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Neighbors and officials warned to not talk

Bill Britt

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This week, the Murfreesboro, Tennessee, PD stated that the death of Bridget Gentry Marshall, wife of Attorney General Steve Marshall, was an open investigation, therefore, they would not release information that is generally public record.

Law enforcement officers here and in Tennessee say that the Incident Report is missing vital information that is required of any crime where a firearm is recovered.

According to a high-ranking police official, the make, model, serial number and an estimated value of the recovered firearm is typically listed on the official Incident Report. None of this information about the weapon is present on the report, only that a handgun was found at the scene and that Mrs. Marshall died of a gunshot wound.

Again, according to police officials commenting on background because it is an ongoing investigation, the officer at the scene would have immediately processed the firearm through National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) to determine ownership and to see if the weapon had been used in a crime. Any gun can also be identified using ATF’s National Tracing Center (NTC).

“Comprehensive firearms tracing is the routine tracking of every crime gun recovered within a geographic area or specific law enforcement jurisdiction,” according to ATF. NTC is used to, “provide investigative leads in the fight against violent crime and terrorism and to enhance public safety.” These searches are used to track the movement of firearms recovered by law enforcement.

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Over the last several days, APR has sought to understand the circumstances surrounding Mrs. Marshall’s death after her husband made contradictory statements at a press conference he called to discuss her passing. New information, such as it was Mrs. Marshall’s mother, Linda Gentry, who is listed on the report as the one who made the call about the incident, not Steve Marshall, as reported during his press conference. It is in the public interest, not only for public safety, but also because Marshall is continuing his campaign to be the state’s Attorney General.

APR contacted police and fire department officials, spoke with the apartment manager and neighbors at the upscale apartment homes located at 2320 Puckett Creek Crossing, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where Mrs. Marshall was staying. Every individual, including the neighbors, said law-enforcement had warned them not to speak to anyone about the incident because it is an open investigation.

Current and former investigators say it is highly unusual for police to canvass a neighborhood to warn people not to talk about a potential crime that happened in their community.

When APR contacted the office of Tennessee’s Attorney General, we were informed that the only person who could speak on the matter was on vacation, and they did not know when she would return.

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Transgender former student sues Huntsville City Schools

Chip Brownlee

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A former student who is transgender sued Huntsville City Schools last week.

The lawsuit filed in federal court by Zelda Menefee alleges the school district failed to act when she was harassed, physically assaulted and bullied because she was transgender, and that administrators ignored the actions.

Menefee, 19, said the bullying was so bad — and it came from both teachers and students — that she eventually dropped out of school in May 2016 and earned an equivalency diploma instead. She attended Grissom High School.

The lawsuit filed in the Northern District of Alabama alleges that Menefee was placed in boys’ PE courses, where the male students made fun of her clothes and harassed her. She reported at least two bullying instances to a teacher, but the teacher did nothing, according to the lawsuit.

She was eventually allowed to enroll in female PE courses, but she couldn’t dress in the girls’ locker room or have a locker with other girls in the class, the lawsuit states.

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Menefee began transitioning from male to female in summer 2014, changing her first name, her identity documents and her dress to indicate a female gender. She was a freshman at Grissom in January 2015.

“Unfortunately, LGBTQ – and especially transgender – students face disproportionate levels of bullying, harassment, and discrimination in schools,” said Sara Ann Macisaac, the Alabama field organizer for the Human Rights Campaign. “Yet, many school administrators remain woefully unprepared and unsupported to deal with the type of bias-based discrimination that occurs on a systemic level.”

HRC Alabama says it’s important that school districts throughout the state have enumerated anti-bullying and nondiscrimination protections, and that staff and administrators know how to spot bullying, bias and harassment.

“At a time when the federal Department of Education continues to turn its back on transgender students, this in-state work remains crucial,” Macisaac said. “No student should ever encounter the discrimination described by Zelda Menefee.”

Menefee alleges administrators refused to investigate her claims of bullying, discrimination and assault and that she was specifically threatened for being transgender, punched and had food thrown at her during lunch.

A student even pulled her wig off in the hallway and assaulted her, and administrators did not act, according to the lawsuit.

Teachers bullied her too, refusing to allow her to use female restrooms, relegating her to a nurses restroom, and making her change out of female clothes like a knee-length skirt into athletic pants and t-shirts, the lawsuit alleges.

Both teachers and students refused to call her by her female name, told her she wasn’t a girl, and called her “sir,” she says in the complaint. She was pictured in the yearbook under her male name, and school officials canceled a beauty pageant because she asked to participate.

The lawsuit is demanding money damages for violations of her First Amendment rights, anti-discrimination guarantees and failed supervision by school staff.

