Monday, December 31, 2007

How'd it play?

The result of the Alabama-Colorado bowl game in Shreveport, La., received different play in Alabama and Colorado newspapers. The Bama victory was displayed prominently on the front pages of at least a half-dozen state newspapers here. In Colorado, the loss get much less attention. The Rocky Mountain News, above, reduced the game to a small headline above the masthead.

See for yourself at the Newseum's front page gallery.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

More from a Star alumnus

I blogged recently about Star alumnus Jim Yardley, now The New York Times' correspondent in China.

Here's his latest work - an incredible look at the wide-ranging effects of the smog in Beijing.

Friday, December 28, 2007

From Medieval to Mideast

This week's Bookshelf page has a variety of selections from a variety of sources, modern and ancient.
Former Congressman Glen Browder reviews the sometimes controversial The Israel Lobby, which gives an overview of the loosely connected individuals and groups which lobby the United States to support Israel. The book not only explains why and how they lobby to help that country, but how Middle East diplomacy could be improved upon.
JSU English professor Carmine DiBiase reviews the latest translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, a pre-Renaissance epic tale by an anonymous writer that could be just as well enjoyed and received as the new Beowulf. Can anyone say "screen adaptation?"
Steve Whitton adds to the fiction reviews with Hotel de Dream, a "fantasia" written by Edmund White about author Stephen Crane. The novel beautifully melds fact and fiction about Crane's possible end-of-life work.

Who made this stuff up?

Coming Sunday in The Star's Insight section -- headlines we'd like to see in 2008.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Election calendar for Alabama's local governments

Found this handy link while working on a project for Sunday's paper.

It's a keeper for both community journalists and readers of community journalism.

Star alumnus sighting

If you're a regular reader of NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman, you may notice today that he mentioned Jim Yardley, a Times reporter based in China.

Yardley is a former reporter at The Star -- and a good guy, from what I remember of his somewhat brief time here -- so I always make a point to pick up The Times and look for his byline. He's always a good read.

By the way, in 2002 -- yep, five long years ago -- The Star produced a lengthy list of former newsroom employees who no longer work at The Star. Many moved on to other jobs in the journalism field; a few retired or decided to do something else. Here's a link to that list. Despite its age, it's still quite interesting.

And here's a story that goes along with that list.

Happy reading.

Grab the dictionary, someone at The Star's gone nuts






Confused? Then make sure you check out The Star's op-ed page on Friday. It'll all make sense then. Maybe.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Coming Thursday on the editorial/op-ed pages

Star Publisher H. Brandt Ayers is giving readers his take on the passing of Dr. Gordon Rodgers, the first black city councilman in Anniston:
By the time I got to know Gordon Rodgers, it was unthinkable to imagine him as an incendiary young radical. He was urbane, sophisticated, and his handsome wife, Agnes, had a certain stylish flair. They were a couple who would be unremarkable at a table in the Rainbow Room in New York. As time went on, it seemed to me that Gordon developed a kind of weary wisdom, the knowledge of a man who has seen a world of folly.
And that’s the thing about Gordon Rodgers and men like him in those days before the Old South died and sank to the bottom of history, not unremembered but dead. He was from a good family; his father was a doctor. He was educated, a graduate of elite Talladega College, where black professionals of the time sent their sons and daughters, an institution which turned out doctors and lawyers in assembly-line numbers.
The Star's editorial board also is looking at the comments made across Alabama following the arrest of three white teenagers for the defacing of the Confederate monument in Montgomery earlier this fall:
John Napier, who was identified as “a historian and former member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans,” summed it up quite well. The vandals “must have learned something in school even though they applied it rather poorly.”
True enough. And it is the application, not the education, that society must now address.
We'll also have our daily dose of letters to the editor and syndicated columnists.

For what it's worth, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman -- a regular in The Star on Thursdays -- is taking a break to write a book. His final column until April is on Thursday's op-ed page.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Bobcast nears 100

We're closing in on our 100th episode of the Bobcast. (See player on the right-hand side of this blog.)

Friday's Bobcast features Anniston Star reporter Todd South talking about his story on travel agents on today's Business page.

Wanna make sure you don't miss new editions of the Bobcast? Want to go back and hear previous podcasts?

You can sign up for alerts here.

Or visit Bobcast headquarters.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

News from Oxford High

The latest from the Hoover High search for a news football coach is here.

We'll have more in Friday's newspaper.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Thursday in The Star

Check out Thursday's Star for these stories:

There will be an announcement at noon about the Hoover High School head football coach position. Oxford Yellow Jacket head football coach Josh Niblett said he has interviewed for the Hoover job opening. We'll have a story about that and updates online when the announcement is made.

Markeshia Ricks has a story about midwives. They're banned in Alabama, but somebelieve they could play a key role in reducing infant mortality. A bill has been sponsored to get them recognized to practice in the state and it's going back to the Legislature this year.

Retired Associate Editor Basil Penny has a story about a Cherokee County couple who have scoured East Alabama for materials from old barns and homes to create their unique living space, what they call "the barn house."

Anniston High School students are involved in several holiday community service projects. Steve Ivey has this story.

We're all about Brad Pitt in the editorial department

We've got Brad Pitt -- yes, BRAD PITT!!! -- on The Star's op-ed page on Friday morning.

And you thought the editorial department was boring and out of touch.

(Don't tell anyone, but it's only one small photo, and only one small mention, but it's still worth your time. Don't miss it.)

Coming Thursday on the editorial/op-ed pages

The Star's editorial board is taking a look at New Jersey's decision to stop executions in that state -- and what that means for states like Alabama that still use the death penalty:
We’ll let the Texas editorial pages get to the heart of the problem there. As for punishment in Alabama, it is not dished out fairly, especially when it comes to the death penalty.
The quicker we come to that realization — and admit that this is as much a political issue as it is an issue of justice — the better off all of us will be.
We're also commenting on the Joint Powers Authority's hiring of Angelou Economics to lead the search for McClellan's CEO:
It’s no secret that it’s been a frustrating year on the McClellan CEO front. Dan Cleckler resigned as executive director in January, and months were wasted due to what appeared to be miscommunication between the JPA and the Angelou firm. Like many others, this page wishes the CEO search was further along than it is.

Get energized in Sunday's Insight section

We're still tweaking this thing, but we're trying our darnedest to make Sunday's Insight section all about our nation's energy policy. Our plan it to highlight the possibilities of solar energy and the need to include conservation in our nation's long-range energy plan. One of the pieces is written by Richard Raeke, a former Star reporter and editorial writer who now works in the solar-energy field in Massachusetts.

Check it out Sunday. Once we get through with it, it should be a dandy.

Anybody know where we can get a leisure suit?

Imagine one of these guys walking down Noble Street.

In broad daylight.

On purpose.

That could have been me.

As faithful Star readers may know, we did our first video editorial the other day, and it's brought mixed results. We've learned that we need a tripod and that I need to learn there's a difference between a script and a printed editorial. A big difference.

Anyway, our finished product -- a takeoff on the Charlie's Angels TV show from the 1970s -- wasn't our first choice. Our plan was to dress me like those dudes in the photo, in a crazy leisure suit and an Afro, take me to 10th and Noble in downtown Anniston, and have me narrate a portion of our editorial.

I was game. My reputation's already cemented, plus I'd look good in an Afro.

Problem was, we couldn't find a leisure suit. Or at least that's the story we're trotting out there.

We'll do better next time. I hope.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

So, how much do you know about the presidential candidates?

Unless something quirky happens, The Star's editorial department is going to try something different on Friday -- a quiz, courtesy of our wire services, about the 2008 presidential campaign.

I took the quiz today, and I admit I made a 100. Which means either I cheated -- wink, wink -- or I'm actually paying attention to this 24-hour campaign. Not sure which one I prefer.

Oh, well. See if we can pull it off in Friday's Star.

Coming Wednesday on the editorial/op-ed pages

The Star's editorial pages on Wednesday will carry some interesting items that I'd love to tout, but instead I'm gonna urge everyone to read columnist Hardy Jackson's weekly offering.

It's a reprint of a Christmas-themed column he penned a few years ago, but at the urging of others he's giving it to us again in 2007. It's heart-warming, tear-jerking and everything else you want during the holiday season.

