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Home > Tuscaloosa Business News

Tuscaloosa Business News - 2015-09

We have news items here related to Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Mercedes helps accelerate patients' rehabilitation - For the last 18 years, a Honda Accord, salvaged from a wreck, has been used inside the DCH Rehabilitation Pavilion to help patients practice getting in and out of a car before they are discharged.
After nearly two decades of use, the car became dusty and worn.
“My wife Johnnie was getting in and out of the old Honda Accord, and she said how it would be really nice if it were a Mercedes,” said Anthony Gambel, a quality engineer at Mercedes Benz U.S. International in Vance. His wife received therapy at the DCH Rehabilitation Pavilion following a broken pelvis.
It gave Gambel an idea that came to fruition Wednesday — a white Mercedes Benz C-Class sedan was donated to the DCH Foundation by the Mercedes Benz plant in Vance.
“We were just getting to launch the new C-Class, and I thought perhaps the hospital could use one of our production vehicles we use for training,” Gambel said. “Everyone I mentioned it to said yes it would be a great thing.”
But getting the car into the second-floor DCH Rehabilitation Pavilion wasn’t easy. The former therapy car had been placed inside the building before the second floor and roof were completed.
On Wednesday, crews removed a large window and support beam and then used a crane to remove the old Honda and hoist the Mercedes to its new home. As the shiny sedan made its way into the building, therapists and support personnel watched, taking pictures on their smart phones and singing Janis Joplin’s song “Mercedez Benz.”
“We really appreciate that Mercedes was able to do that, it will greatly serve our patients in the
future,” said Kaye Winters, outpatient rehabilitation therapy manager.
The vehicle will benefit rehabilitation patients, who largely suffer from neurological conditions like multiple sclorosis, Parkinson’s disease and strokes. Other patients at the rehabilitation center include people who have had joint replacements and cardiac patients who have limited mobility.
“The vehicle is used all day long,” Winters said. “It’s used for our patients to learn how to transfer in and out. They have to have tried it before they are discharged.”
The new vehicle will have a real impact on patients going through rehabilitation, said Molly Ingram, vice president of development for the DCH Foundation.
“We are so proud of our philanthropic partnership with MBUSI, and this donation is a wonderful example of what happens when dedicated employees are supported in their passions by their company,” Ingram said. “This car will do a world of good for our patients as they work with our therapists to rebuild the skills they need to function effectively.”
Reach Lydia Seabol Avant at lydia.seabolavant@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0222.
September 30th, 2015
Tricks and treats: Pink Box Burlesque presents "Haunted Hotel" - Don't cover your eyes; in fact, keep them wide open because you don't want to miss a minute of Tuscaloosa's own Pink Box Burlesque presenting its Eighth Annual Masquerade, “Haunted Hotel.”
Saturday, PBB veteran performers such as Kitty B. Haive, Mona Squeels and Nubia Gorme will grace the historic Bama Theatre stage for its annual Halloween-flavored entertainment extravaganza.
The PBB, a humor-filled adult-entertainment-oriented troop, developed in Tuscaloosa and frequents venues such as Green Bar and the Bama, as well as traveling to Birmingham for new venues. With up to 12 performances per year, the vaudeville-inspired burlesque shows include one-of-a-kind performers performing scenes with song, dance, acrobatics, mime and more, all accompanied by a live jazz band.
Mama Dixie, madame of all things PBB, said performers start planning the October show near the beginning of each year and take ideas from earlier performances.
“It's something special for us,” she said. “The challenge is the same for all of our original shows: What can each performer bring to the story? What story are we trying to tell?”
On the agenda for this year? Murder, love, burlesque and more murder, Mama Dixie said. This year's performance takes place in a haunted hotel where performers met long ago.
Bringing an extra dose of magic to the show this year is New Orleans-based, “interactive and dangerous” act Crescent Circus. Magician Nathan Kepner said he is looking forward to his first performance in Tuscaloosa and in the Bama Theatre.
“It looks like an exciting place to be,” he said. The Crescent Circus brings a blend of knife juggling, acrobatics and dazzling magic to the stage, as well as a debut act that involves a parakeet.
“I don't want to say too much, but it's two years in the making ... it definitely has its challenges,” “Kepner said of his four-minute bird act.
Mama Dixie said making the haunted show an annual event makes it easy to connect to the audience.
“We see many of the same people (every year),” she said.
What is better than a spooky story in October? A spooky burlesque story with live jazz. With so many exciting acts hitting the stage Saturday, it will be hard to choose a favorite.
“You'll have to come see it all,” Mama Dixie said.
Audience members are encouraged to come in costume. It could be considered a warmup for the group's Oct. 31 “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” another annual event also at the Bama Theatre.
September 30th, 2015
Tuscaloosa area spared from budget cuts - Lake Lurleen State Park, Tannehill Historical State Park and the Alabama State Troopers post on Skyland Boulevard in Tuscaloosa will not close as state agencies cut services to offset budget cuts for the 2016 fiscal year that begins today.
The state announced ahead of the new fiscal year it would close five state parks and 31 part-time satellite driver's license offices, including seven in West Alabama.
“Right now, we are still a state park and open for business,” said Lake Lurleen Park Director Rosemary Burnette on Wednesday.
The park was among 15 sites the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources announced in the spring it would consider closing in the face of budget cuts. The threat of the closures were part of a campaign by state agencies and the governor to advocate for new tax revenue as lawmakers debated the state's operating budget. The Legislature approved a general fund budget for the fiscal year beginning Thursday that contains about $82 million in cuts.
The state parks to close on Oct. 15 include Florala, Bladon Springs in Silas, Paul M. Grist in Selma, Chickasaw in Gallion, and Roland Cooper near Camden.
The five parks were selected because they consistently lost money during the past several years, said Gunter Guy, Commissioner of Alabama's Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
In the announcement, Guy said lawmakers had transferred more than $30 million from the department's budget to the state's operating budget to support other state programs during the past five years, with about half of that coming from the state parks.
“Closing parks, reducing operations and laying off staff was something we hoped we could avoid,” said Greg Lein, director of Alabama State Parks System. “However, as we have said for the past several months publicly, we can't afford to run our current system with a continued loss of revenue due to this chronic problem of legislative transfers from our parks division to the general fund budget.”
The plans announced Wednesday also include reduction in staff and operational hours at some parks and park facilities and changes to fee structures.
Rickwood Caverns, Blue Springs, Desoto State Park restaurant, Cheaha Lodge & Restaurant; Lakepoint's golf course and Bucks Pocket campground will see changes to either staff or operational hours.
The state plans to increase day fees at parks from $4 per adult to $5 per adult, though smaller parks with fewer amenities may receive a different fee structure; select base lodging rates by 8 percent, which will be coupled with a new 5 percent discount for Alabama residents; and marina slip rentals.
The state also plans to add a new resort fee to address resort maintenance costs, park pass program to capture the present unrealized day-use revenue in ungated parks; and a new backcountry permit to attend to trails and related backcountry recreational services/programs.
“You will see all of that unfurl in the next couple of weeks,” Lein said.
Lein and Burnette said it was not yet clear whether the fee increases would affect Lake Lurleen.
Northport Mayor Bobby Herndon celebrated Wednesday's news the park would remain open.
During the spring when the Alabama Department of Conservation announced Lurleen was among the sites considered for possible closure, the city of Northport proposed the possibility of assuming operation of the park, a plan that would have seen the city would spend roughly $4 million-$5 million for capital improvements at the park. The deed held by the state indicates ownership of the 1,625-acre park site reverts to the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama in the event it ceases to be a state park.
“We were there as a safety net,” Herndon said. “We did not want to see Lake Lurleen close.”
While Lein was cool to the idea of an outright transfer of the park to the city, he said he welcomed the possibility of partnering with the city or other local governments to share costs.
With a little bit of investment, Lake Lurleen could be in the black,” Lein said, noting the parks fiscal situation was not as dire as the five parks earmarked for closure.
Lein noted similar partnerships with local governments at Oak Mountain and Gulf State parks.
While proposal for the city to assume operation of the park is unnecessary at the moment, Herndon said he would still be interested in the option in the future if the park again came under threat of closing.
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency will close 31 part-time satellite locations across the state, as it deals with an $11 million reduction in its state appropriation for the upcoming year.
The state trooper post on Skyland Boulevard in Tuscaloosa will not be affected at this time, trooper Reginal King said.
In West Alabama, sites are scheduled to close in Bibb, Greene, Hale, Lamar, Perry, Pickens and Sumter counties.
“With the new budget cuts passed by the Alabama Legislature for Fiscal Year 2016, and with our limited personnel, travel has been eliminated to these part-time satellite locations. Driver license examiners will be utilized to staff district driver license offices full-time and will no longer provide staffing to these 31 county-owned, satellite locations,” Secretary of Law Enforcement Spencer Collier said.
The elimination of the examiners traveling to the satellite locations, which account for less than 5 percent of the division's transactions, will help the department reduce costs, Collier said. He also predicted the addition of technology-based services including online renewals would mitigate the impact of the closures.
County probate judges and license or revenue commissioners would continue to provide renewal services they have traditionally handled, Collier noted.
Reach Ed Enoch at ed.enoch@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0209.
September 30th, 2015
5 University of Alabama students charged with hazing; fraternity gets sanctions - The University of Alabama placed sanctions on the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity after five members were arrested Wednesday for hazing.
No details about the hazing allegations were divulged in a press release issued by the university Wednesday night.
The five fraternity members were booked into the Tuscaloosa County Jail with bonds set at $1,000 each for the misdemeanor charges.
“The University of Alabama will not tolerate hazing and takes allegations and incidents of hazing very seriously,” dean of students Dean Hebson said in the statement. “Students who are the victims of, or who become aware of, hazing incidents are strongly encouraged to bring these incidents to our attention.”
Those arrested were:
- Colter K. Anderson, 21, of Dallas, Texas
- John Patrick Buckley, 21, of Houston, Texas
- Richard E. Markwalter, 20, of Huntsville
- Mark Allen Powers, 20, of Athens, Ala.
- Hunter Lee Wagner, 20, of Huntsville.
Anderson, Buckley, Markw alter and Wagner are charged with three counts of hazing. Powers is facing one count.
The students have been placed on interim sanctions by UA, according to the statement, and are being referred to UA's Office of Student Conduct.
The university and Phi Gamma Delta International Fraternity have placed sanctions on the fraternity. No social functions or new member activities will be allowed.
UA encouraged any students with information about hazing activities to call the hazing hotline at 205-348-HALT (4258) or UAPD at 205-348-5454.
Calls are confidential and callers are encouraged to provide specific information, including names of organizations, times and locations.
September 30th, 2015
Rescue calls change today; Northport will now handle some areas of county - Starting today, residents in northwest Tuscaloosa County will begin seeing Northport Fire Rescue officials on rescue and emergency calls.
The move comes after the city of Northport and the Tuscaloosa County Commission reached an agreement earlier this month for Northport firefighters to begin servicing this area of the county.
Until now, the Tuscaloosa Fire and Rescue Service was the lead rescue agency for all of unincorporated Tuscaloosa County.
“With the tremendous growth of our department over the years, we now have the personnel and apparatus to provide such an important service,” said Capt. Jason Norris, spokesman for Northport Fire Rescue. “Having stations, personnel and apparatus in close proximity to these areas made it an easy decision.
“Our mission is to provide timely responses to those residents of our county, who are very important to us.”
Since 1993, the city of Tuscaloosa has been under contract with Tuscaloosa County to serve the county’s unincorporated areas when needed.
The Tuscaloosa City Council has yet to take official action to amend that contract — it tabled a decision to do so about two weeks ago — but county officials believe that’s not going to be an issue.
However, for a time, residents could see both Northport and Tuscaloosa fire departments respond.
County Attorney Robert Spence said the contract with the city of Tuscaloosa requires them to respond only if called.
“If they don’t get called, they don’t have an obligation to respond,” Spence said. “There’s going to be some (calls), unfortunately, where both agencies are going to roll.
“But hopefully, this will be the best thing for all the citizens of the county.”
The City Council’s delay was not over money, as each of these rescue calls results in an almost $300 payment to the responding rescue service.
Rather, Councilwoman Cynthia Almond, who represents areas of Tuscaloosa that is north of the Black Warrior River, said she wanted to ensure that residents on the border of the Tuscaloosa city limit still will be served adequately with Northport Fire Rescue being the lead responding agency.
Aside from this, she and other city officials seemed to support the move.
“The idea is that patient care would be better served if those areas were covered by Northport Fire,” Tuscaloosa City Attorney Glenda Webb said Sept. 22. “You won’t have a Tuscaloosa Fire and Rescue unit passing a Northport fire station on the way to a rescue call, so that could expedite patient care.”
The contract is for emergency medical calls only. If someone has a heart attack or drowns, the rescue trucks now drive from downtown Tuscaloosa or 15th Street, pass one or even two Northport Fire Stations to get to the northwestern part of the county.
And since it remains in effect for the city of Tuscaloosa to respond, Webb said Wednesday that Tuscaloosa Fire and Rescue Service would respond if called.
“The city of Tuscaloosa is currently under contract to provide rescue services throughout Tuscaloosa County if we have a unit available,” she said. “We will respond to any calls we receive when we have units available.”
Tuscaloosa County Commissioner Stan Acker, who helped craft the agreement between Northport and the county to allow for Northport Fire Rescue response, said improving responses to those in need is the main goal.
“The most important thing to me is responding as quickly as we possibly can to people who may be in life-threatening situations,” Acker said. “I do believe everybody understands the good intent and how this is a great thing.
“We just need to work out the nuts and bolts, and things like this always takes a little time to work out.”
Reach Jason Morton at jason.morton@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0200.
September 30th, 2015
Georgia mirrors Alabama in many ways - The University of Alabama finds itself in a house of mirrors when it looks at Georgia film. At each turn, the Crimson Tide can find a reflection of itself.
Some similarities are obvious. Both teams built an offense around a pair of star running backs and a graduate transfer at quarterback. Turn the tape to the other side of the ball and the Bulldogs look even more like the Crimson Tide.
“I honestly think the scheme they run reminds me of going up against our guys every day in practice,” tight end O.J Howard said.
That Georgia defense operates under Jeremy Pruitt, who was on staff at Alabama from 2007-12. He worked his way up from director of player development in his first three seasons before coaching defensive backs from 2010-12.
Pruitt is a former Alabama player whose first major college coaching job came under Nick Saban, and he has been an ascendant assistant since then. He’s won three national championships in his first five seasons as an on-field assistant: two at Alabama and one at Florida State.
“I can tell you this, I was very blessed to work at Alabama with the people I worked for,” Pruitt said to UGASports.com. “I think it’s hard to argue what they’ve done over there. It’s been successful. So you have to take a little bit of it and use it to your advantage.”
He’s not the only one who got to learn from Saban. Offensive line coach Rob Sale played three seasons for Saban at LSU. Inside linebackers coach Mike Ekeler was a graduate assistant for one season under Saban with the Tigers, and Sam linebackers coach Kevin Sherrer played at Alabama before joining the UA support staff under Saban.
It goes even deeper than that. Georgia strength coach Mark Hocke was an assistant strength coach at Alabama for six years, and a handful of members of Georgia’s support staff have swapped a script ‘A’ for a sans-serif ‘G.’
“I’m always happy to see guys that do a good job for us get better opportunities, especially in a quality program with a quality coach like Mark,” Saban said. “But you also know that they know a lot about what you do and how you do it, so that’s not something that makes you comfortable.”
Despite all those connections, Richt said he didn’t make a conscious attempt to hire Alabama coaches to help capture some of UA’s success. It began when he hired Will Friend, an All-SEC selection at UA who played with Pruitt, as his offensive line coach in 2011.
Friend helped bring Pruitt, his old college friend, to Athens last year before he moved on to Colorado State. Sherrer, Ekeler and Hocke all joined Georgia since Pruitt arrived.
“It kind of spread from there,” Richt said. “But originally it was more of a coincidence that (Pruitt) was good friends with Will Friend. That’s kind of what got it rolling.”
The effects are starting to take hold. Georgia’s defense ranked 17th nationally in yards per game last year, while Alabama ranked 12th; the Bulldogs are 14th this year while Alabama is 12th. Sale’s offensive line looks like it has an Alabama attitude, players said.
“The offensive line is pretty aggressive, come off the ball aggressively and try knock the defensive line’s head off,” UA defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson said.
Georgia may not be trying to look like Alabama, but the Bulldogs have built a similar team in trying to match the Crimson Tide’s success. Both programs are aiming at championships, and Alabama has hit that mark in years past. Pruitt was there to be a part of it.
“You better play with toughness,” Pruitt said. “That’s one of the trademarks I think they’ve established over the last seven or eight years since Coach (Saban) has been there. You better find a way to create turnovers and not turn the ball over. Alabama has a really good tradition of running the football. You need to be able to stop the run and they do a really good job of stopping the run.”
All those similarities create a sense of familiarity, even if the programs haven’t met since 2012. Georgia and Alabama can see reflections of themselves on the field on Saturday in part because of what’s on the sideline.
“I would say they look a lot like some of our teams of the past,” Saban said. “Very physical, don’t make a lot of mistakes, don’t beat themselves much. And they play with a lot of toughness and they’re very aggressive on both sides of the ball. That’s the kind of team that we’ve always sort of aspired to have here. And it certainly looks like that’s the kind of team they have developed there.”
Reach Ben Jones at ben@tidesports.com or at 205-722-0196.
September 30th, 2015
Court rules in favor of former city school board member - By Stephanie Taylor
Staff Writer
An Alabama Supreme Court decision issued Wednesday was a small victory for a former Tuscaloosa City Schools board member who contested her 2013 election loss.
Kelly Horwitz claimed voter fraud by members of the University of Alabama’s Greek system led to opponent Cason Kirby’s 416-329 victory for the District 4 board seat.
Tuscaloosa County Circuit Court Judge Jim Roberts dismissed her contest of the results in November 2013, saying that there were not enough potential illegal ballots to overturn the results. The state Supreme Court on Wednesday reversed his dismissal, which means the election contest will once again be argued in Tuscaloosa County Circuit Court.
Members of the Supreme Court reviewed each of the contested ballots and determined that 159 were illegally cast by not meeting residency requirements. The court, however, rejected Horwitz’s arguments that fraudulent votes were cast.
Horwitz needs 87 votes invalidated to overturn the results. Now, her attorneys must subpoena the people who cast the 159 illegal votes and find out how they voted.
Whether the student voters met residency requirement played a substantial part in the case. Horwitz’s attorneys argued that students were not considered “domiciled” in the district if they received mail, reports of grades, tax returns and other government documentation at another address, such as their parents’ homes. Members of the Supreme Court agreed.
“We’re very pleased with this decision,” said Virginia Buck, a Northport attorney who represented Horwitz. “The area of law concerning the domiciles of college students is an area of law that needed to be made more clear. This is a very thorough and well-analyzed opinion which does a great deal toward clarifying the law in that area.”
When he dismissed the case, Roberts cited several instances of case law and state legislation that he says presumes student voters are domiciled in the district where they are attending college.
“For me it’s never been about the person, but a fair process,” Horwitz said. “That’s what matters. By having the Supreme Court weigh in, we now have some clarity in a district that has a strong student population. I always felt students should be involved in the process, but we need guidelines in how they should do so. This will help clarify that for our city.”
In addition to the issue of where students were domiciled, Horwitz claimed that voters were offered illegal inducements, including free drinks and concert tickets to vote for Kirby. Roberts ruled that her attorneys were unable to prove any voter misconduct, and the Supreme Court agreed.
“The high court’s decision makes it clear there was no improper activity on behalf of my campaign,” Kirby said in an emailed statement to The Tuscaloosa News. “Those baseless accusations are no longer a part of this case. The only issue in question is whether the votes were cast by legitimate electors of District 4, and we believe a full hearing of the evidence will make no difference in the outcome of this election.”
During local court proceedings held during the months after the election, attorneys argued at least 167 of the votes cast should be invalidated. Roberts ruled there were only 70 ballots that could be considered questionable, short of the 87 needed to overturn the results.
Reach Stephanie Taylor at stephanie.taylor@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0210.
September 30th, 2015
Man indicted in two homicides - A grand jury has indicted a Tuscaloosa man suspected in two high-profile homicides that happened in 2013.
Shadrell Matthews, 37, is one of two men accused of killing Antonio Williams, whose skeletal remains were found in a wooded area off Joe Mallisham Parkway on Sept. 7, 2013. Investigators believe that Williams was killed at a Holt residence and dumped in the wooded lot just off Interstate 20/59. He was missing for several weeks before hunters found his body.
Homicide investigators believe that Alexius Foster, 37, also killed Williams. They said that Foster believed Williams told law enforcement where to find him for questioning in the death of Foster's uncle, George Foster Jr., who was found stabbed to death at his home in June 2013.
Alexius Foster has been behind bars for two years and went on trial for the death of his uncle in August. Shadrell Matthews was scheduled to testify, but didn’t show up in court.
Investigators questioned Matthews and ended up charging him with capital murder in George Foster’s death, prompting the judge to declare a mistrial. Prosecutors presented evidence to a grand jury earlier this month, claiming that Matthews played a role in Williams’ death as well.
The grand jury issued an indictment charging him with capital murder in that case.
Details of Williams’ alleged role in the deaths have not been made public.
The grand jury also issued an indictment charging Matthews with capital murder in Williams' death.
September 30th, 2015
Two charged in death of Fosters man - Two people have been charged with murder in the beating and shooting death of a man found dead at his home in January.
Ronald Jenkins, 48, and Adam Terry, 40, were arrested Wednesday morning. They’re accused in the death of Ray Anthony Cannon, 58, who was found dead at a residence on Half Dollar Road in Fosters on Jan. 25.
Investigators said Cannon had been severely beaten and shot once.
“The investigation revealed that both Jenkins and Terry contributed to the death of Cannon,” Lt. Kip Hart, Tuscaloosa County Metro Homicide Unit assistant commander, said Wednesday.
A grand jury heard evidence in the case and issued indictments earlier this month. Jenkins and Terry were both arrested Wednesday and are being held in the Tuscaloosa County Jail with bond set at $75,000 each.
More information will be released at 1 p.m. today.
September 30th, 2015
Alabama players eager for trip home to face Georgia - Dallas Lee wore the red and black of the Georgia Bulldogs as an offensive lineman from 2010-13. His brother is University of Alabama linebacker Dillon Lee.
The Lee family practically grew up inside Sanford Stadium on the Athens, Ga., campus, but it’s a family split this Saturday.
The parents, Robert and Lisa, will sit in the visitors section wearing crimson and white and cheering for the youngest son. The brother might be on the sideline cheering on the home team.
Lee is anxious to go home and play in front of family and friends.
“I’ve been looking forward to this for awhile,” Dilon Lee said.
Despite growing up going to games — his grandparents had season tickets and his mom attended Georgia — this is the first game Lee has played inside Sanford Stadium. He estimates he’s been to 100 games inside that stadium.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” he said. “My role has expanded and I'm really looking forward to that. Georgia's a special place, it’s a great stadium, it should be loud, I'm excited to go play there.”
The brothers did square off against his older brother and his childhood favorite team in 2012 in the Georgia Dome for the SEC Championship Game, something Dillon hasn’t let Dallas forget.
He said he’s sure his brother will be pulling for the Bulldogs but cheering for him too.
Lee is one of several UA players from the Peach State, including guys with prominent roles like Kenyan Drake, Dalvin Tomlinson, Geno Matias-Smith and more.
“Growing up, I always wanted to play in Sanford Stadium,” Tomlinson said. “It’s always been a dream of mine. So it's pretty exciting, getting ready to go back home and play at UGA for the first time.”
With tickets hard to come by — UGA athletic officials say it’s one of the most in demand tickets in recent history — Georgia natives are doing everything they can to acquire extra tickets.
“I’m asking my teammates to trade some tickets with them so I can get some for my family,” Tomlinson said. “A lot of family members want to come to this game.
“We’ve just been talking about how excited we are for the game and the atmosphere. We remember going back to, like, recruiting days and going to the UGA games and how fun it used to be, so it’s going to be a fun game going back home and playing.”

Reach Aaron Suttles at aaron@tidesports.com or at 205-722-0229.
September 30th, 2015
Alabama forming plan to improve bike access, safety across the state - MONTGOMERY | The state’s Department of Transportation wants to make Alabama roads more bicycle and pedestrian friendly.
And safe. And useful. And it wants your input.
ALDOT is working to improve upon its current, five-year-old Statewide Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan, a plan required by the federal government, and from the state’s perspective, a plan that “will guide how we make the roads safer for pedestrians and bicycles specifically when we are building new roadways and improving existing roads,” said Allison Green, ALDOT spokeswoman.
“It could involve building bike paths, and that depends on whether that is needed to make the area safe.”
ALDOT announced last week that the plan is being developed to improve bicycle and pedestrian mobility. The purpose of the plan is to establish a vision for integrating bicycling and walking into the state of Alabama transportation system. It also will help guide investment in bicycle and pedestrian facilities that maximize use of the limited available funding.
