Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Thursday in The Star

Check out Thursday's Anniston Star for these stories:

Reporter Megan Nichols and photographer Steve Gross take you inside the Calhoun County Courthouse clock in Anniston.

Markeshia Ricks takes a look at a proposed bill that would prohibit hospitals from charging the uninsured more than the insured.

What are you going to do with your tax rebate check? Matt Kasper talks with folks about what their plans are for the expected funds and also checks in with financial advisors about what they think you should do with the money.

As Anniston examines the possibility of closing Anniston Middle School, Dan Whisenhunt takes a look at the state of the system and how such a closure would effect it.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Wednesday in The Star

Check out Wednesday's Anniston Star for these stories:

A proposed new law would put an additional hoop in front of 16 and 17-year-olds who want to drop out of school. State Rep. Thad McClammy, D-Montgomery, introduced a bill which would require parents permission before 16 and 17-year-olds can drop out. Jacksonville schools Superintendent Eric Mackey, who is legislative chair for the School Superintendents of Alabama, said he would recommend supporting the bill. Dan Whisenhunt looks at this story.

Dan also writes about JSU's plans to implement the school's first doctoral program, in emergency management.

There's money available in grants to restore historic downtown storefronts, but very few property owners have taken advantage of them. Megan Nichols writes about the grants, and talks to some property owners who have sought them out.

Some Oxford residents are pushing for the City Council to be elected by districts. The deadline for such a move is swiftly approaching. Will the council support it? Why or why not? Todd South examines this issue.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Tuesday in The Star

Coming Tuesday in The Anniston Star:

Jacksonville State University trustees met. They talked about plans for stadium expansion/dorm project. Dan Whisenhunt covered the meeting and what they had to say.

Markeshia Ricks looks at the opposition to Gov. Riley's pre-K plan. What don't the opponents like about the plan and why?

Some Heflin residents are organizing a petition to stop a proposed motorsports park near I-20's Exit 205. Andy Johns talked with some of them about why they are opposed to the facility.

Jacksonville, Lincoln and Hobson City councils meet.

Friday, January 25, 2008

This weekend in The Star

Coming this weekend in The Star:

On Saturday:

The Anniston City Council met with its environmental attorney in executive session today to discuss a report on the PCB landfill. Megan Nichols has this story.

Dan Whisenhunt follows up on the Kilgore Construction suit against Anniston BOE.

On Sunday:

Todd South takes an extensive look at veterans' disability benefits. Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are sending thousands of veterans home with new disabilities to a system many say is antiquated, while the system continues to struggle with thousands of veterans from previous conflicts.Can the government ever pay enough to someone who has been disabled during military service?

Matt Kasper profiles Piedmont's new police chief.

Matt will also be at Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee's visit to Samford University. And on Sunday, for Monday's newspaper, Matt will tell you all about Democratic candidate Barack Obama's visit to Birmingham.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Scary, huh?

Yep, we've got one big farm animal on the cover of our Insight section this Sunday.


The Alabama Legislature returns to work on Goat Hill on Feb. 5, so The Star's editorial board is offering its do's and don'ts for the coming session. Call it a legislative cheat sheet.

Here's a preview copy of our section, but I took the liberty of cropping off most of our editorial -- don't want to give away the good stuff too early.

Check it out Sunday.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Thursday in The Star

Check out Thursday's Star for these stories:

Hobson City's Memorial Gardens cemetery has been named to a list of historic Alabama cemeteries, the only one in the county so honored. Todd South has this story.

The Anniston Board of Education is directing more money to its career tech program. Dan Whisenhunt examines what this means for the program.

There's some confusion over what the police can and can't do at McClellan. Most of the roads are still owned by the JPA. That means they're not public roads which could limit what powers the police have to enforce traffic laws. Megan Nichols writes about this.

Friday is the last day to register to vote for Alabama's presidential primary. We'll roundup any other important deadlines in advance of the Feb. 5 vote.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Coming Wednesday on the editorial/op-ed pages

The Star's editorial board has three editorials for readers on Wednesday.

