News

Judge: Ex-astronaut charged in 2 traffic deaths can drive

Nov 22, 2016

An Alabama judge says a former astronaut charged in the traffic deaths of two girls can continue driving, but with restrictions.

A judge in Tuscaloosa ruled late Friday that former space shuttle commander  James Halsell Jr. can't consume any alcohol or illegal drugs.  He also cannot take medication unless he has a prescription.

Circuit Judge Bradley Almond also ruled the 60-year-old Halsell must have a special locking device installed on his car's ignition. And the Huntsville man must undergo twice-weekly testing.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley
Wikimedia

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley is looking for recommendations on who to appoint to U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions' seat.

The governor recently asked the 400-plus members of the Alabama Republican Executive Committee for their input on who should be appointed to fill Sessions' role, as he prepares for a likely spot as President-elect Donald Trump's U.S. Attorney General.

The Alabama Department of Public Health says wedding food was probably behind a salmonella outbreak that sickened about 100 people in north Alabama.

Officials say Salmonella was found both in cooked chicken and green beans following the event in Colbert County.

About 150 people were at the wedding, which was held in Tuscumbia, and the department says at least 99 people got sick. Of those, 22 people were hospitalized. Four people remain hospitalized.

Crews fighting large fire in northeast Alabama

Nov 21, 2016

Crews in northeast Alabama are fighting one of the largest wildfires yet to strike the state this fall.

The Alabama Forestry Commission says a fire near Mentone has burned more than 1,000 acres on Lookout Mountain.

National Guard helicopters are dumping water on the flames because the fire is inaccessible to bulldozers and firefighters in places. Only a few structures are at risk.

Power Utilities Wrestle With New Coal Ash Rules

Nov 21, 2016
Barry ash pond drain
EPA

Power utilities in Alabama and across the country are facing tough decisions on how to store all the ash their coal-fired power plants generate.

Last week was the deadline for utilities to post public plans for complying with new environmental regulations. That means closing the large unlined ponds that have traditionally been used to store the toxic ash. Both the TVA and Alabama Power plan to use a method called “cap-in-place”, where they’ll drain wastewater from the ponds and then cover up the more than 90 million tons of ash.

A newly-created panel is trying to find ways to make it easier for nearly 2 million Alabamians to eat healthier food.

The Alabama Healthy Food Financing Initiative Study Commission met this week to address the problem of so-called "food deserts" in the state. State lawmakers created the commission earlier this year.

The group will consult with retailers and health experts to develop projects that could be sent to the state legislature as recommendations for action during the next legislative session beginning in February.

Statistics show about 16 percent of low-income Alabama preschoolers are obese, and the problem is getting worse.

A report based on 2014 statistics from the Women, Infants and Children feeding program shows that 16.3 percent of children ages 2 to 4 in the program were obese.   

That's an increase from about 14 percent of children in 2000, when Alabama was ranked 18th nationally in the obesity statistics.

The state is now ranked 10th nationally, and statistics show the problem is getting worse. Nationally, the obesity rate about 2- to 4-year-olds is on the decline.

A sharp increase in syphilis cases has led the Alabama Department of Public Health to issue a health advisory for north Alabama.  

The ADPH says there's been a 90 percent increase in reported cases over 2015 in Madison County. The department announced Friday that 54 cases have been reported in Madison County in 2016.

Health officials say infection can occur after a person has direct contact with a syphilis sore during sex. Syphilis can also be passed from a pregnant woman to her baby.

A federal agency is providing $325,000 in funding for operation of a special court that deals with drug-related cases in Birmingham.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is providing the money to Birmingham's municipal drug court. The funding will be spread out over three years.  

Birmingham's court is the only program in Alabama to receive the money, but it's only one of more than 40 programs nationwide to receive funding.

Alaina Buzas [Flickr]

Sharing Thanksgiving foods with your best friend (or friends) is fine, as long as you make sure it's safe for them.  Just give them small amounts, and they will enjoy the treat!  

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Alabama jobless rate jumps to 5.7 percent

Nov 18, 2016

Alabama's unemployment rate is on the rise, partly because more people are out looking for jobs.

