AHSAA championship events for our member schools and help promote our message of education-based athletics.”

WOTM and (ACN) map as follows:

Those not covered by a television affiliate may watch via the subscription-based online streaming platform from anywhere in the world.

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

48 mins ago

University of Alabama, Auburn University to partner on making state roadways safer

The University of Alabama, Auburn University and the Alabama Department of Public Health are partnering in a new effort to make Yellowhammer State roadways safer.

Governor Kay Ivey on Tuesday announced that a total of $3.3 million in grants are being awarded to the three entities for the initiative.

It might almost be time for the start of the college football season, but the two athletics rivals are working together to make Alabama a better place off-the-field.

“No matter your allegiance, having these two flagship universities team up with Public Health creates a winning situation for everyone on our roadways,” Ivey said in a statement.

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The grants, funded between the federal National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the state Traffic Safety Trust Fund, were administered by the state through the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA).

“I am pleased to provide these funds to support these important programs that complement the work our law enforcement officers perform each day to increase safety on Alabama’s roads,” Ivey added.

Using data compiled by the University of Alabama’s Center for Advanced Public Safety (CAPS) and the state Department of Public Health, Auburn University’s Media Production Group will develop media campaigns aimed at encouraging drivers to obey state safety laws and avoid risky behavior when getting behind the steering wheel of a vehicle.

The Alabama Department of Public Health will also conduct a safety campaign geared toward properly securing children in child safety seats, according to the governor’s office.

The University of Alabama’s CAPS, which was awarded approximately $1.9 million of the total grant amount, will continue to develop programs and compile data on crashes, seatbelt use and other statistical information that help the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) and other agencies pinpoint “hot spots” where crashes often occur, leading to stepped up patrols and checkpoints in those areas.

Auburn was awarded a total of $1.1 million for media campaigns to warn motorists of the dangers of driving while texting and/or impaired and not wearing seatbelts. Much of the campaigns will occur around holidays and heavy traffic periods and coincide with nationwide traffic-safety campaigns like “Click It or Ticket” and “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over.”

The Alabama Department of Public Health will use a $60,000 grant to maintain a database involving the types of injuries suffered by people involved in automobile crashes and their health statuses. The federally required information is added to a nationwide database. Additionally, a $200,000 grant will provide a 3-day training course for child-safety-seat certification and will enable the department to conduct programs throughout the state to teach motorists the proper techniques for installing child safety seats and fastening children in the seats.

“Gov. Ivey and ADECA are committed to making our roads safe and taking dangerous drivers off our highways,” ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell concluded.

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

1 hour ago

7 Things: Ivey wants ideas for tolls, Aderholt calls on Senate candidates to love Trump, ALGOP could target Ilhan Omar and more …

7. Abortion law is far from settled in Alabama

  • The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation’s (ACLU)  lawyer, Alex Kolbi-Molina, has spoken out against Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall’s most recent arguments in the state’s abortion ban court battle, saying that the Supreme Court supports people making personal decisions, which includes having an abortion.
  • Kolbi-Molina went on to say that Alabamians shouldn’t have to fight for their “settled constitutional rights every time the State of Alabama knowingly and deliberately enacts an unconstitutional abortion law.” Marshall has officially filed a response to the ACLU stating that he’s planning to take the case all the way to the Supreme Court to challenge Roe v. Wade.

6. Background check back-and-forth

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  • Despite a report published by The Atlantic claiming that President Donald Trump is against expanding federal background checks for firearms, a White House official has said that the president maintains being open to “meaningful” expansion of background checks.
  • However, the NRA in a tweet claimed to have had a conversation with Trump where he said that universal background checks are out of consideration.

5. More tax cuts possible

  • Just before meeting with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, President Trump said that the notion we could be heading towards a recession is “inappropriate,” and hinted that he could be interested in cutting payroll taxes.
  • Trump responded to reports that the White House has already started discussing cutting payroll taxes, and he said that it’s “something we think about all the time and a lot of people would like that.” He also said that whether it’s done or not, it wouldn’t be because of the threat of a recession.

4. Doug Jones is telling on himself

  • In a moment of accidental honesty, and terrible politics, U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) acknowledged on social media that he is a progressive in the mold of Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), who was bragging about winning in a red state as a real progressive.
  • Jones, who was supported by a statewide media campaign that argued he was a moderate and not a liberal, agreed and acknowledged his progressive track record is why he is going to win reelection in Alabama in 2020.