One on the slowing economy and what can be done in Alabama to help low- and middle-income residents:
Here is where the governor, legislators and lobbyists must face reality and make hard choices. More revenue will have to be raised. They can start by eliminating the federal income tax deduction. From there they can look at the other sales tax breaks and exemptions that special interests have written into our tax code.
Another on the need for U.S. lawmakers to pass a bill calling for tougher mining safety regulations:
Think of it this way: There were 33 U.S. mining deaths last year, and the year before that saw 47 mining deaths. So why else would our leaders vote against a bill that aims to increase fines for non-compliance in safety regulations, requires more oxygen supplies for miners, employs safety measures to make it less likely for explosive gases to accumulate inside mine shafts, and strengthens oversight of the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration?
And a third on the Southern drought that's still with us:
In this cycle, the next two months are critical. If the winter rains come before the ground begins to heat and dry, we could enter the summer with full reservoirs. But if the rains don’t come, and the climate forecast is for below-normal precipitation through March, we will again face a crisis.
Oh, and remember Monday's post about the letters to the editor about the salary of Oxford High's new football coach? Well, we got 'em in Wednesday's edition.

We've also got a package of op-ed items on the 35th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade abortion decision.

Wednesday in The Star

Coming Wednesday in The Anniston Star:

With the state reporting likely budget cuts l, what will that mean for education locally? Dan Whisenhunt looks at how the education budget could be affected here.

Markeshia Ricks covers Tuesday's Alabama Energy Day. The Joint Legislative Committee on Energy delivered its 2008 legislative initiative. What's in it?

Recent rains have brought area lakes closer to their normal levels. Andy Johns has this story. How has the wet weather helped alleviate the drought?

Monday, January 21, 2008

What's a coach worth?

Last week, The Star's editorial board wrote about the annual salary of new Oxford High coach John Grass, whose $105,000-a-year income is tops among Alabama football coaches.

As you could expect, we've been getting a fairly healthy dose of letters to the editor about that subject.

If we can, we'll try to package some of them together for Wednesday's edition.

Coming Tuesday on the editorial page

The Star's editorial board is tackling the long-standing issue of sales tax on food in Alabama -- the removal of which could make a huge difference for our state's lower-income residents:
That point is what we are being led to believe when members of the task force suggest that the only way this measure might pass is if the deduction is removed gradually. As one member put it, “if we want to lessen the opposition, we have to lessen the immediate impact.” That’s probably true.
Therefore, we hope that when the Legislature convenes and the task force makes its report, senators and representatives will pass a bill that incrementally lowers and removes the sales tax on food while incrementally reducing and ending the federal income tax reduction.
We're also taking a look at the sniping between the state's GOP and Democratic parties over Gov. Riley's fund-raising efforts for the 2010 election:
And off we go down the slippery slope of fund raising for partisan purposes. It should remind us of how much it costs to be elected to an office which you could hold from here to eternity and never earn enough to pay those campaign bills on your own.

Tuesday in The Star

Check out Tuesday's Star for these stories:

Megan Nichols has coverage of Anniston's observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

She also has a JPA story. Rep. Lea Fite has pre-filed a bill that would subject the JPA to the Alabama Open Meetings Act. Why? And what do JPA board members think about that?

Markeshia Ricks looks at a proposal to increase the luxury tax on vehicle purchases of $50,000 or more. At just 3 percent, it is currently less than the state tax on groceries. What kind of reception will this proposal get? What would the increased revenues fund?

Mountaintop removal

The New York Times Book Review on Sunday included a look at Michael Shnayerson’s book Coal River which tackles the topic of mountaintop removal in West Virginia. According to the review Shnayerson focuses his story on Joe Lovett, an environmental lawyer. I did a piece, published in the Star’s Insight section in September, that looked at efforts in the affected states – West Virginia, eastern Kentuckty, southwest Virginia and east Tennesse to ban or limit the destructive practice. Joe Lovett was one of the people I talked to for my stories which were completed while working with the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky.
To see my story, click here.