“For a very nominal expenditure, ALDOT could produce very effective education programs aimed at motorists and cyclists including (public service announcements), financial support for hands-on education programs at the local and neighborhood levels, and ALDOT could significantly assist with bicycle tourism infrastructure, such as signing ... all at a very low cost,” said Jeff Feet, president of the Montgomery Bicycle Club and the Alabama Bicycle Coalition, who serves on the advisory committee for the plan.
The board also includes ALDOT engineers, Grey Brennen with Alabama Tourism and Jim Felder with Alabama Trails Commission.
The Project Advisory Committee has been created to guide the planning process. The committee includes representatives from transportation, health, trails, bicycling, conservation, community planning and economic development groups. The Statewide Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan is anticipated to be complete in the spring.
Alabama residents can give input for the plan via an online survey that can be accessed on the ALDOT home page of its website, and this fall, the team leading the planning process will hold five public workshops across the state. The workshops will give people an opportunity to learn more about the plan and to share their perspective on bicycling and pedestrian needs.
Frank Mileto commutes three times a week from his home in Millbrook to Gunter Air Force Base in Montgomery.
He said there needs to be better coordination with ALDOT, specifically when the department repaves the roads that include rumble strips on the shoulders.
“I won’t dictate what cars need for safety,” he said. “If they widen it a little more, or eliminate the rumble strips. ... I think we can accommodate cars and bikes in my opinion. I can go on the northern bypass, and there is a 6-foot shoulder and the rumble strips.”
Green said ALDOT is “definitely looking at those rumble strips in this plan. There are some designs that won’t hurt the bikes, but will also be effective for the automobiles. Kudos to the engineers who are looking at those things.”
Karen Stankard said more bike lanes would be great “with the rumble strip on the outside, and not between the lanes.”
“Also, (the state) needs bicycle parking and traffic signals that are pedestrian and bicycle friendly,” she said. “Walking downtown Montgomery, people turn when you are in the crosswalk all the time.”
Where pedestrians matter, Mileto said, Alabama has to go in to a deeper design.
“I was in Amsterdam over the summer, and they have a portion of the road for cyclists and a part for pedestrians,” he said. “The point is to encourage. One option is to create a barrier between cyclists and pedestrians, like they’re doing in New York City.”
Still, there needs to be more education for drivers, said triathlete Carolyn Slocum of Prattville. That could include public service spots and billboards.
“I would say the number one, if we had some great paved bike trails (or) roads,” she said. “I love that Old Farm Lane (in Prattville) now has signs to share the road and marked bike lanes.”
Jeff Periatt commutes twice a week along Carter Hill/Vaughn Road and Bell Road, and says academic research suggests signs are not effective. However, “signs that state bicycles are vehicles required to operate (on) the roadway would be the most helpful, in my opinion.”
Connectivity is an important factor in creating a successful plan, said cyclist Deana Acklin.
“A network of direct travel routes between destinations will encourage more people to substitute driving with walking and biking,” she said. “This will also help improve mobility for those who don’t have the drive.”
Information from: Montgomery Advertiser, http://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com
September 30th, 2015
Tuscaloosa City Council action from Sept. 29 - :
Authorized payment to Kaley Price in settlement of claim; total $250.
Authorized payment to Alabama Municipal Insurance Corp.; total $5,364.
Authorized change order no. 3 for runway 11-29 resurfacing and marking improvements; total $70,742.47.
Authorized payment to Bryant Williams in settlement of claim; total $1,049.72.
Authorized an adjustment and refund of excess deposit to Bradley Plumbing & Heating Inc. for installation of water mains and services for UA central campus water main extension; total $6,313.85.
Approved request and agreement for water service to Riverfront Hotel Indigo; total $28,921.21.
Granted permit for RV Hotel Owner LLC to construct water lines for Riverfront Hotel Indigo.
Approved ABC application of 15th Street Food Mart LLC for off-premises retail beer and off-premises retail table wine licenses at 15th Street Food Mart, 1500 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Approved ABC application of Mike Food Mart LLC for off-premises retail beer and off-premises retail table wine licenses at Mikes Food Mart, 1801 Culver Road.
Approved ABC application of Rubab Enterprise Inc. for off-premises retail beer and off-premises retail table wine licenses at Raceway No. 827, 940 Veterans Memorial Parkway.
Approved ABC application of Shop N Save LLC for off-premises retail beer and off-premises retail table wine licenses at Shop N Save, 1700 Hackberry Lane.
Approved the ABC application of Aden Investments Inc. for off-premises retail beer and off-premises retail table wine licenses at Skyland Shell, 4809 Skyland Blvd. E.
Adopted Zoning Amendment No. 1332 to rezone approximately 6.49 acres adjacent and to the west of 4400 Joe Mallisham Parkway, south of Grover Burchfield Drive, from R-1 to ML.
Approved downtown/riverfront overlay district permit for 2531 University Boulevard.
Tabled for 30 days a proposal for downtown/riverfront overlay district permit for 2302 Seventh St.
Authorized the mayor to execute a right-of-way permit to SCP Tuscaloosa LLC.
Authorized the mayor to execute a right-of-way permit to YMCA of Tuscaloosa County.
Authorized the mayor to execute a right-of-way permit to Page Service Companies LLC.
Authorized the approval of a small business revitalization loan application for Nichols Construction & Home Repair LLC; total $50,000.00.
Authorized the approval of a commercial revolving loan application for Nichols Construction & Home Repair LLC; total $200,000.
Amended the resolution of Sept. 22 titled "Resolution increasing city health insurance premium and employee withholding."
Authorized the mayor to execute all close-out documents necessary for the AIP grant 3-01-0072-029-2013.
Adopted amendment no. 2 to the resolution establishing a budget for the public safety capital fund.
Adopted the 32nd amendment to the fiscal 2013 water and sewer reserve for future improvement fund.
Authorized agreement with McGiffert and Associates LLC for engineering services for the University Boulevard storm sewer and sanitary sewer project; total not to exceed $86,336.
Authorized agreement with CFM Group LLC for engineering services for the flood hazard area revisions to Cribbs Mill Creek and Cribbs Mill Creek Tributary No. 5 Project; total not to exceed $104,000.
Authorized the mayor to execute agency funding contracts for 2015-2016.
Tentatively awarded the contract for seasonal ice rink to Ice Rink Events; total $88,900.
Amended the resolution establishing a budget for public work capital fund. (A15-0965) P49
Set Nov. 10 for a public hearing on a proposed vacation of a portion of Second Avenue between University Boulevard and Paul W. Bryant Drive.
Adopted Annexation No. 642 to annex approximately 6.49 acres adjacent and to the west of 4400 Joe Mallisham Parkway, south of Glover Burchfield Drive into the corporate limits of the city of Tuscaloosa.
Adopted 17th amendment to fiscal year 2015 general fund budget.
Adopted ninth amendment to the fiscal year 2015 water and sewer fund budget.
Introduced zoning amendment No. 1335 to amend the text of the zoning ordinance pertaining to design, construction and maintenance of signs.
Set Oct. 27 for a public hearing to consider adoption of zoning amendment No. 1335.
Authorized the payment of bills; total $4,569.77.
September 30th, 2015
Part of Third Street East will close today - Third Street East between short 24th Avenue East and 24th Avenue East in Tuscaloosa will be closed from 7 a.m.-2:30 p.m. today for a sewer drain repair.
September 30th, 2015
Judge approves Walter Energy access to cash - Walter Energy, which owns the Jim Walter Resource coal mines in Tuscaloosa County, has received continued access to cash for another month under a motion signed by a federal bankruptcy judge.
Hoover-based Walter Energy filed for bankruptcy reorganization earlier this year. Under the latest order, the company will have more time to negotiate with its lenders.
The unsecured creditors committee, which includes the United Mine Workers and others, objected to the motion approved by the judge. The committee said secured creditors were being given too much.
September 30th, 2015
County Commission approves $95.9 million budget, including raise for employees - The Tuscaloosa County Commission approved a $95.9 million budget this week, which includes a 2 percent raise for all full-time county employees. The budget also includes flat funding for community agencies, including $15,000 to the Character Council, $20,000 to AIDS Outreach, $75,000 to the Children’s Hands-On Museum, $35,000 to the Tuscaloosa Symphony, $50,000 to Kentuck and $2.9 million to PARA. Despite a request for more funding by PARA, the amount was kept level.
“We can amend the budget later if we have to,” Commissioner Stan Acker said Tuesday.
The budget does not include approximately $23.2 million in capital improvements that are planned. Those will be paid out of reserves, said Bill Lamb, county accountant.
In total, the county has about $40 million in reserves.
September 30th, 2015
Stillman College alumnus will sign copies of his books on Friday - A Stillman College alumnus will return to campus Friday to sign copies of his books.
Richard Ashe, a Marion, N.C., native who taught in the Tuscaloosa City Schools system and holds an education specialist degree from the University of Alabama, is the author “Under the Magnolia Tree,” “Poetic Expressions” and “Soulful Poetry.”
His writings touch on his childhood in North Carolina and his experiences at Stillman.
Ashe will be in the lobby of the Hay Center cafeteria from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. Friday on the Stillman campus, 3601 Stillman Blvd.
September 30th, 2015
Northport police charge man with breaking into a home - Northport Police arrested a man they say was trying to break into a residence Monday night.
Officers were dispatched to a burglary in progress in the 6800 block of McFarland Boulevard at 11 p.m. They encountered a man who ran, said department spokesman Lt. Chris Stewart.
After a brief chase, officers apprehended Terry Smith, 25. He had a screwdriver and a flashlight and was identified by the victim as the person seen trying to break in, Stewart said.
Smith was charged with two counts of attempted first-degree burglary, possession of burglary tools and attempting to elude police. He was being held in the Tuscaloosa County Jail Tuesday with bond set at $81,500.
September 30th, 2015
Two Tuscaloosa County schools get Dollar General grants - It’s been nearly a decade since Alabama’s public school libraries have received funds to purchase new books.
This year, they received little bit of state money. Alicia Bynum, library media specialist at Flatwoods Elementary School, said the state provided her school with $400.
“The average hardbound library book is about $30 so what the state provides us is not sufficient,” Bynum said. “I would say that the average book in our library is from the late 1980s or early 1990s.”
To their delight, Bynum and Myrtlewood Elementary librarian Samantha Harbin each received $3,000 Dollar General Literacy Foundation grants this year to use their libraries.
Bynum said more than 1,800 schools applied for the grant. Flatwoods and Myrtlewood were the only two schools in Tuscaloosa County to receive them. The money will be given to the schools Thursday.
“We’re super excited because I can’t stand it when a student comes into our library and wants a resource and we don’t have it,” Harbin said. “So we have to fund raise and do things to get the money because we don’t have funding. We’re super excited because we need more books on our shelves so students can read and check them out.”
In addition to the grant, Flatwoods’ library also recently received a state appropriation of $2,500 from State Rep. Alan Harper, R-Northport, to purchase books.
Bynum said she’s going to use the $5,500 to purchase more than 100 bilingual books. Thirty percent of the school’s student population speak English as a second language, which is the highest percentage of any school in the system.
“It’s a real need for us to have literature that’s appropriate for them and is also at their reading level,” she said. “One focus my library has is buying a lot of bilingual books to encourage them reading with their parents and communication about what the child is reading.”
Harbin said she plans on using the grant money to purchase more books for students and resources for Myrtlewood’s teachers.
“So I plan to get more resources for our teachers like instructional DVDs and books that cover site standards for Common Core, especially for science and social studies,” she said. “There is a great need for non-fiction. Students need more exposure to non-fiction texts. That’s what I wrote the grant for to get more non-fiction books.”
Reach Jamon Smith at jamon.smith@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0204.
September 30th, 2015
Tuscaloosa council tables vote on upgrades for paid parking facility at First Baptist - A divided Tuscaloosa City Council voted Tuesday to take a month before deciding whether to approve planned upgrades to a downtown parking lot owned by First Baptist Church of Tuscaloosa.
The church wants the improvements to allow Druid City Parking LLC to lease the parking lot located just west of the city's Intermodal Facility and charge motorists to park there.
The upgrades would include armed barriers at two new, one-way entrances; landscaping upgrades on the south side of the lot; six new, double-sided light poles and a re-striping of the lot to increase its capacity from 161 vehicles to 173.
With a 4-3 vote, the council tabled a proposal that would have allowed the church to contract for the more than $10,000 in upgrades to the parking lot at 2302 Seventh St.
While the issue of paid parking was the reason behind the vote, City Attorney Glenda Webb said the church could start charging for parking there immediately if it so desired because the city has no jurisdiction over such an act on private property.
That didn't stop business owner Charles Spurlin, owner of The Shirt Shop and a 37-year investor in downtown Tuscaloosa, from pleading with the council not to allow for paid parking.
“If we did the paid parking, we would be the only retail paid parking in this community,” said Spurlin, adding that Midtown Village, University Mall and other shopping areas of the city could begin advertising free parking as a result.
“I think it needs to be convenient and easy to shop downtown.”
Council President Harrison Taylor said he moved to table the proposal until the first week in November in order to allow the mayor's Downtown Parking Task Force to convene.
Created by an executive order by Mayor Walt Maddox in August, the task force is to examine parking issues downtown.
The 19-member Downtown Parking Task Force is expected to hold its first public meeting at the end of this month, officials said, and Maddox wants any recommendations on how to improve downtown parking issues on his desk by May so they can be considered in time for the fiscal 2017 budget.
Councilman Matt Calderone said that paid parking wasn't the issue before the council. Rather, it was the amount and value the improvements that Druid City Parking was proposing that triggered the governing rules of the city's Downtown Riverfront Overlay District.
This district demands council approval for any upgrades valued at more than $10,000 or any changes to plans it had previously approved.
Earlier in the evening, the council gave unanimous approval to plan amendments requested by Rock Point Estates LLC for its Downtown Rock Point development at the intersection of University Boulevard and Lurleen Wallace Boulevard South.
Developers wanted permission to add an awning on the front of its building that was not part of the original plans approved by the City Council in December.
“Essentially, the same matter came up and it was decided not to allow that. It was tabled for 30 days,” Calderone said. “We could end up with a product out there that's not advanced or as aesthetically pleasing as what's being proposed.”
The council asked Maddox to re-open negotiations with the church over a potential public-private partnership with the First Baptist Church that collapsed in 2012. Maddox said he would try. The goal of these talks was to keep this parking lot free and available to the public except when the church needed it for services.
But whether those talks can continue is unknown.
Fred Hahn, a deacon for the church, asked the City Council not to delay the project or else the church may be forced to consider different options.
“Bear in mind, we want to be good neighbors. But we need some type of control, or guidance, over it,” Hahn said, noting that church members have safety concerns over the unlit lot. “We do not want to take the other alternatives that we have.
“We do not want to.”
Reach Jason Morton at jason.morton@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0200.
September 30th, 2015
Wine for the Walk diabetes research fundraiser is Wednesday - People will have the opportunity to sample food from several Tuscaloosa-area restaurants on Wednesday night during a fundraiser for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
The 12th annual Wine for the Walk will be from 7-9 Wednesday night at the home of Dr. and Mrs. Doug Hamiter, 6538 Waterfront Drive.
“Each year it’s done nothing but grow bigger and better,” said Michelle Crouse, organizer of the event, which has an admission of $50 per person.
She said the Wine for the Walk will provide guests a fun, social way to raise money for a good cause.
Wine for the Walk will feature food from Another Broken Egg, DePalma’s Italian Cafe, Chuck’s Fish, Evangeline’s and Five. A wide variety of wines from Proof Beverages of Birmingham and craft beers from Greene Beverage Co. will be paired with the food.
A silent auction will also be held, where guests can bid on items from Expeditions clothing store, Effie’s boutique, Fincher and Ozment jewelers and many other local vendors.
Crouse said the generosity of the local businesses means that all proceeds from the event will go directly to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
She said that in addition to the food donated by the restaurants, Mama Goldberg’s Deli will provide water and a local endocrinologist printed the donation cards.
Crouse said she and her husband, Hans, became involved in the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation after their son, Cameron, was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 2.
Cameron is now a 15-year-old high school student.
The challenges children with auto-immune disorders face can lead them to feel like they cannot live a “normal” life, but Crouse said that her son has a different attitude toward diabetes.
“The more Cameron does to battle diabetes, the more he takes the power back from the disease,” said Michelle Crouse.
Hans and Cameron Crouse participate in a separate Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation bicycle event called Ride to Cure. They have participated together for two years and will be participating in their third ride this year. The two competed in the 2013 and 2014 ride in which Cameron Crouse was awarded the Best Youth Rider Award and Jersey both years, a feat not previously accomplished by a youth rider.
Hans and Cameron Crouse are Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation national spokesmen for the ride and have been featured in several national advertising campaigns.
For more information, go to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s Alabama chapter website at www.jdrf.org/alabama.
September 30th, 2015
Firms picked to upgrade Lloyd Wood - The Tuscaloosa County Board of Education approved Hall-Taylor Construction Company Inc. as the construction manager over the renovations for the new Lloyd Wood Education Center at 2314 9th St., Northport.
The board also approved K&A Builders Inc. to do the interior demolition of the old Lloyd Wood Middle School building that’s going to be transformed into the Lloyd Wood Education Center. K&A will be paid $111,000 for its work.
The total price of the Lloyd Wood Education Center renovation project is about $8 million, said Mark Nelson, board president.
“That school is being re-purposed to take care of our medically fragile students and special needs students that are currently at the Sprayberry Center on Rice Mine Road,” Nelson said. “That center has many issues. It wasn’t built handicap-accessible. This will be a first-class facility for those special needs children of our system.
“The demolition package means (K&A is) going to be pulling out ceiling tiles, interior walls and things like that. They’re not tearing down the outside of the building. It’s an interior demolition. Demolition will start within a week.”
The board voted to close Lloyd Wood Middle School at the end of the 2009-2010 school year because of declining enrollment. The school was built in 1962.
It was decided in 2014 that the school building would be repurposed and turned into the Lloyd Wood Education Center, which will house the Sprayberry Center’s students and Grad Academy, a program that gives students who would otherwise be expelled a second chance.
“We’re on a tight timeline because we’re committed to get those kids in (the Lloyd Wood Education Center) by August of next year,” said Walter Davie, interim school superintendent.
In other action, Davie was given a raise.
His yearly salary will increase from $111,000 to $150,000.
Davie has served as the system’s deputy superintendent for the past 3.5 years. He was made interim superintendent while remaining the system’s deputy superintendent at the end of August when former Superintendent Elizabeth Swinford had her job title switched to
To assistant Davie in his dual role as interim and deputy superintendent, Dan Butler — who was interim superintendent of the system from Feb. 16, 2012, to June 2013 — has been rehired to assist Davie in any way he can. Nelson said Butler will work about two or three days a week and make $450 a day. He starts today.
Reach Jamon Smith at jamon.smith@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0204.
September 30th, 2015
New intersection coming to Jack Warner Parkway - Site preparation has begun for a new road being built at the University of Alabama that will connect the old Bryce Hospital campus directly to Jack Warner Parkway.
North Campus Way is part of the $24 million road project on the historic hospital’s campus that will connect Fifth Avenue, Hackberry Lane and Jack Warner Parkway.
Peter Bryce Boulevard, which is already under construction, will connect Hackberry Lane with Fifth Avenue. North Campus Way will connect to Jack Warner east of Clara Verner Apartments and Peter Bryce Boulevard north of the historic main hospital building.
Tim Leopard, UA’s assistant vice president for construction, predicted construction of North Campus Way would not cause any major disruptions to traffic on Jack Warner Parkway.
“We will coordinate with (the Tuscaloosa Department of Transportation),” Leopard said of the connection to Jack Warner Parkway. “There won’t be any major closures.”
Officials with TDOT could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
The work on the roads is being completed in phases, Leopard said. The first phase, which includes the intersection of Hackberry Lane and Peter Bryce Boulevard and North Campus Way, is scheduled to be completed by April 2016. The second phase includes the leg connecting to Fifth Avenue and is expected to be completed by July 2016.
The university is demolishing 15 outbuildings on the old hospital grounds, many of which are in the planned path of the roads.
The project is funded by a $15 million grant from the Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program and $9 million in university funds.
Reach Ed Enoch at ed.enoch@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0209.
September 29th, 2015
Few details in Bentley divorce case - No details about the divorce settlement reached between Gov. Robert Bentley and first lady Dianne Bentley were included in court documents made public Tuesday.
The governor’s office announced that the couple had reached a settlement on Monday.
Tuscaloosa County Circuit Judge Philip Lisenby on Tuesday unsealed the records and signed a decree making the divorce final.
The unsealed records do not include details about the settlement or any information other than the original divorce filing, motions to seal the case and motions filed by The Tuscaloosa News and other media outlets to intervene and make the documents public.
Dianne Bentley, in her divorce filing, asked for possession of the couple’s homes in Tuscaloosa and Fort Morgan, alimony and a division of other assets.
September 29th, 2015
Bill Nye "The Science Guy" shares views at University of Alabama - Bill Nye, known as “the Science Guy” through his PBS television show, was greeted with a rock star-like reception during a speech Monday night at the University of Alabama's Moody Music Building.
Nye used humor throughout his lecture on the importance of recognizing climate change and the need for students to, as he put it, “Dare I say it, change the world.”
Nye said people who deny climate change are one of science's biggest enemies.
“They are leaving the world worse than when they found it. They mean well, but they're holding us back. You have to vote,” Nye said.
Though focused primarily on climate change, Nye's speech covered a number of topics, from recent flooding in Miami, to the potential of wind and solar energy, to his family: Nye's father became fascinated with stars and sundials while a prisoner of war in during World War II, and his mother worked as a Navy cryptographer.
Nye's speech was the result of a collaboration between UA's ALLELE Lecture series, an Arts and Sciences program featuring speakers on evolution and life sciences, and the Blount Undergraduate Initiative. The Blount program, said senior fellow Deborah Keene, hoped that teaming up these two programs would help secure a more high-profile speaker for the series. Blount students are required to attend convocation lectures for academic credit.
“Blount is a living learning group on campus where students live and learn together in a dorm. It's intended to be like a small liberal arts college in the middle of a large research center,” Keene said. “All our freshmen take a two semester series that covers many great thinkers in Western civilization from Plato to Toni Morrison. Poets, essayists, novelists — you name it they read it. Their sophomore and junior years, they take small seminar classes only available to them.”
Such classes include topics like football as religion as well as lighter topics such as comic books, fly fishing, “Harry Potter” and “Star Wars.” Students in the program were allowed to sit down with Nye for a book signing after the event. Other students and Tuscaloosa residents waited in line for hours to get a ticket.
“I grew up watching his show throughout school. It's a big part of my childhood,” said Onyx Cutts, an engineering student. “There's a lot of politics in the science world, and he's a part of that. After 18 years of knowing who he is and what he does, it's great being able to see him in person.”
September 29th, 2015
Rain causes flooding, prompts rescues in Mobile - MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — Flood waters receded along the Alabama coast Monday after storms from a tropical weather system dumped about 7.5 inches of rain in less than a day, inundating roads and creating dangerous surf conditions along beaches.
No deaths or serious injuries were reported, but firefighters had to rescue more than a dozen people from cars that were surrounded by water when flooding was at its worst late Sunday.
“They were stranded motorists, people who drove through the water,” said Steve Huffman, a spokesman for the Mobile Fire-Rescue Department.
At the University of South Alabama, water entered the ground-floor of a residence building, soaking rugs and shoes in student rooms. A car had to be pulled out of a sink hole that opened in a campus parking lot after water washed out soil underneath.
“This was a little bit unusual that we had the street flood and the parking lot flooding we did. I think it’s just because we had a large amount of rain in a short period of time,” said university spokesman Bob Lowry.
John Kilcullen of the Mobile County Emergency Management Agency said conditions were improving as the heaviest rains moved eastward into the Florida Panhandle.
“Water has had an opportunity to recede,” said Kilcullen, operations and planning director. “There are still some spots and problems areas, but pretty much roads have improved since last night.”
The National Weather Service said rains could continue through Tuesday, with 4 more inches possible across the region and as much as 8 inches possible in isolated areas.
The weather service issued a flood watch for extreme southwest Alabama, and forecasters said the churning surf was a threat on beaches in Baldwin and Mobile counties.
“Right now the big issue is rip currents,” said Kilcullen. “They’re telling people to stay out of the water because the Gulf is angry.”
Weather officials had predicted downpours linked to a weather system in the Gulf of Mexico off the southwest coast of Florida, but the rain was heavier than expected.
“I think the timing of it and the amount of it was a little different than we expected,” Kilcullen said.
September 29th, 2015
Number of reported crimes declines in Tuscaloosa County - The number of crimes reported in Tuscaloosa County dropped between 2013 and 2014, following a nationwide trend seen in annual crime statistics released by the FBI on Monday.