3. Push to expel Ilhan Omar from Congress

  • Alabama State Rep. Tommy Hanes (R-Bryant) has announced that he will be introducing a resolution that will call for the expulsion of U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN) due to her “anti-American” rhetoric.
  • Hanes said that he’s tired of Omar’s “anti-American sentiments” and he believes other Alabamians are, too. He’s hopeful that Washington and Alabama will support and begin the process to expel Omar from Congress.

2. Aderholt: U.S. Senate candidates should support Trump

  • U.S. Representative Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville) has a message for all of the candidates in the 2020 U.S. Senate race in Alabama that want GOP support, and it’s as simple as showing support for President Donald Trump, which they are all crawling over themselves to do already.
  • Aderholt said that he’s seen Trump receive more support than other presidents he’s seen, adding that from what he’s noticed, people are “optimistic” about Trump and what he’s done and is going to do. He went on to say that Senate candidates “need to let their constituents, future constituents that are voters, know that they’re someone who would stand with the president.”

1. Ivey wants you to pay for what you use

  • In a radio interview, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey made it clear that she is standing firm on her decision to back tolls for the Alabama Bay Bridge and Skyview project. She slammed detractors as freeloaders, but she indicated she is open to new ideas.
  • Ivey put the onus on opponents to the toll project, stating, “If somebody has got a better idea of what the toll should be or if we should never toll. That’s the reason I’m hosting the October 7 meeting at the State Capitol for the Toll Bridge and Road Authority – so people can put reasonable solutions on the table. How do we pay for the bridge?”

2 hours ago

‘Tuberville has seized the momentum’: Internal polling shows 16% gap in U.S. Senate primary

Yellowhammer News has obtained a new internal polling memo from Tommy Tuberville’s U.S. Senate campaign that shows the former Auburn University head football coach gaining 10% since June and stretching his lead well into double digits.

The memo summarizes the results of a survey conducted by Moore Information Group, a well-respected national polling firm, from August 11-13. 400 likely 2020 Republican primary voters in Alabama made up the sampling of respondents. The poll’s margin of error was 5%.

The polling memo details, “The data have been weighted to reflect expected turnout demographics for the 2020 primary election.”

“Tuberville leads all candidates with 33%, with support for both Congressman Bradley Byrne (17%) and former Chief Justice Roy Moore (15%) in the mid-teens,” the memo states.

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According to the survey, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, at 13%, barely trailed Moore.

State Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs) came in at 1%.

Tuberville, at 23%, was leading the field in his internal poll conducted by the same firm in June. That month’s results showed Moore in second at 18%, followed by Byrne (16%), Merrill (8%) and Mooney (2%). Moore and Merrill had not yet officially announced their bids at that time.

One interesting nugget emphasized in the memo is that the August survey asked respondents whether they were fans of Auburn’s or the University of Alabama’s football programs.

Some have predicted that Tuberville’s Auburn past, given the intense rivalry between the programs, could hurt his statewide campaign.

However, he was the number-one choice of Tide fans in this latest poll, gaining 33% of their vote. Moore (17%) was the next most popular candidate with Bama enthusiasts.

Then, among Auburn fans, Tuberville did have a marked increase over his overall ballot number. Among those who cheer on the Tigers, 43% said they would vote for him, with Merrill (18%) the next highest in that demographic.

The memo also revealed some geographical differences, including the obvious reality that Byrne is leading in the district he represents in Congress, AL-01. Tuberville led all other congressional districts, besides AL-02, where he was tied with Moore.

At 38%, Tuberville performed best out of all candidates with those respondents identifying immigration as their top priority.

A look at name identification and favorability numbers also looked encouraging to Tuberville’s campaign.

While 97% of respondents had heard of Moore, the former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice’s numbers are still under water — and not appearing to improve. 31% view Moore favorably, while 56% view him unfavorably.

Tuberville had the next highest name identification level by a wide margin at 87%. An impressive 54% of respondents viewed him favorably, compared to 12% unfavorably.

Byrne and Merrill’s numbers in this regard were very similar.

Byrne had 56% name identification, with 31% viewing him favorably and 7% unfavorably.

Merrill had 54% name identification, with 29% viewing him favorably and 5% unfavorably.