Here's a portion:
I grew up among folks who didn’t have much. Today, people look back through rose-tinted glasses and talk about being poor but not knowing it. These children knew it. They were the ones who spent the year collecting the tinfoil from discarded cigarette packages to make shiny balls to decorate their Christmas tree because they could not afford the store-bought kind. It was all their parents could do to buy a Christmas gift for their own children, much less someone else’s. Name-drawing reminded them, and us, of their situation.
Taddy’s family fell into that category.

Coming Wednesday in The Star

Coming Wednesday in The Star:

The JPA hired a search firm to find it a new chief executive. Dan Whisenhunt has this story.

JSU and Oxford schools are teaming up to apply for a grant to demonstrate and study co-teaching, a method of putting special ed students in classes with a general ed teacher and special ed teacher both at the front of the classroom. Under the grant JSU would study how the program works at Oxford. Markeshia Ricks writes about this project.

Markeshia also has a story about the state BOE adoption of a background check policy for all postsecondary empoylees. The BOE plans to ask the Legislature for a new law to make the results of those checks private (as is done with K-12). But felony records are already public information, so how will that work?

'Tis the season for giving: Todd South covers the delivery by Anniston Army Depot workers of a tuckload of donated toys to the Department of Human Resources to give as Christmas gifts to children. Todd also has a story about the depot's new child care center for employees.

Like wow, dude

We were working on a special Christmas peom for the editorial page when we were reminded of this gem from our pal Rick Horowitz, a humorist and columnist for Wisconsin. Enjoy the brilliance.

The Perfect Storm

Boy, did we goof today.
The Almanac page – where we run Dear Abby, the daily calendar and the police blotter – accidentally ran in two places in today’s paper.
It ran on page 4A, where it should have been, and on page 2B, which should have been the daily box scores for Sports.
So how did it happen?
Bear with me …
The editor who designed the Almanac page on the computer, labeled the page as 2B, which is correct five days of the week.
Wednesday through Sunday, The Star is a four-section paper – News (A), Local News (B), Sports (C) and Features (D). The Almanac page is always 2B on those days.
But, on Mondays and Tuesdays, The Star is a two-section paper – News (A) and Sports (B). On those two days, the Almanac page is never 2B, but that’s how it got labeled for today’s paper.
Nearing midnight Monday night, as press workers prepared the pages to be run on the press, the page that was errantly labeled 2B was placed in the 2B position – in Sports.
A different press worker later put the same page in the 4A position, which is where it was supposed to be. And, since it was labeled 2B instead of 4A, he erased the page number. (If you look at today’s paper, you’ll notice that 4A doesn’t have a page number.) However, he didn’t know a different press worker had already put that same mislabeled page in the 2B position.
After the paper prints, the press workers routinely check to make sure the pages are numbered correctly. A quick pass through the paper will show they were.
It was the perfect storm.
There are a couple of places along the way where the mistake possibly could have been caught.
We’ll look today to see if there are things we can work into our routine to prevent such mistakes in the future.
We regret the mistake and any inconvenience it may have caused, but there’s a reason newspapers are called the “daily miracle.”

Monday, December 17, 2007

Coming Tuesday in The Star

Check out Tuesday's Star for the following stories:

Nicole's and Noble Grille are closed or closing. Can other restaurants fill the void or is the market not supporting restaurants in downtown Anniston?Dan Whisenhunt looks at this story.

Ester Uesry, a housekeeper at JSU's Houston Cole Library, has been honored as the school's employee of the year.

Judge Gus Colvin set bond conditions for Lindsey Danielle Morgan, charged with the stabbing death of her mother, Brenda Ingram. Morgan is currently still being held in the Calhoun County Jail. School officials and the Sheriff's Office recommended the conditions of GPS monitoring and geographic boundaries.

A local soldier surprised his daughter at Sacred Heart School on Monday while he's home on leave from Iraq. Todd South has the story and it's accompanied by some great pictures of the reunion.

Homeschooling and politics

The Washington Post has a story today outlining how homeschoolers are helping the rising campaign of Republican Mike Huckabee.
Huckabee's name is no longer a mystery to Iowa's Republican voters, in large part because of an extensive network of home-schoolers ... who have helped lift his underfunded campaign from obscurity to the front of a crowded field. ...
While early attention focused on Romney and other better-known and better-funded opponents, home-schoolers rallied to Huckabee's cause, attracted by his faith, his politics and his decision to appoint a home-school proponent to the Arkansas board of education. They tapped a web of community and church groups that share common conservative interests, blasting them with e-mails and passing along the word about Huckabee in social settings.

If that sounds familiar it's because Joan Garrett covered much the same ground earlier this year in a series of stories.
One source told Joan:
"These students are impacting political organizations all over the country," said home-school mother Jean Whatley, 55, whose four children have worked a combined total of 20 political campaigns. "They want to transform the culture for Christ."

Garrett did the project as part of her Masters in Community Journalism program here at The Star. She has since moved on to the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Friday, December 14, 2007

This weekend in The Star

Check out The Star this weekend for these stories:

On Saturday:

Judge C. Lynwood Smith says Calhoun County Schools can continue with construction of White Plains Middle School. Steve Ivey has this story.

In more education news, Steve also writes about Calhoun County Schools looking at programs elsewhere in the state that get laptops to every high school student. Could a program like this be coming to the area?

Markeshia Ricks attended the Joint Commission on Women and Girls in Prison today and has this story for Saturday's paper: A preliminary proposal by a commission studying women and girls in the state’s criminal justice system recommends closing the doors of the existing Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women.

On Sunday:
A nationwide nursing shortage combines with increased usage of Emergency Departments. That means they are as busy, or busier, as ever, with a limited pool of people available to help the sick and injured. RMC is trying out a new concept that's catching on elsewhere - hiring paramedics to work in hospitals instead of on wheels. We spend a night in the RMC ER where the hospital's first paramedic is now on duty. Check out the online photo gallery to see pictures of the ER in action.

The nation this week reached the destruction of 50 percent of the chemical weapons stockpile it had when it signed the treaty to get rid of them in 1997. In Anniston, there's still a long way to go, though officials say much of the previous risk is gone now that sarin and M55 rockets are gone. With things beginning to feel like there's an end in sight, Todd South talks with workers at the incinerator about how they keep their vigilance up.

Anniston's treasures, coming Sunday in The Star

Sunday's Insight section should be a dandy -- an examination of the movement to turn some of Anniston's architectural treasures into modern businesses.

Check it out Sunday in The Star.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Friday in The Star

Coming Friday in The Star:

Steve Ivey has coverage of the hearing in Huntsville on the school construction in White Plains.

More details about the Piedmont girl who is accused of stabbing her mother and more about the victim, Brenda Ingram.

Going to travel for the holidays? Need to know where you can store your pet and how much it will cost? Todd South tells you about pet boarding.

Andy Johns profiles Auto Custom Carpets - an Anniston business that is celebrating its 30th anniversary Sunday.

The Star's policy on naming minors

A story in today’s Anniston Star reports that a 17-year-old Piedmont resident has been charged with murder in the stabbing death of her mother.
The Star’s policy is to withhold the identity of minors involved in crime stories, even if they are suspects.
However, in today’s report, we ran the name and photo of the suspect, even though she’s a minor at age 17.
Here’s why:
Lindsey Danielle Morgan was charged as an adult in her mother’s death.
As Calhoun County District Attorney Joe Hubbard explained, Alabama law allows for any minor 16 or older to be tried as an adult in highly serious cases, such as murder.
The case will be tried in adult court, making public any details that emerge during court proceedings, including her identity.
Had Morgan been charged as a juvenile, all court proceedings would have remained closed to the public, and The Star would not have identified her.

The building wore a leisure suit

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Coming Thursday on the editorial/op-ed pages

The Star's editorial board is tackling the issue of the destroyed CIA interrogation tapes and what that means for the U.S.'s reputation:
It’s one more black eye, one more example of how the nation has strayed from its bedrock values under Dick Cheney’s and George W. Bush’s guidance. As difficult as it is to reconcile, the United States has become a torturer nation. Despite all the denials and word games, the United States has joined the ranks of countries we once looked down upon, spots in Latin America, North Africa and Eastern Europe where suspects were “disappeared,” tortured and otherwise denied due process.
We're also considering the upcoming water-war meeting between the governors of Alabama, Florida and Georgia -- and if the meeting will accomplish anything:
It comes down to this: Unless a court or Congress or president is able to impose or broker a deal, the path of water-war litigation that goes far into our past promises to stretch into our future. As long as the states involved look to a court, Congress or president for a solution, they will not work out a deal themselves.
We'll also have an op-ed column written by Paul Hubbert of the Alabama Education Association and our usual fare of letters and syndicated columnists.

