Monday, 29 October 2012

Montgomery Curb Market's redesign to add seating, signage

When John Grier would set up his stand at the Montgomery Curb Market 39 years ago, eager customers helped him unload his truck so they could get the pick of the freshest produce.

Grier, a member of the curb market?s board of directors, said during the ?boom? days, produce would be gone within minutes.

But today, the market doesn?t have the amount of patrons it used to, he said.

In an effort to beautify the market and attract new customers, the city of Montgomery, which owns the curb market building on Madison Avenue, is planning to redesign the front entrance, improve signage and add seating for patrons.

?One of the challenges is a lot of people know where the curb market is, but a lot of new folks or guests into town may not know exactly where it is,? said Chad Emerson, the city?s director of development. ?And so hopefully this new frontage will make a clear entrance while preserving everything about the curb market that everybody has historically appreciated.?

The curb market moved to its current location in 1947, and is one of the oldest farmers markets in the state, Grier said. There have been some renovations over the years, but there?s still a lot that needs to be done, he added.

The city has hired Montgomery-based Pfeffer Torode Architecture to start designing the project. The plan is to add a covered pavilion-like structure across the entire front of the building for vendors to display and sell their goods, Emerson said.

The city also will add a seating area on the north side of the entrance.

?When you buy the goods and products at the curb market, you can sit down and enjoy them right there,? Emerson said.

The budget for the project is between $40,000 and $50,000, Emerson said. The goal is to have the construction completed by next spring.

The project is part of the Madison Avenue Gateway Plan, a vision created for improving Madison Avenue from North Ripley to Vonora streets.

Once the plans are done, the city will work with the curb market to determine the best way to proceed with construction, he said.

?Historically, it?s been a great place to go, but it?s never had a great curb appeal,? Emerson said. ?It?s an institution for people that come and get fresh vegetables.?

Reeda McElwaney, who has a stand at the curb market, said city officials got feedback from members about what they?d like to see the entrance look like.

McElwaney said she?s grateful that the city is going to design a plan that will preserve the historic character of the market, but still make it attractive to younger people.

?People have forgotten about the market,? said Diann Causey, who has had a stand at the market with her husband since 1983. ?If it looks more presentable and there are better signs, then people might remember it.?

Causey said the idea of the front porch, New Orleans-style frontage will improve the ambiance of the market.

?The younger generation that does not come down here as much will come more if it looks a little bit brighter, a little bit cleaner, a little bit more modern,? Causey said.

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Montgomery firefighters douse single-room blaze at State House Inn

The Montgomery Fire Department on Monday afternoon quickly extinguished a fire at the State House Inn in downtown Montgomery.
No one was injured in the fire, which was confined to the room where it started, said Lt. Kenny Jones, a fire department spokesman.
The department received the call at 1:33 p.m., and 12 units and 48 personnel responded, Jones said. It was a second-alarm fire, he added.
The city is buying the Madison Avenue property where the aging hotel sits and plans to implode the building and use the empty space to attract a developer to the site.
The 69,000-square-foot building, located at 924 Madison Ave., was built in 1962. Deputy Mayor Jeff Downes said in a Montgomery Advertiser story last week that the property at one time was a Holiday Inn, and it has deteriorated over time. He said there are rooms with boarded-up windows that don't meet current building codes.
Mayor Todd Strange has said that he hopes to close the hotel by the end of the year, according to previous Advertiser reports.
? Scott Johnson

Montgomery Firefighters get new ladder truck

Montgomery firefighters at Station No. 6 welcomed the arrival of a brand new ladder truck Friday.

The new Ladder Truck 42 replaces one that was nearly 20 years old, said Lt. Kenny Jones, a Montgomery Fire Department spokesman.

The new truck features new safety features that the old truck did not have and is roomier than the old truck as well, firefighter Quinton Robinson said.

The safety features include a sensor that keeps the truck from going too fast around curves and tandem dual axles that prevent the truck from slipping on a rainy day.

The new truck also does not separate the firefighters traveling on it.

?It is one solid cab, so that way we can all talk to each other,? Robinson said.

Jones said firefighters always love having a new truck.

?It?s like Christmas morning,? he said.

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Montgomery gunshot victim, 18, dies from injuries received Thursday

An 18-year-old man who was shot Thursday night has died of his injuries, according to a news release from the Montgomery Police Department.

Justin Leonard, 18, of Montgomery was pronounced dead Sunday.

About 11:30 p.m. Thursday, MPD officers and fire medics responded to a report of a shooting into an occupied vehicle in the 2200 block of Bonaparte Boulevard.