There were 7,794 violent and property crimes reported to law enforcement agencies in Tuscaloosa last year — a 3 percent decrease from the 8,033 reported in 2013.
Nationwide, violent crimes decreased 0.2 percent and property crimes decreased 4.3 percent. It’s the 12th straight year that crime has dropped in the United States.
The numbers were compiled from reports taken by Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Office and the Tuscaloosa, Northport, University of Alabama, Brookwood and Coaling police departments.
Violent crimes across Tuscaloosa County increased 5.6 percent, from 771 in 2013 to 814 in 2014.
Twelve homicide or manslaughter cases were reported across the county.
There were three homicides in Tuscaloosa County, 19 rapes, 20 robberies and 171 assaults.
In Tuscaloosa city limits, there were nine homicides, 53 rapes, 176 robberies and 228 assaults. Northport reported 13 rapes, 30 robberies and 47 assaults.
There was one rape, one robbery and there were five assaults reported in Brookwood. Coaling reported five rapes and 10 assaults. There were eight rapes reported on the UA campus, four robberies and 11 assaults.
Property crimes decreased 3.7 percent, from 7,246 in 2013 to 6,980 in 2014.
In unincorporated Tuscaloosa County, 366 burglaries, 790 thefts and 128 motor vehicle thefts were reported.
In Tuscaloosa, 1,042 burglaries, 2,913 thefts and 183 motor vehicle thefts were reported. Northport reported 218 burglaries, 745 thefts and 29 motor vehicle thefts. There were 16 burglaries, 36 thefts and eight motor vehicle thefts in Brookwood and 25 burglaries, 47 thefts and 3 motor vehicle thefts in Coaling. UA reported 42 burglaries, 382 thefts and seven motor vehicle thefts.
September 29th, 2015
Three escape from apartment fire - Three people escaped from an apartment that caught fire early Monday morning.
Tuscaloosa Fire and Rescue Service crews were called to an apartment building at 2110 26th Ave. at 9:39 a.m.
One unit was heavily damaged, but no one was injured. The cause of the fire is under investigation.
September 29th, 2015
Nominees sought for grand marshal of West Alabama Christmas Parade - Nominations are being sought for grand marshal of the 40th annual West Alabama Christmas Parade. Criteria are significant community contributions, lifetime achievements with a lasting community impact and career achievements.
Nomination forms may be obtained by visiting www.tcpara.org, any PARA facility or the main office at 614 Greensboro Ave.
Deadline is 5 p.m. Oct. 23. Nominations can be hand-delivered to the PARA main office on Greensboro Avenue; mailed to PARA /Grand Marshal Nominations, P.O. Box 2496, Tuscaloosa, AL 35403; or emailed to Becky Booker, PARA public relations and marketing manager at bbooker@tcpara.org.
The parade will be Dec. 7 in downtown Tuscaloosa.
September 29th, 2015
Attorney Kenneth Feinberg to speak at University of Alabama law school Tuesday - An attorney who has earned a national reputation as an expert in mediation and dispute resolution will speak at noon Tuesday at the University of Alabama School of Law.
Kenneth Feinberg's lecture is free and open to the public. The lecture will be in the law school's Bedsole Moot Courtroom 140.
Feinberg was appointed special master of the U.S. government's September 11 victim compensation fund. He served as the government-
appointed administrator of the BP Deepwater Horizon Disaster Victim Compensation Fund.
September 29th, 2015
Bama Theatre to show Woody Allen film "Irrational Man" - The Bama Art House fall film series continues Tuesday night with a screening of “Irrational Man” at 7:30 p.m. at the Bama Theatre, 600 Greensboro Ave.
The 2015 film directed and written by Woody Allen, stars Joaquin Phoenix, Emma Stone and Parker Posey. The film’s plot deals with a tormented philosophy professor who finds the will to live when he commits an existential act.
Tickets cost $8; $7 for seniors and students; and $6 for Tuscaloosa Arts Council members. Patrons can buy a $60 discount punch-card ticket for the entire fall film series.
To see a preview of “Irrational Man” and other films in the series, go to www.bama theatre.org/
September 29th, 2015
2 Tuscaloosa students are National Merit semifinalists - Two students from Tuscaloosa have been named semifinalists in the 2016 National Merit Scholarship competition.
Holy Spirit Catholic High School’s David Fonseca and Northridge High School’s Rachel Emig join 16,000 other semifinalists from across the country who were selected from 1.5 million high school juniors because of high scores on their 2014 preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship qualifying test, according to a news release.
To become finalists in the competition — which about 90 percent of semifinalists are expected to attain — Fonseca and Emig will have to fill out a detailed scholarship application, which contains their academic records, any participation in school and community activities, demonstrated leadership abilities, employment record and honors and awards received.
Semifinalists must have an outstanding high school academic record to proceed to finalist status. They must also be endorsed by a high school official, write an essay and earn high SAT scores that confirm their high marks on the preliminary SAT.
Semifinalists will be informed if they made finalist status in February. Each finalist will compete for one of 2,500 National Merit $2,500 scholarships.
The 2016 National Merit Scholarship winners will be announced from April to July. These scholarship recipients will join more than 315,000 other young people who have earned the Merit Scholar title.
Reach Jamon Smith at jamon.smith@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0204.
September 29th, 2015
Man charged with holding woman against her will for six hours - A woman told police that a man she is dating held her against her will for six hours on Friday.
The woman, 53, told police that she refused to let Kenneth Bolden, 41, borrow her truck Friday night, said Capt. Gary Hood, Tuscaloosa County Metro Homicide Unit commander.
She said Bolden hit her and forced her into the truck, Hood said.
“At one point, the victim said she jumped out of the truck at a stop sign and ran,” Hood wrote in an email. “Bolden chased her, and once he caught her he began choking her. Bolden then forced the victim back into the truck where he continued to beat her.”
The woman told police that Bolden released her at a relative’s home.
Investigators charged Bolden with first-degree kidnapping and domestic violation/strangulation early Monday morning.
September 29th, 2015
Civil rights photos going on display in Tuscaloosa - A monthlong exhibit of photographs from the civil rights movement era in Mississippi will open on Friday at the Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center in Tuscaloosa.
The exhibit “Fertile Ground: The Civil Rights Movement and Its Legacy in the Mississippi Delta” will be on display from Friday through Oct. 30 at the University of Alabama Gallery at the arts center at 620 Greensboro Ave. in downtown Tuscaloosa.
Documentary photographer and civil rights activist Doris A. Derby, known for capturing the participation of ordinary people in the civil rights movement, took the photographs between 1963 and 1972.
“A lot of the photographs look like ordinary people doing ordinary things, but, in fact, they're ordinary activities that most Americans took for granted but weren't possible — or were extremely difficult — for black people living in Mississippi and other Southern states to engage in at that time,” she said in comments released by the university.
The images capture the people, places and activities of the Mississippi Action Program/Head Start, the Liberty House Handcraft and Marketing Cooperatives of the Poor Peoples Corp., the Delta Ministry, the Free Southern Theater, the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and a collage of Derby's civil rights activities.
During the free opening reception on Friday from 5:30-7:30 p.m., Derby will give an artist's talk.
Derby is also donating one of her photographs to UA, where it will become part of the Paul R. Jones Collection of American Art, one of the largest collections of African-American art in the world.
The photograph features civil rights icon Fannie Lou Hamer, a sharecropper who rose to be a prominent voice in the movement in Mississippi, addressing the Mississippi Democratic Nominating Convention in 1968.
The gallery is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and the first Fridays of the month until 8 p.m.
September 29th, 2015
Time to hop over to Fayette for annual Frog Level Festival - Toads, tree frogs and bullfrogs — Misty Kimbrell has caught them all with her bare hands.
When her sons decided to enter the decades-old frog jumping contest she competed in as a child to see whose frog could reach the finish line first, Kimbrell began harvesting frogs from her mother and mother-in-law’s fish ponds so all kids could participate.
“I thought it was going to be easy to go out and catch these frogs, but it’s not,” she said. “You always see them up until time for the frog jumping contest.”
The frog jumping contest is one of many activities that will take place at Fayette’s annual Alabama Frog Level Festival on Friday and Saturday in downtown Fayette at the courthouse square.
The festival was named after the town’s former name, Frog Level, so named because the town sits just above the flood level of the Sipsey River on the level with the frogs.
The festival will include about 35 arts and crafts vendors, food, kids activities, events and live music. Admission is free.
Events kick off Friday at 4 p.m. with a fish and shrimp fry. Music will also start at 4 p.m., lasting until midnight.
On Saturday, the festival will continue with a cruise-in car show with up to 300 classic cars, trucks and motorcycles on display at 8 a.m. The festival opens at 9 a.m. with more live music, and the frog jumping contest starts at 10 a.m.
Jo Frances White, executive director of the Fayette Area Chamber of Commerce, said many downtown businesses will also run sales and set up wood cutouts of frogs painted as Elvis Presley, a train conductor, a nurse, a chef and more.
White said the festival has grown every year and is an effort to draw more tourists to the area.
“It’s to introduce people to our wonderful, beautiful city — to bring people here so they can see what we have,” she said.
The city boasts the Fayette Art Museum, which houses more than 4,000 pieces in its permanent collection with over 500 running feet of display space on the main floor of the Fayette Civic Center and six folk art galleries. It is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m.-noon and 1- 4 p.m.
Both museums have free admission and are open to the public.
Another museum in Fayette is the Historical Depot Museum. The museum showcases model trains, Civil War records and memorabilia, a caboose that kids can play on and a replica of 1950s and ’60s Fayette in working progress. It is open on Sundays from 1-5 p.m. and by appointment.
The city is also home to Guthrie Smith Park. Inside the park is the Fayette Aquatic Center with a 5,400 square-foot pool, a splash pad, lazy river, three slides and more. The park also offers recreational fields, tennis courts, walking and biking trails, an eight-acre fishing lake, RV and tent campsites and more, open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week.
For more information, go to fayetteareachamber.org.
September 29th, 2015
Nonprofit Safe Kids Tuscaloosa appeals for funding to continue promoting child safety - Eight out of 10 car seats are installed incorrectly, according to Safe Kids Worldwide, an organization dedicated to preventing injuries in children.
But in Tuscaloosa, the numbers could be even higher.
“I would say that about 10 out of 10 car seats we see are installed incorrectly,” said Janice Hagler, a retired Northport police corporal who now serves as director of the Child Passenger Safety Center, part of Safe Kids.
For the past decade, the nonprofit Safe Kids Tuscaloosa has trained police officers and firefighters to install car seats properly and held public seminars about the importance of car seats, bike helmets and baby-proofing a home.
“We educate the public on anything that has to do with children’s safety,” Hagler said.
“We set up information booths, speak at churches, clubs and different agencies,” she said. “We teach all types of safety tips, whether it’s bikes, skateboards, home safety, fire safety, even safety around a pool.”
But in order to continue, the organization has asked for the city of Northport’s help: The group is funded by donations and doesn’t have enough to pay for their liability insurance, which costs about $1,300 a year.
“Last year, we had to close for three months because we didn’t have enough to cover the insurance,” Hagler said.
A grant will cover the difference so the organization could continue training officers, speaking to churches and community organizations on child safety and giving out car seats to those in need. But now there is not enough money to pay the insurance.
“We only have $600 in the bank,” Hagler told the Northport City Council.
The nonprofit organization, which is a network member of the national Safe Kids Worldwide, is run by volunteers, primarily retired law enforcement.
Northport Mayor Bobby Herndon said he hope the city will support the organization so that it can continue.
“It’s a very worthy cause,” Herndon said, adding that he will propose the city help Safe Kids financially at the Oct. 7 council meeting. “It’s very important and is recognized across the state for child safety. We are very proud of it, and I’ll do anything I can to get funding for it.”
Safe Kids Tuscaloosa doesn’t have an office, but the group is based at the Northport Fire Station No. 1 at the Northport Civic Center. The car seat checks are held every second Monday and fourth Saturday of the month, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., except for November and December when they are open the third Saturdays of the month.
For more information on Safe Kids Tuscaloosa or to schedule a car seat check, call 469-1234.
Reach Lydia Seabol Avant at lydia.seabolavant@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0222.
September 29th, 2015
Bentleys reach divorce accord - Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley and first lady Dianne Bentley have agreed to a divorce settlement, ending their 50-year marriage, the governor’s office said Monday.
The settlement was filed Monday, just four weeks after the first lady filed for divorce, saying their marriage had suffered an “irretrievable breakdown.” The governor said he has asked a judge to unseal the case file so the public and media can see it.
“The last four weeks have been a very difficult time for my family and for our state. The people of Alabama have prayed for us and have encouraged us. For that, I am extremely grateful,” Bentley said in a statement.
“Today, Dianne and I have reached a mutual agreement in our proceedings. I have asked Judge Philip Lisenby to unseal settlement documents so the public and the media will have full access to it. Thank you for your continued prayers and support. I am truly blessed and deeply honored to serve as your governor.”
A judge sealed the divorce file from public view three days after it was filed at the request of the Bentley’s.
Dianne Bentley, in her divorce filing, asked for possession of the couple’s homes in Tuscaloosa and Fort Morgan, alimony and a division of other assets.
“Plaintiff states that there is such a complete incompatibility of temperament that the parties can no longer live together. That there exists a conflict of personalities which destroys the legitimate aims of matrimony and all possibilities of reconciliation are futile,” Dianne Bentley’s attorney L. Stephen Wright Jr. wrote in the Aug. 28 filing.
While the divorce filing said the Bentleys had been separated since January, the couple continued to travel together and made appearances at public events. The Bentleys made a joint appearance in Montgomery with college mascots less than an hour after the divorce papers were stamped as filed.
The couple met at the University of Alabama, when Bentley, a dermatologist, was in his first year of medical school. Dianne Bentley said during campaign interviews that she worked in medical labs for $325 a month to help put him through medical school. They have four adult sons, seven granddaughters and one grandson.
When Bentley, a legislator from Tuscaloosa, launched his longshot bid for governor in 2010, his wife said at the time she was not excited at the prospect of being a politician’s wife, but grew to love visiting the state’s small towns.
“I’m just a very shy person. I’m not comfortable out with people and crowds,” she said in an interview. She often drove him to his early campaign events because his campaign could not afford many paid staff members.
The couple marked their 50th wedding anniversary in July. The first couple, or their public relations staff, traded anniversary well wishes via their official social media accounts.
“Today (at)FirstLadyDB and I celebrate another wonderful year of marriage. Happy Anniversary Dianne!” the governor wrote as he tweeted a photo from their 1964 wedding.
The divorce settlement caps what has been a trying year, both politically and personally, for Bentley. The Republican governor began his second term in January saying he was determined to lead more and demonstrate a more aggressive political style. Bentley spent much of the 2015 trying to convince lawmakers in his own party to raise taxes in the face of a budget shortfall.
September 28th, 2015
Portion of Sixth Street to be closed this week - A portion of Sixth Street between Lurleen Wallace Boulevard North and Lurleen Wallace Boulevard South will be closed beginning at 7 a.m. today and continuing through 6 p.m. Wednesday.
The closure is needed for sidewalk and parking construction.
September 27th, 2015
Tuscaloosa Chinese Sisterhood teaches children about customs, traditions - The Tuscaloosa Chinese Sisterhood was founded this summer with the goals of creating an organization for the Chinese community in Tuscaloosa, fostering a sense of belonging and sharing Chinese culture.
On Sunday, the nonprofit gathered at Temple Emanu-El in Tuscaloosa for a mid-fall celebration. The event included games for the children and a demonstration of how to make moon cake, a traditional pastry exchanged during the celebration.
The event was an open house of sorts for the new organization and its fledgling school founded with the goal of creating a place for the children in Tuscaloosa's Chinese community to learn about their heritage and, as part of that, the Mandarin dialect. The school was founded in August and meets weekly to teach children, from 5 years old to the mid-teens, language and culture. Right now, there are about 40 students, mostly second-generation Chinese Americans.
“We felt it is a shame for the Chinese community. Our second generation doesn't speak our language, doesn't understand our culture,” said Yuanqin Holman, who teaches at the school.
The teachers are from China and are formally trained and educated to teach Chinese, Holman said.
The school, which now offers four classes, meets at Temple Emanu-El on Sundays. The classes are organized by age and ability.
For Qiaoli Liang, who helped found the school and whose husband is Jewish, inspiration for the Chinese school came from a similar programs available in the Jewish community.
“With my son, I guess I just became so aware how much they do for the Jewish school,” she said.
While the children are younger, they may pick up some Chinese at home but, as they get older and the vocabulary gets more complex, the need for instruction becomes greater, Liang said.
“It's too hard to do it by yourself at home,” she said.
That is where the school fits in, according to Holman, who also works in the Heart Touch program at the University of Alabama.
The school uses a text called Ma Liping Chinese curriculum, which is tailored for second-generation
Chinese-Americans with some exposure to the language at home, Liang said. The curriculum requires parents fluent in Chinese to help with homework.
Incorporating culture into the curriculum was the other goal for the founders. Liang said without regular exposure to Chinese culture, the students might not come to appreciate it.
The organizers of the school would like it to endure, but Liang said there is an inherent challenge because of its voluntary nature.
“You have to maintain (students') interest. They have to really treat it as seriously as they advance,” she said.
Though the school is now only open to children of Chinese descent, the organizers hope to have a public component in the future. The mid-fall celebration, Holman noted, was also meant to introduce the organization and school to the greater Tuscaloosa community.
Opening the school to the general public would require a curriculum geared to teaching Chinese in English, Liang said.
“If we find there is a market or a demand bigger than that, we will recruit and expand,” Holman said.
Reach Ed Enoch at ed.enoch@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0209.
September 27th, 2015
Street sweeping to take place in the following areas - The city of Tuscaloosa Department of Transportation will sweeping these general areas this week: 15th Street to Hargrove Road (Forest Lake area), Meador Drive, Highland Oaks Drive, Springbrook, 36th Street East, Heatherbrook, Redbud Lane, El Dorado East, Woodland Forest Drive, Overbrook Road, Orchard Lane, Bryant Circle to Huntland Drive, First Place Northeast, Summerfield Drive, Green Acres Drive, 46th Avenue East, Lynn Haven, 14th Place East, Redmont Drive, Hillsdale Circle, Brookhill Road, Ridgewood Road, Somerset Place, Firethorn Drive, Hillswood Lane, Woodland Hills Drive, Red Oak Lane, Oak Chase, Waterfall Lane, Brook Highland Drive, Bluegrass Parkway, Sierra Drive, Meretta Lane, Lake Ridge Lane, Grand Arbor Drive, Shamley Drive, Harbor Ridge Way, Yacht Club, Normandy Place, Essex Circle Northeast.
Residents in these areas are asked not to park on the street.
September 27th, 2015
World leaders pledge money, clout to achieve women's equality - UNITED NATIONS | World leaders pledged money and political clout to achieve equality for women by 2030 at a U.N. meeting Sunday co-chaired by China's President Xi Jinping, who has faced strong criticism for cracking down on women's rights activists.
Among the Chinese leader's strongest critics was Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton who tweeted: “Xi hosting a meeting on women's rights at the UN while persecuting feminists? Shameless.”
Leaders from about 80 countries and dozens of diplomats attended the meeting to mark the 20th anniversary of the U.N. women's conference in Beijing and press for implementation of its 150-page action plan for gender equality — which remains one of the 17 new development goals adopted by world leaders on Friday.
As U.S. first lady, Clinton galvanized the 1995 Beijing conference with a rousing speech that included words that have become a mantra for the global women's movement: “human rights are women's rights — and women's rights are human rights.”
Xi partly echoed her words, telling Sunday's meeting that “women's rights and interests are basic human rights. They must be protected by laws and regulations.”
But he did not mention any of the women activists targeted by the Chinese government, women such as 71-year-old journalist Gao Yu, arrested in 2014 and sentenced to seven years in prison on charges of “leaking state secrets overseas,” or human rights lawyer Wang Yu, a campaigner against sexual harassment of school girls and defender of women's rights activists who was arrested in July and is being held at a secret location on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power.”
Nor did he mention the five women who spent 37 days in detention this year because they planned to advocate against sexual harassment on public transportation. In a letter Thursday to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UN Women, the “China Feminist Five” expressed hope that Xi would announce concrete plans and measurements to promote gender equality and women's empowerment, and that their wrongful cases would be dropped soon. He did not.
Xi did draw loud applause when he announced a $10 million donation to UN Women, the agency promoting women's rights, to accelerate implementation of the Beijing platform — and again when he announced that in the next five years China will help developing countries produce 100 “health projects” for women and children, finance 100 programs to send poor girls to school, train 30,000 women from developing countries in China, and provide training opportunities for 100,000 women in other developing countries.
U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power attended the meeting after putting up the 20th photo in the window of the U.S. Mission across the street from U.N. headquarters of a woman rights activist who should have been at Sunday's meeting instead of in jail. The photos include China's Gao, Wang, and Liu Xia who has been under house arrest since the October 2010 announcement that her husband, Liu Xiaobo, received the Nobel Peace Prize.
While progress on women's rights over the past 20 years has been striking, Power said at the photo ceremony that “many governments continue to suppress women's basic rights — including by locking them up for speaking out about injustice and fundamental freedoms.”
Chinese foreign ministry official Li Junhua responded to the criticism saying the women had not been detained for their activism on behalf of women's rights but for their having violated Chinese laws and regulations. He called some opinions “totally groundless” and said some are due to “a lack of understanding of the situation on the ground.”
Switzerland exceeded China's donation to UN Women. President Simonetta Sommaruga said it will increase its contribution to almost US $50 million for the 2015 to 2017 period, but most other commitments from more than 45 countries were in promised actions rather than money.
Afghanistan's Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah pledged to “spare no effort” to implement a law ending violence against women. Austrian President Heinz Fischer made a commitment “to further tackling gender stereotyping.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said her government will launch an initiative to improve the professional qualifications of women in developing countries and promote “the entrepreneurial power of women.”
Mozambique's President Filipe Jacinto Nyusi committed “to combatting harmful gender practices that violate human rights since as early marriage, sexual abuse and trafficking of children.”
Liberia's President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf told the meeting that “for women and girls throughout the world, my election is commitment to women's equality.” But she said much more remains to be done including ensuring that a bill to prevent domestic violence is passed by the legislature.
September 27th, 2015
University of Alabama Police Department: Man robbed early Sunday morning - A man said he was robbed by two thieves early Sunday morning in the 1100 block of 14th Avenue, according to an email from the University of Alabama Police Department.
The victim said he was walking on 14th Avenue at around 1:40 a.m. when he was approached by two men who demanded money.
As the victim reached for his wallet, the robbers grabbed his cellphone and then hit the victim. The robber took the victim’s money and fled, going southbound on Convent Street. The robbery suspects are described as being between 19 and 25 years old, with one wearing a gray shirt and a black hoodie.
Anyone who has information about the robbery is asked to call University Police at 348-5454 or Crime Stoppers at 752-7867 (STOP).
September 27th, 2015
President Obama speaks at U.N. summit - UNITED NATIONS | President Barack Obama on Sunday committed the U.S. to a new blueprint to eliminate poverty and hunger around the world, telling a global summit that a sweeping new development agenda is “not charity but instead is one of the smartest investments we can make in our own future.”
It was the first of two addresses Obama is making at the United Nations. His second on Monday morning, to the annual U.N. General Assembly of world leaders, will be a broader examination of world issues, especially the ever-more complicated conflict in Syria and the related refugee crisis.
As Secretary of State John Kerry put it after a meeting on the sidelines Sunday, “It would be a complete understatement to say that we meet at a challenging time.”
Obama offered a powerful defense of a 15-year development agenda and will require trillions of dollars of effort from countries, companies and civil society.
He told delegates that 800 million men, women and children scrape by on less than $1.25 a day and that billions of people are at risk of dying from preventable diseases. He called it a “moral outrage” that many children are just one mosquito bite away from death.
Obama said the goals are ambitious but can be achieved if governments work together.
And, with a possible nod toward his address on Monday, he noted that “military interventions might have been avoided over the years” if countries had spent more time, money and effort on caring for their own people.
“Development is threatened by war,” Obama said, and war often arises from bad governance. Addressing the world's greatest refugee crisis since World War II as millions flee conflict in Syria and elsewhere, the U.S. president said countries “that can, must do more to accommodate refugees” but added those efforts “must be matched by hard work of diplomacy.”
The leaders of Britain, Japan and Turkey also were to address the final day of the development summit.
Earlier Sunday, President Francois Hollande of France announced his country's first airstrikes in Syria.
World leaders have already begun a whirlwind series of closed-door meetings on Syria on the U.N. sidelines. On Monday, the annual General Assembly high-level debate gives countries a chance to lay out their vision before the world.
A meeting on the sidelines Monday between Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who hasn't shown up to the U.N. meeting for a decade, is one highlight.
Behind-the-scenes diplomacy on Syria's grinding conflict is another. The French airstrikes raise the stakes in a region where a U.S.-led coalition nervously watches a new Russian military buildup near Syria's Mediterranean coast. Putin is expected to make a strong defense of those moves and urge countries to join a Russian-led effort against extremist groups.