 

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Elections

Small business group endorses Kay Ivey for governor

Brandon Moseley

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Tuesday, September 18, 2018 the NFIB Alabama Political Action Committee has endorsed Kay Ivey for governor. The National Federation of Independent Businesses is the nation’s leading small-business association. NFIB State Director Rosemary Elebash announced the endorsement Monday at a news conference at Southern Distributor/Auto Electric and Carburetor Co., an NFIB member business in Birmingham.

The NFIB Alabama PAC’s endorsement is based on the candidate’s record and position on small-business issues.

“Kay Ivey is the clear choice for Alabama’s small businesses,” Elebash said. “Kay Ivey is a strong leader who understands the challenges facing Alabama’s job creators. She opposes higher taxes and burdensome rules and regulations that would make it harder for small businesses to succeed and create jobs. This spring, she signed legislation prohibiting cities from requiring companies to purchase a municipal business license before driving through their jurisdictions for work purposes.”

“As Governor, I have made it my job to create a strong environment for job creation,” Gov. Ivey said. “That’s why I’ve worked closely with the NFIB and the state Legislature, signing the largest tax cut in a decade and eliminating unnecessary regulations that make it more difficult and more expensive to do business. Being endorsed for Governor by Alabama’s small businesses is truly an honor. I am grateful for their trust, support and everything they do to keep Alabama working!”

“Since taking office a little over a year ago, Governor Ivey has announced more than 15,500 new jobs and more than $8 billion in capital investment, creating exciting new opportunities for all kinds of small businesses,” Elebash added. “Under her leadership, our pro-business climate has received national recognition from the likes of the influential Business Facilities magazine, and Alabama’s employment rate is the highest it’s ever been.”

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The President of Southern Distributors Steve Kampwerth said, “I would lie to welcome our guests including our esteemed guest, Governor Kay Ivey.”

Kampwerth personally thanked Gov. Ivey for her support for Senate Bill 316 during the last legislative session. “This bill established a 10,000 maximum before they had to apply for a local delivery license. As an auto parts distributer, we had to apply for hundreds of these licenses annually. Thank you governor for supporting this bill.”

Director Elebash said that each election, “We send a ballot to each of our members statewide. For the very first time since I have been here, Governor Ivey received the endorsement of 98 percent of our members. That is a record.”

Gov. Ivey was elevated to the office in April of 2017 Elebash said. “The NFIB has passed more than 80 small business bills in that period of time.”

“It is my honor to be here and spend time to people like you that our devoted to keeping Alabama working,” Gov. Ivey said. “Job creators are important to keep Alabama working.”

“It is not enough for our business to survive but to thrive,” Ivey said.
Elebash promised that, We will be working each day to make sure that our member are out working to help turn out the powerful small-business voting bloc on Election Day.

Reporters asked Ivey about her school sentry program that allows schools to arm one administrator.

“It is up to each school system to make their own decision,” Ivey said on whether or not they participate in the program.

Ivey said that she was not surprised by the recent court decision against the Alabama prison system and said that the prison system was working on filling its staffing shortage.

“We are working best and fast as we can,” she said. “Just because you have to hire more folks, it doesn’t mean they are available.” The prisons, “Are an Alabama problem, it will be solved by Alabamians.”

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson, a Jimmy Carter appointee, ordered the state to show why it should not be held in contempt of court for failing to meet his deadline for increasing the number of staff devoted to mental health in the prisons. The Southern Poverty Law Center is suing the state and the Alabama Department of Corrections on behalf of the convicts claiming that the lack of mental health staff amounts to cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The Alabama Political Reporter asked Director Elebash why they were not supporting Tuscaloosa Mayor Walter “Walt” Maddox (D) who has promised a lottery as a solution for some of the state’s revenue problems.

“We consider that as more of a social issue,” Elebash said. “None of my members have said that to me. My members have real world problems. They call me and say I have a problem,” with a regulation or something, such as like the issue here about the local delivery licenses. “Governor Ivey has been real good at working with us.”

“Gov. Ivey is all about action, not words,” Elebash said.

The NFIB said in a statement that “Today’s endorsement puts the considerable grassroots support of the state’s small businesses behind the governor’s campaign. Small-business owners and their employees vote in high numbers and are known for recruiting friends, family members and acquaintances to vote. NFIB will encourage its Alabama members to help turn out the powerful small-business voting bloc on Election Day.”

For more than 75 years, NFIB has been the voice of small business, advocating on behalf of America’s small and independent business owners, both in Washington, D.C., and in all 50 state capitals. The NFIB is nonprofit, nonpartisan, and member-driven. Since its founding in 1943, NFIB has been exclusively dedicated to small and independent businesses and remains so today.