To see the Book Review in the Times, click here.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Bookshelf in San Francisco

As a member of the National Book Critics Circle, I was alerted to the events that would be held in San Francisco in conjunction with the announcement of the finalists for the NBCC's yearly awards. Usually, the organization does all of its announcements and big events in New York. This time they decided to venture to the West Coast. Because my husband's family lives outside of San Francisco, I decided to pop out, visit the family, and participate in the NBCC's panels.
The awards finalists were announced on a Saturday night, and literary panels were held on Thursday and Friday evenings. Authors, agents, editors and critics participated in the three panels. They addressed the role of California authors, the globalization of literature, and new authors to watch for.
Listening to the discussions that were held was fascinating. As a reader and critic, I got some great insights as to new books that are coming out and new authors I haven't read before who would be worth some attention. Newer writers in this category included Micheline Ahoranian Marcom, who participated in the first panel on Thursday night. She has a new book coming out in a month or two, and I bought one of her earlier novels to get an idea of her style.
Older writers whose work I haven't read before included James Houston and his wife, Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, who collaborated on a book about Jeanne's family's experience in a Japanee internment camp in California during World War II. It's a touching, engaging piece of autobiographical writing that I highly recommend.
I also got to hear Daniel Alarcon speak in this panel. He wrote Lost City Radio, which our reviewer Steve Whitton was able to read this past summer.
Listening to the lively interaction of these lovers of the written word was inspiring. The audience on the second night was particularly large and was vibrating with energy and interest. The panels were held in a small independent bookstore and in a small art gallery, so the energy was held in a very compact area. My take-home message was that writing and books and reading is still quite alive and well. We're all thirsting for great new books from new writers and more established writers too. As long as great stories are told, we will read them.
I was excited to hear from one panelist who is originally from the Mobile area and graduated from the University of Alabama. Michelle Richmond has a new book coming out in the spring called No One You Know. I will be looking for that, especially after getting to meet her. She may live in the Bay Area now but she is still an Alabamian.
As I talked to other attendees, authors and some organizers of these events, I assured them all that we in Alabama are excited about the literary scene. I and my reviewers will continue to bring the Star's readers reviews and information about some of the worthwhile literature that's newly available. Here's to a great new year full of satisfying reading.


The white stuff continues to fall in Anniston.

Friday, January 18, 2008

This weekend in The Star

Find these stories this weekend in The Star:

On Saturday:

Snow? What may be coming weather-wise Saturday.

Jacksonville State University President William Meehan is The Anniston Star's citizen of the year. Read all about it in Saturday's paper.

An audit of the Calhoun County Commission released Friday morning contains several negative findings, including one that already has led to a lawsuit, but county officials said they consider it to be a good audit overall. Megan Nichols has this story.

Attendees at the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce annual meeting heard about the state's economic outlook. What's it look like?

On Sunday:

Dan Whisenhunt takes a look at the Eastern Parkway. What's left to do and where has the money been spent?

Markeshia Ricks has a story on the death penalty - some in Alabama want to expand it to certain sex offenders.

If there is wintry weather, we'll have coverage of it.

On Monday:

Will people eat cloned food? Laura Tutor looks at this question.

And more...

More about letters to the editor

This isn't news; this is a blog-rant.

Each day, 365 times a year, The Star prints a letters-to-the-editor policy box on our editorial page. It clearly states that letters should be short -- about 200 words -- and that letter writers should limit their submissions to one every 30 days. That same policy is on our Web site.

We have several letter writers who write one every 30 minutes -- or so it seems. So much for instructions.

It got so bad this week that I had Sue Magouirk, our senior newsroom clerk, call one writer and ask him which of the three -- count 'em, three! -- letters he had submitted he wanted us to consider.

This rant is old news among veteran ed-page people, but I had to get it off my chest nonetheless.

In truth, we love the letters we receive. Often they're some of the best items in the day's paper.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Friday in The Star

Check out Friday's Star for these stories:

Yes, there could be more snow headed our way this weekend. How much is expected and when? Nick Cenegy has this story.

More results from the Calhoun County Basketball Tournament.

Todd South writes about an acting troupe which came to Anniston to put on a play for kids at the Carver Center.

RMC opened a new vascular lab that will help them treat veins and arteries with mimimally invasive procedures. The multipurpose imager is the first of its kind in the state.

Markeshia Ricks introduces readers to some of the presidential delegates. Who are they?

Which letters to the editor we won't publish

With the presidential election season in full swing, The Star's editorial department is getting swamped with all types of letters to the editor about the candidates. Most are tasteful -- colorful, even -- and OK for print.

Others are not. And we're not printing them, as is our prerogative.

In case you missed it, make sure you read Editor Bob Davis' column on this matter. It should explain what's going on, and why we're doing what we're doing.