The initial responders found Leonard, who had been shot, and took him to Baptist Medical Center South. His injuries were classified as life-threatening.

This was Montgomery?s 27th homicide of 2012. The investigation is ongoing, and MPD did not indicate that a suspect was in custody.

? Allison Griffin

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MAKING A DIFFERENCE: Face lift for west side - House to House helps re-energize Washington Park community

House to House ministry (function(){var _cfg= GEL.namespace(""),_D= document;_cfg.AdSiteId = "";_cfg.bcAdServerBasePath = ";cc=2;alias=";_cfg.AdPositionId = "Video_prestream";_cfg.Player="948003025001";if(GEL.config.AdPage){_cfg.sstsval= GEL.config.AdPage;}else{_cfg.sstsval= ""; }_cfg.overlayson= (GEL.thepage.pageinfo.videooverlays=="on") ? true : false;function initVideo(){if(GEL.env.user.gender){_cfg.vgend= GEL.env.user.gender;}else{_cfg.vgend= "";}if({_cfg.vzip=;}else{_cfg.vzip= "";}if(GEL.env.user.yob){_cfg.vyear= GEL.env.user.yob;}else{_cfg.vyear= "";}var _videoPlayer= new GEL.widget.Video.Brightcove(GEL.ement("myExperience"), "articleplayer", {companion: {container: "",animate:true,remnantId: "remnantad",expandedId: "videoad",companionId: "companionad",iframeId: "iframe_ad"},SSTSCode: _cfg.sstsval,revSciZip: _cfg.vzip,revSciAge: _cfg.vyear,revSciGender: _cfg.vgend, bcAdServerBasePath: _cfg.bcAdServerBasePath,adPositionId: _cfg.AdPositionId,adSiteId: _cfg.AdSiteId,player: _cfg.Player,objectElem: "myExperience",overlaysOn: _cfg.overlayson,divSuffix: ''});_videoPlayer.init({});if(_D.getElementById("odyArtVideoThumb") && _D.getElementById("odyInitVideoImage")){_videoPlayer.thumbInit();}}GEL.thepage.initializer.addInitRoutine({ name: "video",priority: 10,namespace: [ "widget.Video-VAST", "anim.YUIAnimator", "analytics","util.Flash"], callback: initVideo}); })(); LAMP students help clear out three houses on Hill Street for House to House, a Christian homeownership ministry, in the Washington Park neighborhood in Montgomery recently. /*Collect Image Information*/(function(){var _id = 'AR';if(_id)GEL.thepage.pageinfo.pic[_id]= {id: "DS-310140021-AR-L",link: "",caption: "LAMP%20students%20help%20clear%20out%20three%20houses%20on%20Hill%20Street%20for%20House%20to%20House%2C%20a%20Christian%20homeownership%20ministry%2C%20in%20the%20Washington%20Park%20neighborhood%20in%20Montgomery%20recently.",credit: "Lloyd Gallman/Advertiser",canBuyPhoto: "1",width: "800",height: "393"};})();

The Montgomery Advertiser is committed to the national Make a Difference Day campaign, a ?national day of doing good? that rallies millions of people across the U.S. in a single day to help change the communities they live in.
For its MADD project, the Advertiser has partnered with House to House, a Christian homeownership ministry, and will provide volunteer labor in a daylong work effort at three houses on Hill Street on Oct. 27. We?d like your help, too, knowing that we can do more good in greater numbers.
The Advertiser received a $5,000 grant from the Gannett Foundation for its Make a Difference Day project. A portion of that grant will go to House to House to purchase tools on its wish list so it can continue its work, said Sam Martin, publisher of the Advertiser. (The other portion will go to the Christmas Clearinghouse, to which the Advertiser has contributed previously.)
If your group or business would like to team up with us, log on to, or call Peggy Pearson at 261-1545. No construction experience is required.

