Friday, June 30, 2006

What's coming in Saturday's paper

Andy Johns reports on the the plans of "thousands of Alabamians" who will "flock to lakes and rivers over Independence Day weekend." For those planning to cut corners on safety, Marine Police Officer Kimberly Moeller has a warning:
"Every Marine Police officer in the state will be working."

Mountain Longleaf National Wildlife Refuge biologist Bill Garland talks about his job:
"Most people view my job as sort of a vacation away from a real job. The most commonly held perception is that I spend all day riding around in the mountains. The only thing missing from this picture is Lassie sitting next to me in the front seat.
The reality is far less exciting and glamorous. Most of my day is spent staring into a computer screen and writing bureaucratic reports.
The occasional trip deep into the forest or along a remote mountain ridge, however, is a reward that I treasure. Few people have the opportunity to even approach their dreams, so I feel grateful for even a fleeting opportunity to become lost in this less touched corner of the world."

Star Capitol Correspondent Brian Lyman follows up on Thursday's convicton of Don Siegelman’s conviction on bribery and conspiracy charges.

What's being read online

Thursday edition:

1. Power outage Wednesday afternoon brings parts of Anniston to a standstill from staff reports
Parts of Anniston lost electricity for most of an hour Wednesday afternoon, bringing business to a standstill in several parts of town.
Traffic lights at several intersections along Quintard Avenue, Noble Street and McClellan Boulevard ceased working, and many windows along the streets were dark.
Power appeared to be out as far south as 10th Street and north to Marvin’s Building Materials on McClellan Boulevard

2. More guns recovered after weekend Glencoe burglary by Andy Johns
Calhoun County Sheriff's deputies recovered 36 stolen guns Wednesday, bringing the total number of guns recovered from a Glencoe burglary earlier this week to at least 42 out of 90.
Sheriff’s deputies searched the home of an elderly woman on Arnold Drive in Anniston and found 11 handguns and 25 long guns in a closet, said Sheriff Larry Amerson.

3. Letters to the editor incluyding this one by Anniston's Kimberly O’Dell:
When entering Anniston, travelers are greeted by a "Historic Anniston" sign. We portray a town concerned with preserving our history. When you look down Quintard, the historic value consists of the monuments, three churches, a synagogue and a small portion of the Victoria. Noble Street and West Anniston have historic buildings in horrible disrepair.
I was recently appalled to read about the Anniston City Board of Education selling Anniston’s founding families’ homes to a developer, who will, no doubt, put up cookie cutter patio homes. ...

4. Coaches reunited, and it feels so good by Shannon Fagan
Tad Niblett had to answer the call. After all, it was family.
Tad's younger brother, Oxford head coach Josh Niblett, was looking for several additions to the Yellow Jacket football staff for the 2006 season. Josh Niblett extended an invitation to his older brother, who was the head coach and athletic director at the Springwood School in Lanett.
Now, the duo has been reunited.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Coming in Thursday's Star

Calhoun County Sheriff's Office deputies have found 40 of the 90 guns stolen from a house in Glencoe this weekend. Crime reporter Andy Johns will have more on that in tomorrow's paper.

Munford Elementary School students this week headed to the campus of Servants in Faith and Technology. So did education writer Matt Kasper. His story will explain what the Munford kids learned about environmental science, and why.

We'll also have a rundown of area Independence Day celebrations, a preview of the Berman Museum's new book on world weaponry, and a look at $59 million a Senate appropriations subcommittee has approved for McClellan's Center for Domestic Preparedness.

Star lights shining again

We lost electricity here at The Star for about 45 minutes this afternoon. Most of the newsroom came to an instant standstill, with computers and phones reduced to lifeless plastic boxes. It didn't take long, though, for reporters to hit the road and dial their cell phones to figure out what was happening.

It turns out much of Anniston was without power. Our lights came back on at 3:40. There's a story about the blackout, and continuing developments, online at

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Coming Thursday

Word from Anniston City Manager George Monk is the police department is having a bit of a turnover problem. Four investogators have been moved to cover patrols for the time being. We're looking into how many cops have left and why, and what the city can do about it.

There's just no other way to say it. It's hot. We'll have some tips on how to keep your pets, your kids, elderly people and yourself from succumbing to the heat.

Oxford Mayor Leon Smith gave a "State of the City" today to the East Alabama Credit Association's monthly meeting. The state? Growing, apparently. Smith hinted at lots more groundbreakings in the near future.