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National

Senate passes defense FY2019 appropriations bill

Brandon Moseley

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U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) announced final Senate passage of the Fiscal Year 2019 (FY2019) Defense Appropriations Act. The bill was included in the conference report to accompany H.R. 6157, the minibus appropriations package which also contains the FY2019 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies funding bill.

The package provides $674.4 billion in funding for the Department of Defense, which is an increase of $19.8 billion above the FY2018 enacted level. The House is expected to vote on the legislation next week. If the house passes it, the package will be sent to the President’s desk for his signature.

“This is the most significant step we have taken yet,” said Senator Shelby. “For the first time in a decade, we are sending a Defense spending bill to the President’s desk on time. Returning to regular order has required us all to sacrifice and work together for the good of the process. I want to thank my colleagues – particularly Leaders McConnell and Schumer and Vice Chairman Leahy – for their help in moving the Defense-Labor-HHS conference report before the Senate. This conference report contains critical funding for defense and domestic priorities. It accelerates the rebuilding of America’s military and provides our men and women in uniform with the largest pay increase in nearly a decade. It also increases NIH’s budget by $2 billion and provides critical resources to combat the opioid epidemic.”

The appropriations minibus conference report was approved in the Senate by a vote of 93 to 7.

The Department of Defense portion of the package contains funding for defense priorities throughout the state of Alabama.

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“We must approve defense appropriations legislation to fund military readiness, procurement, and testing — all of which are required to keep U.S. military forces the best trained, equipped, prepared, and strongest force in the world,” continued Senator Shelby. “This historic legislation further highlights Alabama’s strong national defense capabilities and provides our state with the opportunity to continue producing essential tools to support our men and women in uniform. I am confident that this legislation will allow our defense programs to remain of the highest caliber.”

The Defense and Labor-HHS-Education bills represent the majority of discretionary federal spending. Neither has been signed into law before the end of the fiscal year in a decade. The measure provides an outline for military leaders to have the resources they need to meet current and future threats to U.S. national security.

The legislation includes items critical for the Wiregrass including: an additional $95 million for future vertical lift research, which will help accelerate development of helicopters flown at Fort Rucker; $10 million to upgrade Navy MH-60 Seahawk helicopters; $1.0 billion for Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missiles; $111 million for Long Range Anti-Ship Missiles (LRASMs) (The measure also encourages the Navy to evaluate the capabilities and costs of a surface-launched LRASM.); $307 million for Joint Air-to-Ground Missiles (JAGMs); $663 million for Joint Air-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSMs), which recently made its debut in strikes on Syria in response to their use of chemical weapons; $484 million for Hellfire missiles, which are made in Troy and used for training at Fort Rucker; $254 million for Javelin missiles for the Army and Marine Corps.

The legislation has provisions impacting North Alabama including: $11.1 billion for investments in researching transformational technologies to address modern and future Army warfighting needs; $10.4 billion for the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), including $1.1 billion to support urgent MDA unfunded priorities and emergent threats; $191 million for Standard Missile Improvements, which are built in Decatur, and supports work done by MDA at Redstone Arsenal and many local companies; $184 million in additional funding to further develop directed energy technology and transition these activities to both offensive and defensive capabilities; $664 million in additional funding to support and accelerate offensive and defensive hypersonics research and prototyping efforts; An additional $15 million to integrate Small Glide Munitions onto on Unmanned Aerial Systems (This highly successful weapon is used by Special Operations Command and built in Huntsville); $306 million in additional funding to expand and accelerate cyber research across the Department of Defense, including $127 million for Army cybersecurity research efforts and $116 million in Missile Defense Agency cybersecurity enhancements. This bill encourages the enhanced use of cyber red teams to address cyber intrusions that threaten our weapons systems, an area of particular excellence for Huntsville.

In space, the defense bill includes” $200 million in additional funding for Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) development efforts to ensure assured access to space. United Launch Alliance (ULA), which builds rockets in Decatur, continues to be seen as the most reliable and capable space launch provider.

The bill even includes Advanced Shipbuilding Capabilities with $15 million to establish North Alabama as a center for classified, high power large-scale electron beam welding. This technology is critical to new Navy Columbia-class submarines and many high-performance aerospace systems such as hypersonic reentry vehicles, scramjet missiles, and rocket and jet engine turbomachinery.

The legislation has provisions impacting Anniston including: $276 million for Hydra rockets, which are built in Anniston and fired from Army and Marine Corps helicopters; Funding for Army Vehicles which are overhauled and maintained at Anniston Army Depot (ANAD): $2.5 billion to continue modernizing M1 Abrams tanks; $393 million for Stryker vehicles, including an additional $94 million to support increased Stryker DVH A1 conversions; An additional $110 million for Paladin Integrated Management artillery vehicles; and $18 million in additional funding for M88A2 Hercules Improved Recovery vehicles.

