News

"Drag Queen Story Hour"

5 hours ago
APR's Pat Duggins

The cities of Mobile and New Orleans now have more in common than Mardi Gras and Jazz. The public libraries in both towns now offer a unique twist on story hour for children. APR’s Pat Duggins headed to the port city for its inaugural event. He brings us the voices of protesters on both sides of the issue of inclusion for Mobile’s LGBTQ community. This story was covered as a collaboration between Alabama Public Radio and the University of Alabama's Center for Public Television, where Duggins worked alongside a student video team.

Alabama's prison system is facing a hearing on how it provides mental health services to inmates.

Al.com reports U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson has ordered a hearing in Montgomery later today on why the Alabama Department of Corrections should not be held in contempt of court for failing to meet deadlines for increasing mental health staffing.

Thompson ruled last year that mental health care in Alabama prisons was "horrendously inadequate" and violated the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

Sixteenth Street Baptist Church
Alex AuBuchon / APR

The four girls killed in a church bombing in Birmingham in 1963 were remembered over the weekend during a memorial service on the attack’s 55th anniversary.

Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Cynthia Wesley, and Carole Robertson were all killed September 15, 1963 when a bomb placed by Ku Klux Klan members ripped through Birmingham’s Sixteenth Street Baptist Church.

Saturday’s service also honored two boys, Johnny Robinson, Jr. and Virgil Ware, killed in separate incidents shortly after the bombing.

The federal government has until mid-November to respond to the state of Alabama's lawsuit seeking to exclude undocumented immigrants from U.S. Census counts.

Last week, a federal judge gave the U.S. Department of Commerce and Census Bureau an extension until Nov. 13 to reply to the lawsuit. Lawyers had said the Department of Justice components needed additional time to finish "evaluating the arguments that the government will make in this matter."

Alabama's Supreme Court voted 5-4 to overturn the death sentence of a Birmingham man convicted in a 2009 robbery and shooting. The high court is directing a Jefferson County judge to sentence Anthony Lane to life without possibility of parole. The ruling came after the U.S. Supreme Court had ordered Alabama's courts to reconsider the death sentence in 2015. The Justices cited cases that say states can't execute people with mental disabilities. However, even after that, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals had reaffirmed that Lane should get the death penalty.

The Alabama Department of Education wants more money for school security and other programs next year. The Montgomery Advertiser reported that State Schools Superintendent Eric Mackey says he wants more money for reading and math programs, as well as for pre-kindergarten special education. Mackey says additional funding is also needed for transportation and school nurses. The Superintendent told the state board of education that the $30 million for school nurses would not add one nurse in Alabama. He said state funding for the nurses would free up local money for other programs.

CaseyFay (Casey Robbins) [Flickr]

You can put together an emergency kit for your pet in a hurry.  Most of what you need will fit in a plastic zip bag.  Food and necessary medications are at the top of the list.  And - some folks might pack their best friend's rain gear!

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Publix supermarkets is asking its customers and associates to directly assist those affected by Hurricane Florence. The chain operates over a thousand stores in Alabama and throughout the southern U.S., including North and South Carolina which are among the states hard hit by Florence. Shoppers can donate any amount by adding it to their grocery totals when checking out at Publix registers. All of the funds collected will go to the American Red Cross in support of Hurricane Florence relief efforts.

Alabama Coastal Clean Up Starts This Weekend

Sep 14, 2018

Alabama’s gulf coast is going to get a bit of a facelift this weekend with the help of some volunteers. A-P-R student reporter Jhala Clark has details…

This weekend is the annual Alabama Coastal Clean Up. It is being put on by PALs and the Alabama Department of Conservation. Volunteers will be removing trash from the coast by walking, boating and scuba diving in 31 different zones in Mobile and Baldwin Counties.

Angela Underwood is the state coordinator for the Alabama Coastal Cleanup. She says this project is just a fraction of a larger international cleanup effort.

Study Questions if Alabama Scholarship Program Shows Gains

Sep 12, 2018

Private school scholarship recipients are not showing signs of improvement on standardized test scores. APR Student Reporter Jessica Rendall has more.

The results come from a study by the Institute for Social Science Research. They examined academic outcomes of 2,000 students attending private schools on a taxpayer-backed scholarship and discovered no improvement.

The program is intended to help students escape low-performing public schools, but the report discovered test scores were not improving and were in fact similar to their public school counterparts.