The state said Friday that Alabama's unemployment rate jumped to 5.7 percent in October. That's three-tenths of a percent higher than September.

And while the state jobless rate is better than it was a year ago, Alabama still trails the nation. The U.S. unemployment rate dropped to 4.9 percent in October.

Trump's staff picks disappoint, alarm minority groups

Nov 18, 2016

President-elect Donald Trump's picks for staff positions in his administration are alarming civil rights leaders who say his choices could turn back the clock on social issues.

Trump's picks include Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions for attorney general, alt-right architect Stephen Bannon as senior adviser and chief strategist, and former Army Lt. Michael Flynn as national security adviser.

A former astronaut accused of killing two young sisters in a DUI crash this summer is fighting for the right to drive while he awaits trial.

State attorneys had initially agreed in September to let James Halsell Jr. keep his Alabama driver’s license while the case is pending. But they changed their position after learning Halsell had been on probation for causing a drunken driving crash in Palmdale, California, in April 2014.

During a court hearing yesterday, state attorneys argued those two crashes show Halsell is a threat to public safety.

President-elect Donald Trump is reportedly offering the post of U.S. Attorney General to Alabama U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions, one of Trump's closest and most consistent allies.

That's according to a senior Trump official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the conversation. The official wouldn't say whether Sessions had accepted the job, which left open the possibility that the arrangement was not finalized.

Sessions was the first senator to openly endorse Trump and was a close adviser throughout the campaign.

Drought spreading southward in Alabama

Nov 17, 2016

A new report shows that a choking drought is spreading southward across Alabama.

Federal statistics show nearly 90 percent of the state is now in a severe drought. And the U.S. Drought Monitor shows 65 percent of the state is in an extreme or exceptional drought.

Conditions are worst in the northern half of the state, where many areas haven't had measurable rainfall in two months. The rainless period is setting records, and some places are more than 15 inches below normal rainfall for the year.

Bentley spokeswoman says Mason not returning to office

Nov 17, 2016

A spokeswoman for Gov. Robert Bentley says the governor's former political adviser — whose relationship with the governor became part of an impeachment probe is not returning to the administration.

Bentley spokeswoman Yasamie August issued the clarification today after Bentley became testy when a reporter asked if Rebekah Caldwell Mason was returning to the administration.

Bibb County Sheriff Keith Hannah was found dead at his office in the central Alabama town of Centreville yesterday.

District Attorney Michael Jackson says Hannah's body was discovered yesterday morning. He says it was located in a bathroom connected to Hannah's office at the sheriff's department.

Jackson says preliminary evidence indicates Hannah died of a gunshot wound, but there was no immediate indication of any foul play.

Bentley approached by people seeking Senate appointment

Nov 16, 2016

A spokeswoman for Gov. Robert Bentley says the administration has already been approached by "several" people seeking appointment to U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions' Senate seat if he takes a position in the incoming Trump administration.

Sessions has not taken a position with the President-Elect, but the mere possibility has set off a political chain reaction.

Trump garners record vote count in Alabama

Nov 16, 2016

History was made last week in Alabama as more than 1.3 million votes were cast in the state for President-Elect Donald Trump.  That is the highest amount any candidate for President has ever received in Alabama, according to Secretary of State John Merrill.

Merrill attributes some of the high vote count for Trump to a surge in late registrations, after more than half a million people signed up to vote within the last year…

The Beat Bama Food Drive is Auburn University’s counterpart to Alabama’s Beat Auburn Beat Hunger. The food drive collects money and food for the Food Bank of East Alabama.

The organizers of the food drive encourage all student organizations on the Auburn campus to get involved. Food donations are supplemented with money from benefit nights and a cornhole tournament.

Caroline Jager is the President of the Beat Bama Food Drive. She says the food drive is best summed up by its motto: “Educate, Unite, Serve.”

A company constructing an interstate natural gas pipeline is donating $50,000 to fund 100 scholarships for students at Chattahoochee Valley Community College in Phenix City, Alabama.

The college recently announced Sabal Trail Transmission's grant to the CVCC Foundation will generate 20 $500 scholarships per year for the next five years.