Thursday in The Star

You can find these stories in Thursday's Anniston Star:

Todd South writes about the celebration honoring the Virgen de Guadalupe. This is one of the most important Catholic holidays for Mexicans, honoring the country's patron saint. How do immigrants keep these traditions alive?

We will have a follow up to the murder of a Piedmont woman. Police have charged her 17-year-old daughter.

Dan Whisenhunt looks at the JPA's status. The Anniston City Council tabled a resolution Tuesday night that aimed to dissolve the JPA and there is also the promise of a state law to settle the questions about the board's status. What are the chances for changes in the board's makeup and how might it affect development at McClellan?

Andy Johns has a timely story about a Saks couple that every year fix their yard and outside to celebrate the Christmas season in festive style. Droves of children visit the display every year.

Steve Ivey looks at Birmingham's plans to launch a Next Start-style scholarship program. Will Anniston take the necessary steps to revive its plan?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Don't miss Wednesday's Bobcast

Martha Vandervoort of Interfaith Ministries discusses how to help with Christmas Clearinghouse. The deadline to assist needy families this holiday season is Friday.
In case you missed it, Features editor Laura Tutor wrote on the effort in her Sunday column.
In the column, she wrote:
The Clearing House is a work of art, really. People’s lives, wants and wishes are pored over, filed and matched with big-hearted folks who agree to step up. They accept the challenge and privilege put before a community to provide for all.
The stories come through the Clearing House each year. The families’ names are different — most have never asked for help before — but their circumstances are familiar to those among the “haves” who’ve cared to notice the "have nots."

Wednesday in The Star

These stories can be found Wednesday in The Anniston Star;

Piedmont police have arrested and charged a juvenile family member in the death of a 45-year-old woman after she was found dead in her home Tuesday morning. We'll have more details as we get them.

Markeshia Ricks looks at infant mortality in the state. Alabama has one of the worst rates in the country for infant mortality among black babies. Why do African American mothers have babies who die before they turn one in this state regardless of their socioeconomic background?

The JPA gave Intellimed another eight weeks to secure financing to buy the old PX building at McClellan. The stalled deal, for one of McClellan's key pieces of existing property has played havoc with the JPA's budget. Dan Whisenhunt reports on this story.

And check out the nominees for photo of the year. Then vote for your choice.

I'm a Dixie Chick?

That's how a letter writer in Sunday's paper described me.
His beef was with a column I penned following the Iron Bowl. The commentary appeared on the pages of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and on the Bobcast, my daily podcast.
It examined former Bama coach Dennis Franchione leaving Texas A&M in disgrace and the rumors that Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville would be his replacement:
... for a brief time, Alabama fans gleefully considered the prospect of the coach who left them behind resigning in disgrace and the Auburn coach who has beaten them six years in a row abandoning the Tigers for the Aggies.
And, yes, it's sadly telling and rather pitiful that Alabama football fans are reduced to schadenfreude -- taking glee in others' misfortune -- as a way of bringing cheer to a disappointing 6-6 record.

And then concluded:
TCU's record in the years since Franchione departed Fort Worth for Tuscaloosa in late 2000 is 60-25 -- that's 11 more wins than Coach Fran amassed during his time in College Station and Tuscaloosa.
Within that stat is an admission that many are loathe to make in Alabama: Before A&M stole Fran from Alabama, the Crimson Tide lured him away from the Horned Frogs. Alabama fans are not innocents in this game -- as my wife, the TCU alumna, reminds me. They loudly cheered when inviting a promising coach to leave Cowtown. Little consideration -- most likely no consideration -- was given to the fate of TCU. Could it be that the Alabama faithful are paying for these sins with back-to-back 6-6 seasons?
Maybe karma comes clad in purple.

This, according to the writer, is akin to Dixie Chick Natalie Mains criticizing President Bush before an audience in England. Unlike the Chicks, I'm not gonna publish a "Not Ready to Make Nice" follow-up.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Tuesday in The Star

Coming Tuesday in The Anniston Star:

Andy Johns has a follow up to the plane crash in Randolph County with updates on the investigation. There will also be posted online an audio slideshow with descriptions from neighbors of what the crash sounded like.

Markeshia Ricks takes a look at what bills our local legislators have filed. She also asked them for their thoughts on the upcoming legislative session.

Renovations at the Anniston Municipal Airport are finally complete. Dan Whisenhunt will look at what the contractors did and what it means for Anniston.

Coming Tuesday on the editorial page

The Star's editorial board is examining the on-going fight between Alabama, Georgia and Florida over the sharing of the region's water suppy and why our state doesn't have a good usage plan:
We could, and should, chide administrations present and past for neglecting to push for a comprehensive water-usage plan, but the fact remains that Alabama does not have one. Until one is developed we will be at a disadvantage when we negotiate with our sister states.
All is not lost, however.
We're also wondering if the Retirement System of Alabama's good fortune in raising money for state workers will continue:
However, as any economist will tell you, one good year is not a trend. And with an unsteady housing market, a credit crunch, a nervous Wall Street and serious talk of a recession, those in charge of these funds will have their hands full trying to match or exceed what they accomplished this year.
Finally, on Tuesday we're talking socks, both in Alabama and internationally:
It certainly is more complicated, but as internationalism replaces nationalism in the world of commerce, as corporate interests transcend the borders of the countries where their companies are located, managers and employees from the boardrooms to the mills are going to have to think and rethink their situation.

Top stories in 2007?

The Associated Press suggests its candidates for top stories of 2007.
Look over the list and let us know if your picks via COMMENTS.

- Political crisis in Pakistan: Musharraf declares state of emergency
- China's export industry buffeted by cases of tainted toys, toothpaste, other products
- U.S. housing and home-lending sectors battered by slump; stocks volatile
- Wildfires ravage Southern California; hundreds of thousands evacuate homes
- Tony Blair departs after 10 years as British prime minister; Gordon Brown takes over
- Alberto Gonzales quits as attorney general after string of controversies
- U.S. dollar falls; Canadian currency more valuable for first time in decades
- Anna Nicole Smith dies; fight over her burial and baby ensue
- Severe drought wracks Southeastern states
- Bangladesh devastated by cyclone; more than 3,000 killed
- Bush administration assailed over torture, Guantanamo detentions
- Attempt to forge compromise on illegal immigration collapses in Congress
- Scientists create equivalent of embryonic stem cells from ordinary skin cells
- Intense campaigning in both major parties for 2008 presidential nominations
- Nicolas Sarkozy elected president of France, vows to strengthen ties with U.S.
- Iran spars with international community over its nuclear program
- Afghan war: deadliest year since 2001
- Death penalty under scrutiny as painlessness of lethal injection questioned
- Supreme Court bans a controversial abortion procedure
- Military regime in Myanmar cracks down harshly on protest movement
- Under pressure from critics, Paul Wolfowitz resigns as president of World Bank
- Methane blast kills 110 workers at Russian coal mine
- U.S. troop surge in Iraq takes effect: violence drops but does not halt
- Palestinians feud among themselves heading toward peace talks with Israel
- Russian President Putin signals he intends to maintain power even after term ends
- Tropical Storm Noel kills more than 100 people in Caribbean
- Darfur: Attempts at peace talks falter as violence continues
- President Bush, Democratic-led Congress at odds over health coverage, Iraq, spending
- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez moves to consolidate power, extend rule
- Oil prices soar worldwide
- Global warming: new warnings from experts, Al Gore wins Nobel Prize for his advocacy
- NASA astronaut accused of trying to kidnap rival for affections of space shuttle pilot
- Duke lacrosse rape case collapses; district attorney ousted in disgrace
- Gunman kills 32 people at Virginia Tech; deadliest shooting rampage in U.S. history
- Massive wildfires in southern Greece kill at least 65 people
- Former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby convicted in CIA leak case
- Nancy Pelosi elected first female speaker of the House
- Revelations of shoddy conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center
- CBS fires Don Imus from his radio show for demeaning remarks about Rutgers athletes
- Highway bridge collapses in Minneapolis, killing 13, injuring about 100
- Barry Bonds breaks all-time home run record, then indicted in steroid investigation
- Six miners, three rescue workers die at Utah coal mine
- Earthquake in Peru kills more than 500, wrecks at least 40,000 homes
- Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick pleads guilty to dogfighting charges
- Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho refuses to quit despite guilty plea in airport vice sting
- FBI investigates role of Blackwater USA security firm in killings of Iraqis
- Plane skids off wet runway, killing 199 in Brazil's worst aviation accident
- Koreas: North moves to scrap nuclear program, signs reconciliation pact with South

