News

"March For Our Lives" Draws Huge Crowd in Birmingham

Mar 26, 2018
march sign
Rachel Buzzotta / APR

Around five thousand people gathered in Birmingham on Saturday to march in solidarity with protestors in Washington D.C. and across the country.

The marchers were pushing for changes in gun control laws across the United States. Wearing blue shirts and holding signs, people chanted "Not One More" and "Vote Them Out", in reference to politicians they feel aren't doing enough to combat gun violence.

Terri Michael is a school board member in Birmingham. She says people have the power to make a difference.

 Alabama gambling magnate Milton McGregor, who waged a legal war to keep his electronic bingo casino open and thwarted federal prosecutors attempts to convict him, has died. He was 78. 

APR

Please find enclosed Alabama Public Radio’s entry for best radio documentary, titled “Help Wanted: Alabama’s Rural Health Care Crisis.” The three member Alabama Public Radio news team spent the year, with no budget, investigating why the system here is so badly broken and why solutions aren’t being pursued.

On September 27, 2017, the Washington Post published an article about how only one half of rural hospitals in the U.S. can deliver a baby.

In rural Alabama, it’s barely a third.

Alabama's Department of Mental Health Commissioner Lynn Beshear called for mental health prevention and intervention to ensure school safety in an op-ed Saturday.  

Beshear said the state must focus on identifying behaviors that trigger school violence and proactively treating mental health. The state's school-based mental health services put clinicians into schools to counsel students. Only 36 school systems in Alabama have the services and Beshear advocated for expanding it to the other 106.

Alabama lawmakers are expected to conclude the legislative session this week.

Legislators plan to adjourn Wednesday after a flurry of last-minute work. Lawmakers will put the final touches on the education budget. They could also vote on an ethics law exemption, juvenile justice reform and other bills.

Pets Are Living Longer

Mar 24, 2018
Mindy Norton

Our cat, Sasha, benefited from the expertise of a veterinary specialist who performed major surgery to remove many kidney stones.  Today she is doing just fine, thanks to a wonderful team of doctors - her local veterinarian who diagnosed the problem and the specialist who did such a great job with her surgery.

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Alabama’s prison system and justice system are in the national spotlight and not for good reasons. The State’s prisons are one hundred percent overcapacity. Alabama is criticized for spending the least amount of money per inmate per day for rehabilitation, housing, and supervision in the nation. This $26 daily amount is blamed for the State’s 30% recidivism rate.  Alabama likes to trumpet its Wrongful Incarnation Act, which is supposed to compensate people sent to prison for crimes they didn’t commit.

Areas of Alabama are cleaning up after what’s called significant damage from tornadoes last night. The National Weather Service in Huntsville says at least three confirmed tornadoes hit the area. Rooves were ripped off and power lines torn down, but there are no reports of injuries. Alabama Power says nearly ten thousand customers spent the night without power, with Calhoun County being the hardest hit spot. The athletic director at Jacksonville State University reports there was significant damage to the campus. The school’s Coliseum suffered damage, but it’s still standing.

An organization that preserves Civil War battlefields is looking for volunteers to help clean up historical sites across Alabama.

The Civil War Trust says volunteers will be working at more than 160 sites nationwide during its annual cleanup day on April 7.

In Alabama, Fort Morgan is on the list of places slated for work. The red-brick fort located at the tip of the Fort Morgan Peninsula played a key role in the Battle of Mobile Bay in 1864.

A German automotive supplier has opened a new $46.3 million plant in central Alabama.

MöllerTech officials say the company will hire 222 employees at the new supply plant by the end of 2019. The ribbon-cutting ceremony was held this week almost 16 months after the company announced it would build the plant in Bibb County.

The plant currently has 50 employees.

The supply plant is located next door to Mercedes-Benz's new Global Logistics Center at the Scott G. Davis Industrial Park. The automaker will also have an after-sales North American hub in the park.

Alabama lawmakers are advocating to keep daylight saving time year-round and stop changing clocks.

The Alabama Senate approved a resolution Thursday by Republican Sen. Rusty Glover to "forever put an end to the deadly, energy-wasting, productivity-killing, twice-yearly changing of time." It was co-sponsored by 24 of 35 members and now moves to the Alabama House of Representatives for a final vote.

Irish Pets

Mar 17, 2018
Martin Hasketh [Flickr]

Knowing the history of a pet's breed and the purpose for which it was originally bred can help you appreciate the animal.  The Kerry Blue Terrier was originally bred to hunt rabbits and foxes; it would also herd cattle and sheep.  It is a hardy, devoted and playful friend.

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A man convicted of killing his former boss at a traveling carnival nearly two decades ago was put to death last night after having dropped his appeals and asking courts to execute him.

50-year-old Michael Wayne Eggers died at 7:29 p.m. after receiving a lethal injection at a southwest Alabama prison. He was sentenced to death for the murder of his former employer Bennie Francis Murray in 2000. Prosecutors say Eggers admitted to strangling Murray during an argument.

Alabama lawmakers are set to hold public hearings this morning on proposals to allow some teachers to carry concealed handguns into schools.

The House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing on the bill by Republican Representative Will Ainsworth this morning. The bill would allow public school teachers and administrators to carry a pistol on school property after undergoing police training.

Ainsworth's bill is one of a number of ideas introduced to make schools safer after the fatal shooting of 17 people at a Florida high school.

State lawmakers have approved an $85 million increase for Alabama’s prison system in an effort to comply with a federal court order to improve mental health care for inmates.

Yesterday, The House of Representatives approved $30 million for the Department of Corrections before September as well as a $55 million boost in next year's general fund budget.

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson ruled last year that mental health care in Alabama's prisons was "horrendously inadequate" and ordered the state to improve conditions.