Beginning next semester, students in the adult education, applied technology and public safety programs will be eligible to apply for the scholarships.

Hearing set on future of Alabama State president

Nov 15, 2016

Trustees at Alabama State University will hold a hearing that could result in the removal of President Gwendolyn Boyd.

The decision came during a board meeting yesterday. Boyd was suspended from work 10 days ago, and the hearing set for Dec. 16 will determine the next step.

Board members complained that they can't get information from Boyd. They mentioned a laundry list of issues on campus including prisoners being allowed to clean dorm rooms.

Two of 1,100 Alabama wildfires under investigation

Nov 15, 2016

Alabama's fire marshal says state officers are investigating two of nearly 1,100 statewide wildfires as possible arson.

Fire Marshal Scott Pilgreen says a fire that burned 800 acres in DeKalb County is under investigation. So is a series of three blazes that burned 65 acres along Interstate 65 north of Birmingham last week.

No arrests have been made. But Pilgreen says officers also issued a few misdemeanor citations to people who allegedly violated a statewide no-burn order during the drought.

Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant
Wikimedia

The Tennessee Valley Authority has sold an unfinished nuclear power plant in northeast Alabama for $111 million.

Nuclear Holdings LLC purchased the Bellefonte Nuclear Plant at auction Monday. The sale price was more than three times the minimum bid of $36.4 million.

The company plans to finish the twin-reactor site as a nuclear power plant and eventually bring it online. The project could mean billions of dollars in spending and hundreds of new jobs in the Tennessee Valley area.

Birmingham agency wins extension for Zika research

Nov 14, 2016

The Birmingham-based Southern Research is expanding its work on the Zika virus.

The National Institutes of Health has awarded the non-profit organization a contract extension worth $650,000 to expand a screening effort to include testing of the virus.

The goal of the work is to identify compounds that may serve as drug agents to combat Zika, which is transmitted by the bite of a tropical mosquito.

Zika is so mild in people that most who get it don't even know they are sick.

Supreme Court clears way for Elba-Samson playoff game

Nov 14, 2016

Elba and Samson high schools will play in the 2A football playoffs after the Alabama Supreme Court cleared the way for the game to go forward.

Justices ordered today that the Alabama High School Athletic Association's decision to disqualify Washington County High School from the playoffs should stand.

The game between Elba and Samson will be played tonight at 7:30 p.m.

While President-Elect Donald Trump assembles his White House team, Alabama Republicans have a laundry list of things they want from the new administration. The state gave the GOP nominee its nine electoral votes last week and Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions is part of Trump’s inner circle. State GOP Chair Terry Lathan says Republican voters in Alabama have specific goals in mind once Trump takes office in January…

Veterans’ advocates are making sure President-Elect Trump has the best interests of the nation’s veterans in mind as he prepares to take office. The group Disabled American Veterans has a list of priorities the next commander-in-chief needs to address during his administration. One key provision is assuring vets have access to quality and timely health care – something that’s received a lot of scrutiny recently here in Alabama. Joy Ilem is the Legislative Director for Disabled American Veterans.

Owens Elementary to become virtual school headquarters

Nov 13, 2016

Sugar Creek Elementary School will absorb the elementary students of West Limestone High School and Owens Elementary School when it opens in August, but Owens is not going away.

Limestone County Schools Superintendent Tom Sisk says it will become the headquarters for the district's virtual school program as well as house some new and existing career tech programs.

The Athens News Courier reports another addition will be the introduction of a bluegrass academy, providing Limestone County students the opportunity to learn a bluegrass instrument.

MöllerTech chooses Bibb County for $46.3 million plant

Nov 13, 2016

Officials say a central Alabama county landed a $46.3 million production plant deal for a German auto supplier.

Al.com reports that MöllerTech chose Bibb County for the production plant. Officials said during a groundbreaking Tuesday that Bibb beat out more than 30 sites in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and Tennessee.

MöllerTech plans to have the site in full production by the end of 2019. The 150,000-square-foot plant will employ 220 people and will be MöllerTech's flagship production facility.

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