An early glimpse of Sunday's Insight

If I can pull this thing off -- believe me, I've needed help with it -- we're going to have a heck of an Insight section this week. If we don't make changes to it tomorrow, the section will be themed around the MLK holiday on Monday and will contain two stories: one on the state of the MLK dream, another on Barack Obama, the upcoming South Carolina primary and the influential black vote.

Come back Sunday. This is gonna be good.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Thursday in The Star

Check out Thursday's Star for these stories:

Yes, that white stuff falling out of the sky was snow. Nick Cenegy has a recap of the wintry weather and we've got some nice photographs of the snow, too.

The County Commission is taking former probate judge Arthur Murray to court. Dan Whisenhunt has this story.

Matt Kasper has a story about the hiking season. A series of hikes are scheduled to take place this winter through JSU Field Schools. Matt will let you know the various hiking opportunities available in the region.

Markeshia Ricks covers the beginning of budget hearings in Montgomery.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Wednesday in The Star

Coming Wednesday in The Anniston Star:

The latest from the Calhoun County Basketball tournament.

Two-term Oxford City Councilman Greg Thrower has declared he's running for mayor.
“As a city, we have to get back to basics of being honest, open and respectful,” Thrower, 55, said. Todd South covers this story.

Markeshia Ricks writes about the state's Poverty Task Force. They had some suggestions for the upcoming legislative session.

There's frozen precipitation in some form forecast for Wednesday and Wednesday night, and colder temperatures in the forecast for the weekend. What can expect weather-wise?

George Smith profiles Lorenzo Swink, who details cars at the Anniston Lincoln Mercury.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Tuesday in The Anniston Star

Coming Tuesday in The Anniston Star:

Markeshia Ricks looks at Alabama ARISE's report on workforce development. The report says the state's lack of a comprehensive workfoce development policy is particularly hurtful to the more than 200,000 working-poor families.

Anniston native Earlon McWhorter will end his term on the Auburn University board of trustees next month. Todd South has this story.

The Anniston City Council met at 4 p.m. and will discuss its garbage contract with Allied Waste. Dan Whisenhunt covers that meeting.

We'll also have coverage of Jacksonville, Lincoln and Hobson City council meetings and we're debuting a new format for regular meeting coverage. Check it out.

Hardy got his man

A few weeks ago, back during the Christmas holidays, Star op-ed columnist Hardy Jackson published a piece about Taddy, an immigrant he knew as a child and teen in the 1950s in Grove Hill, Ala., and wondered what had become of him.

It was a great story. Heartwarming.

Well, guess what?

Hardy found Taddy.

Actually, it's the other way around. I don't want to give away too much, but I highly suggest you read Hardy's column on Wednesday's op-ed page. It'll be worth the effort, I promise.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Fiction finds and a flop

This week's books are all fiction. Two are novels, two short-story collections. The latter are great finds, say our reviewers: Like You'd Understand, Anyway and Cheating at Canasta are not to be missed. They exemplify all that's wonderful about their format.
One of the novels is a find, the other a flop. The former, Fields of Asphodel, is a fascinating, somewhat quirky look at a trip through purgatory. The next, The Senator's Wife, is the latest novel from popular book-club pick author Sue Miller. Miller tends to examine "real women's" lives but seems to use a somewhat different magnifying glass than some of us "real women." Missing this Miller read won't hurt anyone.
Stay tuned for some tales about my trip to California. The National Book Critics Circle, to which I belong, is announcing the nominees for their yearly book awards tonight. This year they are breaking with tradition and holding their announcement, as well as several interesting panel discussions, in San Francisco. It's a refreshing opportunity to hear about writing and reading in a setting outside of New York City. NYC is arguably the nation's book-publishing capital, but it bears very little resemblance to the rest of the country, where most readers live. Kudos to the NBCC for recognizing that fact.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Coming this weekend in The Star

On Saturday:
The Randolph County chapter of Ducks Unlimited is making duck boxes (similar to giant birdhouses) for Lake Wedowee. They are hoping to improve the number of wood ducks, which have seen their populations dwindle in Alabama and Georgie. Andy Johns has this story.

Todd South looks at preparations in Oxford to change its zoning laws for garden homes, to require larger lot sizes.

On Sunday:
Markeshia looks at the primary process. It's a voters' how-to for Alabama's first Febuary presidential primary.

Matt Kasper writes about who inspects and accredits hospitals. Part of our "Inspect This" series.