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Randolph County plane crash kills 1

By Andy Johns
Star Staff Writer
SEWELL--At least one person is dead after a plane crashed in eastern Randolph County.
Randolph County EMA director Donnie Knight said a small, rented plane took a nose dive into a wooded area a few miles from the Georgia line near Bethel East church just after 9 p.m.
Knight said there was at least one fatality in the crash, but the plane is so deeply embed into the ground that it will take a backhoe to pull the fuselage from the ground to find any more victims. He said the plane appeared to have room for four occupants and was likely a single engine.
Randolph County Coroner Randy Gibbs arrived on the scene, but could not identify the victim.
“He came and went,” said Knight in the pre-dawn hours Saturday. “There was nothing he could do.”
One volunteer firefighter described the wreckage as “a pile of tin.” Another said that three men could easily hold all of the visible pieces of the plane in their arms.
Randolph County Sheriff deputies and volunteer firemen stood guard over the site Saturday morning.
According to a dispatcher at the Randolph County sheriff’s department, residents near Bethel East reported hearing a plane flying over and an explosion that shook their homes around 9:19 p.m. Friday.
Searchers located a plane down in the woods near the community at 10:37 p.m.
“We’re lucky we found it,” Knight said of the wreckage. He said he could not remember another plane crash in Randolph County.
Knight said there was not any bad weather at the time of the crash, but said there was no way to tell yet what caused the crash.
Agents from the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board were due to visit the site toward the middle of the day today.
Attempts to reach airports in Anniston, Ashland, Auburn, Birmingham, Lagrange, Ga. and Columbus, Ga. failed Friday night.

Contact Andy Johns at or call 235-3545.

Friday, December 07, 2007

The 'new Russians' coming Sunday in Insight

Make sure to pick up a copy of The Star's Insight section on Sunday, which will feature a compelling look at the 'new Russians' that now walk Moscow's streets.

Books to appease the sports fan

This Sunday's Bookshelf will feature selections for sports nuts who are cracking a bit without full input. If you or a friend or family member is in withdrawal at the conclusion of baseball season, Art Gould has several suggestions for baseball-themed books. A Well Paid Slave: Curt Flood's Fight for Free Agency in Professional Sports details the courageous battle baseball player Curt Flood fought to be able to attain free agency. It changed the whole world of pay in sports.
Football won't last much longer, either, so it's in the mix as well. It Never Rains in Tiger Stadium: Football and the Game of Life, gives LSU fans some info on that team, and Bo's Lasting Lessions provides advice from Michigan's immortal football coach, Bo Schembechler.
Reporter Matt Kasper reviews an entertaining book on legendary pool hustler Kid Delicious, Running the Table. The story of the hefty Kid and his exploits is right on cue.
For those who missed the past two Sundays, Bookshelf focused on children's literature. If you know a child who has read everything, maybe some of the books published in the past few months will delight and entertain his or her voracious appetite for words for at least a week or so.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Star photographer Bill Wilson covered the homecoming of Maj. Clay Goff yesterday at the St. Mark's United Methodist Church Kindergarten along with writer Matt Kasper.

"The shot I most wanted to get is also the shot I figured would be the most dificult." Wilson told me as he edited the images. A classic homecoming image is one where the returning family member has his arms outstretched and the kids are rushing toward him. Other classic shots come to mind, big bear hugs, aligator tears streaking down smiling faces.

Bill wanted the rush shot. And he got it. What makes it difficult to capture, as you can imagine, is that you only have about a second before it's all over. Other elements add to the challenge. "I was worried about Goff being washed out by the bright sunlight as he entered the door." Wilson said, adding "I'm lucky that didn't happen."

Britney joins convent

The Star's Insight section is putting together a project for the end of this year - Headlines We'd Like to See in 2008.
Among our candidates:
"State rewrites Constitution"

"Last mile of Eastern Parkway paved"

The Star staff is working on their own favorites, but we'd like your suggestions. E-mail them to me by clicking here. The deadline is Dec. 14.

By the way, we were just kidding with the headline about Britney and the convent.

It's coming to an end

It seems like just yesterday that we in The Star's sports department started working on the football preview sections.


I don't know what it is (maybe it's because I'm sitting in a different chair), but this football season has flown past my eyes at a blinding rate. Today the Class 1A football season will come to a close with our own TC Central in the finals against Sweet Water.

Clay County will play the next-to-last high school football game, when the Panthers take on Cordova.

In Friday's Star, we'll bring you all kinds of coverage from the TCC game. And we'll also continue the buildup to Clay County's (what seems like annual) state title game appearance.

In the next day or so, we're taking a look at something at something most people don't put enough thought behind with Clay County and its success: the coaching staff. It's a group that has been together for quite a long time.

And if you don't think that counts for something, think again.

On a non-football note, I'm heading to Talladega today at lunchtime when the good folks at the International Motorsports Hall of Fame will announce their 2008 Hall of Fame class. I have no idea who it will be, but I can tell you this --- they'll be some retired folks.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Thursday in The Star

Coming Thursday in The Star:

The Cleburne Board of Education has an ad out for 25 trailers to use as portable classrooms. The board's about to knock down Ranburne high School and will use the trailers for a year while a new campus is constructed. Steve Ivey has this story.

Matt Kasper writes about a soldier returned from Iraq just in time for Christmas who got a big welcome from his three boys and the school at St. Mark's United Methodist Church.

Markshia Ricks has an update on the Immigration Commission. What, if any, preliminary findings do they have?
Markeshia also attended the House Committee on Poverty's meeting to follow up to a report on poor students in public schools.

Tis the season

The Star newsroom gets with the Christmas spirit:

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Wednesday's Star

You will find the following stories in Wednesday's Anniston Star:

Some local bands are headed out for the holidays to play in big parades. Steve Ivey finds out who is going where.

More and more immigrants are learning English - a new study from the Pew Hispanic Center has data to prove it. Todd South takes a local look at this story.

The city of Anniston soon will get an indoor firing range, part of a nonprofit youth program that teaches character through marksmanship. Dan Whisenhunt writes about the organization and its plans.

The Alabama Drought Planning Team met. What did they discuss? Markeshia Ricks has this story.

Change your perspective

Cows might get excited at the site of kudzu, but for the rest of us, not so much. So when Bill Edwards, editor of the Coffee Break, asked for a file shot of kudzu to illustrate a story for Tuesday's edition we weren't optimistic that we would find an interesting shot. As it turns out, Chief Photographer Trent Penny had taken a picture of a field of kudzu. The low worms-eye perspective that Trent used made the picture interesting (it's just kudzu, after all).

You can use the same idea when taking pics of the kids opening presents. Use an unusual angle. Low, high, up close, it could mean the difference between a ho-hum snap shot and a cherished picture of Christmas '07. I just thought of an angle I'm gonna try. With the camera stuck under the tree with the presents, snap a shot of the kids as they dive for the first present they wish to open.

Film is cheap, pixels are free, shoot lots of pictures

Monday, December 03, 2007

Coming Tuesday on the editorial page

The Star's editorial board is taking a look on Tuesday at the rising rate of bankruptcies in Alabama -- the nation's No. 3 state for filings:
Although the tougher bankruptcy law was passed to help credit-card companies recover debts owed to them, the companies continued to offer deals and options to entice more customers. As a result, many who should not have been issued cards got them, used them and now cannot pay what they owe. Consumer debt is higher than ever. In many cases, the credit-card industry has no one to blame but itself.
Here's also a peak at a Star editorial on evangelical Christians and their role in politics:
The result (of the popularity of famous and influential televangelists) was the rise of the Moral Majority and other similar organizations that told the faithful that through concerted political action religious goals could be reached. The primary beneficiary was the Republican Party.