Iran is also a major question, with the United States and the United Nations both reaching out in the diplomatic glow of the new nuclear deal for the Islamic Republic's help in finding political solutions in Syria and the newer conflict in Yemen as well.
Iran President Hassan Rouhani is already at the U.N. summit and is set to address the U.N. gathering Monday morning along with Obama, Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping — who is making his first appearance here.
Amid the bustle of the back-to-back summit speeches Sunday, Brazil's president announced her country's climate commitment ahead of a global summit in December in Paris aimed at a climate treaty. President Dilma Rousseff said Brazil will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 37 percent by 2025 from 2005 levels as part of its contribution to a pact to fight global warming.
And the current refugee and migrant crisis is another top issue under feverish discussion. Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro spun the crisis into a chance to make a thinly veiled critique of the United States, blaming the problem on “unjust wars, imperialist wars, the attempt to control the world, one hegemon trying to impose its view on the world.”
September 27th, 2015
Deontay Wilder's change in tactics catches Duhaupas by surprise - BIRMINGHAM | Going to the head early and often wasn't working for Deontay Wilder, but that wasn't a problem because his trainers had an answer. More than one in fact.
With Johann Duhaupas able to withstand big shot after shot to the head from the heavy hands of Wilder, Team Wilder employed different parts of the heavyweight champion's arsenal to keep the Frenchman guessing.
First, Wilder went to the body.
“I went to the body one time and it devastated him,” Wilder said. “I heard the grunts every time I hit him. I knew then that that was a soft spot for him.”
Later in the fight, with Duhaupas still coming forward, Wilder did something no one expected him to do. He fought from the inside.
That may not seem like that radical a strategy, but for the 6-foot-7 fighter with a reach advantage over almost any opponent, it was something Duhaupas obviously wasn't ready for.
Wilder got inside and rocked him with devastating uppercuts and hooks, many Duhaupas never saw coming.
“I don't think they expected that,” Widler co-trainer Russ Anber said. “And I don't think anyone expects Deontay to be a good in-fighter. I think that was the turning point of the fight.”
Wilder didn't escape the night unscathed, though. His left eye began swelling early in the fight, but he had prepared for such a moment.
“We train for situations like this,” Wilder said. “We spar with one eye (closed).”
After the fight, Wilder's eye was quite swollen, but the trainers don't expect it to be an issue.
“We're going to give the eye a little bit of time, see what happens with it,” Wilder co-manager Jay Deas said. “I think everything is fine with his hand, so I think health-wise he's good.”
With his health in good shape, now the Tuscaloosa heavyweight moves forward, and he plans to be back in the ring soon.
Wilder must enter negotiations with World Boxing Counil No. 1 contender Alexander Povetkin in October, but, with Povetkin fighting in November, Wilder and his management team plan to fight again in January before the mandatory WBC title defense.
“Ideally, I'd like him to be back in the ring perhaps in December but more likely January,” Deas said. “The Povetkin negotiations are going to be on-going starting Oct. 15, but Povetkin's got a tough fight against (Mariusz) Wach in November.
“Certainly Wilder and Povetkin will not happen in December since Povetkin will have just fought. So we're not waiting on him. We're interested in defending the title more often than any other fighter in history as a heavyweight. If Povetkin's not available in December or January, we'll find someone who is available.”
Lou DiBella, who promoted Saturday's fight, said he wouldn't rule out January in New York as the venue, although that's premature not knowing an opponent, etc.
“I think that the likelihood – this was a tough fight, it was 11 rounds, he's got his eye (swelling), he's had a very active year – I think January is probably the likely time frame,” DiBella said.
“And you know, this guy's a skyscraper of a heavyweight champion, there's an awful lot of skyscrapers in New York City. They say if you can make it there you can make it anywhere. I'm thinking, his team's going to talk, but it wouldn't be so shocking if he made his next defense in New York City.”
Reach Aaron Suttles at aaron.suttles@tuscaloosanews.com or at 205-722-0229.
September 27th, 2015
Myrtlewood Elementary celebrates 50th year - For the last half a century, Myrtlewood Elementary has been at the center of the Fosters community, a place where many kids are now the second or third generation in their family to attend the school.
Teachers, parents, students and alumni gathered Sunday to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the school opening.
“I started here when it opened in third grade, and my mother cooked in the cafeteria,” said alumnus Mike Porter. “Both my kids went here, and now I have a grandchild here. When I heard this (celebration) was happening, I was so excited. The school has seen a lot over the years.”
Rene Robertson’s husband, daughter and son-in-law all went to Myrtlewood, and she was instrumental in getting the school’s gym built as its Adopt a School partner. The school is vital to Fosters, she said.
“It’s been a great asset to the community — it is the community,” Robertson said.
Her husband, George Robertson, was in the first fourth grade class at Myrtlewood, shifting from the former Ralph Elementary, where first-, second- and third-graders were all in one room. When Myrtlewood opened, three small community schools — Ralph,
Romulus and Fosters elementaries — all consolidated into Myrtlewood in 1965.
Mary Winston Laseter taught at Fosters Elementary in the early 1960s before Myrtlewood opened, teaching three grades in a single room with a potbelly stove, shortly after the school got indoor plumbing, she said. Even then, the school has always been important to the area.
“Teaching there was such a wonderful experience,” Laseter said.
It was a big deal when Myrtlewood opened, because it meant the school could offer things like a teacher for P.E., and a librarian.
“At the old Fosters Elementary we didn’t have P.E. teachers or art teachers or librarians,” Laseter said. “I did it all.”
“I was the only third-grader at Ralph,” George Robertson said. “When Myrtlewood opened, I thought I was going to a big school then.”
There are now 285 students at Myrtlewood, said Principal Sheila Stromberg. To celebrate the anniversary week, students had a sock hop and wore 1950s and 1960s style clothing. Students also wrote birthday cards to the school and wrote about what Myrtlewood means to them.
“This is one of the most wonderful communities I’ve ever been a part of,” said Stromberg, who started teaching at Myrtlewood in 1981 and has served as principal at the school for eight years. “Parents, faculty, staff, grandparents — they are all very supportive.”
Michelle Marshall-Vaughn graduated from Myrtlewood Elementary in 1987 — and all three of her children have
attended there.
“There are lots of memories here,” Marshall-Vaughn said. “It’s a very positive mainstay in this community.”
Jacqueline Little, mother of five, agreed.
“I have a child in second, third, fourth and fifth grades,” Little Said. “It’s a big help, not to have to go far to school, and the school is very important to the community.”
Reach Lydia Seabol Avant at lydia.seabolavant@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0222.
September 27th, 2015
For the love of cosplay: Tuscaloosa's faithful stay serious about costume craft - Some couples find each other online, some find each other through mutual friends.
Hannah Hatter, a staff member at the University of Alabama’s Amelia Gayle Gorgas Library, and C.J. Brooks, who works at the Cypress Inn restaurant, met through cosplay.
Cosplay, a combination of the words costume and play, is the practice of dressing up as a character from a movie, book or video game, especially one from the Japanese genres of manga and anime.
“Cosplay brought us together and our compatibility keeps us together,” Hatter said. “We have so much in common. Our personalities are so similar. We love doing our hobbies, like cosplay, together.”
Hatter and Brooks met at the Middle Tennessee Anime Convention in Nashville.
She was dressed as Orihime and he was dressed as Ulquiorra, two characters from the popular anime “Bleach.”
Orihime and Ulquiorra form a “ship,” which is a couple that fans would like to see in a relationship.
Now, five years into their real-life relationship, Hatter and Brooks often pose for photographs together dressed as the “Bleach” characters.
Another blossoming relationship is the bond between fans and cosplay.
The production of more Marvel and DC television and movies, the increase in manga and anime episodes shown on major cable networks and the popularity of conventions such as San Diego Comic-Con and DragonCon in Atlanta have given cosplay enthusiasts more costume options and more
opportunities to wear them.
“It’s a lot of fun,” said Brett Barnhill, a senior at the University of Alabama studying criminal justice and head of security at Kami-Con, an annual three-day anime convention held during February/March in Birmingham. “You get to dress up as the different characters that you like and represent them in such a way that other people can recognize you and get enjoyment out of seeing their favorite characters in real life.”
While cosplay has enjoyed a recent surge in popularity, its roots date back decades.
The first recognized form of cosplay was known as “costuming.” At the 1939 World Science Fiction Convention, noted science fiction promoter Forrest J. Ackerman, founder of the “Famous Monsters of Filmland” magazine, attended wearing that he called a “futuristicostume.”
The costume was modeled after those worn in the 1936 science fiction movie “Things to Come.”
The trend of costuming steadily grew over the next 20 years until it became common to see people in costume at most sci-fi conventions.
The San Diego Comic-Con, which began in 1970, began hosting a masquerade. With the release of the manga series, Urusei Yatsura, and the 1979 TV series “Mobile Suit Gundam,” cosplay soared in Japan. In 1984, Japanese reporter Takahashi Nobuyuki, first coined the term cosplay. Continuing on to the present day, cosplay has grown into a major culture with a dedicated fan base.
“When you cosplay you try to evaluate the character,” said Taylor Dow, a test-car driver for Mercedes-Benz. “It’s those little quirks that make it so enjoyable.”
As with any fan base, there are levels of dedication to the craft; some cosplayers prefer to buy their costumes while others learn the skills needed to make their own. Some go so far as to learn metalworking and enameling to create accurate character representations.
“I have done 77 costumes in my 10 years of cosplay,” said Hatter, who is also a costume judge at Kami-Con. “Watching your crafts come to life is what’s exciting. There’s lots of prop making. In order to get the full effect of a costume, you have to have all the pieces, so I will spend hours working with craft foam, wood, plasters, clay to make jewelry, armor, giant swords, anything really. “
In addition to recreating the character as they appear in the original source, there are subgroups that alter the original. Crossplay is when a man or woman cosplays as a member of the opposite sex. Genderbending is similar to crossplay: a male or female character is represented as a member of the opposite sex. There is also what is known as “gijinka,” or taking a non-human character and humanizing it.
Nicole Torres, the head cashier at the Tuscaloosa Barnes & Noble bookstore, said that no matter what skill level you are at or how you choose to represent your character, the most important part is to have fun with it.
“There are some people who take it too far and it ruins the fun,” Torres said. “The best part of cosplay is to challenge your crafting skills and have fun with it.”
After the many hours spent creating the cosplay, participants practice to represent a character’s personality, and study up on a character’s biography.
Another aspect of cosplaying is groups who engage in live-action role play. During the role-playing, a cosplayer talks and reacts like their character while participating in events such as dances, duels and dining, depending on the type of event that has been planned.
Kami-con, Alabama’s largest anime convention began in Tuscaloosa at the University of Alabama in 2009. The event grew to be so large that moved to Birmingham at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex. Now in it’s eighth season, the convention attracts hundreds of anime and sci-fi lovers to the Birmingham area. Attendees take part in events, meet people with similar interests, listen to panel discussions on their favorite subjects and shop for merchandise.
“It’s a lot of crying over hot-glue guns after getting third-degree burns, but it’s worth it once the cosplay is done,” Barnhill said.
September 27th, 2015
University of Alabama theater's Moliere show laughs at hypocrisy - Though a 17th-century con man, Tartuffe today still begs the question: Why are people saps? Why do they seem to beg to be taken in by obvious frauds? Why do people cede power to those clearly not fit for it?
These are among the questions Seth Panitch, director of “Tartuffe,” hopes to answer with this week’s production.
“Tartuffe” was one of the most famous comedies written by French playwright Moliere, first performed in 1664. The title character pretends to be devoutly religious to worm his way into the rich businessperson Orgon’s house, to seduce his wife and rob his property.
Critics interpret this as Moliere’s satire of the hypocritical French upper class and the Catholic Church leaders of his time, but Panitch is seeking to tell the story from a more relevant, contemporary aspect.
“I’m focusing on why — why they would invite these people (hypocrites) into their lives,” said Panitch, professor of acting and head of the MFA and undergraduate acting programs at the University of Alabama.
Panitch believes the weakness of humanity is one point Moliere tried to explore in this play. Orgon, the head of the house, is blinded by Tartuffe’s confidence, being afraid to take control of his own family. He asks Tartuffe to take on his responsibilities, like a sheep inviting a wolf into the fold.
Preparing a play written three-and-a-half centuries ago is not easy. One difficult thing is how to catch and keep audiences’ attention. Panitch cut nonessentials from the lengthy original script.
“The story becomes clearer to the audiences because you turn the things they are less interested in away,” he said.
He also adds visual expressions to enhance the text. For example, when two characters talk about another, Panitch brings the person on stage to show, rather than tell.
“In some moments of the show we try to allow audiences to visualize the character who is talked about by the other characters, which is very important in the play,” he said.
The balance of naturalism and musicality in Moliere was difficult to maintain through the translation from French to English. Panitch settled on the translation by Richard Wilbur to preserve the texture of the original.
Adding to the challenges, Panitch and his cast and crew have had only four weeks to rehearse, two weeks less than normal preparation time.
“Professional actors work faster than we do. When I directed in the professional theaters, we used 90 hours to rehearse for one play,” Panitch said. “What you do is work faster.”
September 27th, 2015
Deontay Wilder takes control, wins in 11th round - <iframe src="https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B59nj7Y6DKIWeFo3RDFUTTBpcHM/preview" width="640" height="480">
BIRMINGHAM | Something had to give.
Eventually it did, but it didn't come easy.
With both fighters near exhaustion, Tuscaloosa's Deontay Wilder laid a quick-twitch burst of combination punches at the head of Johann Duhaupas, and the Frenchman who had never been knocked out or to the canvas couldn't protect himself and referee Jack Reiss stopped the fight at the :55 mark of the 11th round of the World Boxing Council heavyweight title defense in front of 8,471 at Legacy Arena at the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center on Saturday night.
Wilder improved to 35-0 in his professional career with 34 knockouts. It was the second-longest fight of his career behind only when he won the title against Bermane Stiverne earlier this year.
“He was very strong,” Wilder said. “He's definitely got a nice chin. I see why he's never been stopped before.”
One judge scored every round for Wilder while the other two gave Duhaupas the fourth and Wilder the others.
Wilder got off to a good start in the first round with a snapping left jab that opened a cut on the bridge of Duhaupas' nose. But as he's proven over the course of his career, Duhaupas wouldn't go away that easily, as he fought back in the second round by popping Wilder in his left eye. The swelling around Wilder's eye continued throughout the duration of the fight.
Wilder responded in the third round and staggered his opponent, preventing him from coming forward for the first time in the fight.
A round later, Wilder focused on body shots to weaken Duhaupas and to get his hands down away from his head.
Starting with the fifth round, Wilder began working from the inside as Duhaupas continued to come forward. He worked uppercuts and hooks on more than one occasion.
In the sixth round, the blood coming out of Duhaupas picked up and his left eye began to swell.
Wilder mounted a charge in the seventh, throwing everything he had at the Frenchman, and it appeared for a moment that he might go down, as Wilder threw a leaping right hand that grazed Duhaupas' head. But Duhaupas got to the ropes and clutched for the remaining minute of the round to escape.
Over the next two rounds, the fighters conserved energy before Wilder picked up the pace again in the 10th. Wilder inflicted so much damage, in fact, that the ringside doctor entered after the round to check on Duhaupas' health.
The ref allowed the fight to continue, but it wouldn't last much longer.
Buoyed by a raucous crowed, Wilder pinned his opponent against the ropes and landed head shot after head shot before Weiss stopped the fight.
Wilder threw 587 punches and connected on 56 percent, including 267 power punches and a 69-percent connection rate. Johann Duhaupas threw 332 and connected on 30 percent.
After the fight, Duhaupas went to each side of the ring and waved to the crowd, which in return gave him a standing ovation for the toughness he showed in a hostile environment.
“He did everything we expected him to do,” Wilder said. “We knew he was tough. We knew he was mentally tough. We knew he was going to come.
“That's why I tell everybody, 'You can't criticize nobody you don't know.' The scariest people are the ones you don't know of. Them are the most dangerous ones. And you've got to give it to him. He's got a hell of a chin. And that's what it's all about.
“When you're fighting for a world title, it brings a different beast, a different animal out of fighters, and they bring their all. Whether they are at home or whether they are on the road. You've got to give him the credit. He did an excellent job, and he definitely has my respect.”
Reach Aaron Suttles at aaron.suttles@tuscaloosanews.com or at 205-722-0229.
September 27th, 2015
Interim leader officially named director of Veterans Affairs Medical Center - The Tuscaloosa Veterans Affairs Medical Center isn’t new for the newly appointed director, John F. Merkle.
He’s served as acting director of the medical center since February. But he’s still excited to have been named to the permanent position, replacing former director Maria R. Andrews, who left in January for a similar position in Georgia.
“I was ecstatic,” Merkle said of receiving the news. “I’ve really enjoyed it here and I knew we would enjoy it here even more.”
The Tuscaloosa VA and Tuscaloosa itself is a good fit, Merkle said, because of its relatively small size.
“I like Tuscaloosa because I can get more personally involved,” Merkle said. “I believe in managing by walking around.”
He is already impressed by the VA and the staff here, he added.
“We have a great staff who are really dedicated, Merkle said. “I work for them to give them the resources. Communication is key.”
Merkle grew up in New Jersey. In high school, he moved to Florida where he met his wife, Liz. He went on to John Carroll University in Ohio and joined the Army in 1988.
“I wanted to see the world and felt it was the right time for me to go,” Merkle said of joining the military. During his 24 years of active duty service, Merkle was stationed in Belgium, Germany, Korea and served as an air ambulance pilot and medical company commander in Kuwait during the first Gulf War.
Before coming to Tuscaloosa, Merkle was deputy medical center director at the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center since September 2012. Before coming the VA, he was chief operating officer at the U.S. Army Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany.
It was his experience at Landstuhl that made him really interested in serving veterans in particular, Merkle said.
“We would have between one to 30 wounded warriors come in a day, some walking, some quad amputees, and it made me want to see what happened to the military veterans (after their service).”
The VA’s patient-centric care is critical, something the Tuscaloosa VA does well with, Merkle said. But he wants to see the VA do even more to earn veterans’ trust.
“I think this is one of the most exciting times to be at the VA,” Merkle said. “It’s really building back the trust of the veterans, and Tuscaloosa already has that, but building on that.”
Building community partnerships is also vital, he added, and said that the city of Tuscaloosa, the University of Alabama and Mercedes-Benz have all been great supporters of the Tuscaloosa VA.
“We can’t take care of our veterans by ourselves, and the VA has realized that and opened up community channels.”
Merkle said he looks forward to getting further involved in the community, and already enjoys paddle-boarding on Lake Lurleen. He and his wife have three grown children.
Reach Lydia Seabol Avant at lydia.seabolavant@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0222.
September 27th, 2015
Deontay Wilder defeats Johann Duhaupas in 11th round of title match - <iframe src="https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B59nj7Y6DKIWeFo3RDFUTTBpcHM/preview" width="640" height="480">
BIRMINGHAM | Johann Duhaupas, the Frenchman who challenged Tuscaloosa's Deontay Wilder on Saturday night at Legacy Arena at Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex, was no pastry.
In the end, however, he was toast.
The challenger, who had never before been knocked out, took a dreadful and prolonged beating before referee Jack Reiss finally called it off with Wilder bouncing combinations off the defeated challenger's head in the 11th round of the WBC heavyweight championship match, running off 16 unanswered punches in the final round to force the stoppage.
Wilder (35-0, 34 KOs) also took some punishment in his second successful title defense, with his left eye swelling nearly closed in the early rounds.
“He did everything we expected him to do,” Wilder said. “He was tough. He was mentally tough.
“I see why he's never been stopped before.”
Wilder emerged victorious in the first heavyweight championship fight televised on a network in prime time in the U.S. since Larry Holmes defeated Carl “The Truth” Williams in 1985. Like Holmes-Williams, NBC televised.
Wilder landed 326 punches, connecting on 56 percent of his shots, while Duhaupas landed fewer than 100, according to Compubox statistics.
Wilder, the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist, won the championship with a unanimous decision over Bermane Stiverne in Las Vegas in January. He successfully defended it in Birmingham in June against Eric Molina.
Duhaupas, who came into the fight ranked No. 11, fell to 31-3. Two of the judges scored one round for Duhaupas, with the other judge giving Wilder all 10 completed rounds on his scorecard.
September 27th, 2015
University of Alabama task force seeks election reforms - The University of Alabama Faculty Senate task force on diversity and citizenship has released a new set of recommendations to enhance the effectiveness of the campus' elections board and improve citizenship of campus organizations on and off campus.
“The reforms we are recommending are positive overall,” said task force member Norm Baldwin.
The fourth report from Task Force for Excellence in Equity, Inclusion and Citizenship was presented to the faculty senate on Sept. 15 during its monthly meeting and assigned to committee for review. The task force also presented an addendum to its first report with further recommendations for improvements to the electoral process on campus.
The Faculty Senate formed the ad hoc task force of students, faculty and administrators in the fall of 2013 to make recommendations on ways to increase diversity on campus and make changes to the governance of student organizations in the wake of allegations of discrimination during the 2013 fall sorority rush and earlier allegations that Greek-letter organizations offered free drinks and other inducements to turn out members to vote for a candidate in a Tuscaloosa City Board of Education election.
The fourth and final report was recommendations to develop a model campus and citizens.
“Through two public hearings, invited testimony and various interviews with critical figures, much of what we learned about students politics was disturbing and contrary to the standards for which our campus stands,” the report states. “Moreover, although unethical political behavior is most commonly ascribed to the Greek community on campus, we learned that political wrongdoing is also highly endemic to the independent community involved in campus politics.”
The recommendations mirrored the suggestions in the task force's first report to improve on-campus elections, but focus this time on conduct in local, state and national elections.
“We don't want people coerced by student organizations in state or national elections,” Baldwin said.
The report was subdivided into recommendations for students and faculty and staff.
The student-focused recommendations include:
- Prohibit campus organizations from requiring students to produce evidence of voting.
- Prohibit organizations from punishing students who refuse to participate.
- Encourage students to report election violations to appropriate authorities.
- Clarify in the Student Code the use of coercion or incentives to induce voting for specific candidates or referendums is prohibited.
- Establish that conduct affiliated with a nonregistered student organization can constitute a violation of the student code of conduct.
- Clarify students organized to affect elections must register with Student Affairs and be supervised.
The report's faculty and staff recommendations includes:
- Supporting administrative efforts to enforce Code of Conduct violations in areas of emerging challenges such as state, local or national elections.
- Including citizenship training in leadership development programs on campus.
- Including units of instruction on the values and behaviors of college-educated citizens.
- Looking at creating undergraduate coursework in citizenship.
- Establishing regulations to ensure the nominating process for on-campus parties is democratic and open.
- University-wide support for civic involvement in local, state and federal elections.
- Reaching out to local officials to establish more town and gown collaboration in the planning and administration of elections.
“We want our students to be better citizens,” Baldwin said. “In order to get there, we would like it to be part of the educational mission. The recommendation here is not to force anything but to see if citizenship can be added to the curriculum.”
Baldwin said he believes core courses that address citizenship and diversity, whether new courses or part of the existing catalog, are among the changes with the greatest potential impact. The political science professor also believes faculty and staff have an opportunity to demonstrate appropriate patterns of citizenship for students.
The Machine
The report also calls for support of the Machine and any other unregistered political organizations coming “above ground.”
“We are simply saying any student organization needs to be registered and have known officers,” Baldwin said.
The multipart recommendation calls on administrators to initiate a dialogue with the secretive organization of traditionally white fraternities and sororities, trying to recruit influential alumni of the Machine and student leaders as allies in the effort to formally register the group, and supporting creation of an alternative Greek political organization if efforts to bring the Machine above ground fail.
“They can learn how to be an efficient political party playing fairly and winning fairly,” Baldwin said.
The recommendation to bring the Machine into the open as a registered campus political group has been a popular suggestion in the discussions that arose from the outrage over the allegations of meddling in the school board election two years ago.
Baldwin argued for an approach that began with conciliatory tones rather than threats of punitive action.
“There have been times in the past where people have tried to kill the thing, versus saying 'Hey, come above ground ... ' ” Baldwin said.
Noting his experience with efforts to reform the Student Government Association and as a member of the SGA Elections Board, Baldwin argued for the more measured approach that emphasized a message that all political parties are welcome as long as they are registered and have known officers.
“A lot of the things suggested in my opinion really aren't that radical. I don't think students respond well to things that are radical,” Baldwin said.
The addendum to the task force's first report is a list of recommendations to improve the work of the Elections Board, a panel of students and faculty and staff representatives tasked with overseeing and regulation campus elections.
The original report recommended changes to the SGA election process meant to emphasize students' rights to privacy and an election process free of coercion.
The new recommendations are meant to enhance the transparency and efficiency of the elections board.