Dan Whisenhunt has a story about the city-owned plot of land north of the middle school. Some buildings there have been bulldozed. Something coming soon?

Dan also covers "free day" at the landfill and a community health fair at Greenbrier Church of Christ.

And for Monday:
Markeshia writes about the proposed statewide trauma system.

Dan has a story about the city moving ahead with a plan to clean up the Chalk Line property in Anniston.

Everyone likes good letters to the editor

Our centerpiece story Sunday revolves around the current turmoil and upheaval in Kenya. But perhaps the best read of this week's Insight is a lengthy piece on John Vanderford of Jacksonville, a longtime writer of eloquent letters to the editor in The Star.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Friday in The Star

Check out Friday's Star for these stories:

The JPA is investigating ways to preserve Native American monuments found all over McClellan. Dan Whisenhunt will tell you about the monuments and what plans are in the works to take care of them.

Markeshia Ricks looks at the presidential campaign of Ron Paul. The Republican congressman's started a radio campaign in the state in hopes of raising his profile. His signs have been popping up all over east Alabama since he announced his candidacy last year.

The County Commission wants to go green - members signed up with a program to monitor and lower its greenhouse gas emissions. Dan has this story.

And Dan also has a story about teens in the county's program for gifted students who have built a course from LEGO blocks to be navigated by a robot they designed. They'll enter the whole contraption in a contest at UAH this weekend.

Football season is officially over

Stick a fork in it. It's done. Over. Through.

And if we're talking honestly here, I'm not the least bit saddened.

Our Dandy Dozen team, our chance to name the 12 best players in our coverage area, appears in today's edition of The Star. We gave it an art deco look (or at least we think we did.) I really have no idea what you'd call it --- maybe just modern art.

The actual headline we first had for it was "Going for Baroque" (Get it Baroque? Broke?) But the more I thought about it, I didn't want some somebody leaving me a voice mail saying "My good sir, that artistic style pictured on your sports front is not baroque. And I can't seem to find the box score for last night's cricket match." Because they would have. And that would have turned into a 20-minute phone call about how we weren't really going for baroque in the graphic, we were just using the word in a headline ... and that we don't run cricket agate (the stuff on page 2C), and global warming will reverse itself before we do.

But I digress.

So, that's why we went with "DECO-RATED DOZEN".

And I say all that to say this ...

It's basketball time boys and girls. We've got a four-page spectacular (counting a full page ad) planned for the Calhoun County Tournament, which starts on Saturday. It's going to be played Saturday to Saturday (minus Sunday) and I'm sure -- just like every year -- it's going to be a whole lot of fun.

Nick Birdsong is a lover of the roundball, and he's chomping at the bit to watch a week full of it.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Thursday in The Star

Coming Thursday in The Anniston Star:

Roanoke Mayor Henry "Spec" Bonner was arrested on 26 counts of violating state ethics and public contract laws. Andy Johns follows up on this story.

Andy also looks at our rainfall totals from Tuesday night and the potential for more storms Thursday.

And Andy writes about the results of tests on the engine of the plane that crashed in Randolph County on Dec. 7.

General Dynamics has a new contract for more Cougar vehicles and a re-tool for work at the Anniston Army Depot. Todd South writes about this.

Todd also has a feature obituary on Asa Trammell, an Anniston native who went on to be a leader in the state's labor movement, leading the Alabama AFL-CIO and serving as a state labor commisioner.

What's at steak?

The headmaster of Anniston's Faith Christian School took us to task this morning ... and rightly so. In Star stories, we've frequently put "academy" where we should put "school."
He writes:
As Headmaster of Faith Christian School I gave up about two years ago trying to get the Star writers to use our appropriate name: Faith Christian School. I have called and written letters and pleaded for someone to listen to us. For years the Star has referred to us as Faith Christian Academy. I can understand why they would assume the we are an Academy since Trinity is an Academy and Jacksonville Christian Academy is an Academy. However, Faith Christian School has been Faith Christian School for 29 years in this town and we have purchased much advertising from the Star and we get billed as Faith Christian School but the writers seem to always refer to us as Faith Christian Academy. I think most people know who we are especially the hundreds of students and parents we have had over the years; I guess they just know that the Star doesn’t know.
Well, if you can get it changed I will personally buy you a big steak dinner. You and I can enjoy eating our steak and talking about how you got this change made. However, if the Star were to ever refer to FCS as FCA or Faith Christian Academy again then I would expect you to buy me a steak dinner and we could talk about how some things never change.
Deal or no deal?
Ben Character, Ed. D.