House to House, a Christian homeownership ministry, uses several programs to address the needs of the Washington Park neighborhood and develop relationships founded on service to others, all through the love of Christ.
Among the ministry?s programs are life skills classes and renovations of neighborhood homes, which are then rented to residents.
Mentoring is the priority of House to House, and the first step. A mature Christian mentor is matched with a participant, and performs a financial evaluation to make sure the participant understands how to budget, and how to manage a budget. When the participant is ready, the mentor then goes to House to House and vouches for him, and the path to having a clean, safe, renovated home begins.
House to House then asks the participant for his needs ? the number of bedrooms, for example ? and finds a suitable home. House to House then asks one of its investor partners to secure a loan, and provides the loan proceeds to the ministry, which uses the money to purchase a house and fix it up. (volunteers help with some of the labor and donations of appliances and materials). After a few months, the participant can move in.
House to House pledges to pay back the loan with rent money received from the families it helps; it also pays all the taxes and insurance. The investor partner does not make money from the arrangement, but does receive the satisfaction of investing in the life of a deserving person.
Unlike Habitat for Humanity, the participants are not required to actually work on the houses, because they?re renting them. But they do get help choose paint colors and the like. After they move in, the mentor continues to help them with their budget, and also to understand what would be required to purchase the home from House to House.
The ministry isn?t that far along in the program just yet. House to House will not provide financing, but will prepare the participants to secure their own bank loans, with the idea that their mortgage payments would be similar to their rent payments.
The ministry will sell the houses for what it has invested in them.
For more information on House to House, log on to, or call 649-1534.

There?s a subtle change happening on Montgomery?s west side, even if some of us can?t see it.

Relationships are being built, slowly, between former outsiders who now call this place home and those who?ve watched this neighborhood decline over the years. Hopelessness is gradually beginning to lift. And, more tangibly, dilapidated houses are being fixed up and getting a new lease on life, a visual encouragement for an area that could use a little more of it.

This is the Washington Park neighborhood, the focus of a couple of intensive, hands-on ministries that are working to meet the needs of an area that is ?under-resourced.?

That?s the term used by House to House, the nonprofit Christian housing ministry that has put down roots here. It was originally a part of the older Common Ground Montgomery ministry, which is focused on youth development in the Washington Park area, but in 2011 became a separate, independent ministry, with its own board and its own goals.

Renovating homes is probably the most visible program of House to House, but mentoring is its most important. Mentors from the community work alongside the families in the neighborhood, helping the families learn needed life skills but also sharing the love of Christ.

?(Mentoring) is really the heart of the ministry,? said Mike Bunce, the executive director of House to House.

On a recent sunny day, volunteer crews were busy putting up drywall in a home on Lincoln Terrace, one of the current House to House renovations. The house is being fixed up and enlarged, and eventually will become home for Bunce and his wife, Susan, who have been approved to become foster parents. The Bunces currently live next door.

Bunce checks on the progress of the renovation with Don Hougham and Paul Sullivan, two of the dozen or so volunteers working here on this particular day. The group is from Crystal River, in central Florida, and is a part of the disaster relief ministry of Seven Rivers Presbyterian Church. They spent two years in Biloxi, Miss., and New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

Though their primary focus is disaster response, Hougham said that the lack of hurricanes in the last few years left them with skills that were going to waste, so they turned to inner-city ministries.

This is their ninth visit to Montgomery for House to House. The men, who are in their 70s and 80s, spend a week at a time, doing woodworking and drywall in the homes.

?When we?re out, we always say, ?we get more than we give,?? Hougham said.

But local groups also will find work to do in Washington Park. On the same day the Florida crew was on Lincoln Terrace, a group of seniors from Loveless Academic Magnet Program High School was working on interior demolition and cleanup of three homes on Hill Street as part of their day of service. More and more youth and church groups are volunteering, too, even for just a few hours on a weekend.

?We take very seriously the responsibility we have to make an authentic experience for them when they come to the neighborhood to try to help us,? Bunce said.

He knows that volunteers won?t develop relationships with the community in a three-hour, Saturday morning volunteer effort. But if they go home with the desire to do more, that?s OK, too. There?s plenty of work to do.

Common Ground Montgomery invests in the lives of urban youth, nurturing them with life skills and working to keep them away from the influences of the streets. It also works to connect the children with Christian mentors, who can be a part of their lives through and past high school.

After Bryan Kelly founded Common Ground in 2007, he asked for Bunce?s help in finding a house in Washington Park that was suitable for renovation. Bunce was the construction manager at The Waters development in Pike Road, but didn?t have much experience with older homes.

Even so, Bunce and his son, who was then 19, volunteered to help with the home when it was under construction. Through that experience, he got to know and admire Kelly and Kevin King, who also leads Common Ground.

?The first time I heard (Kelly?s) vision, I was struck by how different and how real it was, as compared to other people?s efforts to try to help,? Bunce said. ?It seemed like there would be only one way to help the poor, and he was doing it.?

At the core of Common Ground and House to House?s mission is becoming a part of the neighborhood ? that is, living in Washington Park, and developing deep relationships with the people who live there.

?We?ve just seen it be the most effective form of really helping the communities,? said Delta Kelly, the volunteer coordinator for House to House and Bryan Kelly?s wife. ?And ourselves.?

