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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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Shelby, Jones vote for passage of the Farm Bill

Brandon Moseley

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The U.S. Senate voted in favor of passage of the conference committee version of H.R. 2, the 2018 Farm Bill. Both Sens. Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) and Doug Jones (D-Alabama) voted in favor of passage of the bipartisan legislation.

“This bipartisan legislation provides much-needed predictability that will significantly benefit our state’s farmers and the entire agriculture industry,” said Senator Shelby. “I look forward to the lasting positive impact this bill with have on rural areas throughout Alabama and the nation.”

“This is a Farm Bill for rural Alabama and rural America,” said Senator Jones. “I’m proud that the final legislation ensures that our farmers have the support and resources they need to continue to do their important work. It also addresses several urgent issues for our state, particularly the need for expanded rural health care and broadband access. Since I arrived in the Senate in January, I’ve worked closely with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, as well as farmers from across Alabama, to advocate for a strong Farm Bill for all of our rural communities. This bill reflects the priorities we share for a brighter and more secure future for Alabama.”

Shelby’s office said that the 2018 Farm Bill improves the crop insurance program, helps expand rural broadband initiatives, and includes many of the cotton industry’s priorities such as the continuation of the Seed Cotton program.

U.S. Senator Doug Jones today supported passage of a final Farm Bill that includes several key priorities for Alabama that he championed. The bill is the result of months of bipartisan negotiations in the Senate and House.

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The Congress passes a Farm Bill and is only once every five years.

Jones’ office says that it strengthens important commodity safety net programs and other protections for farmers who take on this risky and costly venture. It also provides increased funding for communities across the country and addresses issues from rural development to conservation to food assistance and more.

The Farm Bill includes several specific provisions that were championed by Senator Jones for Alabama’s rural communities.

These include: The Rural Health Liaison Act (S. 2894) which establishes a rural health liaison at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to better coordinate federal resources and expand health care access to Americans who have for too long struggled to receive quality, affordable care in their own communities.

The Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act (S.2772) expands the USDA’s Household Water Well System Grant Program to provide grants of up to $15,000 to low- and moderate-income households in rural areas for installing or maintaining individually-owned decentralized wastewater systems.

The Broadband Connections for Rural Opportunities Program Act (S. 1676) which increases the authorization from $25 million to $350 million annually for the USDA to provide loans and loan guarantees for broadband services in rural communities.

The Community Connect Grant Program Act (S. 2654) which authorizes $50 million annually for the USDA Community Connect Program, which provides broadband grants targeted to the most rural, unserved, and high-poverty communities in the country. The program expands high-speed internet by providing new grants that will connect unserved households and businesses with modern internet access and streamlines broadband application process.

The Fair Access for Farmers and Ranchers Act (S. 3117) requires the USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) to provide farm numbers to farmers with certain documentation, including in concert with Uniform Partition of Heirs’ Property Laws in some states. The bill also authorizes FSA to make loans to qualified intermediaries to re-lend to families seeking to resolve heirs’ property issues.

The Assist Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Act (S.2839) and the Next Generation in Agriculture Act (S. 2762). These two bills were combined to create permanent, mandatory baseline funding to educate the next generation of farmers and reach more minority farmers.

Agriculture is Alabama’s top revenue-producing industry, generating an annual impact of over $70 billion. With over nine million acres of farmland and more than 48,500 farms, the state is a national leader in food production and a global competitor in the poultry, catfish, timber, cotton, and livestock industries.

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Rod Rosenstein tours Huntsville

Brandon Moseley

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Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein visited Huntsville Tuesday to tour facilities at Redstone Arsenal including the FBI’s Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Center (TEDAC), the ATF’s National Center for Explosives Training and Research (NCETR) and NASA. The visit was announced by U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town.

“It was an honor to receive Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein today and tour the many impressive facilities aboard the Redstone Arsenal campus”, Town said. “It comes as no surprise that the DAG was impressed by the growth and capabilities here. We began the day touring NASA, a remarkable ambassador to the 40,000+ employees that serve aboard the Redstone Arsenal each day. Touring NASA is always impressive. The FBI’s Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Center and ATF’s National Center for Explosives Training and Research and National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) facilities truly reminds us of the impressive advancement that law enforcement has made in order to stay ahead of criminal threats to the public. We were fortunate to be joined by ATF Director Tom Brandon as well. Our federal law enforcement capacities are tremendous but are only successful due to the hard work, dedication, and bravery of the men and women of all of our federal law enforcement agencies.”

Rod Rosenstein was appointed Deputy Attorney General by President Donald J. Trump (R). When it was revealed that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had met with the Russian Ambassador twice during the 2016 election campaign, Sessions recused himself from the Russian collusion investigation. Sessions’ decision to recuse himself meant that he could not be a part of the decision on how to investigate the charges that the Trump presidential campaign had colluded with Russian intelligence to discredit Trump’s opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton (D).

Rosenstein made the decision to appoint former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate the collusion allegations against the President and his campaign.

Rosenstein has been criticized by the President and by many conservatives for his decisions in the Mueller investigation, which has continued to this day. While some Democrats have suggested that Mueller has found compelling evidence to impeach the President, Trump himself has said that he has been vindicated by the investigation.

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Trump recently asked for and accepted Jeff Sessions’s resignation. Chief of Staff John Kelly has also announced that he is leaving the administration. Rosenstein, however, remains as Deputy Attorney General.

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NASA: OSIRIS-Rex has discovered water on Asteroid Bennu

Brandon Moseley

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NASA announced Monday that its Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft has already discovered water locked inside the clays that make up its scientific target, the asteroid Bennu.