Thanks to Dr. Character for setting us straight. Looks like we should be eating crow, not steak.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Coming Wednesday in The Star

Check out Wednesday's Anniston Star for these stories:

2008 will see ramped up paving projects around the city as fiscal 2007 projects are carried over. Dan Whisenhunt has this story and there's a graphic that shows which streets are slated to be re-paved.

Lindsey Danielle Morgan, the 17-year-old charged with stabbing her mother to death, is back in jail after making a phone call that concerned authorities. Nick Cenegy follows up on this story.

A grand jury heard testimony from Roanoke's city clerk, city council and mayor. Andy Johns has this story.

Pell City is in the running to become the fourth location of a state home for aging and chronically disabled veterans. The Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs plans to build at least a 250-bed home next year, and a 27-acre tract of land in Pell City received favorable reviews during Tuesday’s meeting of the State Board of Veteran’s Affairs’ Veterans Homes Committee. Markeshia Ricks writes about this.

The Anniston and Oxford city councils meet.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Coming Tuesday in The Anniston Star

Coming Tuesday in The Anniston Star:

Oxford Mayor Leon Smith spent money on an architectual contract without City Council approval first. Todd South looks at this story in advance of Tuesday's council meeting where they may discuss this issue.

A common consensus emerged at a Monday meeting of the minds for the Alabama Scenic River Trail: finish the guide books and get the Web site running. Representatives from across the county and state met Monday at Ohatchee City Hall to discuss promoting the route. Matt Kasper was there and has a story about the project.

The city council, town clerk and mayor of Roanoke have been called to testify before a special session grand jury. Andy Johns has this story.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

The kid stays in the picture

Check out the Star edit board's latest video.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

This week in books

The big story is Steve Whitton's review of two biographies of filmmakers: Woody Allen and Otto Preminger. Those who are film buffs will be eager to savor these.
Shawn Ryan reviews fantasy Fatal Revenant, which was great but has a big downside: it leaves the reader hanging big-time. And the next book won't be out for about two years. That's a rough one for any series fan.
Lindsay Maples reviews Interred with Their Bones, a thriller about Shakespeare. Yep. It was supposed to be pretty gripping, but our reviewer was not impressed. That's a disappointment. Always fun to have new, good page-turners.
Next week, some short stories and new novels.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Coming this weekend in The Star

Check out The Anniston Star this weekend for these stories:

On Saturday:
Dan Whisenhunt has a story about the Anniston train station. The long-awaited renovations to the Fourth Street station are complete. Now what?

Markeshia Ricks looks at the presidential election landscape now that the Iowa caucus is over and our own vote is a month away. What resources are the candidates devoting to Alabama, given that so many other states are having their primary the same day? Has moving the primary up to Feb. 5 had the desired effect?

The pipes at The Animal Shelter in Anniston burst in the cold weather this week. The damage is being repaired but in the meantime they're having to find other ways to water the animals. The shelter is looking for donations of dog food, bottled water and cleaning supplies.

On Sunday:
Markeshia takes a look at capital punishment in Alabama. With New Jersey's recent decision to abolish the death penalty and pending decisions from the Supreme Court weighing heavily on the practice in other states, capital punishment appears poised for big changes nationwide. Given the national mood, how do Alabama's elected leaders feel about the death penalty?

Nick Cenegy profiles a teenage girl from Lineville who is not old enough to have a driver's license but who races in local dirt track events. She'll be behind the wheel at the Talladega Short Track Saturday.

MPO is looking for comment on its long-range transportation plan, including the new access road for the depot. There's a public meeting Jan. 14. Matt Kasper has this story.

Coming Saturday on the editorial page

The Star's editorial board is taking a swing at the needed renovations of this place -- Woodland Park, a former jewel of Calhoun County's recreation world.

On a personal note, I fondly remember when WP opened up near Weaver. It was a nifty place to play softball and a huge boost to the hotel and restaurant biz in that part of town. I admit it was a far drive for folks who lived in East Anniston and Golden Springs, especially since the softball fields in Oxford were easier to get to.

Nevertheless, I hate to hear that the park has fallen in disrepair.