“In order to enhance the sense of legitimacy for the election board, we needed the reforms,” Baldwin said.
The group recommended opening Elections Board meetings; recording the meetings and making transcripts available upon request; expanding the size of the election board; assigning additional help for the staff member in charge of the board during SGA election season; having SGA candidates upload financial statements onto a website; assigning more serious election code violations to the Office of Student Conduct; amending the SGA Constitution to allow for election-day expenditures and establish deadline for reporting expenditures; clarifying that winning candidates may be denied office if election violations are reported later than 48 hours after they occur; clarifying process when a winning candidate is disqualified from office; clarifying understanding about unofficial election results; and requiring candidates, staff and supporters have approved locations on campus where they will be campaigning on election day while deploying campaign monitors.
The board, which Baldwin praised for its efforts to be fair to all candidates, was accused of being influenced by political groups on campus during the last SGA election. Baldwin believes the accusations were the result of a lack of timely information available to the public rather than malfeasance.
“There was no hanky-panky, just some inefficiencies,” Baldwin said.
After review, the reports will eventually be delivered to UA's administration for consideration.
Reach Ed Enoch at ed.enoch@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0209.
September 26th, 2015
Alabama gets back to basics in shutout win - When it came to opening the door for itself, the University of Alabama football team struggled on Saturday, occasionally dropping the keys or turning the knob like it was coated with duck fat.
When it came to slamming the door, though, Alabama was emphatic.
The No. 12-ranked Crimson Tide blanked Louisiana-Monroe 34-0 on Saturday as its stifling defense limited ULM to just 92 yards, prompting head coach Nick Saban to observe, with classic understatement, “that’s pretty good.” The shutout was Alabama’s 16th under Saban, the first since last year’s 59-0 drubbing of Texas A&M.
Offensively, Alabama started quarterback Jake Coker and went with him until well in the fourth quarter, after the game was secured. Coker completed 17 of 31 passes for 158 yards with one interception, and was the victim of what Saban called “four flat drops” in the first half, when he was 10-for-21.
“You can look at the stats any way you want to, but there were four flat drops by the receivers,” Saban said. “You couldn’t throw the ball any better. So that would make him 14 for 21. I thought Jake played well, although I am sure there were a couple of things he would do in a different way if he could.”
While Coker saw full-time duty, junior running back Derrick Henry carried just 13 times for 52 yards and a touchdown. Saban said the coaching staff kept Henry’s workload to a minimum after he missed practice time due to illness this week.
Henry had Alabama’s first score on a 3-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. A misplayed punt snap in the second quarter gave Alabama possession at the ULM 15 led to the second touchdown, a 15-yard pass from Coker to freshman Calvin Ridley. It was the first career touchdown for Ridley and led to a 14-0 UA lead at the half.
The Crimson Tide pulled away in the second half as Adam Griffith made both his field goal attempts from 35 and 40 yards, and Coker threw for two more touchdowns, a 19-yarded to fullback Michael Nysewander and a 16-harder to ArDarius Stewart to cap the scoring.
Coker said he felt relief when he was handed the reins after not getting the start the precious week against Ole Miss.
“It was frustrating for me, but it’s not my call,” Coker said. . It’s a team, so it’s coach Saban’s word, no matter what. You’ve got to follow it. You can’t complain about it. The last thing I’d do is try to affect the team in a negative way. That’s just not something I want to do at all. When he called my name, I was ready to go, and that was all I wanted to do.”
September 26th, 2015
In lieu of live elephant, University of Alabama has a leafy one - Steel rods instead of bone and creeping fig instead of leathery, dark gray skin have brought the University of Alabama’s elephant mascot to life.
Mississippi State can usher in a live English bulldog on a leash for its mascot, and Auburn University’s eagle can rest on someone’s hand.
But it’s not easy for the Crimson Tide to bring in an elephant, so the facilities and grounds department at UA got creative.
Instead of a live animal, the university has created a live plant in the form of an elephant — a near-2,000-pound, 10-foot-tall, 14-foot-long and 5-foot-wide bull elephant topiary to be displayed on game days and at campus functions.
“I think my favorite thing is that it looks like a real animal but a beautiful plant all in one,” said Duane Lamb, assistant vice president of facilities and grounds. “We tried to make it look as realistic as possible but still a beautiful plant structure.”
Lamb said the president of the university asked if an elephant topiary was possible, so he traveled to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., in May to go behind the scenes and learn how they create their topiaries of characters like Mickey Mouse.
When he returned to UA, a team of about 30 people from the landscape architect division, building maintenance, welders, paint shop, grounds department, horticulturist and irrigation crew and the art department began working to create the giant topiary.
Lamb said it took about two months to complete.
A senior sculptor in the art department computerized the design for the skeleton of the topiary based on photos of bull elephants, Lamb said. Then, three-quarter-inch steel rods were welded together to create the frame. Netting was packed with moss about 5 inches thick, and creeping fig was plugged into the moss, he said.
“So, it all matures and grows together and before you know it, you have one giant plant,” Lamb said.
Kim Byram, associate manager of landscape installation, said there are about 3,000 plugs and four zones of irrigation on the inside of the topiary.
“It’s almost as big as a life-size elephant,” Byram said.
Finishing touches on the topiary include two tusks made of melted aluminum and two eyes made of 2-inch marbles, painted to look like real elephants’ eyes.
“I’ve always been thinking about doing something cool like that (topiary),” he said.
Lamb said the topiary, which they plan to name, is mobile and can be deployed to different areas of campus for functions and will be on display for home games for fans to take pictures with because “it’s more of a fun thing for our fans,” he said.
The rest of the time, it will be stored in an undisclosed location.
Last week, the topiary stood in front of the President’s Mansion.
On Saturday, the topiary was placed in front of Doster Hall on University Boulevard across from the Quad.
Lamb said the landscape and hardscape in front of Doster Hall with Bryant-Denny Stadium in the background made for a good display location on game days.
“He looks like (he’s) home,” said Donna McCray, director of facilities operations.
September 26th, 2015
THEATER REVIEW: "Seduced" is a critique on American desires, dreams - Although many know Sam Shepard best as a film actor — Chuck Yeager in "The Right Stuff," opposite longtime partner Jessica Lange in "Crimes of the Heart," in Terrence Malick's "Days of Heaven" and more — he built his reputation primarily as a writer.
Even while carving out an eclectic career verging from counterculture to mainstream, Shepard wrote his most famous trio of plays — "True West," "Curse of the Starving Class" and "Buried Child," a Pulitzer Prize winner — in the late '70s and early '80s, about the same time he created "Seduced," playing now in the Allen Bales Theatre as part of the University of Alabama Department of Theatre and Dance's season.
Shepard's plays are challenges at best, with wild, anarchic blends of myth, dark humor, sparse language and harsh realities, but director Raines Carr has pulled together a dimensional, disturbing creation, shadowy with edges protruding. It's led by a stellar central performance from Matt Gabbard as Henry, a Howard Hughes-ish recluse gabbling, exploding and imploding in his later years.
Garrett Walsh's set, an aviator's graveyard dimpled by an OCD navel, helps Gabbard hunker at the central chaos of a crash-down life, an effect nicely assisted by shifting tones in a tawny, sometimes- harsh lighting design by Amanda Harris. It's desert and oasis, man and machine, ugly reality and dismantled fantasy.
"Seduced" opens musically, with the elegiac title track to Randy Newman's 1972 classic, "Sail Away," which, despite the seeming incongruity, sets the course. Newman's sardonic, backhanded assaults deeply influenced Shepard: The songs are written into the script.
The thing some who only know Newman as writer of "Toy Story" hits miss is that his sweet melodies often hide satiric twists, such as in "Short People," one of the more widely misunderstood anti-discrimination hits, or in "I Love L.A.," "Rednecks," or "Birmingham," a song both tongue-in-cheek and not, which is always slightly disturbing to see Magic City folks sing along with.
"Sail Away" seems, on the surface, to be about the dream of flying off for better shores, but is in actuality a hymn-like melody overlaying the song of slavers, urging Africans to climb aboard: "In America you'll get food to eat / Won't have to run through the jungle / And scuff up your feet / You'll just sing about Jesus and drink wine all day / It's great to be an American."
"Lonely at the Top," from the same disc, states the "Seduced" theme succinctly: "I've been around the world / Had my pick of any girl / You'd think I'd be happy / But I'm not." Be careful what you dream for, Americans. Henry once flew, literally, an imaginative, adventurous aviator, engineer and inventor, winning fortunes, sleeping with numberless beautiful women, earning the admiration of all who hope to self-make their way to the top, forgetting that gravity sucks.
"Seduced" picks up as Henry's devolved to the stage of out-of-control hair and nails, wearing Kleenex boxes on his feet. Mental illness and pain — some caused by aircraft crashes — drove Hughes to madness. Henry's got the same symptoms, but Shepard's suggesting it was the dream of America, getting everything and finding you desire nothing — or nothing that's left — that did him in.
Gabbard, while 50 years too young to be thoroughly Hughes-ian, made the smart choice, with Carr, to play it less decrepit and senior, but no less pained and wracked. Gabbard's physicality, both in the shuffling and staggering, and in the way his flesh seems to revolt from all but the tenderest touches, sells the suffering, creating an empathy that might have been burned away by the harshness of his language, his severe treatment of loyal bodyguard/manservant Raul (Ross Birdsong), and dismissive turns toward two of his past lovers, Luna (Molly Penny) and Miami (Marie Videau), summoned in an effort to help heal him.
Henry is past help, and in his more lucid moments — flickering in and out like a moth circling a bulb — seems to realize it. But anyone who's flown so high isn't about to relinquish controls and auger in.
Make of their names what you will — Luna as moon, what the moth never reaches, and root of "lunacy;" Miami as one of the tribes native to America before the white man came and named it "America" — the women are types, yet nicely fleshed out by Penny as the slinky sophisticate, and Videau as the brassy broad. Each brings a relief, of sorts, comic, silly, sweet and human, to the unrelenting assault of Henry, though no possible production of "Seduced" is going to be a bellyful of laughs.
Birdsong does exceptional work himself, as the almost-cipher Raul, tightly under control yet verging on losing it, suggesting the simmer but letting the boil arise when it will.
While it's never going to be major-league Shepard, "Seduced" is the kind of work you hope to see more of in the theater, as opposed to rehashed classics, butts-in-seats comfort food. It's great for the students, of course, something to stretch and grow from, and a treat for audiences who don't buy tickets to be patted on the back for perfect attendance. There are puzzles to ponder, about rot at the roots of America, about whether our priorities are healthy, about course corrections before crash.
Though, honestly, what you might think will be: Geez, even Randy Newman lightened up.
September 26th, 2015
SCHOOL NEWS: September 27 - The Brookwood High School Hospitality and Tourism program presented nine students with an industry- recognized credential. Culinary Arts students Jeffery Hopkins, Devin Ray, Keeley Williams and Adam Waldrop and Aramark/Bama Dining interns Abigail Mohr, Anna Munoz, Bethany Haynie, Alexis Tubbs and Selena Velasquez passed the Servsafe exam after receiving classroom instruction.
The ServSafe program provides food safety training, exams and educational materials to food service managers. Students can earn the ServSafe Food Protection Manager Certification, accredited by the American National Standards Institute-Conference for Food Protection. The program blends the latest FDA Food Code, food safety research and years of food sanitation training experience. Managers learn to implement essential food safety practices and create a culture of food safety. All content and materials are based on actual job tasks identified by food service industry experts.
Culinary students will spend the year learning culinary skills in the classroom while the Aramark/Bama Dining students will start their internships. The interns will work at Aramark/Bama Dining in a variety of on-campus locations through a rotation system. The interns will also learn culinary skills during classroom time. This is the second year for the partnership between the Brookwood High School Hospitality and Tourism program and Aramark/Bama Dining.
September 26th, 2015
Bus rides to University of Alabama road football games offered - Two Tuscaloosa organizations are offering bus rides to upcoming University of Alabama football road games.
The Tuscaloosa County Chapter of the University of Alabama National Alumni Association and the University of Alabama Retirees Association are offering bus trips to the Alabama-Georgia football game in Athens on Oct. 3.
Both buses will leave from Coleman Coliseum.
The alumni association’s bus will depart at 6:30 a.m., and the retirees association’s bus will depart at 8:30 a.m.
Both organizations are charging $75 per person and are providing snacks and drinks during the trip.
Proceeds from the alumni association’s ride will go to its scholarship fund, which awarded more than $98,000 in scholarships to local students entering UA in May.
Proceeds from the retirees association’s ride will help fund the organization’s Robert E. Witt Book Scholarships for first-generation UA students.
The alumni association will also be taking buses to the Alabama-Mississippi State and the Alabama-
Auburn games. The cost to ride those buses is $60.
For more information or to reserve seats, contact alumni association president Andre Taylor at 205-492-7695 or Mildred Switzer with the retirees association at 205-886-7619.
September 26th, 2015
University of Alabama to host panel talk on cyber security - Researchers and security professionals are scheduled to discuss cyber security tips and law enforcement and private sector efforts to combat cyber crime as part of a panel discussion on Thursday in Lloyd Hall at the University of Alabama.
The moderated panel will be from 6-7:30 p.m. in room 328 of Lloyd Hall.
The panelists include Diana Dolliver, assistant professor of criminal justice; Ashley Ewing, UA information security officer; investigator Mike Trotter with the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency; Matthew Martin, manager of infrastructure security at TIAA-CREF; and Barry Matson, deputy director of Alabama Office of Prosecution Services.
The panel will take questions from the public, and the criminal justice department will live-tweet the discussion from its Twitter handle
Question may submitted by email at cjdept@as.ua.edu or by text message at 205-861-0605.
September 26th, 2015
University of Alabama President's List and Dean's List summer 2015 - President's List Summer 2015
Alabaster: Erin D. Hutter, John Paul Trahan.
Alpine: Shakerri Latrease Garrett.
Andalusia: Alexandra Chandler Hart.
Athens: Bailee S. Clounch.
Auburn: Daphne Brooke Ellis, Clarence Richard Lancey III.
Birmingham: Rucker Agee Durkee Jr., Jessica J. Carter, Cody A. Skewes, Mary K. Estes, Antonio Orlando McKinney Jr., Aaron Oliver Clement, Elizabeth A. Henderson, William A. Schweer, Ashia SyMon Carroll, Dongyoub Lee.
Calera: Stephani G. Payne.
Centreville: Samantha Blair Wade.
Cullman: Peyton D. Presto.
Decatur: Jessica N. Stephens.
Dothan: Sara J. Cary, Summer D. Strickland.
Double Springs: Jacob Noah Cagle.
Enterprise: Hannah Abigail Lawrence.
Eva: Annalise A. Holmes.
Fairhope: Alexis B. Cornelison, Emily Michelle Raines.
Florence: Savannah R. Wilson.
Fort Rucker: Brittany Sandberg.
Gadsden: Kiari R. Kinnie.
Gardendale: Robert L. Hammond.
Gilbertown: Kyle M. Jimerson.
Gordo: Kelsey Ayn Dyer.
Greensboro: Valerie Harper Clements.
Guntersville: Lauren G. Bell.
Harpersville: Kayla Catharine Ogletree.
Hoover: Steven B. Davis, Natalie M. Lefebvre, Jodie P. Morrison, Peyton Lee Williams.
Huntsville: Raul Eduardo Alonso Jr., Hudson Howell Morris, Gabrielle Dora Parker, Jordan L. Stone.
Loxley: Charles A. Pickett.
Madison: Carson C. Edwards.
Mobile: Abigail C. Carter, Quiwana N. Chaney, David P. Wentworth.
Monroeville: Olivia M. Woodard.
Montgomery: Carmen L. Ware.
New Brockton: Shellie A. Parrish.
New Market: Ivey G. Appel.
Northport: Crystal Desirea Blevins, Austin D. Davis, Damon Alexander Pruet, Patrick Chase Smith, David H. Turner.
Pansey: Nelson J. Gwinn.
Phenix City: Desmond R. Rudd.
Prattville: Rashaad Devon Brown, Blake A. Myrick, Sarah E. Smith, William Grayson Webster.
Russellville: Jordan E. Lindsey.
Selma: Jennifer Nicole Stewart.
Southside: Jacob Michael Simpson.
Sylacauga: Amanda Reams.
Talladega: Kimberly N. Sturdivant.
Trussville: Paul Anthony Irwin Jr.
Tuscaloosa: John C. Bennett, Danielle L. Black, Georgia M. Bonds, Miranda K. Cawyer, Thomas C. Hahn, Bryan Joseph Hopkins, Megan Huval, Russell Lee Irby IV, Jacob P. Morris, Kristen A. Morrison, Thomas James Rehmert, Yousif Hussain Sammour, Alexandra M. Smith. Katrina Marie Struthwolf, Dana Christine Woodruff.
Vestavia: Dalton Lee Clark.
Vestavia Hills: Kasey D. Hagen.
Vincent: Brittany D. Collins.
Wetumpka: Halley Nicole Lamkin, Florence E. Trotter.
Wilmer: Rebecca Marcelle Musgrove.
Little Rock: Eryn M. Tracy.
Goleta: Julie Ann Macayan.
Rancho Cucamonga: Kaitlyn R. Clark.
San Clemente: Jake Liam Warner.
Craig: Gerard John Geis.
Parker: Eric William Schulz.
Clearwater: Rachel Jennifer Daniels.
McDavid: Taylor N. Byrd.
Miami Beach: Sophia Victoria Adrian.
Tampa: Shira Y. Wasser.
Wellington: Desiree Angelica Winslow.
Alpharetta: Sarah Catherine Corn.
Braselton: John Thomas Dollar.
Decatur: Shanrica B. Evans.
Evans: Whitney Michelle Roberts.
Jefferson: Rachel Margaret Warner.
Marietta: Orin Bass Whittaker.
Peachtree City: Victoria Lane Tomlin.
Trenton: Cody T. Henderson.
Villa Rica: Kendall S. Smith.
Herrin: Brianna E. Bartelsmeyer.
Oswego: Abigail Marie Illingworth.
Westmont: Madison Kathryn Schmaedeke.
McCordsville: Michael Robert Collins.
Westfield: Victoria Lauren Hanson.
Overland Park: Spencer R. Yeamans.
Metairie: Sarah E. Carr.
Severna Park: Nicole Elizabeth McFarland.
Clarkston: Tyler D. DeCoster.
Plymouth: Emily Amanda Jacobson.
Saint Peters: Evan Alexander Dwyer.
Carriere: Stephanie R. Carnathan.
Columbus: Tyler Andrew King.
Starkville: Savanna J. Trinkle.
North Carolina
Cary: Claire Renee Belson.
Charlotte: William Paul Bohn, Elizabeth Ashley Richardson.
Mount Holly: Dylan Craig Coley.
Sanford: Samuel M. Tucker.
New Hampshire
Madbury: Connor M. Buckley.
New Jersey
Upper Saddle River: Amanda Brittany Winsick.
New York
Bronx: Steven L. Gayle.
Warren Center: Lauren K. Beers.
Brentwood: Brooke Elizabeth Ellis.
Germantown: Ryan P. Glosson.
Knoxville: Blake N. Senn.
Nashville: Sarah Sellari.
Ooltewah: Andrew Christian Thomas.
Signal Mountain: Stephen Mark Turner Jr.
Cedar Park: John Cochran III.
Dallas: Sarah Lyn Williams.
Houston: Emily Claire Bruch.
Kingwood: Alexa R. Steere.
Fairfax: Alexandra W. Norton.
Guangzhou: Zipeng Zeng.
Nanchang: Kaili Li.
Qingdao: Yumeng Zhang, Yuhan Zhou.
Tianjin: Tianyi Lu.
Wuhu City: Yuan Fang.
Yinchuan: Shaokang Hu.
Unknown: Danny L. Beard Jr., Nichole M. Dzwonkowski, Kaihong Huang, Tao Lu.
Dean's List Summer 2015
University of Alabama
Apo: Emily Leigh Harris.
Alabaster: Kyndall Renice Thomas.
Alexander City: Ethan M. Jones.
Arab: Margaret F. Plunkett.
Athens: Blaine T. Morell.
Bay Minette: Benjamin T. Pulliam.
Bessemer: Denorrise F. Posey II.
Birmingham: Michael O. Tucker, Haley M. Waites, Kaly L. Bertella, Faulkner Ward Hereford, Shelby E. Mauck, Angelyn T. Esdale, Brian H. Means, Weiyin Feng, Charlotte A. Givhan, Jennifer K. Shewmake, Sara B. Dubois, Brandys Charnyce Sanders, Alexandra Layne Arrington, Steven Jeffrey Beard, John W. Clayton, Andrew L. Hendrix, Hayden C. Walker, Christopher C. Wright, John R. Bammerlin, Katie E. Jenkins, Elizabeth Michelle Bird.
Cottondale: Clinton P. Cuzzort.
Cropwell: Anna Laurie Hutto.
Daphne: Jacob Martin Kayl, Matthew S. Stephens.
Decatur: Jacob Robin Bobo, Michael Scott Harris, Lawson Blake Reichmann, Anthony J. Shelton, Sarah Ann Sherrill.
Dora: Tyler D. Beard.
Double Springs: Kryssi E. Daniels.
Echola: John Wesley Burkhalter.
Enterprise: Brandon M. Turner.
Fairhope: Katherine Marie Risk.
Fayette: Abbey P. Minor, Alexandrea La'Shaun Summers.
Florence: Bethany Leigh Triplett.
Gadsden: Jana M. Bogle.
Grady: April Elizabeth Shambo.
Haleyville: Laine Elise Edmond.
Hayden: Jordyn T. Rogers.
Hazel Green: Anthony D. Gargulinski.
Headland: Breyana Renee Warren.
Helena: Jennifer Marie Gutierrez.
Hoover: Jillian Taylor Weaver.
Huntsville: Jason D. Colburn Jr., Austin Gregory Nicodemus, Jane L. Wells.
Jasper: Breanna Pashay Marbury.
Leesburg: Alexander James Roberts.
McCalla: Tianqi Yu.
Mobile: Julia-Rae M. Hanson, Raven M. King.
Montgomery: Cole Riley Crawford Sr., Amesha Ob'Breona Credit, Brittany Nicole Farmer, John D. Owings.
Morris: Samuel K. Wilson.
New Hope: Brittany L. Peters.
New Market: James R. Cooper.
Newton: Aaron Michael Pollard.
Northport: Chesley A. Bowerman, Andrew P. Maddox, Justin E. Walker, Joseph Richard Yates.
Opelika: Shelley M. Campbell, Joshua W. Daniels.
Owens Cross Roads: Jasmine Alexandria Palmer.
Oxford: Glenn E. Gaddis.
Ozark: Regan D. Bates.
Pelham: Thomas Patrick Powell, Devin M. Stevens.
Pell City: Madalyn R. Bell.
Phenix City: Jada A. Henderson, Rodney K. Woods Jr.
Pinson: Abby M. Aderholt, Jesseca A. Smith.
Prattville: Lindsey C. Parker.
Rainsville: John Tyler Bailey.
Ralph: John Fowler.
Ramer: Brandon Bowers.
Red Bay: Marco Bostick.
Saraland: Christopher T. English.
Scottsboro: Brooks L. Fossett.
Sylacauga: Joshua K. Horton.
Tallassee: Brett M. Buchanan.
Trussville: Brandon S. Hicks, Heath A. Howard, Alexa M. Tarassoli.
Tuscaloosa: Faris Ahmed Barayan, Blakeney C. Billings, Charles H. Chaffin III, Chelsey R. Cyr, Kelsey A. Dalton, Jessica Anne DeMartin, Keneshia R. Dickinson, Justin Michael Ferguson, Christian Dominic Game, Marian T. Hall, Alexandria L. Hauser, Emma C. Holder, Khadija E. Kennedy, Jazymine C. Latham, Rebekah Lee, Taylor Karen Maine, Brian A. McDermott, Christopher Robert Rafferty, Pavel Romanov, Authentic Tidreus Sims, Kyle J. Smith, Hannah M. Townsend, Joseph S. Tukey, Kayla R. Turner, Bo Wang, Rickayla Lovanda-Joi Watson, Ezekiel Heath Wilson, Lauren Elizabeth Woods, Lester Dewayne Young.
Tuscumbia: Ann B. Stone.
Union Springs: Hess A. Hembree IV.
Uriah: John W. Ferrell III.
Valley Grande: Kimberly D. Canada, Karissa A. Smiley.
Vestavia Hills: Virginia S. Cooper, Bailey Denise Trott, Brenda Elaine Ward.
Weaver: Kayla Chandler Peeples.
Winfield: Jared W. Miles.
Sierra Vista: Kyleah-Mae E. McCloud.
Brea: Sarah Elizabeth Nunez.
Danville: Paige C. Matherson.
Huntington Beach: Gina Marie Iovenitti.
Poway: Gina Mari Nawab.
Beijing: Maohuan Cheng, Yunong Song.
Changchun: Tianbo Gao.
