State environmental officials are investigating the recent release of industrial sludge into two Opelika waterways.
Alabama Department of Environmental Management spokesman Scott Hughes says the agency received a call Friday from the city of Opelika regarding some material that had been found in the Pepperell Branch and Saugahatchee Creek.
Hughes tells the Opelika-Auburn News (http://bit.ly/V9RInR) that the release likely started sometime Thursday afternoon.
The federal Small Business Administration says March 11 is the deadline for disaster loan applications from people and businesses in 10 Alabama counties and three Mississippi counties affected by severe storms on Dec. 25-26.
SBA field director Frank Skaggs said low-interest loans of up to $200,000 are available to homeowners to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate. Loans of up to $40,000 are available to homeowners and renters to replace personal property. Businesses and nonprofit organizations may borrow up to $2 million.
The Alabama Legislature is considering a bill that would give local school systems more flexibility in determining their rules and regulations.
The bill is opposed by the Alabama Education Association. AEA officials are concerned it could allow some local systems to strip rights away from teachers. They see it as a possible back-door approach to creating public/private charter schools in Alabama.
A north Alabama lawmaker is suggesting possible legislation that he said would streamline the state's election process by eliminating some party primary runoffs.
Republican state Rep. Mike Ball of Madison told the Florence Times-Daily the primary runoffs are costly. He said sometimes in special elections the runoff could cause a district to go through most of a legislative session without representation.
Ball said he's researching the idea and hopes to file a bill by the end of March to discontinue most primary runoffs.
Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham say smoking synthetic marijuana — known as Spice or K2 — has been linked to kidney injury.
UAB researchers conducted four case studies involving four young men who smoked synthetic marijuana and suffered kidney injuries afterward. Researchers say the men visited the hospital weeks after using the drug and suffered from abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting.
Deep-fried foods may be causing trouble in the Deep South. A study finds that people who consume a lot of fried foods and drinks like sweet tea and soda were 41 percent more likely to suffer a stroke than people who ate that way about once a month.
Researchers say the study might help explain why blacks in the Southeast suffer more strokes. Blacks were five times more likely than whites to have the Southern dietary pattern.
Some Alabama legislators are trying to start planning now for the state's bicentennial in 2019.
Republican Sen. Arthur Orr of Decatur got the Senate to pass a resolution Thursday setting up the Alabama Bicentennial Commission. The commission would plan and develop activities to celebrate Alabama becoming a state in 1819. Orr said the commission will have members representing state government, tourism and historic preservation. The members will only receive reimbursement for travel.
The Alabama Senate has delayed a vote on a package of bills addressing government consolidation and efficiency.
Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh had planned to get the bills up for a vote Thursday. Marsh says he decided to delay a vote until next week because the bills are complicated and senators want time to study them.
Replicas of two of the ships used by Christopher Columbus to explore the new world in the late 15th century are on Alabama's Gulf Coast.
Al.com reports (http://bit.ly/XnIy5B) that the replicas of the Nina and Pinta are open for tours through Sunday.
The ships had their beginnings in 1986, when the Columbus Foundation formed in the British Virgin Islands in an effort to build the vessels that Columbus used on his first voyage, the Santa Maria, Nina and Pinta.