In a hotly contested race like this, it can also be important to see which candidates are popular with the supporters of another candidate. As the primary gets closer, some voters may choose to go with their “second choice” if he or she believes that candidate has a better chance of winning — or if their primary choice disappoints them.

Testing a second choice ballot, Tuberville (23%) led in this category, too, followed by Byrne (17%), Merrill (16%), Moore (11%) and Mooney (3%).

In a statement, Erik Iverson, president and managing partner of Moore Information Group, said, “Coach Tuberville has seized the momentum and stretched his lead to double digits in a crowded primary, and that’s no small feat.”

“Alabama Republican primary voters are backing Coach, a political outsider who’s been a staunch supporter of President Trump from the beginning, over the politicians running against him. Doug Jones should be very nervous,” he concluded.

You can view the full polling memo here.

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

4 hours ago

Jones: Israel shouldn’t have barred Omar, Tlaib; Trump’s Tuesday comments ‘imbecilic’

BIRMINGHAM — Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) on Tuesday delivered the keynote address at an event entitled, “Opportunities for Technology Partnerships Between Alabama and Israeli Businesses.”

During his speech and in comments to the media afterwards, Jones made it clear that he is generally a supporter of Israel and values its friendship with the United States and the state of Alabama.

Enjoying the U.S. Senate’s August recess and back from his recent trip to San Diego, CA, Jones opened by joking, “I don’t know what the weather is in Israel, but I know it’s hot as hell here.”

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He highlighted the importance of international trade and relationships during his 16-minute speech, reiterating his apprehension about ongoing tariff tensions with China, which he called a “rogue” nation.

However, given the topic of the event, the conversation ultimately came back to a much different nation: Israel.

After extolling the significant bipartisan merits of fostering economic development partnerships between the U.S. and Israel, as well as Alabama and Israel, Jones concluded his remarks by addressing “the elephant in the room” — the ongoing, heavily publicized controversy involving Israel, U.S. Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and President Donald Trump.

Tlaib and Omar last week were barred from entering Israel on a congressional trip after the Israeli government learned of the freshmen Democratic lawmakers’ specific plans in the country. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has defended this decision, explaining that a 2017 law denies entry to supporters of the “Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions” movement.

The situation with Tlaib has gained extra attention, as she said she wanted to visit her 90-year-old grandmother in the West Bank, but, after being granted permission by the Israeli government to do so on humanitarian grounds, Tlaib refused to travel to the country.

This led Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri to state that Tlaib’s “hatred of Israel is stronger than her love of her grandmother.”

Trump has been active on social media and in comments to the press attacking Tlaib and Omar over the fiasco.

On Tuesday, he broadened his comments, saying, “I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat — I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.”

The president further said Omar “is a disaster for Jewish people” and lamented what the two have said in the past about Israel.

Jones on Tuesday expressed his hope that the situation can de-escalate on both sides of the aisle.

“[T]he relationship with Israel, I think is so, so important,” Jones said, saying how proud he was that Alabama in 1943 was the first state to call for the nation of Israel to be established.

“The commitment between the United States and Israel is as strong as it’s ever been,” Alabama’s junior senator advised. “And that is important. Israel has been such a strategic partner for the United States. And it has been good for us and it’s been good for Israel.”

“There’s been probably no better ally in the world in the last 40, 50 years than Israel. And we need to keep it that way,” he emphasized. “I want to make sure that we talk about that relationship.”

The senator outlined that there are strategic benefits for the U.S. in this relationship, spanning economic, military and humanitarian categories.

Jones also said the timing of the Birmingham event was “fortuitous” given the national controversy currently unfolding.

He called what was happening “a strain … with our relationship with Israel.”

“And I am concerned,” Jones stressed. “I will be very candid about this. I’m concerned that the relationship with Israel is beginning to see some cracks for political reasons. And that should not be the case. We need to do everything that we can in our respective countries to speak out against that. Because what I see and what I’m fearful of is that the relationship with Israel is now being used as a political weapon to try to divide people and try to drive political wedges for political gain. And it’s happening here, it’s happening in Israel. And we can’t, we can’t allow that to happen. Our alliance is too important to allow that to happen.”

He added that he was happy to witness firsthand Alabama and Israeli business leaders coming together to partner.

“[W]hat you’re doing, what you’re doing here is to demonstrate to so many people, whether they’re senators, whether they’re members of Congress, whether they’re members of the Israeli government or the President of the United States, that the foundations of the United States/Israeli relationship is strong, it’s bipartisan and it’s going to remain strong,” he told the crowd at Alabama Power Company’s headquarters building.