Haining, Zhejiang: Minjie Xu.
Qingdao: Shulang Cheng.
Shanghai: Zeyang Li.
Shangrao: Zhengzhou Xu.
Shen Zhen: Ye Tan.
Tianjin: Yuanyi Xie.
Xian,Lian Hu Dist: Sitong Liu.
Zhengzhou: Jiahua Gong.
Trumbull: Taryn Rae Bartolucci.
Coral Gables: Elizabeth Pierce Harley.
Fleming Island: Madison Leigh Perry.
Land O Lakes: Savannah M. Long.
Miami Gardens: Shaina M. Clarke.
Naples: Gabrielle Nicole Venne.
Pensacola: Douglas H. Bauer.
Tarpon Springs: Lauren Zilla Grindey.
Alpharetta: Melanie R. Barth, Kristen M. Laukes.
Atlanta: Marshall W. Ohlhausen.
Bethlehem: Trinicia E. Bodden.
College Park: Kristen L. Jordan.
Columbus: Terrance J. Lewis.
Grovetown: Donovan Monroe Jones.
Lagrange: Morgan M. Johnson.
Marietta: Sarah Irma Altschuler.
McDonough: Benjamin Eli Hart.
Powder Springs: Casey Michelle Ellis.
Rome: Joseph Michael McGill.
Suwanee: John C. Crumrine, Leah W. Cummings.
Manhattan: Danielle Ryan Maros.
Shelbyville: Alexander James Matlock.
Wilmington: Francis William McKeown.
Woodridge: Elizabeth Marie Johnson.
Lexington: Creed Davis Setzer.
Louisville: Hannah E. Hoertz.
New Orleans: Sissy Michelle Jacobs.
Owings Mills: Margaret McCreery Wolfe.
Commerce: Christopher Marr Posa.
Grand Blanc: Lindsay Scott Johnson.
Romeo: Jonathan David Hawley.
Cape Girardeau: Chelsea L. Hastings.
Wildwood: Jaclyn Michele Higgins.
Fayette: Marvin M. Eanochs.
North Carolina
Charlotte: Luiggino J. Galletto III, Katherine D. Thompson.
New Jersey
Guttenberg: Charlotte N. Gomes.
New York
Astoria: Alexis Cedeno.
New York: Haorong Chen.
Cincinnati: Allison Elaine Arthur, Madeline Ruth Knauer, Brittany Colleen Schultz.
Beaverton: Dakota Rose Kendall.
West Linn: Kelsey Christine Stockton.
Ardmore: John Reilly Eldridge.
Lancaster: Savannah Katherine Burton.
Philadelphia: Aislinn O'Donohoe.
Pittsburgh: William Joseph Ruppel.
Scranton: Mia M. Nonnenberg.
South Carolina
Hilton Head Island: Brent Carl Rasmussen.
Inman: Tammy Lynn McClure.
Collierville: Trevor S. Barnhill, Callie Ruth Blake, Cooper R. Smith.
Greeneville: Clancy M. Bryant.
Kingsport: Aaron M. Austin.
Louisville: Miles E. Cullom III.
Thompson's Station: Rachel Chandler Holland.
Flower Mound: Katherine Taylor Bynum, John H. Davis, Madison P. Lease, Elizabeth Marie Scheig.
San Leon: Jessica L. Swift.
Southlake: Kyle T. Pecot.
Chesapeake: Michael Thomas Robertson.
Gloucester: Gabrielle Alexis Lauer.
McLean: John D. Eklund.
Sterling: Sampson Jacob Bass.
Virginia Beach: Erynn Ada Williams.
West Virginia
Buckhannon: Michaela Rose Mills.
Morgantown: Lauren Raymond.
Unknown: Susan M Barriault, Jamie Leigh Beasley, Jacob M. Maynard, Alayna Marie McCormack, Samantha Jary Romo, Elizabeth G. Tillman, Yezhuo Wang, Steven Bradley Whittington.
September 26th, 2015
LEND A HAND: Crossing Points provides life skills to those with disabilities - Finding a job in today’s economy is hard enough, but it can be even harder for adults with disabilities.
Betty Shirley, a grandparent of a man who has Down syndrome, said many adults with disabilities never go to work after leaving the public school system. But one Tuscaloosa organization is changing that.
Crossing Points is a partnership between the University of Alabama Department of Special Education and Multiple Abilities in the College of Education and the Tuscaloosa City and County School systems that provides transition services for students with disabilities ages 18 to 21.
Students follow a transition curriculum taught by teachers from the Tuscaloosa City And County School systems on the UA campus that teaches daily living skills, personal social skills, occupational guidance and preparation.
But overall, the program concentrates on helping the students gain employment after graduating from the program.
“Students receive hands-on instruction in vocational employment aspects,” Shirley said. “What’s so wonderful is these adults are able to learn a skill and get a job.”
Students receive employment training for 12 weeks each semester at on- and off-campus job sites such as Firehouse Subs, Hotel Capstone, the UPS Store, the UA Supply Store and other UA facilities and local businesses.
They work up to three hours a day, four days a week, which allows them to gain authentic job skills in a real-world setting, providing better opportunity to be employed after graduating the program.
“Our main purpose is to teach them work skills,” Shirley said. “When they graduate, we find them jobs. Now, (my grandson) has been working at the book store on campus for 11 years.”
On Oct. 8, Crossing Points will hold its annual golf tournament at the Ol’ Colony Golf Complex. Lunch and registration will be at 11 a.m. with a shotgun start at 12:30 p.m. For more information, go to crossingpoints.ua.edu.
September 26th, 2015
Man walking on highway struck, killed by van in Tuscaloosa - A 53-year-old Tuscaloosa man was killed Saturday morning when he was hit by a van, according to the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency.
James Leon Lowe was walking at 4:42 a.m. along U.S. Highway 11 near the 73-mile marker, about two miles south of Tuscaloosa, when he was struck by a 2014 Dodge van.
Lowe was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of the van remained on scene and was not injured.
Troopers are continuing to investigate.
September 26th, 2015
Public forum planned to discuss road that some Cedar Crest residents want closed - City officials are hosting a public forum Tuesday to gather feedback from residents over a potentially permanent closure of a section of Fourth Avenue East where it connects to the westbound lanes of 15th Street.
The intersection and part of the road, which provide access to the Cedar Crest subdivision, were closed for 90 days beginning on Aug. 27 at the request of some residents of the neighborhood, according to the Office of the City Engineer.
But other residents in the area have since launched a petition on the website change.org calling for the intersection and road to be reopened.
The public forum is set for 5 p.m. in the Daugherty Room on the second floor of City Hall.
City Engineer David Griffin said Cedar Crest residents sought the closure because they say surrounding commercial growth has led to too much traffic in the neighborhood.
“For years, a group of homeowners in Cedar Crest have complained about speeding through their neighborhood, too much cut-through traffic through their neighborhood and too much change in the area surrounding their neighborhood,” Griffin said in an email to The Tuscaloosa News. “With the development of the Shoppes at Legacy (Park) and our construction improvements to Dr. (Edward) Hillard Drive, they decided that they had had enough.”
Griffin said city staff members and elected officials held a series of meetings with the residents and conducted a traffic study. The result was the decision to close Fourth Avenue East at 15th Street for 90 days and assess the impact.
“At the end of the 90 days, I expect Fourth Avenue East to be reopened to traffic and the results of the closure study to be provided to the homeowners and elected officials,” Griffin said. “Where we go from here is yet to be determined.”
City Councilman Matt Calderone was involved with the meetings with residents and said the consensus was to proceed with the temporary closure.
Calderone said the residents were concerned about safety because Cedar Crest is bounded by two high-traffic roads — 15th Street and Dr. Edward Hillard Drive — and is near the new Shoppes at Legacy Park, DCH Regional Medical Center, the University of Alabama and McFarland Boulevard, another heavily traveled road.
It wasn't until after the closure that he learned of the extent of the opposition from some other residents in the area, he said.
“We didn't hear too much from them prior, but we're certainly hearing from them now,” the councilman said.
The petition on change.org is calling for the city to leave the intersection and street open, for the benefit of the residents and to keep Cedar Crest as accessible as possible for emergency vehicles.
“As citizens of the city of Tuscaloosa and residents of the Cedar Crest area, we urge that the city stop needlessly blocking access to 15th Street via Fourth Avenue East,” the petition said. “There is no construction going on in this area. We cannot see how the city can justify its actions for blocking resident (and emergency services) access to and from one of Tuscaloosa's main thoroughfares.”
As of Friday afternoon, 225 people had signed the petition.
Calderone said he hopes both sides can reach an agreement, or at least a plan for going forward, at Tuesday's public forum.
“Going in to it, it's the city's goal to respond to our customers and our constituents,” the councilman said. “I'm certain there are some residents that it has made their lives better, just as I'm certain there are several residents who have been negatively affected.”
Reach Jason Morton at jason.morton@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0200.
September 26th, 2015
Deontay Wilder takes center stage in title bout - <!-- Start of Brightcove Player -->
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Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
— Spanish philosopher/poet
George Santayana
All right, so what Santayana actually said was, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” But in either its original form or its more widely accepted version, Santayana's message is seemingly ominous. The past is often prologue and, more often than not, mankind repeats its mistakes instead of learning from them.
History of a sort has been a recurring theme since tonight's matchup of World Boxing Council heavyweight champion Deontay “The Bronze Bomber” Wilder (34-0, 33 KOs) and virtually anonymous (at least here in the United States) French challenger Johann “The Reptile” Duhaupas (32-2, 20 KOs) was announced in mid-August.
The scheduled 12-rounder, on Premier Boxing Champions on NBC, will be the first heavyweight title bout to be shown on free, over-the-air TV in prime time since long-reigning WBC champ Larry Holmes scored a unanimous decision over Carl “The Truth” Williams on May 20, 1985, in Reno, Nev.
Holmes-Williams was a dandy scrap, and Williams — who was only 53 when he died of esophageal cancer on April 7, 2013 — went to his grave believing he had done enough to dethrone Holmes. It remains to be seen whether Wilder-Duhaupas, to be staged before a staunchly pro-Wilder audience in the Legacy Arena at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex, is a return to a glorious tradition or a horrendous mismatch that again drives boxing off the airwaves.
“Fighting on network TV gives us the opportunity to showcase ourselves to such a wider audience,” said Wilder, the Tuscaloosa native and 2008 Olympic bronze medalist whose current knockout percentage (97 percent) is the highest of any heavyweight champion in history. “People in our country have been waiting for a star in the division for a very long time, and I can promise you, I am the man for the job.”
But even should Wilder become the first man to stop the 34-year-old Duhaupas inside the distance, he might not receive full credit for it should the Frenchman, a 12-1 underdog, be as non-competitive as, say, Andre Berto was in losing a recent lopsided decision to pound-for-pound welterweight king Floyd Mayweather Jr. What fight fans – whether they're watching on free TV, HBO, Showtime, ESPN, Spike or pay-per-view — want on any given night is an actual fight, with two-way action and at least some doubt as to who will emerge victorious as the rounds tick off.
Thirty years is admittedly a long time to wait for a drought such as this to end, but in and of itself what will matter is whether some real entertainment value is delivered to viewers instead of a ritualistic slaying of another no-chance pretender imported for the specific purpose of making the main attraction look good.
“Duhaupas is a real big guy (6-foot-5, fighting at around 230 pounds) who has been around a long time,” noted promoter Lou DiBella. ”He's fought other top European fighters, maybe not to the extent of the Klitschkos (brothers Wlad and Vitali, who have ruled heavyweight boxing for more than a decade, although Vitali hasn't fought since 2012), but real guys. And don't forget, he's never been knocked out, never been on his back. When you fight someone who can say that, and he has a real good record, it's not a walkover. Duhaupas is a real heavyweight, and any real heavyweight is potentially dangerous.”
In 1985, the year that is sure to be referenced during the telecast by the NBC broadcast team of Marv Albert, Al Michaels and Sugar Ray Leonard, there were monumental highs – such as Villanova shocking Georgetown for the NCAA basketball championship, widely considered the biggest upset ever in college hoops — and colossal lows, such as the failed introduction of New Coke, which was pulled from the shelves almost faster than it took Mike Tyson to pulverize Michael Spinks.
So how will Wilder-Duhaupas be remembered? Hard to say until the fight takes place, but some perspective on what is at stake both immediately and moving forward is provided by Holmes, now 65, who understands maybe more than anyone just how significant an opportunity this is for boxing to seize the sort of across-the-board attention that pay-per-view and even the premium-cable networks, which restrict viewership, can never deliver.
“I didn't think nothin' like that,” said Holmes, speaking from his office in Easton, Pa., when asked if he had any inkling his fight with Williams would bring the curtain down on free TV of heavyweight championship boxing for three decades. “I always thought boxing would continue to go strong on the broadcast networks.
“(Muhammad) Ali used to say, `After I leave boxing, boxing gonna die because it won't have nobody like me.' He said that all the time. I'd look at him and think, `Yeah, right. Boxing's always gonna go strong.' But guess what? It didn't. It didn't because of a lack of (quality) heavyweights who can fight and really want to fight.”
As the successor to Ali, Holmes knew he had a tight window in which to seize public attention and hang onto it once he had it. That's why he decided to proceed with a nationally-televised, prime-time bout on ABC against WBC champ Ken Norton on June 9, 1978, at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Just six days before the fight, Holmes suffered a partially torn left biceps, an injury he concealed because he feared a postponement might mean he'd never get another title shot, or at least not one for a year or more.
What happened that night in the Nevada desert was a 15-rounder for the ages, one of the best heavyweight championship wars of all time, with Holmes out-slugging Norton in an epic 15th round to win a razor-thin split decision.
“It was my proudest fight,” Holmes said. “I became somebody. I was no longer Larry Holmes from the projects, Larry Holmes from the ghetto. I was Larry Holmes, heavyweight champion of the world.”
Holmes said he is reasonably impressed by what little he's seen of Wilder, who has a good left jab, which was the primary weapon in Holmes' arsenal. He knows nothing of Duhaupas, who is ranked No. 12 by the WBC, but he knows it always is a mistake to believe even the longest of long-shots isn't capable of getting lucky. Few knew who Renaldo Snipes was until he floored Holmes in the opening minute of the seventh round of their Nov. 6, 1981, title bout in Pittsburgh. A dazed Holmes fended off Snipes for the remainder of the round and wound up scoring an 11th-round TKO, one of the 20 successful heavyweight defenses he made, second to only the great Joe Louis' 25.
“I'll probably be watching,” Holmes said of his plans for tonight. “I try to watch what fights I can when I'm not too busy. But my advice to (Wilder) is not to get cocky. This guy (Duhaupas) has the motivation of trying to prove to that he's legit, that he's not just in there for a payday. If he's a bum, we'll find out soon enough.
“But we can't know for sure until we see for ourselves. I just hope he comes to fight. After all these years (of no heavyweight title fights on free TV), the fans deserve at least that.”
September 26th, 2015
Governor Bentley says budget language is unconstitutional - MONTGOMERY (AP) Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley on Friday said he believes lawmakers overstepped their bounds with budget bill language dictating how state agencies should spend their state appropriation in the coming fiscal year.
The governor on Wednesday asked the Alabama Supreme Court to review the constitutionality of budget language that gave state agencies limitations as they determine how to deal with budget cuts, or at best level funding, in the newly approved budget.
There are provisions in the budget act that encroach on the authority of the Executive Branch to implement budget allocations within state government. I believe these provisions of the budget act are in violation of the Alabama Constitution, which expressly preserves the separation of powers in government, Bentley said in a statement.
Bentley asked justices to review four sections of the budget act. One said lawmakers intend for the state to keep all drivers license offices open. Others said cuts should come from administrative functions before reducing state services and that state agencies were forbidden from buying new cars or buildings without legislative approval.
I think the intent of the Legislature is, if we are in a true crisis situation fiscally, we shouldnt be building buildings or buying vehicles, Senate Finance and taxation General Fund Chairman Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, said.
Orr said the Bentley administration did not object to the budget language as it was being debated.
Lawmakers last week after seven months of deadlock and GOP infighting over tax increases reached a budget deal that used a 25-cent-per-pack cigarette tax and a transfer of education funds to minimize cuts to state agencies.
House Ways and Means General Fund Committee Chairman Steve Clouse said that many lawmakers wanted to be able to show that, We are not just raising money, we are cutting back too.
The legal question has arisen periodically over just how much lawmakers can dictate to state agencies when they parcel out appropriations to agencies each year.
Clouse said lawmakers have previously issued moratoriums on purchases.
However, the directions to the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency on maintaining drivers licenses offices and trooper posts is newer territory for budget decrees.
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency for months has warned that funding reductions could cause the closures of several license offices across the state. Clouse said legislators in rural areas said the offices that are less busy would be shuttered, leaving rural residents with long drives to get to the nearest office.
A lot of members in rural areas were concerned about constituents being able to get to drivers licenses offices, Clouse said.
The governor asked justices to provide a quick answer since the fiscal year begins Oct. 1.
September 26th, 2015
Reward offered for return of Mississippi K9 dog missing after wreck - BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. | The Hancock County Sheriff’s Department is offering a $500 reward for the return of their 14-month-old bloodhound named Radar.
Radar has been missing since Tuesday afternoon after a two-vehicle crash in Pearl River County, where the search-and-rescue dog was thrown from the bed of his handler’s truck.
The crash injured the deputy and the dog ran away. Officials said the deputy, whose name has not been released, was taken to Northshore Medical Center in Slidell with facial injuries. He is out of the hospital but requires further treatment.
Hancock County Chief Deputy Don Bass tells The (Biloxi) Sun Herald 20 or more people and search dogs have been looking for Radar.
Bass said the dog is docile and isn’t a trained attack dog.
“He isn’t a dog trained to apprehend a suspect like the German shepherds,” he said. “Radar is a friendly dog.”
Officials said the dog was wearing a black reflective collar that reads “Sheriff.”
Anyone who sees the dog is asked to call the Pearl River County Sheriff’s Office at 601-798-5528 or the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office at 228-466-6937.
Bass said the department will be forced to scale down the search as the days go on.
“We have searched everywhere in the area,” he said. “Hopefully the time has allowed the dog to heal a bit and regain its senses.”
September 25th, 2015
PETA offers reward for information about puppy buried alive in Georgia - AUGUSTA, Ga. | An animal rights group is offering a reward for information about a 4-month-old puppy who was buried alive.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals says the dog, nicknamed Moxie, is recovering at a foster home. The group says it is offering up to $5,000 for information that leads to arrest and conviction of anyone responsible.
The mixed-breed puppy was found this month in Augusta trying to dig its way out of the ground. The dog’s injuries included swelling on its head and several ant bites. A veterinarian reported that the dog initially could not stand and struggled to eat and drink.
September 25th, 2015
All tickets are taken for Bill Nye lecture at the University of Alabama - All tickets have been distributed for Monday's appearance by Bill Nye, “The Science Guy,” at the University of Alabama.
Nye is scheduled to present a lecture at 7 p.m. in the 1,000-seat concert hall of the Moody Music Building, 810 Second Ave., on the UA campus
“Mr. Nye's lecture is scheduled for UA's largest academic venue,” said Joe Hornsby, director of the Blount Undergraduate Initiative, the event's primary sponsor. “The majority of the tickets to the event, which were free, were made available to the public at staggered times throughout this week and were limited to two per person in an effort to distribute them broadly. A small portion of the tickets were distributed to students involved in UA programs that paid for Nye's appearance.”
No tickets will be available at the door.
September 25th, 2015
Meet University of Alabama basketball coach Avery Johnson next week at Coleman Coliseum - The University of Alabama's Tuscaloosa County Alumni Chapter is offering a meet-and-greet with new head men's basketball coach Avery Johnson Wednesday at Coleman Coliseum.
The event begins at 5:30 p.m. and runs until 7.
Entry is free for current members of the chapter and children under age 12. The fee for non-members is $10 at the door.
Johnson will address those assembled on what to expect from his Crimson Tide team this year and will take questions, with the meet-and-greet to follow.
For information, contact andre@andretaylormusic.com or call 492-7695.
September 25th, 2015
University of Alabama to host viewing of rare total lunar eclipse - Tuscaloosa residents will have the chance Sunday night to view a rare total lunar eclipse through a powerful telescope at the University of Alabama.
Sunday's eclipse should also be visible to the naked eye throughout North America, depending on the weather.
What makes this eclipse even more rare is that it will be the combination of two events:
- A total lunar eclipse, which occurs when the moon passes into the Earth's shadow, obscuring the light of the sun.
- And a supermoon, which occurs when the moon is at perigee, or its closest distance in its orbit around Earth. A supermoon appears 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter than when the moon is farthest away from Earth.
An added bonus of this total lunar eclipse will be the moon's crimson shading, which is referred to as a "Blood Moon."
"The moon will appear to be very red during the total umbral eclipse," said UA astronomy professor Ronald Buta. "The Earth's atmosphere bends the red light from the sun passing around the edges of the Earth to get to the moon. The way it looks — how red and intense it looks — will depend on how much dust is in the air and the degree of cloudiness of the location."
The last time a supermoon and total lunar eclipse occurred together was 1982, according to NASA. People won't have the chance to see this combination again until 2033.
The best time to see the supermoon eclipse will be from 8:07 p.m. to 10:23 p.m., with the total eclipse occurring at 9:11 p.m.
The free public viewing will begin at 7:30 p.m Sunday at Gallalee Hall's observatory on the UA campus. People can view the moon through UA's computer-controlled 16-inch reflecting telescope.
Things to look out for during the eclipse, Buta said, are details of the full moon — which will be "10 percent bigger than normal" during the day, and the curved shadow of the Earth passing over the moon.
Buta said that this eclipse ends a cycle of four eclipses, called a tetrad, the next of which is scheduled to begin in January 2018. During a tetrad, a total lunar eclipse will occur every six months.
"There will be eight of these cycles in the 21st century — the maximum that can occur," said Buta. "The last time that happened was in the ninth century. It's a great feeling to connect to our history like that. Bright red moons remind people of blood. It can be seen as a bad omen, but it's just a natural phenomenon. I hope people can appreciate it."
One of the most well-known examples of a "Blood Moon" in North American history occurred when Christopher Columbus was stranded in Jamaica in June 1503. By March 1504, the indigenous Taino had refused to feed Columbus further when his crew repeatedly stole food and goods from them. Consulting an almanac on board, Columbus used the appearance of a "Blood Moon" to convince the Taino that if they did not feed his crew, an angry god would destroy them. They relented.
September 25th, 2015
Registration extended for Stillman scholarship luncheon and breakfast - Stillman College has extended the registration deadline for a scholarship luncheon and breakfast until Monday.
“The response has been phenomenal, and that is the primary reason we have had to extend the deadline,” said Christine Rembert, interim director of community engagement.
The deadline was originally Friday for the inaugural President’s Bow Tie Scholarship Breakfast and the second annual First Lady’s Hats and Heels Scholarship Luncheon. The two events are part of the private college’s week of homecoming festivities.
Stillman is scheduled to play against Lane College in its homecoming game at 1 p.m. on Oct. 3. Before the game, the annual homecoming parade will be from 9-11 a.m. in downtown Tuscaloosa.
Rembert said corporate sponsors and alumni have expressed “great interest” in the events. Stillman has already surpassed last year’s ticket sales, Rembert said.
Both events will be Oct. 1 at the Tuscaloosa River Market , 1900 Jack Warner Parkway. The breakfast will be from 7:30-9 a.m. and the luncheon will be from 12:30-2 p.m.
Seats for the president’s breakfast range from $50 for an individual to $5,000 for a reserved table for 10. The seats for the first lady’s luncheon range from $40 for individuals to $2,500 for a table of 10.
There are still seats available for reservation, and additional seats will be available on Thursday for those who decide to come at the last minute, Rembert said. Donations will also be accepted from those who wish to support the scholarships but are unable to attend.
The college decided to make the first lady’s luncheon an annual event after the success of last year, according to Marcia Millet, a faculty member and wife of Stillman President Peter Millet.
“The ladies are so enthusiastic about attending the event. It was a hit, and they asked me to please have it again and make it an annual homecoming event,” Millet said.
This fall is the first year for the president’s breakfast. Stillman decided to add the event as a companion to the luncheon.
“The reason Peter came on board this year is he wanted to do something to recognize young men,” Millet said.
The events honor men and women who are leaders in the community and their commitment to education and the community. The proceeds will fund scholarships for Stillman students.
In the evening, the 10th annual Educators Hall of Fame will take place at the Wynn Center on the Stillman campus. The event recognizes alumni for their contributions in the field of education and raises funds for scholarships for students in the department of education, Millet said.
Those who wish to reserve tables of tickets for the luncheon or breakfast, should contact Rembert by phone at 205-247-8033 or by email at crembert@stillman.edu. Those interested in the Educators Hall of Fame should contact Linda Bradford by phone at 205-247-8001 or by email at lbradford@stillman.edu.
Reach Ed Enoch at ed.enoch@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0209.