The legislation also has provisions impacting Mobile’s shipbuilding industry including: Two additional Littoral Combat Ships (LCS); One additional Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF) ship; An additional $700 million in Advance Procurement for LPD and LHA amphibious ships.

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby is the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense. Shelby has served the people of Alabama in the U.S. Senate since 1986.

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National

9/11 Memorial stair climb held Sunday in Montgomery

Brandon Moseley

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Most people can easily climb one flight of stairs, but going two flights of stairs in a three-story home is a little more challenging. Many people start looking for the elevator to reach the fourth floor in an office building. Climbing the stairs in a ten-story office building is a cardio workout for most folks.

Imagine trying to climb 110 floors in full firefighter gear with a building on fire and thousands of people needing your assistance? That “worst scenario” is what New York City Fire Department firefighters faced on September 11, 2001.

412 first responders were killed that day, including 343 firefighters.

In honor of those fallen heroes, seven years ago the Pike Road Fire Department organized the Annual Alabama Remember 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb. Participants climb 110 stories in Montgomery. Obviously, there is nothing like the 110 story World Trade Center towers in Alabama. The closest tower we can come up with in Montgomery is the RSA Tower, the tallest building in Montgomery at 397 feet. To equal the former WTC towers, participants in the Memorial Stair Climb have to climb the stairs in the 22 story tall RSA Tower five times.

This year’s memorial stair climb was held on Sunday, September 16, 2018. The Alabama Remembers 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb is a way for firefighters and members of the community to individually honor and pay tribute to those heroic FDNY firefighters. Opening ceremonies were at 9:00 AM and the climb started at 10:00 AM. Participants raised money and worked at their own pace to complete the challenge. Some firefighters did it in full gear. Individuals, teams, current firefighters, and corporate sponsors all contributed to this event. The City of Montgomery and RSA donated manpower and use of the skyscraper to complete the climb.

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This year’s attendees included: Pike Road Mayor Gordon Stone, Montgomery County Commission Chairman Doug Singleton, Economic Developer Nicole Jones, representatives from fire departments across Alabama and the Florida panhandle, and hundreds of participants and spectators wanting to honor the heroic sacrifices of the first responders on 9/11.

The Town of Pike Road shared on social media, “Red, white, and blue (skies) were the center of attention this morning at the #AlabamaRemembers Memorial Stair Climb, hosted each year by Pike Road Fire. Firefighters from across the state came together to pay tribute to the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice while responding to the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. It was an honor to be part of this incredible event! Thank you, Pike Road Fire, volunteers, and event organizer Dana Grubbs for all you do for our community with this event, and every day!”

The event coordinator is Dana Grubbs.

“Volunteers climb 22 floors, five times each, to equal the 110 floors of the World Trade Center. It hits home to first responders, because of 343 firefighters who died from the New York Fire Department,” Grubbs said. “That is the largest number of firefighters who died at any one time. The annual event is open to the public. Anyone can come and join us.”
“This was definitely a challenge,” said Trussville firefighter Jacob Carr. “My hat goes off to the guys that actually did it. That is the thing driving me to finish up today.”

Economic developer Nicole Jones completed the climb in a record thirty minutes.

“It is difficult to put into words the emotion experienced today as we climbed 110 stories in memory of fallen 9/11 firefighters,” Nicole Jones told the Alabama Political Reporter. “This beautiful event on a Montgomery Sunday forever etched a token of appreciation for fallen 9/11 firefighters on my heart. Each participant was assigned a fallen hero. To the family of Captain Thomas C. Moody, I will climb annually in your honor.”

The Stair Climb benefits the FDNY Counseling Service Unit (CSU) and the programs provided by the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) to support the families of our nation’s fallen firefighters.

According to Wikipedia, the RSA Tower was built in 1996 and is the sixth largest building in the state of Alabama. The tallest building in Alabama is the RSA Battle House Tower in Mobile. The RSA Battle House Tower, built in 2007, is 745 feet tall and has 35 floors.

2,977 people were killed in the September 11 attacks. Since 9-11 over 1000 of the workers involved in the aftermath of 9-11, many of them the first responders involved in the rescue and recovery efforts, have died from illnesses associated with the toxic mix of ash and dust swirling from the burning craters of the WTC towers. Over 37,000 are officially acknowledged as having illnesses (many of them lung illnesses) associated with being at or near ground zero in the days and weeks following 9-11. Health officials have suggested that within five years the number who will have died from 9-11 syndrome will exceed the number that died on September 11, 2001.

(Original reporting from WSFA Channel 12 in Montgomery contributed to this report.)

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Neighbors and officials warned to not talk

by Bill Britt Read Time: 2 min
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