Movie tickets are on sale now

Sunday's Insight section is, well, let's say this ... it's out there. But you'll get the point when you see it this weekend.

Quite a difference

The Star's front page put the Iowa caucus at the top of the page. We directed readers inside to a two-page examination of this first chance for citizens to offer a presidential preference.

The Boston Herald went for a more, um, lively treatment. I guess we know where they stand when it comes to Southerners.

You can see other front-page treatments here.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Record R's in the state Senate?

An e-mailer questions a claim from a breaking news story on the Star's Web site. Phillip Rawls' AP story ("Alabama senator planning party switch announcement") begins:
MONTGOMERY — An anticipated party switch next week by Democratic state Sen. Jimmy Holley will give the Republican Party record numbers in the Senate, but won't change the Democrats' control of the Legislature.

It continues:
The Senate currently has 12 Republicans and 23 Democrats. Holley's switch would give the GOP its largest count in the Senate since the 1870s, but 13 votes aren't enough to pass initiatives by the Republican governor when they run into Democratic opposition.

Our e-mailer wonders if 13 Republicans in the 35-member body could possibly be a record number. It appears so ... at least since Reconstruction ended. Even that period is a matter of dispute, per the state Senate's Web site:
In 1872, while Alabama was still under federal military occupation, the state elections resulted in substantial majorities for the Democrats. A Democratic-controlled Legislature, thus assembled in the Capitol. Republicans charged that fraud and corruption had caused the Democratic victories, and they convened their own Legislature at the Federal Courthouse. After a month, President Grant intervened, and the Republican Lt. Governor Alexander McKinstry, was recognized over the Democrat Edward H. Moren. However, many Democrats retained their seats after investigations resulted in the convening of one Legislature. Mike L. Woods, who had been Secretary of the Senate in the Capitol (Democratic) group, defeated Matthew P. Blue, the Secretary of the Courthouse (Republican) Senate.

In case you missed it

We ring out wild bells in a new way.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Thursday in The Star

Coming Thursday in The Star are these stories:

Brrrrr. Would you believe that Anniston was colder than Alaska Wednesday? It's true and it's supposed to be about 15 degrees this morning. Andy Johns has a story about the chilly weather.

The lights are back on at Hobson City's Town Hall. Volunteers raised enough money to pay overdue power bills at the old C.E. Hanna school building. Todd South covers this story.

Nick Cenegy has a follow up to the Jan. 1 killing on Wilmer Avenue. The man arrested was a bouncer at Dee Ford's Underground, outside of which the shooting is reported to have happened.

Bill Edwards will let you know where you can take the kids for another fun exhibit after Sue has left town.

Coming Thursday on the editorial/op-ed pages

On Thursday, The Star's editorial board is offering a lengthy and informative discussion of the trends of this extremely long election season -- perfectly timed, of course, to go along with the Iowa caucuses. Here's a brief snippet:
Too much media coverage concentrates on the horse race. Candidates’ personalities, standings in the polls and fund-raising skills grab too much airtime. With 11 months remaining until Election Day, Americans deserve a deep and thoughtful airing of the top issues of the day. Combating terrorism, restoring the United States’ place in the world, addressing global climate change, protecting Social Security and Medicare and finding a solution in Iraq are topics worthy of vigorous discussion and debate.
We'll also have our usual fare of other stuff, as well, including a very interesting piece from The Washington Post written by the legal counsel for the Guantanamo detainees.

Looking for another op-ed columnist

One reason I don't like holidays -- don't get me started, please -- or other such things is that they foul up many of the production schedules of daily newspapers. It's no different in the editorial department of The Star.

For months now, I've been unable to run columns by Nicolas Kristof, the columnist of The New York Times that we normally feature on Sundays. He's on book leave. (Wish I could get that gig.)

Now, one of my favorite syndicated types -- Thomas Friedman, also of The Times -- is on book leave, too. Until this week, he'd been the anchor of our Thursday "international day" op-ed page. He won't return to The Star's pages until April.

So, I'm looking for someone to fill in during Friedman's absence. I'd prefer having one columnist instead of finding someone different each week. Problem is, it's still a holiday week, and many columnists aren't returning to their normal writing schedules until next week. So I don't know what we'll do.

This week, I'm gonna run Maureen Dowd of The Times in Friedman's spot. We'll see how that goes -- for this week, at least.