Coming Tuesday in The Star

Check out Tuesday's Anniston Star for the following stories:

Workers are hammering away to convert an empty building on Alabama 21 into a temporary home for the Oxford YMCA. Todd South has this story.

Markeshia Ricks looks at ethics laws in Alabama. Why can lobbyists spend $250 a day on legislators? And how does Alabama's law compare to other states?

Dan Whisenhunt follows up on an Associated Press story about the Homeland Security budget. How will this affect local first responders and the Center for Domestic Preparedness?

Friday, November 30, 2007

Coming this weekend in The Star

On Saturday:

Find out which game was voted the top SEC matchup in the past 75 years by Star readers.

Governor Bob Riley's announcing an initiative to give small businesses a tax break for providing health insurance to employees. Markeshia Ricks writes about the proposal and what it could mean for small business owners and employees.

Todd South looks at whether or not the decision by the Marine Corps to reduce orders for mine-resistant armored personnel carriers will affect production of MRAPs in Anniston and Oxford.

On Sunday:

There's no easy way to tell a father how $40 morphs into thousands of dollars in hospital bills for his baby. Or explain that making $40 too much one month means his family, with two parents working, will chip away at that hospital debt for years to come...Laura Tutor takes a look at the SCHIP program. More American families are closer to that line than their neighbors realize, say insurance industry experts and advocates for State Children’s Health Insurance Programs.

Steve Ivey explores the desegregation orders that mean more than 200 school systems around the country are still under federal scrutiny. Why are schools still under these orders?

Steve also will cover the opening of the Chief Ladiga Trail through Cleburne County and Light Up Anniston events downtown.

On Monday:

Dodgeball. Coming to Calhoun County. Need we say more?

Also: Some new residents at McClellan want roads closed to thru traffic, saying people are speeding through their neighborhoods.

Peace in the Mideast

On Sunday, The Star's Insight section is offering a collection of analyses about this week's Mideast peace conference and, more important, what the future may hold. We're also planning to include a list of 10 questions -- and answers, of course -- about the conference and the difficult Israeli-Palestinian relationship.

Check it out in Sunday's Star.

Coming Saturday on the editorial page

The Star's editorial board is looking back at last weekend's blitz by the state troopers and its effect in saving lives on Alabama roadways:
During the Thanksgiving holidays, some 200 additional state troopers, plus increased numbers of local law-enforcement personnel — in cooperation with similar increases in Mississippi and Tennessee — took to the highways and byways of their respective states, just as they did last year.
The results were the same. Only this time, they were better.
Our editorial, as you can read on Saturday, goes on to give statistics proving how well the state trooper's program worked during the Thanksgiving holiday.

We'll also have our usual fare of letters to the editor and other features.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Friday's' Star

Coming Friday in The Star:

The Calhoun County Board of Education may be in hot water after pressing ahead on construction of White Plains Middle School before reporting the construction to a judge overseeing its desegregation order. Steve Ivey examines this story.

Markeshia Ricks looks at the practice of giving state legislators two free tickets to the Iron Bowl. Why? And what do our local legislators do with theirs?

With the tainted-toy scare, this seems like a fine time to ask: Why not get kids something to read for Christmas? Steve Ivey talks with folks about buying literary gifts.

Alabama 77 could be rerouted because Wellborn Cabinet wants it moved for an expansion. Andy Johns follows up on this story.

We need a hero, several actually

Every year The Star's editorial page recognizes doers of good deeds, particularly those folks who work away from the spotlight in serving their fellow man. We're issuing the call once more this year.
Wanted: Local heroes
Scores of citizens regularly do good deeds in our community. They quietly volunteer their time, money and other resources, and good cheer to worthwhile causes. We¹d like to know about these unsung heroes, and share some of their stories during this holiday season.
If you would like to nominate someone who deserves recognition as a local unsung hero, please let us know. Send in a short note telling us why your nominee should be honored. Be sure to include your name and contact information. The deadline for entries is Dec. 7. Send your nominations to:

Mail: P.O. Box 189,Anniston, AL 36202
Fax: (256) 241-1991
For e-mail, click here.

Dam progress

Highlighted for emphasis:
Commission backs Riley’s water policy efforts, wants dams checked
The commission also passed a resolution about the need for a statewide dam safety program, saying they hope planned legislation will rid Alabama of the shameful designation of being the only state that doesn’t inspect its dams.
A recent study showed there are approximately 10,100 dams in Alabama, said Leslie Durham, a branch chief at the Alabama Office of Water Resources.

Here are two links to the background of this development - here and here.
These links and other summarize the reporting done by The Star on dam safety:
The story so far
The Anniston Star has reported since January that the condition of Alabama's dams — even the number of them — is unknown because the state has no inspection program. Alabama is the only state in the nation without a Safe Dams program. The stories below followed the issue from Anniston to Montgomery to Washington.
Jan. 28 — State Office of Water Resources officials said they were pursuing legislative options to better monitor dam conditions.
March 4 — The last time Alabama counted the dams on its rivers, streams and ponds was in 1981. Critics say the lack of information could leave nearby residents vulnerable to loss of life or property.
Aug. 15 — The state Office of Water Resources and the Natural Resource Conservation Service in Montgomery began a random sampling to get an inventory of how many dams are in the state.
Sept. 23 — Lawmakers say creating legislation that regulates dam safety and maintenance is not a priority.
Oct. 5 — The lack of a dam safety program could cost Alabama $200 million in federal money under the National Dam Safety bill moving through Congress.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Thursday's Star

Coming Thursday in The Star:

The monkey found in Ohatchee has been claimed by a Gadsden man. Her name is Phyllis and Carl Weaver said he read the article in Wednesday’s Star and knew that the primate, who was found about five miles from his farm, had to be his. We'll have more details in Thursday's paper.

We take a look at the Lilly Ledbetter Act, the bill, now in the U.S. Senate named for a Jacksonville woman whose employment discrimination case went all the way to the Supreme Court. We also talk with Ledbetter about the bill and her case.

As the Supreme Court looks at Washington D.C.'s ban on guns, what impact could it have on Alabama? Markeshia Ricks looks at this story.

Nunnally’s Framing is moving into a newly-renovated historic building in downtown Anniston and will have its open house this weekend. Dan Whisenhunt writes about the renovated building, its history and the framining company's roots in Anniston.

What's in your lobby?

This morning's news planning meeting prompted an interesting exchange. Ben Cunningham was discussing a recent story on the public radio program On the Media. The segment was on the artwork displayed in the lobby of the new New York Times offices.
The display is called "Movable Type." Here's how the Times described it in an Oct. 25 story:
Since The Times moved in June from its longtime home on West 43rd Street in Manhattan to its new, almost completed tower designed by Renzo Piano on Eighth Avenue between 40th and 41st Streets, two men — an artist, Ben Rubin, and a statistician, Mark Hansen — have all but taken up residence in the building’s cavernous lobby, huddled most days around laptops and coffee cups on a folding table. Flanking them on two high walls are 560 small screens, 280 a wall, suspended in a grid pattern that looks at first glance like some kind of minimalist sculpture.
But then the screens, simple vacuum fluorescent displays of the kind used in alarm clocks and cash registers, come to life, spewing out along the walls streams of orphaned sentences and phrases that have appeared in The Times or, in many cases, that are appearing on the paper’s Web site at that instant.
They are fished from The Times databases by computerized algorithms that Mr. Rubin and Mr. Hansen have designed that parse the paper in strange ways, selecting, for example, only sentences from quotations that start with "you" or "I." Or sentences ending in question marks. Or just the first, tightly choreographed sentences of obituaries.
The content of the permanent installation, called "Moveable Type," is drawn not only from the words that The Times reports but also, in real time, from the search terms and Web commentary pouring in from thousands of readers around the world, capturing what Mr. Rubin called "both the push and the pull" of the newspaper.

The Star's lobby (shown above) employs much the same premise with its engraved quotations, though the type isn't quite as "movable."

