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A church in Birmingham is marking the anniversary of a deadly Ku Klux Klan bombing that killed four black girls in 1963.

The 16th Street Baptist Church planned to hold a service Monday to commemorate the 51st anniversary of the blast.

Bells will toll at 10:22 a.m., the approximate time the bomb went off on a Sunday morning at the church.

The blast killed four girls. It became an important symbol of the depth of racial hatred in the South during the civil rights era.

Four Ku Klux Klansmen were convicted in the bombing, and one remains in prison.

Alabama's first lady Dianne Bentley is scheduled to attend a domestic violence training session for Shelby County law enforcement officials.

Gov. Robert Bentley's office says the session Monday morning is part of Dianne Bentley's initiative to raise awareness of domestic violence.

The training session is being provided by SafeHouse, which offers emergency and transitional housing for those who are homeless because of abuse. The organization also provides domestic violence response and prevention programs.

A newly-created special commission is expected to help small business startups throughout the state and assist existing businesses in their expansion efforts.

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley is expected to announce the creation of the Alabama Small Business Commission Monday morning at the state Capitol building along with House Speaker Mike Hubbard, Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh and National Federation of Independent Business State Director Rosemary Elebash.

A report that tracks soil moisture across the country shows that drought conditions in Alabama have improved slightly over the past week.

The U.S. Drought Monitor released Thursday found that 63.74 percent of Alabama is still dealing with abnormally dry conditions. reports that the percentage is down from 65.01 percent last week.

Alabama Policy Institute

A former Bush administration staffer is taking over as president of a conservative think tank in Birmingham.

Caleb Crosby has been named to lead the Alabama Policy Institute. He's been with the group for more than three years as vice president and chief financial officer.

Crosby worked with President George W. Bush's administration in the Environmental Protection Agency and as a financial adviser. He also worked at the Treasury Department.

Three space station astronauts are back on Earth.

An American and two Russians landed early Thursday in Kazakhstan after 5½ months aboard the International Space Station. They returned in a Russian Soyuz capsule that parachuted down through a clear sky. NASA said everything appeared to go well.

NASA astronaut Steven Swanson and Russian crewmen Oleg Artemiev and Alexander Skvortsov flew to the orbiting outpost last March. Their departure leaves three men still up there: an American, Russian and German.

Attorneys for VictoryLand are scheduled to begin presenting their side in a trial in Montgomery that could determine the future of the closed casino in Macon County.

Circuit Judge William Shashy heard two days of testimony from investigators with the state attorney general's office about how they raided the casino in 2013. They talked about how they seized 1,600 machines that Attorney General Luther Strange says are illegal. He wants the judge to order the machines destroyed.

A Lee County Circuit Court judge has moved the trial for an Alabama lawmaker facing perjury charges to October.

The Opelika-Auburn News reported Wednesday that Judge Jacob A. Walker rescheduled Republican Rep. Barry Moore's trial for the week of Oct. 27. The case was initially scheduled to begin next week. The judge moved the trial based on a request from Moore's defense attorney.

Wildlife workers are reintroducing three rare species of freshwater mussels into the Tennessee Valley region.

A species of mussel called the Pale Lilliput is being stocked Wednesday in the Duck River in central Tennessee. The federally endangered species now lives only in a 4-mile section of the Paint Rock River in northeast Alabama.

More than 800 of the mussels were cultured at the Alabama Aquatic Biodiversity Center near Marion.

Hal Yeager/AP

Federal investigators say pilots who were killed when their UPS cargo plane crashed during a landing attempt in Birmingham, Alabama last year made a series of errors, and may have been suffering from fatigue.

But the investigators also conclude that more stringent regulations on hours of work for pilots wouldn't have prevented the accident.

A new program will allow Montgomery County residents to establish online profiles that are expected to quickly provide information to emergency responders.

The Montgomery Advertiser reported Tuesday that the Smart911 program will allow people to automatically supply emergency responders with information on their medical history, disabilities, pets and photos of people who live in the home they're responding to.

Gadsden City leaders have set 6 a.m. as the time when alcoholic beverages may begin to be sold on Sundays.

The Gadsden Times reports city council unanimously approved the start time during a meeting on Tuesday. Gadsden voters approved of Sunday sales in an Aug. 26 referendum. The newspaper reports that city ordinances prevent alcohol sales between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. on other days of the week.

AP Photo/Montgomery Advertiser, Mickey Welsh

A lawyer for the closed VictoryLand casino in Shorter is arguing that other businesses in Alabama are still operating the same gambling machines VictoryLand had.

A civil trial opened Tuesday in Montgomery over whether the attorney general can destroy gambling machines seized in a 2013 raid.

VictoryLand attorney Joe Espy says electronic bingo games like the ones from VictoryLand are operating at two locations in Greene County and one in Houston County.

The U.S. secretary of education is visiting Alabama.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan will make stops in Birmingham and Huntsville on Tuesday as part of a bus tour coinciding with the start of the school year.

In Birmingham, Duncan and Mayor William Bell will participate in a round-table discussion promoting President Obama's program to help young men. It's called "My Brother's Keeper."

Duncan is scheduled to hold a town-hall meeting later with students at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville.

A trial is set to open over whether the state government can destroy 1,600 gaming machines and keep $223,000 in cash seized in a raid at VictoryLand casino in Shorter.

The non-jury trial starts Tuesday morning in Montgomery before Circuit Judge William Shashy.

Attorney General Luther Strange's staff is arguing the machines seized in the raid last year in Macon County are illegal slots.