Lawyers say a settlement is possible in the case of an Alabama inmate whose lethal injection was halted last month when the execution team could not find a usable vein.

Lawyers for both the state of Alabama and death row inmate Doyle Lee Hamm wrote that they were in "serious settlement discussions." The filing did not elaborate, so it's unclear what a potential settlement may entail.

Hamm's attorney is seeking to block Alabama from attempting to execute him again.

Orange Beach oil
Julie Dermanksy

A massive grant from the RESTORE Act and the Alabama Gulf Coast Recovery Council will help fund a variety of projects in southwest Alabama.

Fifty projects will be given funding for infrastructure, environmental restoration and economic development thanks to that $315 million grant. The biggest payouts include $56 million for road expansion projects in Baldwin County, $28 million for a new facility at the Port of Mobile, $27 million for projects affecting Aloe Bay on Dauphin Island and $21 million to redevelop the docks in Bayou La Batre.

The director of the state Ethics Commission says a bill before Alabama lawmakers could weaken ethics enforcement in the state. “Considerably,” chairman Tom Albritton says of the potential damage. The House of Representatives approved a bill to exempt economic developers from the definition of “lobbyist” under the state ethics law.

Supporters argue it is needed to help Alabama compete with other states for projects and factories by keeping developers' activity confidential. Critics said it opens up an exemption in the ethics law that governs interactions with government officials.

Mindy Norton

We are fortunate to have a friend who takes care of our furry friends when we are away.  It's really a personal choice but if she were not available, I would probably consider hiring an experienced pet sitter.

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A bill that passed the Alabama Senate yesterday would give payday loan customers longer to repay their loans.

The bill, sponsored by Senator Arthur Orr, would give borrowers 30 days to repay a loan, instead of as little as 10 days in some cases. Orr says that change would give people a much better chance at paying off the loan. He says the change drops the effective yearly interest rate of payday loans from 450 percent APR down to 220 percent.

A north Alabama man pleaded guilty to terrorism charges yesterday, admitting he bought bomb-making materials and had hoped to conduct terrorist attacks.

In federal court in Birmingham, Aziz Sayyed, 23, of Huntsville, entered the guilty plea to charges that he sought to aid a foreign terrorist organization.

Huffman police
Brynn Anderson / AP

One of the largest schools in Birmingham is closed today after metal detectors and other security measures failed to prevent a 17-year-old student from being fatally shot and another wounded in an apparent accident.

Investigators are reviewing surveillance video and interviewing students and staff to try to figure out exactly what led to the shooting at Huffman High School yesterday at dismissal time.

Birmingham Interim Police Chief Orlando Wilson says “We consider it accidental until the investigation takes us elsewhere. We have a lot of unanswered questions.”

A lawyer representing an Alabama death row inmate whose lethal injection was recently halted after staffers could not connect an intravenous line says his client should not face a second date in the death chamber.

An attorney for Doyle Lee Hamm wrote in state court filings yesterday that Hamm had experienced "torture" during the failed attempt to execute him two weeks ago. Bernard Harcourt says attempting the procedure again would violate a constitutional ban on cruel punishment.

Hamm has severely compromised veins from a battle with lymphoma as well as past drug use.

More civil rights groups are challenging a federal judge's ruling that a law requiring Alabama voters to show a valid photo ID is not discriminatory.

Alabama has required voters to present government-issued photo identification at the polls since 2014. The Alabama NAACP and Greater Birmingham Ministries sued over the law in 2015, arguing it disproportionately affects minorities.

twitter.com

Wilder survived a pummeling from Luis Ortiz, then knocked out the challenger in the 10th round Saturday night to retain his crown. Befitting the undefeated champion from Alabama, it was a wild affair for the final few rounds after Wilder gave Ortiz a solid lead.  

Even after Wilder knocked down Ortiz in the fifth round, the bout remained in the Cuban's favor.

Then, in the seventh, Wilder was dazed and confused by Ortiz's assault. Though he never hit the canvas, he stumbled to his corner when that round ended. The end seemed near.

rex-lumber.com

A $110 million lumber manufacturing facility will be built in southern Alabama. 

The Florida-based Rex Lumber Co. will build the state-of-the-art facility and create more than 110 jobs, Al.com reported.

Governor Kay Ivey says the plant called "Project Red Fox" will produce a minimum of 240 million board feet per year. The plant will be located in an unincorporated part of Pike County.

Work on the site will begin March 15.

University of North Alabama

The University of North Alabama is honoring its first black student by renaming part of campus in his honor.  

A statement from the school says the University Commons area will now be called the Wendell W. Gunn University Commons.

Gunn was the first black student to enter what was called Florence State College at the time. He graduated with a degree in chemistry and mathematics in 1965 and earned a master's of business administration from the University of Chicago in 1971.

American Humane Association [Facebook]

In 1877, representatives from 27 humane organizations met in Cleveland, Ohio and started what would become the American Humane Association.  Go online to AmericanHumane.org and look at the history tab to see a year-by-year list of their accomplishments and activities!  It is a vivid picture of how the humane movement has evolved over the years!


Human Trafficking Subject of Performace This Weekend

Mar 2, 2018

The Alabama School of Fine Arts will present its production of Innocent Flesh Friday and Saturday. The play centers on victims of human trafficking. 

The production stars five high school students. They are only a few years older than the characters they play.

Susan McCain is directing the play. She says Alabama’s interstate 20 is considered the superhighway of human trafficking and she hopes this show raises awareness.

State officials are looking to impose a work requirement on a small number of Medicaid recipients.

Governor Kay Ivey’s office says the state will seek permission from the federal government to make that change to its Medicaid program. The proposal will only impact able-bodied parents of children under 19 who qualify for Medicaid because their family income is at or below 18 percent of the federal poverty level. That’s about $247 a month for a family of two.

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