‘Not a whole lot of profiles in courage to stand up to your own party’

Lenny Roth, who co-chairs a PAC that supports positive relations between Israel and the U.S., then asked Jones if he is feeling pressure from his fellow Democrats, especially ones currently running for president in the 2020 cycle, to adopt an anti-Israel position.

“I think I’m the only one in the [Democratic] Caucus not running for president,” Jones joked.

Roth also asked whether supporting the country or not would become a litmus test for candidates, something he said would be unfortunate if it was to happen.

“I agree with you,” Jones responded. “There is a litmus test on the left, there is a litmus test on the right. And that’s unfortunate, and it goes way beyond just the Israeli thing right now.”

“I don’t feel any pressure in my caucus,” he added, getting back to the first question. “Where the pressure — it’s not pressure. Where the conflict comes is when you have certain members of the Democratic Caucus who say things that I don’t agree with and that so many of our caucus does not agree with and speaks out against — but yet when they get attacked on a personal level, when they get attacked as members of Congress, not because of just their beliefs but [they’re] because members of Congress and they get denied the right to go to visit [Israel] with other members of Congress, they’re — you have to defend those people as members of Congress. And therein lies the challenge, because people — there are those on the other side of the political aisle that want to kind of pull those together. And that’s going to be the challenge, I think, for people like me who absolutely have condemned comments that I found to be anti-Semitic by members of my party. Just like there are members in the Republican Party who have made comments that I believe are absolutely, unequivocally racist comments.”

He continued, “And people in the Republican Party need to condemn those remarks just as much. We don’t do enough of that. There’s not a whole lot of profiles in courage to stand up to your own party these days. I think you’re going to start seeing that more. I don’t feel any pressure, and I’m not going to feel any pressure. They know better than that. But I think the overwhelming numbers of people of goodwill of both Republican and Democratic Parties hopefully are not going to let this happen. They’re going to let this die down, and they’re not going to let this happen.”

Jones said the American-Israeli relationship will “take nurturing” moving forward to ensure longterm strength. He explained that “challenging members” of his own party “is the best” he can do right now to safeguard the relationship between the two nations.

From there, Jones was directly asked minutes later in a media gaggle about Trump’s statement made hours earlier, when the president said, “I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat — I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.”

“I think it’s absurd,” Jones said of Trump’s statement. “It’s imbecilic almost, I mean —  that’s exactly what I was talking about.”

He said whether it is the president or anyone else, any action “trying to drive a wedge” regarding the United States’ relationship with Israel is “shameful.”

Jones said Trump made the statement because the majority of Jewish voters voted Democratic in the last presidential cycle, according to Pew Research, and that the president is trying to “peel away” these voters.

“Look — if the president can’t win on his own policies and his own economic policies — the economy’s good even though we’re teetering right now — if he can’t win on his own policies, he apparently feels like he has to drive a wedge and use just language like that that is just absurd. And it is really unfortunate. It is unnecessary. And it really puts the United States at a real disadvantage on the world stage. And that’s what I think he doesn’t fully understand.”

The junior senator from nearby Mountain Brook was then asked about Omar and Tlaib, by name, being barred from entry into Israel on the congressional trip.

“Well, I don’t think it was appropriate. They [are] members of Congress. They [are] representatives of the United States who were going over there as part of a larger delegation. They should have been allowed to go just like the other members of the delegation,” Jones said, ignoring that the other members were not admittedly planning on breaking Israeli law. “Having said that, I don’t agree with a lot of their views about Israel. But they’re entitled to those views when we’re a country of diverse opinions and diverse political opinions.”

Still not invoking their names, he said Omar’s and Tlaib’s views about Israel “are not consistent with the historical relationship” between the two nations.

“What I will caution them to do is to not use such incendiary language, that they’ve often done, that confuses the relationship with Israel as being anti-Semitic,” Jones added. “And that has happened, and it’s unfortunate and should not happen.”

He stressed his belief that Israel and the United States “will get past this.”

Before leaving the venue, Jones seemed to stray from his anti-wedge stance, coming back to the “Russian collusion” narrative that Democrats have tried to use as a political weapon in referring to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) as “Moscow Mitch.”

Jones has been consistent in stating his desire for the Democrats to retake the U.S. Senate, which would presumably make Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) the majority leader.

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