September 25th, 2015
Rape suspect on house arrest - A Tuscaloosa man accused of raping a University of Alabama student and attempting to rape two others has been released from jail, but ordered to remain on house arrest.
Joseph Spota will be required to wear a GPS monitor and will not be allowed to leave his home except for a medical emergency. He is prohibited from driving.
Spota, 29, was charged earlier this month with the rape and kidnapping of a UA student, who told police that he offered her a ride from the Strip after saying he was with a church group offering rides from sober drivers.
During that investigation, members of the Tuscaloosa County Metro Homicide Unit talked to two other college women who said Spota attempted to rape them the same night, said Capt. Gary Hood, unit commander.
A grand jury indicted Spota on first-degree kidnapping, first-degree rape and two counts of attempted first-degree rape this week. He turned himself in to the Tuscaloosa County Jail on Thursday.
Spota was released Friday. Other conditions of his release were ordered confidential by Tuscaloosa County Circuit Court Judge Chuck Malone.
September 25th, 2015
Man charged with robbery, burglary - Two people broke through the back window of an apartment near the Strip early Sunday and robbed the residents when they returned home, according to court documents.
The victims reported that they were confronted by an intruder when they returned to their apartment at 619 15th Ave. at 1 a.m. Sunday.
Residents told police that the man threatened to shoot them if they didn't give him their property. The residents handed over a purse and cellphone before the man told them to get on their knees and count to 100 while he left through a back bedroom window that had been broken, according to the police report.
Witnesses told Tuscaloosa police officers that they saw two men standing behind the apartment building. Police confronted Rashad Howard, 25, as he walked away from the building, and believe that he served as a lookout while another person broke into the apartment. Investigators charged him Thursday with first-degree burglary and first-degree robbery. He was being held Friday at the Tuscaloosa County Jail with bond set at $75,000.
The second suspect has not yet been caught.
Police found the victims' purse and phone on the ground below the broken bedroom window.
September 25th, 2015
Search tied to missing Demopolis woman - MERIDIAN, Miss. | Authorities are searching the property of a Mississippi man in the disappearance of an Alabama woman.
Lauderdale County Sheriff Billy Sollie said his office executed a search warrant of John Poisso’s home Thursday evening after receiving information relating to the disappearance of 26-year-old Rebecca Paulk of Demopolis. Family members told authorities say Paulk was last seen in Demopolis on Labor Day.
Her car was later found abandoned in Meridian.
Sollie says Poisso was arrested on several misdemeanor charges and brought in for questioning. He has not been charged in Paulk’s disappearance
Sollie says deputies will continue to search Poisso’s property on Friday.
September 25th, 2015
Gordo man dies in wreck with 18-wheeler - A Gordo man was killed in a collision with an 18-wheeler Thursday morning.
Ivan Lewis Stewart, 27, died when the 1988 Oldsmobile Royale he was driving collided with the 2006 Peterbilt tractor trailer.
The crash happened on Alabama Highway 86 near the 24-mile marker, about three miles south of Gordo.
Stewart, who was not wearing a seat belt, was thrown from the vehicle and died at the scene. The truck driver was not injured.
Alabama state troopers are investigating.
September 25th, 2015
Veterans needed for University of Alabama study on PTSD - A University of Alabama doctoral student and Army veteran is seeking combat veterans for a study exploring the relationship between transformational leadership and post-traumatic stress and depression.
Mike LaRocca, a doctoral student in the clinical psychology at UA, is searching for about 100 more combat veterans of any age or service branch for a survey in support of his dissertation work.
LaRocca’s study is titled “The Impact of Posttraumatic Growth, Transformational Leadership, and Self-efficacy on Psychological Symptoms Among Combat Veterans.”
LaRocca is looking at whether transformational leadership during a veteran’s military service in combat affected their ability to make meaning of their experience. LaRocca is looking at whether the interaction can offer indicators of veterans’ long-term physical well-being. It’s an exploration of the veteran’s post-traumatic growth.
LaRocca used the example of assessments, such as personal growth or growth in relationships or spirituality.
“It is kind of a unique study because they are thinking back to the quality of the leadership they had in combat and how they are doing now,” LaRocca said.
LaRocca is looking at depression and post-traumatic stress on a continuum, noting, predictably, some veterans are more stress-hardy than others, as well as the variety of experiences in a combat theater.
“Suffice to say there is a lot of individual variations in combat experience … and how well they recover afterward,” LaRocca said.
The 36-year-old was inspired by his own combat experiences in 2003 in Iraq, where his commander was killed in an improvised explosive device attack, and his introduction to the concept of transformational leadership while completing his master’s degree in clinical psychology at Pepperdine University.
“While I was deployed, I witnessed the insidiousness of psychological distress in combat and how devastating that can be. I also realized the power of empathy and understanding of those who just who want to talk,” LaRocca said.
LaRocca was introduced to the idea of transformational leadership during academic leadership studies in Pepperdine’s business college.
“I think when you look at some of the dimensions of transformational leadership … It is a very nurturing kind of leadership. It tends to cause people to be more inspired to do well. They have a kind of emotional buy-in for the organization,” LaRocca said.
While there have been studies that found correlations between the effects of higher-quality leadership and lower post-traumatic stress in veterans, the research had not specifically focused on transformational leadership, which is commonly associated with business psychology.
“I would like to merge these two foundations,” LaRocca said.
LaRocca has about 30 participants so far, including World War II, Korean conflict and Vietnam War veterans, since launching the survey. The search began with veterans on campus, but recently spread off campus. He hopes to find the remaining 100 needed for the study within the next few months. LaRocca is looking for combat veterans from any conflict who have finished their military service.
The veterans will be asked about different experiences that they may have had in a combat zone. LaRocca estimated the written survey lasts from 30 minutes to an hour.
LaRocca would like to finish data collection by May, allowing him to analyze the responses and defend his dissertation next summer. LaRocca would like to publish his work in an academic journal and possibly do follow-up research.

Reach Ed Enoch at ed.enoch@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0209.
September 25th, 2015
Bama Brew & Que set for Saturday in Tuscaloosa - Backyard and professional barbecue teams are gearing up for a day of barbecue and beer Saturday.
The third annual Bama Brew & Que will be 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Munny Sokol Park’s Ray C. Jenkins Horse Arena.
The event will include live music, food and beer sales, local performance groups, a petting zoo and a kids’ zone.
Festival-goers can taste and see a variety of cooking styles and grilling techniques and vote on their favorite for the people’s choice award.
Admission is $5 or five canned goods per person.
Canned goods will be donated to Tuscaloosa Emergency Services, along with any profit from admission fees. Barbecue teams will also cook Boston butts for the organization to give to its clients as part of the Kansas City Barbecue Society’s Meals Mission that purchases butts to feed the hungry and homeless across the nation.
September 25th, 2015
Cost Plus World Market will open at Shoppes at Legacy Park on Oct. 1 - Cost Plus World Market will open in the Shoppes at Legacy Park on Oct. 1.
It will be the fourth retailer to open in the new shopping center, following Bed Bath & Beyond, which opened on Monday, and Fresh Market and Dick’s Sporting Goods, which opened earlier this month.
PetSmart and DSW Shoes are scheduled to open next month in the shopping center at the corner of McFarland Boulevard and 13th Street.
Cost Plus World Market features traditional, contemporary and modern furniture, home accents and international foods and wines.
A ribbon cutting will be held at the store at 9 a.m. Oct. 1. The first 100 customers will receive a $10 gift card.
Other events are planned throughout next weekend, including free tastings, live entertainment and drawings for $250 gift cards.
Bed Bath & Beyond is under the same corporate umbrella as Cost Plus World Market.
The $55 million Shoppes at Legacy Park is on the site of the former Cedar Crest neighborhood, much of which was destroyed by the April 27, 2011, tornado. Other tenants announced for the development include Mattress Firm, Mountain High Outfitters, Chuy’s Mexican Food, Nothing But Noodles and Pyro’s Fire Fresh Pizza.
September 25th, 2015
Child bitten by wild snake at Birmingham Zoo - BIRMINGHAM | Officials say a child was bitten by a copperhead snake at the Birmingham Zoo.
Local news media reported that zoo spokesman Clark Maxwell said the child was bitten by a wild snake around noon Thursday near the Trails of Africa exhibit and that the snake wasn't a part of the zoo's animal collection. The child's condition was unknown.
The child was transported to the Children's of Alabama hospital for treatment.
The snake was captured and relocated by zoo staff for examination.
Zoo officials said they were working with the hospital to determine the appropriate treatment for the child.
September 25th, 2015
A Celebration of Hope aims to bring Christians together - Tuscaloosa’s Hope Initiative will host a Celebration of Hope on Oct. 4, an event aimed at bringing Christians of different races and denominations together for fellowship, food and worship.
The celebration will follow the end of a week of church-completed service projects in the Hope Initiative’s second annual Day of Hope, which ends Oct. 3.
Some of the service projects churches will be tackling include building handicapped-accessible ramps, fixing broken doors and windows, upgrading playgrounds at apartment complexes and painting school hallways.
“The Celebration of Hope is where we are asking all Tuscaloosa County churches to come together to give God praise,” said Kelvin Croom, pastor of College Hill Baptist Church. “We have Cornerstone Full Gospel Baptist Church and Capstone Church worship teams providing the praise and worship music. Plum Grove Baptist Church and Calvary Baptist Church are ministering together through drama and dance.
“We will have testimonials from (people who received assistance from) the Day of Hope. There will be free hot dogs, chips and drinks.”
Eric Boykin, mission strategist for the Tuscaloosa County Baptist Association, said the event is really about celebrating what all churches can do together.
“We’re celebrating that God has blessed us and our city in so many ways,” Boykin said. “We talk a lot about unity in the church, but we don’t get together much. We’re all trying to get together across denominational lines, racial lines. We’re just trying to get God’s people in the same space together and celebrate. That’s the point of it.”
The event is from 4 to 6 p.m. in Central High School’s gym. It’s free and open to the public.
“There’s no hidden agendas, no secrets out there,” Boykin said. “This is it. It’s a great opportunity to celebrate a victory for the church, the Kingdom and our city and I’m looking forward to it.”
Tuscaloosa’s Hope Initiative is a partnership between the city government and local Christian leaders designed to bring peace and safety to high-crime neighborhoods.
Reach Jamon Smith at jamon.smith@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0204.
September 25th, 2015
Craft beer flows at Band of Brothers Brewing Company's grand opening - Band of Brothers Brewing Co. held its grand opening on Thursday. The craft brewery is on 23rd Avenue near 15th Street in Tuscaloosa. It is owned by brothers Jeremy and Jeremiah Donald and their friend, Quintin Brown.
Band of Brothers brews beer onsite and has a taproom open 3-10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 1-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 1-9 p.m. Sunday.
It is the third craft beer brewery in Tuscaloosa. Druid City Brewing Co. opened in 2012, and Black Warrior Brewing Co. joined the scene in 2013.
Band of Brothers Brewing Co. is featured in the Fall 2015 issue of Tuscaloosa magazine. Find it at The Tuscaloosa News, Barnes & Noble and area Kangaroo and Publix stores. To subscribe, call 205-722-0102.
September 25th, 2015
Deontay Wilder not focused on knocking out Duhaupas - <iframe src="https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B59nj7Y6DKIWdkZubXlXSHNXeU0/preview" width="640" height="480">
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BIRMINGHAM | What happens when a guy refuses to go down, when he refuses to flinch from a big shot?
Deontay Wilder might find out Saturday night when he faces Johann Duhaupaus, an opponent who's never been knocked out or even knocked down, and how the 29-year-old World Boxing Council heavyweight champion responds will tell the story in his development as a fighter.
In his previous 34 fights, Wilder put each opponent on their backside and knocked out 33 of them in the process. Now he seeks to do so against someone who's never felt the canvas on his back.
“Anybody can be knocked out,” Wilder said. “It just takes the right amount of time, the right amount of patience. Some guys can withstand a punch more than others. I don't think he's faced any kind of guy with my style, the charisma I bring to the ring and everything that comes with me.
“We'll see what happens.”
For much of Wilder's career the fights ended quickly. He knocked out 24 of 34 of his opponents in the first two rounds, 28 of 34 in the first three rounds. However, his last two fights, both heavyweight title fights, went significantly longer.
He went the distance (12 rounds) to win the WBC belt against Bermane Stiverne and nine rounds in his first title defense against Eric Molina in June.
What Wilder's trainers don't want is for him to get overly focused on knocking the Frenchman out.
“Well I'm hoping he doesn't get caught up in that,” co-trainer Mark Breland said. “I've always told him, 'You're going to fight someone some day and you're going to hit them and they're not going to move. That's why I want you to keep boxing. Don't worry about knocking everybody out.'
“(Duhaupas) can take a good shot. It's just a thing where you have to hit him right. He's not the hardest guy to hit. It's just a matter of catching him right.”
Jay Deas, Wilder's co-manager, said his fighter is much too bright to get caught up in that mentality.
“I don't think it's going to be a problem for Deontay to focus on the game plan and to not let things get in his head that shouldn't be there,” Deas said. “The great things is that we learned so much from the last fight. It's not an easy thing to have 9,000 people chanting your name. It's easy to just want to go nuts. But he was able to keep his composure and do the job that had to be done.
“Only a fool looks past what is in front of him. Deontay Wilder is nobody's fool.”
Bartow Arena is configured to seat 12,300 for the fight, and Bruno Event Team president Gene Hallman said 6,500 tickets have been sold.
So what makes Duhaupas so difficult to knock down? The answer lies in how his brain works.
“It's his mentality. He has a fighter mentality,” Deas said. “He doesn't have a panic button. He doesn't freak out. He's a problem solver. He just continually works and works and searches for solutions, and know mater how bad things get he's cool with that. He just keeps doing his thing.”
Wilder said he hasn't studied film of Duhaupas. He leaves that for his trainers. But he respects what he's learned of his opponent.
“This is a tall guy with height. Great record. Never been knocked out. What more do you want?” Wilder said. “He's a tough guy.
“Heavyweights are the cream of the crop. We're the hard hitters. When people get dressed to come see a heavyweight fight there's one thing on their mind. It's a knockout. That's what they want to come see.
“Right now, standing in front of you, there's two tall guys with power. He's not going to be an easy fight. He's going to keep coming.”
Reach Aaron Suttles at aaron.suttles@tuscaloosanews.com or at 205-722-0229.
September 25th, 2015
Mid-South Fair opens Friday in Mississippi - SOUTHAVEN, Miss. | The Mid-South Fair opens its 159th edition Friday in Southaven, opening with a rodeo in the evening and wrapping up 10 days later with a communitywide worship service on Oct. 4.
In between, organizers hope ideal weather will continue, swelling attendance past last year’s 94,000 for the rides, food, shows and exhibits on the grounds of Landers Center at Interstate 55 and Church Road.
The (Memphis) Commercial Appeal report gates will be open Friday 4 p.m.-midnight. The Rodeo of the Mid-South will be at 7:30 p.m. inside Landers Center. Weekend hours will be noon to midnight Saturday and noon-10 p.m. Sunday.
September 24th, 2015
Northport picks new council member - Local certified public accountant Bert Sims was chosen Thursday as the newest member of the Northport City Council.
Sims replaces former District 4 City Council member Steve Acker, who stepped down this week because he moved outside the city limits. Sims stood out from the other candidates because of his financial background, said council member Rodney Sullivan.
“I thought everybody did really well, but with Mr. Sims, his financial ability really stood out,” said Sullivan, who was also selected Thursday to serve as the council’s president-pro tem, a position Acker had also previously held.
Northport Mayor Bobby Herndon agreed that Sims was a good choice.
“I know Bert will be a good addition to the council,” Herndon said. “Steve Acker was strong on finance, and Bert seems like he would be a good in that regard, too.”
Sims, a Northport native and CPA and investment adviser with Way, Ray, Shelton & Co. in Tuscaloosa, said in his Sept. 10 interviews that he wants to do what he can to benefit Northport. He was interviewed by the council along with three other candidates earlier this month.
“I would like to think that I work well with the people that are here, and that I would do what I can do to make Northport as good as it possibly can be,” he said.
Sims said he was thankful for the council’s decision Thursday.
“I’m appreciative and humbled by them voting me in today, and I would hope that I would do a good job and fulfill the role appropriately,” said Sims, who is a graduate of Tuscaloosa County High School, the University of Alabama and Texas A&M University.
“I’ll give it my best, and in general, I would certainly say I’m not perfect in anything I try to do, but I will give it my best shot.”
Sims’ appointment to the council did not come without dissension, however. During Thursday’s special called council meeting, Councilwoman Judy Hayes voted against Sims, stating that she had another candidate in mind. But during the meeting, Councilman Bart Harper had already proposed that Sims be selected and Sullivan made a second to Harper’s motion, meaning that the council had to vote on the motion before considering another candidate.
“I had another candidate I’d like,” Hayes told the council.
“Let’s vote and see how it goes,” said Council President Jay Logan.
Sims was approved with a vote of 3 to 1.
Also during the meeting, Hayes said she felt like she had been unethically pressured to vote for Sims by Logan, who she said called her and asked her who she wanted to fill the vacant seat.
“Jay called me and pushed me to vote for a particular candidate and told me who was and was not voting for him,” Hayes said. “It was inappropriate and unethical.”
According to the Alabama Open Meetings Law, it is allowed for council members to talk one on one, as long as they don’t meet with a quorum present.
During the meeting, Hayes said the city administrator should not influence the council on who or what they vote for. But City Administrator Scott Collins denied contacting her. Logan said he called the council members in order to set a special-called council meeting to fill the vacancy, but he denied pressuring her to vote any certain way.
“I had no idea what she was talking about,” Logan said after the meeting. “I called her, but I had to everybody to call a special meeting and see if they were comfortable with picking a candidate.”
Reach Lydia Seabol Avant at lydia.seabolavant@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0222.
September 24th, 2015
Ole Miss fan says UA fan attacked him - An Ole Miss student hospitalized with a broken jaw says he got the injury when he was attacked by an angry University of Alabama football fan early Sunday morning.
Ryan Moore, 22, was celebrating the University of Mississippi win and shouting “Hotty Toddy” as they walked toward downtown Tuscaloosa from Bryant-Denny Stadium, his father said.
That's when an Alabama fan punched his son in the face, said Mike Moore.
“Ryan was celebrating, and maybe this guy thought he was celebrating too much or got tired of listening to him,” he said. “He was walking in front of him, turned around and punched him in the face. He broke his jaw in two places and said something to the effect of 'You need to learn to keep your mouth shut.'”
The alleged assault happened on University Boulevard near Queen City Avenue.
The alleged assailant was walking with a woman and two young girls, he said. He described the attacker as white, weighing around 220 pounds, with salt and pepper hair and an athletic build. He was wearing a dark Alabama shirt and jeans.
Ryan Moore, from Tupelo, is a senior scheduled to graduate in December.
He was treated at DCH Regional Medical Center right after the assault, and later by doctors in Tupelo. He underwent surgery, and may have his mouth wired shut for up to three weeks.
Mike Moore visited Tuscaloosa on Thursday to file a report with Tuscaloosa police and visit businesses that may have caught the assault on surveillance video.
Anyone with information can contact Mike Moore at 662-322-1822, Tuscaloosa Police Department at 205-349-2121 or CrimeStoppers at 205-752-STOP (7867).
Reach Stephanie Taylor at stephanie.taylor@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0210.
September 24th, 2015
Ex-Brookwood teacher arrested - The former Brookwood high school teacher accused of having a sexual relationship with a student was back in jail Thursday.
Joe Bradley Petrey, 28, turned himself in to authorities. A grand jury that met this week indicted him on a charge of being a school employee who engaged in a sex act with a student younger than 19.
The Tuscaloosa County District Attorney’s Office dismissed an identical charge against him on Monday, with the expectation that the grand jury would later issue the indictment.
A prosecutor asked that the case be dismissed rather than holding a preliminary hearing that was scheduled Monday morning. The request was in line with the district attorney’s policy of not holding preliminary hearings is the defendant has bonded out of jail.
Petrey was charged in August with being a school employee who engaged in a sex act or deviant sexual intercourse with a student younger than 19. The arrest came about a week after more than 300 images appearing to depict a sexual relationship were posted on the Internet and sent to Tuscaloosa County School System administrators. Petrey was placed on leave by the school system and later resigned. The student graduated in the spring.
September 24th, 2015
Tuscaloosa man indicted on rape charge - A Tuscaloosa man accused of sexually assaulting a woman after pretending he was driving a church van is back in jail.
Joseph Christopher Spota, 29, was accused of raping a University of Alabama student after giving her a ride home from the Strip earlier this month. A grand jury heard evidence in the case and indicted him on charges of raping and kidnapping that student and attempting to rape two other women.
Spota turned himself in at the Tuscaloosa County Jail on Thursday morning. The Thursday arrest follows his arrest by law enforcement officers on rape and kidnapping charges against one victim on Sept. 1.
A grand jury heard the evidence and issued the indictments on the charges this week.
Spota is charged with first-degree rape, two counts of attempted first-degree rape and one count of first-degree kidnapping. He is being held at the Tuscaloosa County Jail on $300,000 bond.
Investigators suspect that Spota offered rides to women who were walking alone in the Strip or downtown bar areas. They have asked any women who he may have approached to contact the University of Alabama Police Department at 205-348-5454, CrimeStoppers at 205-752-7867(STOP) or the homicide unit at 205-464-8690.
September 24th, 2015
Interstate ramp to close for one year - The Alabama Department of Transportation will close the northbound exit ramp at Exit 79 of Interstate 20/59 for one year.
The ramp will be rebuilt while a new median bridge is constructed along that section of interstate. The closure was scheduled for Wednesday night.
The exit leads to U.S. Highway 11. The detour will be Exit 86 on to County Road 59, also known as Covered Bridge Road.
Motorists can expect delays during the construction. ALDOT requested that drivers use caution, consider alternate routes, adjust arrival and departure rimes and observe work zone speed limits and other message signs in the area.
September 24th, 2015
Tuscaloosa VA Medical Center has new chief of staff - The Tuscaloosa Veterans Affairs Medical Center has a new chief of staff.
Dr. Carlos Berry was appointed to the position this week. Before his appointment, Berry had served as the center’s acting chief of staff since Nov. 17.
“Dr. Berry brings a wealth of experience to the position, having served veterans through numerous roles at the medical center as well as more than 30 years of experience in the private sector and the U.S. Army Reserve,” said John Merkle, director of the Tuscaloosa VA Medical Center. “I look forward to continuing to work with Dr. Berry and the rest of the executive team to make Tuscaloosa VAMC a better place every day for our veterans and staff.”
As chief of staff, Berry serves as supervisor and leader of the professional medical staff and is responsible for coordinating medical activities within the medical center. As a member of the hospital’s executive team, he is involved in developing and implementing the organization’s operations and strategic goals.
Berry brings more than 30 years of professional experience, both at the Tuscaloosa VA and in the private sector. Berry previously served as the associate chief of staff for Mental Health Service Line at Tuscaloosa VA, where he oversaw a spectrum of mental health services from outpatient care to acute psychiatry, according to a news release. At the Tuscaloosa VA, he has treated veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychiatric illnesses.
Berry conducted his undergraduate studies at the George Washington University and finished medical school in 1981 at the Universidad Central Del Este in the Dominican Republic. He completed a rotating internship in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and then finished psychiatry training at the National Institute of Mental Health, St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, in Washington, D.C.
Berry is a clinical affiliate professor of psychiatry and behavioral medicine at the University of Alabama School of Medicine and is board certified in psychiatry. He is a colonel in the United States Army Reserve and has deployed six times in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
Reach Lydia Seabol Avant at lydia.seabolavant@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0222.
September 24th, 2015
T.J. Maxx appears to be headed to new location - A new T.J.Maxx location is coming to Tuscaloosa, although the discount retailer has not announced when the store will open or what will happen to its existing store at McFarland Mall.
The former Office Max store at McFarland Plaza is under renovation and large, red banners bearing the T.J.Maxx logo and the words “coming soon” has been erected in front of the site. But a company representative had little to say about the project.
“Although we appreciate your inquiry, T.J.Maxx has not announced a new store in the Tuscaloosa area,” said Brittany Farrell, public relations supervisor for The TJX Companies Inc., which owns T.J.Maxx. “When opening new stores, we tend to announce our plans when we believe the time is right to do so competitively.
“Generally speaking, it is our practice not to announce store openings until close to an intended opening date.”
The news came as a surprise to local developer Stan Pate, whose company owns McFarland Mall. He learned of the banners posted in McFarland Plaza between Toys “R” Us and Ross Dress for Less when contacted by The Tuscaloosa News.
Pate said he had been in discussions with company officials as recently as three weeks ago. Then, all options — including staying in the McFarland Mall location — remained available.
As of Wednesday, he said he still had heard nothing from TJX Companies Inc. on the future of the store in Tuscaloosa.