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Coming Wednesday on the editorial/op-ed pages

The Star's editorial board is considering a recent report that gives Alabama an "F" for its online disclosure of business-related documents -- which is surprising considering Gov. Bob Riley's strong record for transparency in government:
For his many successes, and others, the governor should be commended.
However, the 21st century is a different era, thanks in no small part to the Internet. And all governments — from small-town city halls all the way to D.C. — should use the Web to communicate with residents and conduct much of its business.
The Star also is looking again at the cost of the America's wars, and how we're paying for them:
The Bush administration continues to neglect the pay-as-you-go principle of war. Every major U.S. war has required a tax to fund the guns, ammo and troops needed. Not this one. The White House gave huge tax cuts to the richest 1 percent of Americans and left the bill to future generations. Through bad and worse in Iraq, this position has not wavered.
And this from Star columnist Hardy Jackson on last Saturday's Auburn-Alabama football game:
Now, friends — and you are my friends — I seriously doubt if you will ever find a group of more dedicated football fans than those assembled around Daddy’s TV between Thanksgiving Thursday and time-to-go-home Sunday to watch game after game after game, college and pro, waiting all the while for Auburn and Alabama to go at it.
But what we thought would be prelude and would set us up for the big night wore us out instead.

Wednesday's Star

Coming Wednesday in The Anniston Star:

Nick Cenegy has an update with details and an ID of the man who shot himself in Oxford after a standoff with police.

The Carroll County (Ga.) coroner says it could be 90 days before the results of forensics tests on Ben Stanford's body are available.

County water department workers found a monkey beside a road in Ohatchee. Andy Johns has the story of the macaque monkey....

Steve Ivey has a story on a World War II veteran who visited with students at Pleasant Valley High School and shared his story.

Coverage of Anniston and Oxford City Council meetings.

Shameless tease to Wednesday's Page 1

UPDATE: 3 water workers discover animal near Ohatchee

The lyrics to Zachary Richard's song Who Stole My Monkey are stuck in my head.

Your turn at the mic

A reprinting of Ring Out Wild Bells by Alfred Lord Tennyson is a New Years tradition at The Star.

We're looking to kick it up a notch this year. We're looking for folks who would be willing to be videotaped reading Lord Tennyson's classic poem. We'll put the best ones on our Web site at the start of the year. Got a local candidate in mind? Maybe you're itching to get in front of the camera and recite? Drop me an e-mail here.

Our space

Did you know The Star has a Myspace page?

Of course it does. Click here to view it.

Coming soon: A Facebook page.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Coming Tuesday in The Star

Check out Tuesday's Anniston Star for these stories:

'Tis the season: Andy Johns has a listing of all the area Christmas parade,s starting with Jacksonville's Tuesday night, with photos of the Jacksonville, JSU lighting ceremonies Monday night.

Donoho is installing a second "smart board." How do these things work? Steve Ivey has this story.

Todd South profiles Saturday morning classes on Hispanic language and culture. With more Latinos moving to the area, some local residents are spending their time off to learn more about their culture.

The National Transportation Safety Board says the Lincoln train wreck two years ago was caused by glare from the sun obscuring an engineer's vision. Also, a judge has rulted that claimants in a lawsuit against Nofrold Southern Railroad can go ahead with a suit over the accident. Todd South follows up on this.

All hat and no ...

Why am I wearing this hat?
Because Managing Editor and Auburn fan Anthony Cook and I made a wager. If my team - the Crimson Tide - won Saturday's game he would be sporting a UA baseball cap in the office today. If his team won I'd wear an Auburn cap.
Any more questions?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

What's inside your football helmet?

The Thanksgiving edition of the Star featured dueling turkeys, one wearing an Alabama football helmet and the other an Auburn helmet.

That was no easy trick what with propping up an uncooked turkey and putting the helmet just so.

We can't even imagine what it took to get helmets on longhorns, a la Saturday's Kansas City Star.

Friday, November 23, 2007

This weekend

You can find these stories in the Saturday and Sunday editions of The Star:
On Saturday:

As the Iron Bowl kicks off, Steve Ivey examines whether Calhoun County leans toward Alabama or Auburn....or JSU.

Black Friday came and went and lots of folks woke up early, packed the stores and shopped till they dropped.

According to the Community Transportation Association of America, nearly 40 percent of the country is dependent on some form of public or community transportation, whether it's a city bus system or a rural van pick-up service. In many communities, however, transit systems are limited or nonexistent. Markeshia Ricks looks at the situation in Alabama.

On Sunday:

Complete Iron Bowl coverage.

Nick Cenegy rides along with one of the police officers on the semi-undercover robbery-season patrol.

A recent report found that the South leads the nation in the number of poor children in public schools. Markeshia Ricks examines what this means for the state.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Coming Thursday in The Star

On Thanksgiving, check out The Star for these stories:

Andy Johns talks with fans about the Iron Bowl. How are they going to swing family togetherness combined with the game falling on the Thanksgiving weekend? Are some folks going to head to Grandma's for the holiday and then head over to the game?

Matt Kasper tackles another important Thanksgiving story: How do you have a healthy holiday, especially this one that is centered on eating. He talks with food and health experts about how to balance consumption and conscience.

Matt also talks with international students at JSU. What do they do for the holiday?

And George Smith has his annual Thanksgiving column.

Markeshia Ricks also has a story on voting and we've got a nice photo of Alexandria Elementary School students shipping Christmas gifts to soldiers in Iraq.

Coming in Sunday's Insight

UPDATE: The Bobcast conversation about our wild river trip is up.

I write an essay in Sunday's Insight section. The story details the events of a river trip.
Twenty-five years ago this month, a group of high school seniors and two adults commenced a rafting trip down the Sipsey River in west Alabama. Before it was over, some members of the party would abandon the effort, seeking warmth and comfort in the arms of their sweethearts. The rest would struggle on without food and adequate shelter. Heck, my sleeping bag caught on fire.Reflecting on that wild trip a quarter century later, there are few redeeming lessons. But there are lots of amusing stories

There's more, a lot more. The Weekend Bobcast is a discussion about the trip with one of my fellow paddlers, Chad Bailey. He's exectuive producer and host of the outdoors TV program Makin' Tracks.

Not freebird, fried bird

This turkey is courtesy of the Calhoun County Sheriff's Department, which is frying approximately 120 today. It tastes excellent. So much so that it was reduced to a picked-over carcass in mere minutes.

Chief Deputy Matthew Wade (pictured on top) kindly offered one of the turkeys to Star photographer Kevin Qualls, who promptly brought it to the newsroom to share. What else could Kevin do? The chief deputy had a weapon.

Lest anyone accuse us of excepting graft, there's a steaming pot of turkey gumbo heading the Sheriff's Dept.'s way early next week.

Inspiration from Cleveland

OK, we'll admit it. Today's Star front page engages in the, um, highest form of flattery for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. In other words, we saw a great idea the Sunday edition of the Cleveland newspaper - the cost of holiday travel in light of rising gas prices - and decided to imitate it on our front page.
Susan Goldberg, the editor of the Plain Dealer, has relatives in Anniston. So I decided to come clean earlier this week.

Thought the Page 1 holiday travel story and chart was great.
We admired it so much we're attempting our own version.
Just thought I should come clean lest you visit your in-laws in Anniston this Thanksgiving and notice it
Guess that makes me a full-disclosure thief, right?

E-mails are pouring in

Nearly 20 years in this business and it still catches me off-guard occasionally.

Last week, I centered my Friday opinion column on the movement across the U.S. to grant adoptees access to their birth records. Only eight states allow adoptees access to their birth certificates and other pertinent papers; Alabama's one of them.

For adoptees in the other 42 states, that means they have no access to family histories or their medical histories, which in many cases are vitally important. I think that's wrong. Why should adults who were placed for adoption as children be denied the rights all other U.S.-born citizens automatically have? They shouldn't.

Understandably, I've received a lot of e-mail on this issue. Some Web site picked up my column and passed it around; most of the e-mailers have been from out of state. And most of the e-mails have been from adoptees who agree with my take.

But a few e-mails have been from adoptees who are searching for their birth information and are requesting my help. It's been amazing to read their stories and realize the pain they feel from being denied access they both deserve and need. I have a hard time believing that anyone who reads their comments wouldn't understand the seriousness of this issue.

Here's the column. It's tooting my own horn, I know, but it might be worth another read. It's an important subject.

On Thursday, Abe and FDR will make The Star's edit page

As a Thanksgiving treat, The Star's editorial board will put aside its normal ramblings and offer two of the best presidential Thanksgiving speeches -- one from Abraham Lincoln, another from Franklin D. Roosevelt -- in their entirety.