Plus, a look at some of the details of Anniston City Schools' budget problems, and the story of a couple dozen puppies now on their way from Anniston to New York.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Coming in Tuesday's Star

Apparently, there's a sludge problem in Calhoun County.

Two Star reporters, Crystal Jarvis, who covers Jacksonville, and intern Josh Keller, who is covering Weaver this summer, have discovered that those towns have a growing problem with, um, sludge -- how to deal with it, how to dispose of it, and how to address the problem of having more sludge now than in years past. It's a strange problem, for sure. But for the administrations of those towns, it's a problem they have to address.

Reporter Todd South is planning to inform readers on Tuesday about the education department at Jacksonville State University, which now is requiring its undergraduate majors to take 9 to 12 hours of foreign language classes in either Spanish or French. The change took effect June 1.

Reporter Steve Ivey, who covers Oxford, will provide a report on tonight's Board of Education meeting, where he expects the city to turn over the now-vacant C.E. Hanna building to Hobson City.

Reporter Matt Kasper, who covers education, also plans an update on the sale of the Woodstock property at Anniston High School.

And in the sports department, editor Scott Adamson expects coverage of Game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup finals and follow-up coverage of the U.S. Open golf tournament.

Top weekend reads online

1. A Star editorial Big Brother to citizens: Trust me
Government lawyers claim the plaintiffs can't prove they've been spied on by the NSA. True enough. The ACLU's lawyers - just like the rest of us - aren't able to establish who is being spied on because the government is keeping the details secret.
Dizzy yet?

2. Depot to get Abrams money by Todd South
The U.S. Senate on Thursday passed the emergency supplement bill that includes $400 million for Anniston Army Depot's work on the M1A1 Abrams tank
The bill, which was approved by a conference committee earlier this month, is an emergency supplement to the fiscal year 2006 budget for the "Global War on Terror
and Hurricane Relief." It passed on a 98-1 vote. It now goes to the president for his signature.

1. The top Friday item - Big Brother to citizens: Trust me - was still the most-viewed news item.

2. Viagra missing from pharmaceutical shipment by Andy Johns
When an Oxford Pfizer pharmaceutical sales representative opened the shipment containing her most recent order, she found that 48 bottles of Viagra were missing.

3. Letters to the editor
Re "Trail is treacherous" (Speak Out, June 13):
As the mayor of Weaver, I'm writing to say that the Chief Ladiga Trail is not a hotbed of criminal activity, as the letter writer claims.
The trail covers hundreds of miles through many police jurisdictions and municipalities. While I cannot speak for other areas, I can speak for the portion of the trail that passes through Weaver. I walk the trail with my family and have found the experience to be safe and health enriching. As for women being sexually assaulted, Weaver has had no reports of criminal activity on the trail, sexual or otherwise, and I feel safe in saying that the City of Weaver has not investigated a mule trampling in the last hundred years.
Wayne Willis, Mayor of Weaver

4. Anniston issues burn ban by Andy Johns
Dry conditions have led the Anniston fire department to issue a "no burn order" for the city beginning Friday.
"It's getting so dry it creates a hazardous condition for yards and woods," said Anniston Fire Chief Bill Fincher.

Marine in Iraq sees daughter's birth in Jacksonville by Dan Whisenhunt
JACKSONVILLE - For Marine Cpl. Terrence "Terry" Lambert, serving on the frontlines in Iraq, the birth of his first child was imminent early today, on Father's Day.
For his wife, Jodi Lynn Lambert, lying in her room at Jacksonville Medical Center, the birth of their daughter, Katherine Annalee Lambert, was imminent at press time Saturday night.
And Terry was with her for the birth.
The miracle of birth had met the miracles of modern technology.

2. Letters to the editor
I recently received a copy of Longleaf Style in the mail. Wow, what a beautiful tribute to our area! The articles, ads and photos are exquisite and compare
with similar magazines that I've seen in much larger cities.
If you haven't seen Longleaf Style, I encourage you to go to its Web site ( and subscribe. You won't be disappointed.
Leigh Twigg, Alexandria

3. A wedding announcement:
Jodie Melinda Smith and Jeffery Wayne Thompson were married April 8 at 4 p.m. at Mount Zion Baptist Church. The Rev. Wayne Stephens performed the ceremony. Music was provided by Amy Moore, Jennifer Donaho, Jennifer Braden and Judy Cole. A reception followed.

4. Another wedding announcement:
Amanda Michelle O'Dell and Kevin Heath Pointer were married April 22 at 4 p.m. in a double-ring wedding at West Park Heights Baptist Church. The Rev. Bryan Camp performed the ceremony. Music was provided by pianistAnita Davenport and violinist Janice Wilson.