Hal Yeager/AP

An accident investigations board is scheduled to meet Tuesday to decide the cause of a fatal cargo plane crash that has become the focus of dispute between UPS and its pilot union over whether work schedules are inducing fatigue and jeopardizing safety.

Poarch Band of Creek Indians

The Poarch Band of Creek Indians gave $500,000 to a Republican group that contributed to 2010 legislative races, but state Republicans say they didn't direct the donation.

Republican Senate leader Del Marsh says he met with the tribe in 2009 but didn't ask for the donation.

Marsh says he was hoping to prevent the tribe from bankrolling Democrats. He told members of the tribal council that the GOP majority would not oppose legal gambling operations.

The tribe gave $550,000 to the Virginia-based Republican State Leadership Committee.

A group is questioning the role of religion inside the University of Mississippi football program, expressing concerns that a football chaplain is an inappropriate endorsement of religion by a public university.

The Clarion Ledger reports that The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Madison, Wisconsin-based group that seeks separation between church and state, has sent a public records request to Ole Miss.

Health officials in Mobile say the number of cases of whooping cough continues to climb.

Whooping cough is the common name for pertussis, which is very contagious and is most often characterized by an uncontrollable, violent cough.

WKRG-TV reports the Mobile County Health Department has confirmed 63 pertussis cases, 13 probable cases and seven open investigations.

A trial starting Tuesday in Montgomery could determine the future of what was once Alabama's largest casino.

VictoryLand casino in Shorter has been closed since Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange raided it in February 2013.

A civil trial starting Tuesday will determine whether the state can destroy the 1,615 gambling machines seized in the raid and keep the $223,405 in cash that was confiscated.

Strange says the games are illegal slot machines that should be destroyed.

The National Transportation Safety Board says a helicopter struck a utility wire before a crash that killed a Georgia pilot and an Alabama man last month.

The board's preliminary report says the chopper went down after hitting a wire strung between transmission towers in Tuscaloosa County near Northport.

The helicopter was checking the utility lines when it crashed.

The accident killed pilot Matthew Wallace of Hiram, Georgia, and Alabama Power Co. employee David Carson of Tuscaloosa.

An immigrant rights group is trying to register more Hispanics to vote in Alabama.

The Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice says it's launching a program called "Alabama Vota" to encourage more Hispanic voters to get involved in the electoral process.

The program is concentrating mainly in the Birmingham and Huntsville areas. But a website with Spanish-language information about registering to vote is available to anyone.

The program includes information about how to comply with Alabama's new voter identification law.

Five proposed constitutional amendments will be on Alabama's ballot Nov. 4, and for the first time, a commission has written ballot language to describe them in plain words.

The chairman of the new Fair Ballot Commission, Will Sellers, says the Legislature created the commission because wording on the ballot was sometimes written in legal or technical terms and was confusing. He says the Fair Ballot Commission tried to describe the five proposed amendments in layman's terms and say what will happen if they pass or fail.

A judge in Birmingham is considering a lawsuit challenging an Alabama law that bans teeth-whitening services outside of dentist's offices.

A hearing set for Thursday morning will decide whether the case moves forward.

A North Carolina businessman and a Guntersville woman are challenging a law passed in 2011 to ban the sale of teeth-whitening products and services in places like nail salons.

The lawsuit claims teeth whitening is safe. It contends the law provides dentists with an illegal monopoly and subjects business owner to fines and jail for violations.

Troy University is joining a growing number of colleges selling beer at football games.

University officials say beer will be available Saturday for the Trojans' game against Duke. But fans in Veterans Memorial Stadium will have to show proper identification and get a wrist band. Officials say customers can purchase no more than two beers at one time and beer sales will be halted at the end of the third quarter.

Athletic Director John Hartwell says the sales will be monitored to make sure the stadium remains fan friendly and family friendly.

Alabama campaign finance records show that Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard has used campaign funds to pay more than $230,000 in legal fees since December.

Records show that Hubbard has paid a total of $176,475 to the Birmingham law firm of White, Arnold and Dowd, and $55,000 to the Pell City law firm of Trussell, Funderburg, Rea and Bell.

The payments began in December, and Hubbard's campaign reported paying $10,000 to the Pell City firm in August.

State law allows the use of campaign funds for legal expenses under certain circumstances.

University of Alabama

A former Defense Department official has been named executive director of the Cyber Institute at the University of Alabama.

Reginald Hyde retired last year as deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence and security. The University of Alabama announced that Hyde will head the new institute and its work on cyber security and cyber-related technologies.

Democratic attorney general candidate Joe Hubbard has settled a lawsuit accusing him of defaming a security company.

The settlement includes a statement by Hubbard that DSI Security Services won a state contract in a fair and open process. He says the settlement did not involve any financial payment.

Jordan Kirtley via

One of the best-known planes from World War II is scheduled to visit Montgomery in October, giving area residents the chance to fly in it.

The restored B-17 bomber, known as the "Flying Fortress," will be at Dannelly Field and available for tours and flights from Oct. 31 through Nov. 2.

The Montgomery Advertiser reports that the plane is one of few remaining B-17s in the world that is still airworthy.

Mike Haskey/Ledger-Enquirer

The Russell County Sheriff's Office has turned a half-acre of jail property into a thriving summer garden, tended to by a group of female inmates, with the crops going to area shelters, food banks and churches.

The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reports that the garden got underway about six weeks ago, in a lot behind the jail that had been bare grass. Now that space is lined by rows of peas, okra, tomatoes, melons and squash.