Trust me: They're worth a few minutes of your time on Turkey Day.

We'll also have a nice collection of other Thanksgiving-related items on our Thursday op-ed page, as well.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Wednesday's Star

Coming Wednesday in The Anniston Star:

If you're driving somewhere for the holiday, you're paying for it. Gas prices are climbing to record highs. We'll see how much it'll cost you to go how far - complete with a great graphic map.

Markeshia Ricks looks at the state of Alabama's economy. What's the outlook/predictions for the economy with high gas prices and food prices also going up? Will we see an upswing in holiday spending for Black Friday?

Andy Johns stopped by a presentation by a UA professor the Daughters of the Confederacy were hosting about the Southern dialect.

Counterfeit cash seems to multiply around Christmastime. How can you tell if your Benjamins are bona fide? Nick Cenegy talks with local law enforcement about this.

We're talking turkey

UPDATE: Laura Tutor offer tips for last-minute turkey preparation on today's Bobcast. You can listen by clicking on the Gcast player at right or clicking this link.

We had need of a turkey as a photo prop this morning. (Shhhh, can't tell why but you'll find out in Thursday's paper.)

No need to let a good bird go to waste ... so Features Editor Laura Tutor got to cooking and the newsroom is glad of it. Yum.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Tuesday's Star

Coming Tuesday in The Anniston Star:

Nick Cenegy writes about the state troopers who will be back out on the roads in force for another enforcement blitz as the Thanksgiving holiday nears.

The Hub, a 28-year-old Wedowee restaurant is for sale. What's going to happen to the well-known eatery? Andy Johns has this story.

Alberta Freeman, techonology director at the Anniston Army Depot, won an All-Star award from the National Women of Color organization. Todd South profiles Freeman and what she does.

Dan Whisenhunt checks in on the Christmas Clearinghouse as the giving season gets underway.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Supreme Court candidates says Star edit made mistake

A portion of The Star's Thursday editorial The case of partisan justice is being disputed.

State Supreme Court candidate Deborah Bell Paseur takes issue with a section of the edit which had her standing in front of a sign pointing out the party-line split of a decision friendly to an oil company.

The editorial based this on an account given in an Associated Press news story.
Democratic Supreme Court candidate Deborah Bell Paseur kicked off her campaign Tuesday standing in front of a supporter holding an "8-1" sign criticizing the Supreme Court's Exxon Mobil decision.

The judge says it didn't happen. Star editors have contacted the AP to straighten this out. In the meantime, here's a letter giving Deborah Bell Paseur's version of events:

November 16, 2007

Dear Editor,

Last week, I announced my candidacy for justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, which resulted in your Nov. 15 editorial, “The Case of Partisan Justice.”
I agree with much of what was said, especially your final conclusion that Alabama needs laws that require “interest groups to report every dime they contribute to political campaigns and candidates.”
One small, but very important detail, however, was not accurate. I never stood in front of a sign that said “8-1.” I had my campaign review the video footage to make certain of this.
Before my announcement, there was a crowd of people assembled at the Supreme Court building, and some of them arrived with signs. Apparently one of those signs referred to the recent Supreme Court ruling in the Exxon case and the fact that eight Republicans ruled one way with the lone Democrat on the other side. Before I came out of the building, however, one of my campaign workers saw the sign in question and had it removed. I do not know who brought it, but, again, it was not behind me when I announced.
Whoever brought that sign did not know why I am running for the Alabama Supreme Court, or they would not have done so. Put simply and in words from your editorial, it is to try and change what you accurately described as a “decade of partisan wrangling.”
I am not partisan. I don’t consider myself a politician. I’m a judge. I have been a judge for almost 28 years and have never faced opposition in my re-election campaigns. I am known for being fair and for treating everyone equally. I first ran for office, because a judge was abusing his position and mistreating people, and as a former police officer, I felt compelled to defend the integrity of the court. If I had lost, my ability to practice law in my county would have been hampered, but my first concern was for the court.
Now, I am running for our Supreme Court for similar reasons. The contentiousness, the unseemly spending, and the advertising by special interest groups undermines the integrity of our courts and is eroding public trust in our judicial system. Running under the “8-1” banner might highlight that anxiety. It might even win votes. But it is a partisan message that does not help restore the dignity deserving of the office I seek. I am not a politician. I am a judge.

Respectfully Submitted,
Deborah Bell Paseur

More later. For now let me emphasize that the editorial's main point still stands
A decade of partisan wrangling has left Alabama with a judicial system where justices are inclined to interpret the law according to legal standards and philosophies that reflect the interests and attitudes of the groups that paid for the campaigns that got the justices elected in the first place. And there is not much to suggest that special interests will support legislation to change this.

ARCH conducting community survey

UPDATE: To do the survey online, go to this Web site and user the login code headling.

Alberta McCrory of the ARCH Initiative -Anniston Community Healing and Reconciliation Project writes to seek "the active involvement of community members to carry out its objective to address the underlying issues which have rendered Anniston frozen in time, unable to realize positive and forward -moving growth to ensure an achievable and sustainable future for area youth. Community members will work with consultants from the Cincinnati, Ohio-based ARIA Group that supports people and organizations and communities as they engage painful problems of the past and envision new possibilities for the future."
She continues, "Questionnaires/surveys have been mailed to elected officials, pastors and clergy and community members. Questionnaires are available at some area schools and churches,Gadsden State Community College Anniston and McClellan, the Anniston and Carver Library, Anne's flower Garden and J's Wings."

The deadline is Nov. 20.
For more information, e-mail Alberta McCrory, executive director of the ARCH Initiative, at:

Friday, November 16, 2007

This weekend in The Star

Coming this weekend in The Star:

On Saturday:
Dan Whisenhunt visits with two local businesses who focus on fun. Beyond Imagination is going strong and there's new business, Play Station, that just opened on Hillyer Robinson. Are arcades making a comeback?

The annual Leonid meteor shower is happning Saturday night and into Sunday with a special guest appearance by Comet Holmes. Andy Johns tells you what you need to know about this good night for star gazing.

On Sunday:
The Clay County superindendent is forming a blue ribbon panel to look at consolidating the county's two high schools and building a new one with state bond money. Steve Ivey talks with school officials and residents about the idea.

With water supplies dwindling, it seems like a good time to ask: Who is in charge of making sure our drinking water is safe? Editor-at-large John Fleming has this story.

Meanwhile, water is leaking in Hobson City. Todd South looks into this.

Nick Cenegy has a story about an innovative law enforcement tactic: The guy handing you your hamburger at the fast-food chain may not be a fast-food worker. He or she may be a semi-undercover cop, stationed there for the holidays to combat what some say is an increase in robberies this time of year.

On Monday we will have coverage of some weekend events including the Community Thanksgiving Service at Parker Memorial Baptist Church on Sunday and candlelight tours in Heflin.

Coming Sunday in Insight

Don't miss The Star's Insight section on Sunday, which will carry a particularly interesting package on Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and America's dependence on foreign oil.

Coming Saturday on the editorial page

The Star's editorial board is examining a hard-hitting, important topic -- the amount of money the state of Alabama makes on vanity plates and specialty plates on our cars and trucks:
On a serious note, we should make it clear that vanity plates are big business — big business, especially for a state whose bank account isn’t the union’s most bountiful. This summer, a Florence TimesDaily study revealed that vanity-plate fees in Alabama brought in more than $29 million in the previous 12-month period, with the revenue going to the state’s General Fund. Silly phrases or not, that’s too much cash for the state to turn down.

We'll also have our other regular features on Saturday's pages.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Friday's Star

Coming Friday in The Anniston Star:

Coverage of the memorial held at The Donoho School for Ben Stanford. Also any new information we may gather about the investigation into his death.

Some residents have complained about the city's debris incinerator. Dan Whisenhunt talks with them and city officials about their concerns.

Alabama got an F in a new study of state's disclosure of financial influence on state government and elections. Markeshia Ricks has this story.

Markeshia also attended a highway safety meeting today where attendees discussed legislation regarding an interlock system that is supposed to keep would-be drunken driverse from starting their cars.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Thursday's Star

Coming Thursday in The Anniston Star:

The death of Ben Stanford has been ruled a suicide. Andy Johns follows up on this story.