Friday, June 16, 2006

To online reads for Thursday

1. Exxon robber looks familiar to police by Andy Johns
The Waffle House bandit may have struck again, but this time a convenience store was the target.
According to Anniston police reports, a man entered the Exxon at 5740 McClellan Blvd. around 5:15 a.m. Wednesday, showed a black handgun, and demanded money from the cashier.

2. Southern Baptist leaders refuse to back public school pullout by the AP's Tim Witmire
GREENSBORO, N.C. — There will be no Southern Baptist exodus from the nation’s public schools - at least for now.
Leaders of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination Wednesday refused to support a resolution that would have urged the denomination to form an “exit strategy” for pulling Southern Baptist children from public schools in favor of home schools or private Christian schools.

3. Star editorial School daze
The Anniston system is nearing collapse. Its woes redirect growth away from the city limits and into other school districts and private schools.
The system’s collapse is not too far off.
The wise city would look for ways to get ahead of this implosion. And they ought to take to this task with great speed. The futures of the Anniston system’s students hang in the balance.

4. Leilah Rampa's editorial cartoon send-up of Sen. Jeff Sessions

The Star on Ebay

What happens when you combine The Star and American Idol winner Taylor Hicks of Birmingham?
A winning bid on Ebay. Seriously.
A few weeks ago, editors at The Star noticed that an intrepid Star reader was selling the newspaper's front page that highlighted coverage of Hicks' Idol-winning performance. The banner headline that day said "HICKS HYSTERIA," and went with a large photo of Hicks fans at Quintard Mall in Oxford going nuts over his victory.
The starting bid was $2.
This morning, editors wondered if someone actually bought the Hicks edition. Reporter Steve Ivey looked it up, and discovered there was one bid -- for $2.
Don't believe us? Look it up yourself here on eBay.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Top online reads on Tuesday

1. Former preacher from Ohatchee arrested for alleged sex abuse by Andy Johns
An 82-year-old former preacher was arrested last week on a charge he allegedly sexually abused a 10-year-old girl.
According to police reports, William Winford Kitchens, 82, of Ohatchee, was arrested around 10 a.m. June 6 on one charge of first-degree sexual abuse. He was arrested on West 8th Street in Anniston.
According to Chief Deputy Matthew Wade of the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office, a joint investigation between the Sheriff’s Office and the Daybreak Rape Crisis Center revealed the alleged abuse, which Wade said occurred several times in three states.

2. Out of the ashes by Dan Whisenhunt
Three years after it was gutted by fire, the building on the southeast corner of 10th and Noble streets remains mostly dark and broken, but signs of life are beginning to show through the cracks.
The old AmSouth building, known to many as "the 10 story building," has been mostly vacant since a late-night blaze in 2003 damaged the upper floors. Smoke from the fire and water from firefighters’ hoses caused more damage throughout the structure.

3. Oxford schools welcome 2 new principals by Steve Ivey
OXFORD — The board of education offered a "welcome home" to two new Oxford principals at its meeting Monday night.
Amy Copeland will serve as principal at DeArmanville Elementary School beginning July 1. Copeland had been principal at Kitty Stone Elementary School in Jacksonville but let her contract there expire to return to Oxford’s schools.
"When I got the call about the job, I felt like I was home," she said.

4. Third local Waffle House robbed in 2 weeks by Andy Johns
Police are looking for leads after the third robbery in two weeks to strike local Waffle House diners.
According to police reports, a man with a bandanna over half his face and brandishing a black revolver entered the Waffle House on Hinton Drive in Oxford around 2:30 a.m. Monday.

Coming in Thursday's Star

In the newsroom, Brian Lyman, our Montgomery correspondent, will have a busy day. He's working on a profile of Jim Hethcox, the retired teacher from Sylacauga who is running against Jim Preuitt for the Senate District 11 seat. Brian also has plans to cover the closing arguments in the Don Siegelman trial.

Dan Whisenhunt, our Anniston/Calhoun County reporter, is working on two stories of local insterest: an update on the status of the federal courthouse building project, another on security concerns for this weekend's Juneteenth Festival at Zinn Park. We previewed the Juneteenth Festival in today's editions of The Star.

In the features department, assistant editor Tosha Jupiter reports that her Escapes section on Thursday will carry several stories of note. One is by reporter Josh Keller, who is profiling Justin Brown, the British-born conductor/director of the Alabama Symphony Orchestra who will be on stage Saturday night during Music at McClellan. Another is a report on the new film club housed at Zannie Theater at McClellan.

