News

Storms take aim at wildfires, but danger remains

Nov 28, 2016

Fire officials say a storm system moving across the South appears to be heading toward many of the largest ongoing wildfires and will help suppress them.

However, authorities say the rain moving across parts of Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee likely won't end the fire threat and dangers posed by the blazes. Several of the largest fires are in Georgia and North Carolina.

The town of Gulf Shores is looking at continuing its ban of alcohol on its beaches during spring break season for next year.

Some worry that the ban will affect local businesses and restaurants that are dependent on alcohol sales. Mayor Robert Craft explains that the decision to vote on the ban will also affect the city by decreasing the tax revenue during that time period. However, he says the city's decision is backed by confidence from broad community support to remain a family-friendly vacation area.

Myron Thompson
Lloyd Gallman / Montgomery Advertiser

Mentally ill inmates held in Alabama’s prisons may soon be receiving better care thanks to a federal court.

Late last week, U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson awarded class action status to a lawsuit on behalf of prisoners allegedly receiving inadequate medical care from the Alabama Department of Corrections. That means whatever decision is reached will extend not just to the prisoners named in the lawsuit, but all of the nearly 25,000 prisoners currently incarcerated in Alabama Department of Corrections facilities.

Here Comes Christmas!

Nov 26, 2016
bigpresh (David Precious) [Flickr]

That cute little face peeking out between the limbs of the Christmas tree is trouble in the making.  Taking care to keep your pets safe around the holiday trimmings will help to make all the seasons of the year happy ones.

******************  

Latest stats show nearly all of Alabama in severe drought

Nov 23, 2016

The latest federal estimate shows nearly the entire state of Alabama is in a severe drought.

An assessment released by the National Drought Mitigation Center today shows that about 98 percent of the state's land mass is now locked in a severe drought after weeks without rain.

The severity of the drought varies. About 82 percent of the state is in an extreme drought, and 35 percent is experiencing an exceptional drought. That's the worst of all the drought categories.

Hubbard appealing decision on juror misconduct

Nov 23, 2016

Ousted Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard is appealing a judge's ruling on allegations of juror misconduct during his ethics trial.

Lawyers for the one-time Statehouse leader filed a notice of the challenge this week with the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals.

The defense is fighting the decision of a Lee County judge who dismissed Hubbard's claims that jury members made improper comments that were critical of Hubbard.

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange says he isn’t looking for an appointment to Jeff Sessions’ senate seat. But he does plan to run for the office in a special election that may not be held until 2018.

Alabama’s junior U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions was recently tapped by President-elect Donald Trump to serve as his Attorney General. That leaves a vacant seat that lots of Alabama politicians are clamoring to fill.

A teenager from Madison, Alabama can now add “Jeopardy Champion” to his college applications.

Sharath Narayan, a sophomore at James Clemens High School in Madison, won the top spot on yesterday’s final episode of the Jeopardy! Teen Tournament, by the slimmest of margins. Narayan edged out the second-place finisher Alec Fischthal by just 1 dollar. It’s worth a lot more than bragging rights – Narayan took home $100,000 in prize money for the win.

Airbus A321 will flyover Iron Bowl in Tuscaloosa

Nov 22, 2016

The University of Alabama will welcome an Airbus A321 commercial airliner for a pregame flyover prior to the start of the Iron Bowl on Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

This aircraft is the first A321 that is being produced for Delta Air Lines in the Airbus Manufacturing Facility in Mobile, Ala. It will be the 15th Airbus A321 delivered from the facility, which opened in September of 2015.

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!  

********************

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.

Pages