Oxford Police made a big cocaine drug bust near I-20.

It's America Recycles Day: Todd South writes about recycling efforts in Calhoun County.

Thursday is the filing deadline for a class action lawsuit from the 2006 Lincoln trail derailment. Todd South talks with those affected about whether or not they are signing on to the lawsuit. Many Lomar Drive residentse are opting out of the suit because they fear it might delay construction of another way out of their neighborhood.

The fate of Barbara Wilson and Rufus Kinney's trees in Jacksonville is headed to trial.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Wednesday in The Star

The weeklong two-state search for missing Lincoln teenager Ben Stanford ended today with the discovery of a young man's body. Now, investigators are trying to learn what happened to him.

Check for updated coverage Wednesday and also see this story and others from Star staff, including reaction from students and staff at The Donoho School and a look into the role technology played in the search.

Also coming Wednesday in The Star: Cooler, temperatures and rain in the forecast won't end the drought in Alabama according to officials.

The JPA has set salary for the CEO position which they are searching to fill.

Add your Thanksgiving memories here

Wednesday's Food section delves into Star staff members' Thanksgiving memories.

We'd like to hear yours. Post in COMMENTS below.

Body found during search for missing teen

Update at 2:24 p.m.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Tuesday's Star

Coming Tuesday in The Anniston Star:

We will have continuing coverage of the search for missing Donoho student, Ben Stanford. A team from Texas is organizing a party of local volunteers to comb the Villa Rica, Ga. area on four-wheelers Tuesday. That's where Stanford's Jeep was found. Todd South reports on this and Andy Johns will be on the scene in the morning and sending updates to our Web site. Scroll down to the last posting here for more information about Stanford who has been mising for a week.

Nick Cenegy profies the Calhoun County Sheriff's Office SORT program - that's their program to track sex offenders. Deputy Rachel Israel and others volunteer their time to check up on the county's sex offenders.

Markeshia Ricks has a story about plans by the state to set up a voting Web site for overseas military personnel who will be deployed during the upcoming primaries.

Matt Kasper will be at Monday's meeting in Ohatchee as residents gather to talk about the resignation of football coach Ray Crump.

Search for missing teen continues

A Web site has been set up to assist the search for Ben Stanford, the local teen who has been missing since last Monday. The link is here.

The latest story from The Star is here.

Feel free to post your comments and news tips below.

Oxford football story on Rural Blog

The Rural Blog, an effort led by Al Cross at the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues based at the University of Kentucky, has a post on the Oxford High football teams bad news and The Star's decision to not name the player ruled ineligible.

The Rural Blog's post is here.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Friday's Bobcast: The road trip

By Bob Davis
Quiz time, sports fans.
What do the books-turned-movies Friday Night Lights and To Kill a Mockingbird, country music singer Tammy Wynette, a Benedictine monastery and blue singer W.C. Handy have in common?
Answer: They are all landmarks or famous people connected to the Alabama towns where area high school football teams travel Friday for the first round of the play-offs.
Friday’s Star, in a story written by Steve Ivey, goes into detail on the landmarks supporters of five local teams will see as they hit the road. Here’s a sneak preview.
Ranburne plays Addison in Winston County, the birthplace of Scout’s teacher in To Kill a Mockingbird.
Pleasant Valley has hit the trivia jackpot. The Raiders visit Red Bay, known as the stomping grounds of George Jones brand dog food, Tammy Wynette and former UA kicker Van Tiffin.
On the way to play Good Hope, Lincoln fans looking to appeal to a higher power can stop by Cullman’s Sacred Heart Monastery.
Alexandria plays Brooks in Killen, near where the father of the blues W.C. Handy was born.
And finally, in what may be the most emblematic journey for all the high schools in the playoffs, there’s Donoho’s road trip. The Falcons head to Danville to play Speake High School.
Speake’s most famous alum is actor Lucas Black who graduated in 2001. Black is known for his role in the 2004 film Friday Night Lights. In the movie, Black plays Texas high school quarterback Mike Winchell, an undersized player who by wit and determination leads his team through the state playoffs against teams with superior talent.
It’s a dream all teams share as the playoffs begin.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Seven Cautions

Roy Peter Clark, a senior scholar at the Poynter Institute, has an interesting post on how journalists use language. It includes a list of of cautions for journalists.
1. Be skeptical of all claims that the sky is falling. Ground yourself in American history so that you can compare and contrast your own times to other troubled times, such as the Civil War, the Depression, the World Wars, the Cold War, Vietnam, the Civil Rights era, and Watergate.
2. Challenge any language and assertions that are fraught with emotional and historical weight. (One morning many years ago on NBC's "Today" show, a celebrity guest kept calling The New York Times "Pravda," and host Edwin Newman showed him the door.)
3. Challenge any language that sounds like a slogan: right to life, right to choose, cut and run, mission accomplished, freedom on the march.
4. Analyze political language as part of your reporting process. This is one of the strategies that make "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report" so popular and persuasive. They pay close attention to the language of public figures, and, through satire and humor, reveal the "truthiness" of it.
5. Learn the complex relationship between political corruption and language abuse by reading "Politics and the English Language" by George Orwell.
6. Give special weight to sources and analysts who do not adhere slavishly to a particular ideology. Look for the long time member of the NRA who favors some restrictions on gun ownership. Look for the feminist who is troubled by some of the consequences of legal abortion. People willing to reflect upon and question some of their own normal affinities can offer powerful testimony.
7. Do not just quote political metaphors and analogies, but test them. Is Iraq another Vietnam? Would leaving Iraq be akin to Chamberlain’s accommodations to Hitler through the Munich Pact?

Click here for the entire column.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Coming Thursday in The Star

Thursday's Anniston Star will feature these stories:

It must be the holiday season because the Nutcracker has arrived. Bill Edwards spent some time with third graders at 10th Street Elementary as they were introduced to the ballet.

Another rite of passage of childhood: Chicken pox. Markeshia Ricks has this story about the vaccine. The state Health Department says the vaccine, now mandatory, isn't working well enough and needs a follow up shot to properly prevent the virus.

The Anniston Army Depot rasied more than $500,000 in their combined federal campaign this year. That's a lot of money, going to help out charities. Todd South reports on this story.

Todd South also writes about attempts in Jacksonville to collect canned food and try and set a world record.

Dan Whisenhunt has more "canned food news," with a guide to giving to local charities, many of who tell us their cupboards are pretty bare.

Medicare's open enrollment will soon be upon us. Matt Kasper looks at this - This will be the time for people on Medicare to enroll in a drug plan, review their health care and drug coverage and make changes.

The Nutcracker .. sweet

Programming note: The next Bobcast will feature Bill Edwards discussing his story in Thursday's Star. Wednesday Edwards spent time with third-graders from 10th Street Elementary in Anniston. The students were preparing for their visit to the Knox Concert Series' annual production of The Nutcracker, an annual tradition.
To listen to the Bobcast, click on the audio player on the right-hand side of this Web page.

Campaign cash, Alabama-style

The Star's Markeshia Ricks reports on presidential fundraising one year out from Election Day. Her discovery:
When it comes to fundraising for the 2008 race to the White House, former Senator and one-time vice-president hopeful John Edwards knows how to get the job done in Alabama.
Already into the last fundraising quarter of the year, Edwards has raised $435,016 in Alabama, surpassing the Republican Party's top fundraiser in the state, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, according to Federal Election Commission records.
So far, FEC records show Giuliani has raised $303,798 dollars from Alabama supporters to date. The FEC requires candidates to report contributions of $200 or more.

Want to get more local than the state? Want to see the national picture? The Center for Responsive Politics maintains an excellent database, The curious can discover who's giving to candidates by postal code, a breakdown of which industries are giving to which candidates and other tools for citizenship.

Riley rolling on the river

Gov. Bob Riley's press office sent out the following release over the weekend:
Sent: Saturday, November 03, 2007 7:59 AM
Subject: Atlanta newspaper: "Alabama got its way" in water talks
Today’s edition of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution points out a key fact that is emerging from Thursday’s “water summit” in Washington between the governors of Alabama, Florida and Georgia: “Alabama got its way.”

What followed was a link to the AJC story.
Dr. Seuss would surely wonder if this good news water story made "Bob Riley's gloat boat float?"