In the sports department, it's all about the all-stars. Shannon Fagan, The Star's prep sports writer, will introduce the next round of baseball and softball all-stars from the 2006 season. His reports this week lead up to The Star's Diamond Dazzlers package -- the best players from this area, regardless of classification -- that will be published Sunday.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Coming in Wednesday's Star

It's all politics in an election year, but do Alabama reform groups know how to do politics? Our Montgomery correspondent Brian Lyman takes a look at how groups such as Alabama Citizens for Constitutional Reform and Alabama Arise accomplish their goals - or don't - in the capital.

The Jacksonville City Council, meanwhile, is still on the hook for $20,000 per month for the lease of the old Wal Mart building, still empty after the company opened a new store next door. The council's finally found a tennant, sort of: Cooper Chevrolet will pay $1,000 to use the parking lot for a 10-day tent sale next month. What else are they doing to get some lights on permanently in that dark store?

In Oxford, the City Council will decide tonight if they want to require skateboarders in their town to wear helmets.

In Anniston, one councilman wants the state transportation department to study the timing of traffic signals on streets that cross Quintard Avenue.

Also, Second Chance, Inc., a local shelter for victims of domestic violence, gets a new executive director. And JSU's Books for Baghdad program is set to send its second shipment of college texts to restock the shelves at embattled Baghdad University.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Top weekend online reads

Letters to the editor

A work in progress by Steve Ivey

An emerging GOP minority? by H. Brandt Ayers

Pesky problem by Josh Keller

Letters to the editor

Atlanta-killings convict blames child molester by the AP's Harry R. Weber

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Political movies

Waiting for the voting to end ... we thought we'd offer a few of our favorite politically-themed movies.

Bob says:

1. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington: Jimmy Stewart takes it to the man.

2. Bob Roberts: Tom Robbins plays a conservative folk singer running for Senate. One of his "hits" is Times Are A Changing Back.

3. The Manchurian Candidate: Skip the 2004 version. Watch the one of Frank Sinatra. Listen for oft-repeated creepy line: "Raymond Shaw is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life."

Sports department awards

The Alabama Sports Writers Association writing and design awards are out -- which is good news for The Star's sports department.

The Star won a pair of categories: One for best layout, which judges the crispness and organization of the sports department's pages; and another for best auto racing feature.

Tyler Greer, The Star's former assistant sports editor and assistant metro editor, won the auto racing category with a story headlined "Racing for America." That story, published the Sunday of the April 2005 NEXTEL Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway, examined how NASCAR teams use cars sponsored by branches of the Armed Services to lure in -- and retain -- fans.

The Star beat its main competition, the Mobile Press-Register, for the best designed sports pages. The Star's winning entry included editions from June and July of 2005.

Interestingly, several former Star sports writers also did well in the awards. Mark McCarter, The Star's former sports editor (1989-2002), won the Herby Kirby Award, which signifies the best sports story written in Alabama during the year. McCarter is a columnist for the Huntville Times. His winning entry looked at the future of pro sports in Huntsville.

Former Star Sports editor Jimmy Creed, now the managing editor of the Jacksonville News and Piedmont Journal, was the runner-up in the best investigative story category.

Creed, McCarter and former Star sports staffers and interns Tommy Hicks and Paul Gattis also won or finished second in several other categories, as well.

Coming in Wednesday's Star

Smells like politics today, folks. A quirky primary comes to an end officially at 7 p.m. when local polls close. We'll have complete local and state coverage of the winners, losers and spoilers in Tuesday's Republican and Democratic primaries. In addition to the results, there will be analyses of key races, including the gubernatorial and state judical contests.

A few tales from the election front are already congealing on Star Staff Writer Steve Ivey's roving polling blog of Calhoun County this morning. Check him out -- and let him know your Election Day news -- here.

Other stories being considered include an examination of a new housing development along Greenbrier-Dear Road in south Anniston, just off Quintard Avenue, as well as a fresh look at Alexandria's housing and education boom.

Top Monday online reads

Most popular online news stories for Monday:

Parents in Calhoun County pick private schools for rigor, religion by Matt Kasper

Election letters to the editor

Banks honor bogus checks; scam victims pay by Caroline E. Mayer of The Washington Post

Monday, June 05, 2006

What's ahead

Stories we're working on for Tuesday's newspaper:

Anniston is losing another grocery store, the Food World along Hwy. 21 that's north of Anniston Middle School.

Matt Kasper has a pair of stories in the works. Bids will will be opened tomorrow on refurbishing Anniston High after last month's fire. Meanwhile, Kasper reports on the start of a new summer reading program in Anniston.