“It amazes me people have to mislead people to do business,” Pate said. “But it’s not a big deal. In fact, it further helps us accomplish our goal.”
Pate said that having the T.J.Maxx space vacant will speed along the demolition of McFarland Mall. The demolition began in March 2014, when Pate announced that he would build new retail center called Encore Tuscaloosa on the site.
Pate has been working toward the site’s renovation since he first purchased the aging McFarland Mall location in May 2009. The part of the mall housing T.J.Maxx, Shoe Station, Dollar Tree and some smaller stores remains standing for now, though many retail spaces are empty.
The new retail center will be between 250,000 and 350,000 square feet and cost an estimated $75 million, Pate has said and will feature a nationally-known anchor store and several restaurants.
Despite the surprise move by T.J.Maxx, Pate said he was glad that Tuscaloosa shoppers will get to keep it as an option, even if it isn’t in his development.
He’s also glad he won’t have to hear from those same shoppers had he been forced to temporarily close it.
“T.J.Maxx is a great company, an excellent retailer and good for anybody’s site,” Pate said. “I am happy that I don’t have the closing of T.J.Maxx on my hands.
“Every woman in Tuscaloosa would want to have my hide if I did something to that store.”
Reach Jason Morton at jason.morton@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0200.
September 24th, 2015
Judge sends ex-KKK leader, arrested in Tuscaloosa, back to prison in cross burning - MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A former Ku Klux Klan leader who pleaded guilty to burning a cross in an African-American neighborhood in Alabama was ordered Wednesday to return to prison for violating terms of his probation.
U.S. District Judge W. Keith Watkins ordered Steven Joshua Dinkle, 30, back to prison for 10 months.
Last year Dinkle pleaded guilty for his role in burning a cross outside a predominantly African-American neighborhood in Ozark, Alabama, in 2009 to intimidate its residents. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate housing rights and obstruction of justice.
A judge last year sentenced Dinkle to two years in prison. He was freed in May and placed on three years of supervised release.
Federal probation officers said Dinkle failed to comply with his release terms. They said he failed to show up for a mental evaluation, moved out of his residence without telling them and fled the city. Deputy U.S. marshals arrested Dinkle in August when he was found in a mobile home in Tuscaloosa, outside the Middle District of Alabama.
Dinkle admitted breaking the terms of his supervised release. His defense lawyer and a prosecutor agreed to the 10-month incarceration. Watkins accepted the proposal and handed down the 10-month sentence.
He will not be on supervised release when he finishes the 10 months.
Prosecutors said Dinkle built a 6-foot-tall cross, wrapped it in jeans and a towel, doused it in fuel and set it ablaze near the neighborhood entrance. Investigators said Dinkle at the time the exalted Cyclops of the Ozark chapter of the KKK.
Ozark, a town of about 15,000 people, is 85 miles south of Montgomery.
September 24th, 2015
Middle school girls learn about careers in engineering through Alabama Power iCan program - Mckayla Carroll, 13, used the tip of an uncooked angel hair pasta noodle to puncture the soft, white fluff of a miniature marshmallow in the process of building the Leaning Tower of Pasta.
Carroll was one of 16 seventh-grade girls at Davis-Emerson Middle School to participate in the Alabama Power iCan program, which teaches middle-school girls about engineering.
The company launched the program in Tuscaloosa last year at the same school. The program is also offered at schools in Gadsden, Anniston and Birmingham.
The program, which started in Birmingham in 2008, uses a fun learning environment where girls can think like an engineer. The program teaches them about the different career opportunities available to them in the engineering field — civil, computer, environmental and chemical engineering, to name a few.
“The purpose of iCan is to introduce middle school girls to careers in a STEM field, which is science, technology, engineering and math. We focus on engineering and math with this program,” said Anna Catherine Roberson, communications specialist for Alabama Power. “Our mission statement for iCan is empowering young female minds of today to engineer a better world for tomorrow.”
With activities like building bridges with straws, paper clips and tape, building towers with spaghetti and marshmallows and making ice cream with ice and salt, the girls learn teamwork, critical thinking skills and the different kinds of engineering.
Roberson said another goal of the program is to dispel the stereotype of who a typical engineer is — a man.
“(Engineering) is a male-dominated field, and we want to encourage more females to go into that field,” she said. “We also want to start getting the girls to think about what they want to be when they grow up and start on that track now.”
To do that, female volunteers who work in some capacity at Alabama Power act as mentors to the girls in the program. They tell the girls about their jobs and how they got them.
Karen Davis, assistant principal at Davis-Emerson Middle School, said that a lot of times girls don’t have positive role models, so having the opportunity to bond with the employees was “awesome.”
“It was really neat for them to connect to female professionals,” Davis said.
Roberson said one girl who participated in the first iCan class in 2008 is now majoring in engineering at the University of Alabama, and the program is what inspired her to do so.
Statistics show that female undergraduate enrollment in engineering is 20 percent, and only 11 percent of people working in the engineering field are women, Roberson said.
She said the decline starts in middle school, which is when girls begin to lose interest in math and science, according to statistics.
Davis said that in her professional experience, boys tend to have a higher interest in math and science and better grades in those subjects than girls.
“We have a robotics team here, and it is made up of guys.” Davis said. “The interest for math and science just kind of veers off in middle school (for girls).”
But the program seems to have opened the girls’ minds, she said.
“I never even thought about engineering as a career. I definitely think this program has opened up the possibility of engineering as a career in my mind,” Mckayla said. “I learned that engineering can be a female career. We’re just as capable as (boys).”
September 24th, 2015
Alabama working on getting better, moving on after loss - The week began quietly at the University of Alabama's football practice facilities. The Crimson Tide didn't practice on Monday, with head coach Nick Saban opting for a film session and a walkthrough rather than a normal day's work. By Tuesday the team was back in full pads.
“We're looking forward,” Saban said on Monday. “There's many lessons to be learned in the last game, and hopefully our players will learn those lessons and we will do a good job of improving our team in the future so that we can get more consistent execution.”
Just because Monday wasn't a normal day of work doesn't mean it was an easy day. Looking back on the film was painful in its own way. Offensive players saw a handful of turnovers. Defensive players saw a handful of breakdowns.
Players might only dwell on a loss for 24 hours after a game, but the process of building off the game requires revisiting the defeat.
“It's always tough watching a film over a loss especially when you see things in the game that you know that if you had the chance to do it again, you know you hope to do it better,” said senior Kenyan Drake, who lost a fumble against the Rebels. “But that's the point of coming off a loss, especially a tough loss like that because it only gives you momentum and gives you the things you need to work on, especially when it's early enough in the season where you can come back from that and use that as a learning experience.”
Even though Alabama found itself in a similar situation last year after an early loss to Ole Miss, left tackle Cam Robinson said players haven't spent much time reflecting on that. Saban said on Monday that the two losses to the Rebels unfolded differently. He liked the energy during the game even after falling behind by three possessions, but wasn't sure if that would carry over into this week.
The reaction since Saturday has been mostly positive, Saban said.
“Most of the players have responded the way you'd like for them to,” Saban said on Wednesday. “Hopefully we'll get everybody else on board here as soon as possible.”
That means a quick turnaround for the long road ahead. With one last look at Ole Miss, Alabama hopes to find the path it needs to follow in the weeks to come.
“We're Alabama so we know we can't lose too often,” Robinson said. “...Say we lose one game, the sky's falling because that's kind of the standard we've set for ourselves. I think we just need to come back with a positive attitude and just look to move forward – don't dwell on this loss.”
Reach Ben Jones at ben@tidesports.com or at 205-722-0196.
September 24th, 2015
Parents skeptical of plans for health clinic at Brookwood High School - A proposal to build a health clinic at Brookwood High School has drawn criticism from some parents even as Tuscaloosa County School System administrators have defended the plan.
Interim Superintendent Walter Davie has said that the proposed school-based health clinic would be beneficial to students, while Brookwood parents say they need more information about how the clinic would operate.
“It's not something we have to do, but something we want to do,” Davie said at a packed meeting held Tuesday night at Brookwood High School.
Davie pointed out that programs offering children free breakfast help attendance and said a health clinic could help keep students in class instead of leaving for doctor's appointments.
“So that is part of our interest in this. Their services, diagnosing and treating the injured, disease management are a host of things they can do (at a school-based clinic),” he said.
Sarah Dickey, mother of a freshman at Brookwood High, said the system isn't providing enough information.
“I think what happened is they jumped the gun by saying 'Hey, let's talk about this clinic.' They had no specifics. I want to know who's going to be around here,” Dickey said.
Davie acknowledged that a lot of the details remain to be worked out. He said that another community meeting about the school-based health clinic would be scheduled within a month and that representatives from Maude Whatley Health Services, the private, nonprofit group that would operate the clinic, will be there to answer parents' questions.
Davie did reveal some details about the planned clinic at Tuesday's meeting. He said it would be a standalone building on school property and would not be physically connected to Brookwood High.
One parent asked if the county school system would have to pay for the clinic's construction.
Davie said the system will not bear any financial responsibility for building the clinic.
About 80 percent of the clinic's construction is being paid for with a $500,000 grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration. The rest will be paid for by Whatley Health Services.
Other parents asked why the clinic couldn't be placed at Sipsey Valley High or Holt High. One parent pointed out that there are three health clinics already within a 10-mile radius of Brookwood High.
Davie said that the proposed clinic would be different because it would focus only on students.
Another parent asked if their children could go to the clinic without parental consent. Davie said that parental consent would be required before a child could be treated at the clinic.
But some parents said that children could go to the clinic without parental consent if they tell a school nurse that they are sexually active and/or they need birth control.
“I want to know that legally a 15-year-old can sign up for birth control without her parent's consent. That can happen, but you're responsible for that bill until she's 19,” Dickey said. “I can talk to my kid about anything, but she will still keep secrets from me because that's what they do. They're teenagers.”
Joel Sogol, father of a sophomore and a senior at Brookwood High, was one of the few parents who expressed that he was in favor of the clinic. But, like everyone else, he said more information is needed.
“My reading is that by and large these clinics are very beneficial for students at the schools,” Sogol said. “I think some of the concerns addressed here are really non-concerns when it comes down to it.”
September 24th, 2015
Hundreds commemorate lives of 13 miners who died in explosion 14 years ago - As they have since explosions claimed the lives of 13 miners in Brookwood on Sept. 23, 2001, friends, family, colleagues and co-workers gathered Wednesday on the 14th anniversary of the disaster to remember the lives of the fallen.
“This is a moment to remember 13 men who chose to give their lives,” said the Rev. Elbert Jones Sr. of the United Mine Workers of America’s Corps of Chaplains to the crowd of hundreds who had gathered under and around a large, white tent at West Brookwood Church on Lock 17 Road for the 14th annual Miners’ Memorial hosted by the Alabama Miners’ Memorial Foundation Inc.
“They were following in the footsteps of another man, and his name was Jesus,” Jones said. “It was a choice of love.”
Here, a black marble memorial bears the names of the 13. And at the conclusion of the ceremony, attendees laid sprigs of evergreen at its base.
Thomas F. Wilson, international representative for the United Mine Workers of America, read aloud the names of those who died in Jim Walter Resources’ No. 5 Mine.
But this ceremony is not just for those who died in Brookwood 14 years ago. It’s been expanded to honor every miner who has died on the job in Alabama — 38, so far, since 2001 — as well as those who have lost their lives nationally in mining or other industries.
But so far in Alabama, no miner has died this year, Wilson said.
“I’m very blessed and happy to report that we have had no mining fatalities in Alabama in 2015,” he said.
With its church setting, the memorial service leaned heavily on the teachings of Christianity to offer comfort and hope to those who had gathered in what the Rev. Monroe Cullen Williams, a retired member of the United Mine Workers of America’s Local Union 8460, described as one of the largest crowds the event has drawn.
The Rev. Stephen Cannon, himself a retired member of UMWA’s Local Union 1926, was called upon to offer an inspirational message. To do so, he turned to the book of Exodus.
“Many times, life brings us bitterness. It brings us pain. It brings us sorrow,” said Cullen, a 39-year mining veteran. “It’s just bitter.
“But you see, the cross is what makes (life) sweet. I find what I need at the foot of the cross.”
Among the crowd was Tuscaloosa resident and coal miner James Trawick, who said he turned out to honor his fellow miners and was pleased to see so many others do the same.
“Those guys left the house thinking they were OK,” said Trawick, 48. “But conditions in mining can change, and you never know what you’ll face.
“You never know if this (day) could be your last.”
Leon Cole, 56, and Martin Russell, 53, agreed.
Miners themselves, they said it’s never guaranteed that those who enter a mine will come out of it.
“Every day on top of the ground, make it a good day,” Cole said. “We don’t do normal work, so we don’t live normal lives. We’ve got to make the best of it when we can.”
For Russell, coming to the ceremony every year is how he shows respect for those who have fallen.
“I love coal miners,” he said, “and I think that could happen in any mine any day.”
Walter Sims, 52, said he’s been mining coal for more than 10 years.
He turns out to show his respect for the sacrifice made by the men who died in the Brookwood mines as well as his appreciation for the safety measures that their deaths brought about.
“I’m sure if they could speak today, they’d say they were proud to do it,” Sims said. “It takes a different kind of person to work underground.”
Reach Jason Morton at jason.morton@tuscaloosanews.com or 722-0200.
September 23rd, 2015
Man accused of attacking firefighters - Tuscaloosa police say they found cocaine and methamphetamine in the pockets of a man accused of attacking firefighters in the University Mall parking lot on Saturday.
Tuscaloosa Fire and Rescue Service and Northstar paramedics found Edgar Jermaine Callaway, 28, running in the parking lot of JCPenney when they responded to an accident call there at 11:30 a.m. Saturday.
Callaway was wearing only socks and boxers and was "screaming and flailing his arms," according to a police report.
The paramedics attempted to provide medical assistance, according to the report, but Callaway refused.
"While attempting to subdue him, Callaway attacked (a firefighter) by biting and chewing his left side," a TPD officer wrote in a court document. Callaway is also accused of injuring a Tuscaloosa Fire and Rescue Service captain who responded to the scene.
Police officers say they found 9 grams of methamphetamine and 14 grams of cocaine in Callaway’s clothing.
Callaway was taken to DCH Regional Medical Center and treated for a possible drug overdose, according to the court records. He was arrested Tuesday and charged with two counts of second-degree assault and two counts of possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute. He was being held Wednesday with bond set at $35,000.
September 23rd, 2015
Testimony in kidnapping, murder case in Bibb County: Kids saw gunman - Kandi Murphy's children saw John Barry Hubbard walk through their backyard, armed with two guns, before he went inside and shot their mother to death, an investigator testified in court Tuesday.
Hubbard, 60, was in Bibb County District Court for a preliminary hearing held Tuesday morning. He is accused of kidnapping his ex-girlfriend after killing her sister at a home in the Eoline community on July 21. The highly publicized case sparked a massive manhunt across West Alabama until his arrest at the Travel Inn in Eutaw the following night.
“He had been in the woods behind the house for some time, waiting for a chance to approach without being seen,” Alabama Law Enforcement Agency investigator David Ratliff said on the witness stand. But five children, including Kandi Murphy's, were in the backyard pool and told authorities that they saw him and later heard gunshots.
Tammy Murphy Carpenter also saw Hubbard firing the shots that killed her sister, Ratliff said. She had been in another room when she heard what he described as a commotion.
“She walked in and saw him standing over Kandi as he fired two shots,” Ratliff said.
Murphy, 30, was shot four times. She was shot twice in the chest, once in her right forearm and once in her right thigh. The back of her skull was also fractured.
Murphy was able to call 911. She told the operator and Bibb County Sheriff's deputies who arrived at the house that Hubbard had shot her, Ratliff said. The children never went inside the house, he said.
The investigators believe that Hubbard hit Carpenter over the head and dragged her a couple hundred yards to his truck parked in the woods near the house. Investigators noted scuff marks in the entry hall and Carpenter's phone on the ground near the open front door when they arrived.
Ratliff said that Hubbard then drove to the Talladega National Forest, where he forced Carpenter to remove her clothing so she could not escape.
“She had more than 100 bug bites; it was obvious that she had been exposed to the elements,” he testified.
Once in the forest, Hubbard wrecked his truck before he used two cellphones to place several calls, Ratliff said.
One of the calls was to his cousin, Gary Wade Rowland, who Ratliff said drove them to Eutaw and rented a hotel room in his name. Rowland, 45, is charged with kidnapping. The cousins walked away from the truck at one point, but Murphy did not try to escape, Ratliff said.
“She felt that one of them would shoot her if she tried to get away,” Ratliff said.
Once at the hotel room, Hubbard called in a takeout order from the restaurant across the street, he said. Carpenter went to pick it up and told the waitress that she was being held against her will.
“(Hubbard) told her to go get it, and if she didn't come back within a certain time her family would be killed,” he said.
Carpenter returned to the room and later left to buy a drink, he said. ALEA agents had already set a perimeter around the hotel and took her to safety after she left the hotel room. Hubbard was arrested and charged with capital murder and kidnapping that night.
Investigators recovered a handgun and long gun that they believe Hubbard used. They recovered a water bottle from the woods behind the house, Hubbard's cellphone that was in the hotel microwave and another phone that they believe had been discarded in the national forest. They also recovered leather gloves, rubber gloves, paper towels and pieces of his wrecked Chevrolet 2500 work truck in the forest.
Ratliff said that investigators found luggage in the hotel, “as if he were prepared for a long stay.”
District Judge Jack W. Meigs found probable cause against Hubbard. The case will next be heard by a grand jury.
Hubbard is charged with capital murder and could be sentenced to death or life in prison if found guilty.
Rowland is facing a first-degree kidnapping charge. He was released from the Bibb County Jail Thursday on $350,000 bond. He is not allowed to go within 100 yards of Carpenter, is not allowed to contact her, possess a gun or consume drugs or alcohol.
Murphy's, Carpenter's and Hubbard's family members declined to comment after the hearing. Hubbard ignored a reporter's questions as he was led to and from the courthouse, wearing a jail uniform, handcuffs and leg shackles.
Reach Stephanie Taylor at stephanie.taylor@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0210.
September 23rd, 2015
Fund set up to help injured University of Alabama student hit while riding bicycle - Donors have contributed more than $13,000 to pay medical expenses for a University of Alabama student injured in a hit-and-run accident Saturday night.
Rod Rahimizadeh, 22, was seriously injured after being struck by an SUV at the intersection of Hargrove Road and Avalon Avenue at 11:46 p.m. Saturday. He had been watching the University of Alabama football game against the University of Mississippi and was heading to a friend's home when he was hit.
The driver continued traveling east without stopping, authorities said. Rahimizadeh was taken to DCH Regional Medical Center and treated for life-threatening injuries.
When he regained consciousness in the hospital, he wrote a note saying that he has forgiven the driver who injured him, said friend Ish Pruitt.
“That just shows his gratitude for not only his life, but of the lives of people he affects,” Pruitt said. “He's such a grateful person and has a faith that other people can see.”
Rahimizadeh remained hospitalized and was listed in fair condition Tuesday, said DCH spokesman Brad Fisher. Pruitt said that he underwent surgery for a broken femur.
“He'd doing better, he's speaking and communicating with everybody. He knows what's going on and is in incredible spirits,” he said.
As of Tuesday night, donors had contributed $13,682 to an online account set up to help with medical expenses.
“Rod is the most humble, loving, caring and selfless person you will ever meet,” a friend wrote on the fundraising website (https://www.gofundme.com/3h4e7psg), adding that he would always go out of his way to make sure others' needs are met. “We want to serve Rod in this way, because he's constantly serving others.”
The UA senior is one of the founding fathers of Beta Upsilon Chi, a Christian fraternity, and is a member of Calvary Baptist Church. He has plans to attend Denver Seminary in the spring, according to the gofundme.com page.
Pruitt, a minister at Calvary Baptist, said he has known Rahimizadeh for several years and that Rahimizadeh has worked with the church's youth ministry for three years and now works with 11th- and 12th-grade students. He has been surrounded by friends and family in the hospital since the accident, Pruitt said.
“He's always in a good mood; he has a personality that draws people in. They want to be around him because he is so positive all the time,” he said.
Police asked that anyone with information about the black SUV or driver contact Tuscaloosa County CrimeStoppers at 205-752-STOP (7867).
Reach Stephanie Taylor at stephanie.taylor@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0210.
September 23rd, 2015
Volunteers needed for Kentuck festival - More than 200 volunteers are needed for the 44th annual Kentuck Festival of the Arts on Oct. 17-18.
All volunteers will receive free admission to the festival, which features more than 270 artists and craftspeople.
The festival’s hours will be 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days.
To sign up, go online at goo.gl/FjXj5B.
For more information about the festival, call 758-1257 or visit www.kentuck.org.
September 23rd, 2015
Tuscaloosa County High School Class of 1975 reunion coming up - The Tuscaloosa County High School Class of 1975 40th Year reunion will be Oct. 2-3. Call 394-2268 for more details.
September 23rd, 2015
Sounds of Motown show set for Friday - Tickets are still on sale for the Sounds of Motown concert Friday night at the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater.
The show, scheduled to begin at 7 p.m., features the Whispers, the Spinners and the Manhattans. Doors will open at 6 p.m.
Tickets range from $25 to $70 and are available through www.Ticketmaster.com and at the amphitheater box office, 2710 Jack Warner Parkway NE.
September 23rd, 2015
State opens first virtual public school - Alabama’s first statewide virtual public school has opened its cyber doors.
The Alabama Virtual Academy is a full-time online public school that was recently approved by the Alabama Department of Education.
Classes started Sept. 8 for kindergarten through second grades, but the school is still accepting students until Oct. 5. Additional grades will be added to the school after the first year.
Enrollment at the school is free and open to every school-age
Alabama resident.
The school is physically located in the Eufaula City School System, but it uses the K12 Inc. online education system and curriculum, which is the largest provider of K-12 online school offerings in the nation and is accredited by AdvancED, a nonprofit, non-governmental organization that accredits primary and secondary schools.
“The students will be at home, but they have a certified teacher they’ll be working with,” said Kayleen Marble, the school’s principal. “It’s kind of like a webinar. We send them books and materials and then they have a classroom teacher who works with them.
“We have a virtual classroom which is like an interactive webinar. They can see the teacher, talk to the teacher, they can write on the board and see other students. There’s a white board where she can upload for them a presentation or work for them to do. The program is called Blackboard Collaborate.”
Marble, who has taught the K12 curriculum for more than a decade, said the school adheres to state standards and is a great opportunity for any child to learn in a safe, interactive environment.
“So the student has a link on their computer,” she said. “When they sign onto online school they click the link where the teacher’s name is mentioned. They then can see the teacher through a webcam and they use their mouse to write on the board. There’s chat boxes where students can chat with other kids.
“The teacher can give and take away privileges. If she wants students to not chat she can cut off chatting. She can give them the pen so they can write on the board or take it away and she can give them the mic or not. It’s interactive, so the kids aren’t just listening to the teacher. There’s just so many different things you can do depending on the age of the student. She can also break them down into small groups where the teacher will moderate it. It’s kind of mind-blowing.”
Another feature of Alabama Virtual School is that every class is recorded. So if a student has to miss a class, they can go to the recording and catch up.
Marble said some of the reasons parents typically choose virtual school for their children instead of traditional school are:
- Students aren’t accelerating as quickly as expected
- Sports practice schedule is interfering with class time
- Students are being bullied and need a safe environment to learn in
- Students are home-bound because of medical or other reasons
- Students are being home schooled
- The parents move a lot and need a steady school environment for their children that doesn’t change
- They just want something different
“This is a full-time public school, so they do have to report attendance to us and we make sure they’re making progress in the curriculum,” she said. “They get curriculum sent to them. It’s not like they’re on a computer all day long. They get book work as well. They would actually have a math textbook and workbook. It’s kind of offline and online each day.”
Reach Jamon Smith at jamon.smith@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0204.
September 23rd, 2015
Drug take-back day will be Saturday - Three Tuscaloosa-area sites will serve as drop-off locations from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday for Prescription Drug Take-Back Day.
The nationwide event, organized locally by the West Alabama Narcotics Task Force and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, allows the public to get rid of potentially dangerous expired or unused prescription drugs. The event is free, anonymous and no questions will be asked.
Bring medications to:
- RiteAid Pharmacy, 2300 McFarland Blvd., Northport, 35476
- Kmart, 635 Skyland Blvd., Tuscaloosa, 35401
- Walgreens, 4400 University Blvd. E., Tuscaloosa, 35404
DEA Prescription Drug Take-Back events last September collected more than 617,000 pounds of unwanted, expired or unused drugs in one day for proper disposal, according to U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance’s office.
Last September, Americans turned in 309 tons of prescription drugs at nearly 5,500 sites operated by the DEA and more than 4,000 of its state and local law-enforcement partners. When those results are combined with what was collected in its eight previous Take Back events, DEA and its partners have taken in more than 2,400 tons, or 4.8 million pounds, of pills.
September 23rd, 2015
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