APR's Pat Duggins

Hundreds of children crowded the auditorium at the Ben Ray Main Library in Mobile for the city’s first “Drag Queen Story Hour.” Former Tuscaloosa resident Wade Brasfield, in his stage drag persona of “Ms. Khloe Kash,” read two books for the young crowd, “The Rainbow Fish,” and “Stella has a Family,’ which is about a little girl with two dads. Brasfield feels he would have benefited from a “drag queen story time” when he young, and had difficulty dealing with intolerance at school.

Coming Home (to APR)

Sep 8, 2018
Lawrence Rayner [Flickr]

It's true - a pet can make wherever you live feel like home.  That feeling of comfort and familiarity is born from a relationship that develops over time.  If you have been listening to Alabama Public Radio for a while, maybe it's time to make a contribution.  Welcome home!

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An inmate was fatally stabbed at a state prison in Springville, Alabama last weekend.

Alabama Department of Corrections spokesman Bob Horton says the stabbing happened Sunday evening at St. Clair Correctional Facility.

Prison staff found 29-year-old Terry Terrell Pettiway unresponsive and suffering from a stab wound at around 6:45 p.m. Sunday evening. Pettiway was taken by ambulance to a local hospital where he died from his injuries.

Alabama’s capital city is currently dealing with a shortage of school bus drivers.

The Montgomery Advertiser reports the Montgomery Public Schools are working toward solutions for the lack of drivers at the start of this school year. A school official says the district is seeking more drivers, but they aren't receiving any applications despite efforts to advertise openings.

Of Montgomery Public Schools's 159 routes, 151 have a driver with no subs. The problem becomes even worse when drivers call out.

University Hospital
USA Health

The University of South Alabama in Mobile is changing the name of its hospital.

Late last week, university trustees approved changing the name of USA Medical Center to University Hospital.

A statement from the university's medical dean, Dr. John Marymount, says the new name reflects the school's mission to provide medical education and health care stemming from research.

The hospital is the only one in southwestern Alabama that offers the top-level of trauma care.

Labor Day Pet Safety

Sep 1, 2018
georgiaolive [Flickr]

Keeping your pet happy, healthy and safe should always be part of your holiday plans, and Labor Day is no exception.    The idea is to enjoy sharing the celebration with your best friend, not rushing your furry buddy to the emergency vet clinic!


Jefferson County is making plans to put an armed resource officer in every school in the county as part of a new school safety plan.

Local officials announced the plan as part of a press conference yesterday. Jefferson County Sheriff Mike Hale says there are currently 25 officers for the 56 schools in the county school system. He says they plan to hire enough contract deputies to cover all 56 county schools.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey is reporting a string of large campaign contributions as she looks to reclaim fundraising dominance in the gubernatorial race.

Campaign finance reports show the incumbent Republican has received $95,000 in large contributions over the last three weeks.

Ivey received $25,000 each from the Alabama Builders Political Action Committee, the Trucking Association PAC and Georgia Crown Distributing Inc.

She also received $20,000 from another political action committee.

Ivey faces Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox in the November election.

Airbnb is set to start collecting local lodging tax in Alabama’s largest city within the next month.

Al.com reports the Birmingham City Council approved an agreement yesterday allowing the short-term rental website to collect the city's 6.5 percent tax on rentals. Airbnb already collects a 4 percent state lodging tax for all Alabama rentals, including Birmingham.

Assistant City Attorney Julie Barnard says the tax will be collected automatically when a room is booked within city limits. Airbnb then will send the collected tax revenue to the city.

Voters in Muscle Shoals are heading to the polls today to consider a measure that would raise local taxes.

School officials are seeking a 5-mil property tax increase, on top of the existing 7.5-mil municipal ad valorem tax currently in place in Muscle Shoals. Officials say the money would go toward funding the local public school system. Specifically, they are looking to build a new elementary school and a new band room for the city high school.

Hubbard trial
Todd J. Van Ernst

An appellate court has upheld most of the convictions against former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard.

Yesterday, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed 11 of the 12 counts against Hubbard for ethics violations, including using his public office to drum up clients and investments for his businesses.

For years, Hubbard was one of the state's most influential Republicans, but his political career came to an end with his 2016 ethics conviction.

Birmingham's public transportation agency is getting federal money to help it go electric.

The U.S. Department of Transportation says the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority will receive $1.5 million through a grant program.

The federal agency says the money is supposed to be used for purchasing battery-run electric buses and charging stations.