Election day is tomorrow. We'll have details on where the gubernatorial candidates spent election eve.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Top Thursday views online

The top news stories at

1. Probate Judge's race down to last stretch by Dan Whisenhunt

2. Police seek suspects in Sunday robbery at Hello Money by Andy Johns

3. Thunder on the Mountain Harley rally begins today in Oxford by Todd South

Next was The Star's primary endorsements for governor, Baxley, Riley for governor

What's ahead for Saturday

My Q&A with Dr. David Lanoue, the chair of the University of Alabama political science department, covers the political season. The professor says:
"Primary elections rarely result in large changes, but the two races to look at are the Republican primaries for governor and state Supreme Court chief justice. There is currently a battle for the soul of the state GOP between the organized religious right and the more traditional business-oriented Republicans. The outcome of these races will show which side is in the ascendancy."

Steve Ivey is covering gubernatorial candidate Roy Moore's appearance in Oxford today.

In Travel, we examine what's happening in Bransom, Mo.

Coming Sunday, Star editor at large John Fleming begins his year-long series on Alabama's Black Belt. Fleming asks, "What is the quality of the democracy that has been achieved in Alabama’s Black Belt?" Along the way he points out some disturbing stats:
The U.S. Census Bureau in 2000 put the percent of people living in poverty in the United States at 12.5.
In Alabama it is 16.1 percent.
In Perry County is it more than 35 percent.
The per capita income of the United States is $21,589.
In Alabama it is $18,189.
In Perry County is it $10,984.
In the Black Belt counties surrounding Perry, the picture is much the same. The percentage of people living in poverty ranges from a low of 26.9 percent in Hale County to 39.9 percent in Wilcox County, while per capita income spans from $13,686 in Greene County to $10,903 in Wilcox.
For blacks, the statistical picture is even bleaker. While 35 percent of the total population in Perry is considered impoverished, 45 percent of all blacks in that county live in poverty. In Dallas County, it is 43 percent. In Wilcox, the percentage of blacks living in poverty is 50 percent, according to the Alabama Poverty Project.
The region also has been witness to a steep drop in population in the last four decades. Perry County is typical. In 1960, some 17,300 people made it their home. By 2000, the population had fallen to around 11,800.
The infant mortality rate in the United States is 6.8 percent. In Alabama it is 9.1 percent. The average in the twelve most impoverished counties constituting the traditional Black Belt is 10.3 percent, according to the Alabama Center for Health Statistics.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Friday's Star, the afternoon update

An update since this morning's news planning meeeting.

Brian Lyman has been staking out the Secretary of State's office in Montgomery as campaign finance reports pour in from candidates rushing to meet the late afternoon deadline.

Dan Whisenhunt looks into another facet of the probate judge race:
Whoever is elected as the next Calhoun County probate judge will have the task of appointing the county’s first mental health officer if funding is available.

Five years ago, 305 Anniston students were in summer school. This year it's 265, Matt Kasper reports.

On the editorial page, John Fleming has a story from the Black Belt on how conservation can get complicated.

Rachael Scarborough King reports on Children’s Miracle Network telethon:
For Jamie McGlaughn, her 21-month-old son Tucker truly is a miracle.
When he was nine days old, Tucker underwent a radical surgery to remove a cyst wrapped around his heart and blocking his airway. Doctors cut through his vocal cords and spliced them to a neck muscle, hoping they would regenerate.
"He’s a perfectly normal little boy – you’d never know anything had ever happened or was ever wrong with him," McGlaughn said of her boy these days.
Tucker’s surgery was performed by Dr. Audie Woolley at Children’s Hospital of Alabama in Birmingham.
On Saturday, the McGlaughn family – Tucker, his parents, and older brother Mason – will represents East Alabama on the 24th-annual Children’s Miracle Network telethon to benefit Children’s Hospital. Tucker was chosen as the telethon's East Alabama "champion" from among the more than 600,000 patients who visit the hospital each year.

What's ahead: Friday's Star

Do you feel something rumbling? Don't worry it's just the motorcycles rolling into town for this weekend's HOG Rally. Reporter Todd South is covering for tomorrow's paper.

Forensics is the hot course at Jacksonville State University and the classes are getting crowded. Josh Keller explains.

Enrollment in summer school is dropping. Matt Kasper investigates why.

JSU plays Alabama in the NCAA regional baseball playoffs. Al Muskewitz looks back at JSU's athletic fortunes 11 years after the moved up to Division I.