During the mission’s approach phase, between mid-August and early December, the spacecraft traveled 1.4 million miles on its journey from Earth to arrive at a location 12 miles from Bennu last week. During this time, the science team on Earth aimed three of the spacecraft’s instruments towards Bennu and began making the mission’s first scientific observations of the asteroid.

NASA announced that data obtained from the spacecraft’s two spectrometers, the OSIRIS-REx Visible and Infrared Spectrometer (OVIRS) and the OSIRIS-REx

Thermal Emission Spectrometer (OTES) reveals that the presence of molecules that contain oxygen and hydrogen atoms bonded together, known as “hydroxyls.” The team suspects that these hydroxyl groups exist globally across the asteroid in water-bearing clay minerals, meaning that at some point, Bennu’s rocky material interacted with water. While Bennu itself is too small to have ever hosted liquid water, the finding does indicate that liquid water was present at some time on Bennu’s parent body, a much larger asteroid.

“The presence of hydrated minerals across the asteroid confirms that Bennu, a remnant from early in the formation of the solar system, is an excellent specimen for the OSIRIS-REx mission to study the composition of primitive volatiles and organics,” said OVIRS deputy instrument scientist Amy Simon at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “When samples of this material are returned by the mission to Earth in 2023, scientists will receive a treasure trove of new information about the history and evolution of our solar system.”

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Additionally, data obtained from the OSIRIS-REx Camera Suite (OCAMS) corroborate ground-based telescopic observations of Bennu and confirm the original model developed in 2013 by OSIRIS-REx Science Team Chief Michael Nolan and collaborators. That model closely predicted the asteroid’s actual shape, with Bennu’s diameter, rotation rate, inclination, and overall shape presented almost exactly as projected.

One outlier from the predicted shape model is the size of the large boulder near Bennu’s south pole. The ground-based shape model calculated this boulder to be at least 33 feet (10 meters) in height. Preliminary calculations from OCAMS observations show that the boulder is closer to 164 feet (50 meters) in height, with a width of approximately 180 feet (55 meters).

Bennu’s surface material is a mix of very rocky, boulder-filled regions and a few relatively smooth regions that lack boulders. However, the quantity of boulders on the surface is higher than expected. The team will make further observations at closer ranges to more accurately assess where a sample can be taken on Bennu to later be returned to Earth. OSIRIS-REx is NASA’s first asteroid sample return mission.

Space exploration and rocket manufacturing and design are major Alabama industries. The Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville employs thousands of Alabamians.

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Jones introduces bipartisan legislation forbidding mailed unsolicited “live” loan checks

Brandon Moseley

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Monday U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-Alabama) joined Senators Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), and Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) in introduced legislation that would end the practice of mailing high-interest loans to consumers in the form of “live” checks.

When consumers receive these loan checks, many unknowingly believe they have received money from their bank or financial institution, not realizing that the check is often a high-interest loan.

The Unsolicited Loan Act of 2018 would prohibit this practice and ensure that consumers access loans only when they proactively apply for them. This legislation mirrors the decades-old prohibition on the mailing of live credit cards.

“As working Americans look to make ends meet, lenders will often target cash-strapped families with these mailings,” Senator Jones said. “It is unconscionable that someone would take advantage of another person’s dire financial situation to make a quick buck for themselves. We need to end this predatory lending tactic and pass this legislation to protect consumers and their pocketbooks.”

“People should understand clearly when they are taking on debt,” Senator Cotton said. “But because ‘live’ checks mailed directly to consumers don’t require an application or any previous relationship with the consumer, many individuals don’t realize that these checks are actually high-interest loans until it’s too late. Just like Congress ended the practice of mailing ‘live’ credit cards nearly 50 years ago, Congress should pass our bill now to stop this underhanded practice.”

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“When you receive a check in the mail, it’s natural to assume that depositing it will help—not hurt—your bottom line,” Sen. Merkley said. “But these checks don’t pad consumers’ pocketbooks; instead, they send them into a vortex of debt. The practice of mailing high-interest loans disguised as checks is unconscionable and clearly predatory. Today, we’re sending a bipartisan message that this unacceptable practice must end.”

The sponsors said that it has been long recognized by Congress that consumer loans should require an application by a customer. In fact, Congress banned the mailing of unsolicited live credit cards nearly 50 years ago. In modern lending, a formal loan application can often take just minutes. The bill does not prohibit the direct marketing or mailing of a loan application. The sponsors say that this legislation would provide common-sense consumer protections without limiting access to credit for consumers who willingly apply and seek lending products.

The bill would also ensure that companies cannot shift from the mailing of live checks to other forms of transfer, such as a gift card or an “e-check.” In addition, it would ensure that customers are not liable for debt incurred from an illegal, unsolicited live check loan. The National Consumer Law Center has endorsed this legislation on behalf of its low-income clients.

According to usdebtclock.org the average American is carrying $58,849 in debt. American families owe over $19,371,000,000. Almost $15,374,000,000 of this is mortgage debt; but Americans also carry nearly $1,580,000,000 in student loan debt and almost $1,050,000,000 in credit card debt. According to the American Bankruptcy Institute, through November 703,130 Americans have already filed for bankruptcy in 2018, including 24,676 in Alabama.

Senator Jones was elected a year ago in a special election for the seat vacated by Senator Jeff Sessions (R) when he accepted President Donald J. Trump’s (R) nomination to be U.S. Attorney General. Jones is the only Democratic candidate to win a statewide election in Alabama since 2008.

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9/11 Memorial stair climb held Sunday in Montgomery

by Brandon Moseley Read Time: 4 min
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