The Birmingham grant money is among more than $84 million that's being provided in 41 states to update buses and other transportation infrastructure with advanced propulsion technologies.

An Alabama doctor has been sentenced to more than twelve years in prison for his role in a Montgomery pill mill.

U.S. Attorney Louis Franklin Sr. told Al.com that 56-year-old Gilberto Sanchez was found guilty last week of prescribing unnecessary controlled substances for his patients. He was also found guilty of committing health care fraud and laundering money.

American Humane Association

The 2018 Hero Dog Awards seek to find and recognize dogs who help people in many important ways. Dogs are nominated in one of seven categories: Service Dogs, Emerging Hero Dogs, Law Enforcement/Arson Dogs, Therapy Dogs, Military Dogs, Guide/Hearing Dogs, Search and Rescue Dogs.

The Emerging Hero category honors the partnership that often develops between human and dog. Some of these animals are trained in such areas as detection of diseases such as cancer; others are just pets who, without any special training, instinctively assist their human companions, and some are overcomers who have triumphed over adversity in an extraordinary way.      

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CHS library
Lowndes Co. BoE

There’s a new school superintendent in Lowndes County, Alabama.

The Lowndes County Board of Education announced yesterday that Jason Burroughs has signed a three-year contract with the school system – that according to WSFA-TV.

Burroughs was previously serving as the interim superintendent and was the former assistant superintendent. He also has served in various other positions during his 23 years with the school district.

Union members in south Alabama are heading back to work after suspending their strike against a soft drink bottler.

Employees of Coca-Cola Bottling Co. United in Mobile, Robertsdale and Leroy, as well as in Vancleave, Mississippi, went back to work Monday, suspending a walkout that began Aug. 9.

About 275 employees at the locations are represented by the Teamsters Union. Last year, the locastions were transferred from a North Carolina-based bottler to the Birmingham-based Coca-Cola United.

Auburn GLA
Frank Susko / Invisible Histories Project

A new project is documenting the history of LGBTQ people in the Deep South, a region that once all but forced gays, lesbians and others to live in hiding.

The nonprofit Invisible Histories Project has gathered volumes of information about gay life in Alabama, including decades-old directories of gay-friendly businesses; activist T-shirts; records from gay-rights groups; and rainbow-themed material.

The organization is also expanding into Mississippi and Georgia this year, and organizers hope to cover the entire Southeast within a few years.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey says the state comptroller has updated an agreement with county sheriffs to end a practice allowing them to pocket state money left over from inmate food programs.

Al.com reports starting next month, the affidavit that county sheriffs must sign will contain new language clarifying the use of jail food funds.

It states the sheriffs must agree funds will only be spent on "preparing food, serving food and other services incident to the feeding of prisoners." The old version didn't specify use of funds.

American Humane Association

The 2018 Hero Dog Awards seek to find and recognize dogs who help people in many important ways. Dogs are nominated in one of seven categories: Service Dogs, Emerging Hero Dogs, Law Enforcement/ Arson Dogs, Therapy Dogs, Military Dogs, Guide/Hearing Dogs, Search and Rescue Dogs.

A Guide Dog is trained to lead, follow commands, ignore distractions, and even disobey a command that would put its human partner in danger. The human also must be trained on how to handle the dog and how to be a good leader of the team. A Hearing Dog is specially trained to alert its deaf owner to sounds we all take for granted. Unlike a Guide Dog that must be of a certain body size in order to lead a person, a Hearing Dog can be large or small, pure-bred or mixed breed. Many are shelter animals who are determined to have the intelligence and temperament to serve as a Hearing Dog. It is a perfect blending of needs - deaf individuals have the opportunity to live an independent life, and dogs who may literally die for lack of homes are given a purpose and owners that will love and care for them. Guide dogs and hearing dogs are living examples of the trust bond between human and animal.

In the world of Search and Rescue operations, dogs have a very special place.  Their keen sense of smell, excellent night vision, extremely sensitive hearing and endurance have made them crucial in efforts to locate people or animals who are missing or trapped.  They truly are life savers!

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Stan Ingold / Alabama Public Radio

               

This year we’re studying at all of Alabama’s Capitals. We have already looked at the territorial capital of St. Stephens and the controversial role Huntsville plays in the story. This time we're looking at Alabama’s first official state capital…one that was built out of the wilderness…

     Its quiet and peaceful at this remote location in south central Alabama on the confluence of the Alabama and Cahaba rivers. But at one time, this was the bustling capital city of the newly formed state of Alabama. 

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