For Bunce, the seed was planted ? he wanted to do that kind of real-life, hands-on ministry work that King and Kelly were doing with Common Ground. But it took being laid off from The Waters for him to move forward.

Bunce went to Kelly and asked if he would want to do a housing ministry in Washington Park, to complement the work Common Ground already was doing. Kelly saw the need and was enthusiastic, but told Bunce he would have to raise his own support. He did so, and he and Susan eventually moved to the neighborhood and got to work. Now, House to House has a staff of dedicated, knowledgeable people.

?I have the peace of knowing that if I just keel over, they?re going to keep going,? he said. ?They understand this more than I do.?

Since its inception in 2009, House to House has enjoyed a largely low-tech, word-of-mouth, gradual kind of growth in the community.

?The fun part of it is when the whole community starts to catch the vision,? Bunce said.

As an example, Trailer World on Troy Highway just last week donated an enclosed trailer for hauling tools to the ministry.

?I love being caught off guard by that kind of generosity,? Bunce said.

That kind of support from the community will be crucial going forward.

?If we?re really going to try to reverse the chains of poverty, it takes a holistic, comprehensive effort,? he said.

When people ask, ?what do you need?,? Bunce can point to the need for economic development.

Can someone help with an urban garden, or with the coffee shop they?d like to open, or the bicycle shop? Those are all goals of the ministry.

?It?s hard to imagine how much unemployment is really the source of hopelessness that people have until you?ve been here and you get to know them,? he said. ?They?re not drug addicts and chronically homeless people. They?re people like you and me who cannot find a job.?

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Former Wetumpka student is laid to rest

WETUMPKA — Services were held Saturday in Wetumpka for a University of South Alabama freshman who was killed by a campus police officer.

The funeral for 18-year-old Gil Collar was held at Mulder Memorial United Methodist Church, which is a few miles from his Wetumpka home.

Collar was shot a week ago after going to the campus police station almost nude and pounding on the glass.

Police said Collar had taken LSD and acted aggressively when an officer came outside carrying a gun. The officer repeatedly backed away from the unarmed student before firing.

An attorney for the student?s family, Jere Beasley, said Collar never touched the officer and the fatal shooting never should have happened.

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Cancer walk a success in Montgomery

Perfect weather, a huge crowd and record donations combined to make the third annual Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event a success from start to finish.

Held once again at Huntingdon College on Saturday morning, the fundraiser set new standards, but organizers were confident that next year?s event will be even more successful.

Attendance at this year?s event topped 2,000 walkers while donations reached $85,000. Both exceeded last year?s totals.

?We are very pleased with how well everything turned out,? event coordinator Laura Walter said Saturday afternoon. ?In fact, we?ve outgrown Huntingdon College and will probably hold this at a different location next year.?

Walter praised Huntingdon officials for allowing her organization to hold the first three on campus.

?Huntingdon has been just wonderful to work with,? Walter said. ?They handled the setup and the cleanup. We certainly appreciate their help.?

Pink once again was the color of the day. Participants showed up in ?Think Pink? T-shirts to tie in with pink shorts, hats and even pets wearing the same color.

Walker estimated that most of the 250 goodie bags were picked up by cancer survivors. She also said 140 teams took part, ranging from two people to 50 representing Regions Bank, one of the leading sponsors of the event. Baptist Health was the primary sponsor.

Several walkers arrived from long distances, including nine women who were members of the ?Benning Boobie Brigade? from Fort Benning in Georgia.

The group, made up of wives and children, left the sprawling Army base before sunup and arrived in time to take part in warm-up exercises in their unique T-shirts.

Watching from a swing on a hill were three other survivors, including one woman who has bounced back from not one, but two, bouts with cancer and a man happy to have survived World War II.

Anne Cartas, 67, said she has been free of breast cancer for 23 years and also has defeated ovarian cancer, detected eight years ago.

Next to her on the swing was breast cancer survivor Pat Hill. She sat next to her husband, Bob Hill, who spent part of the war in the Navy transporting Marines from ships to shore during some of the bloodiest fighting in the South Pacific.

Among the early arrivals at the event was breast cancer survivor Anita Poole, who has been to all three Making Strides walk-a-thons.

?I could feel the lump right away, and my doctor was suspicious, too,? said Poole. ?I go to the Carmichael Imaging Center, and my test showed I had breast cancer.?

Poole said survival depends, in part, on early detection, followed by quick treatment. She said that is one reason she enjoys taking part in the walk-a-thon each year.

She brought along her cocker spaniel, Maggie, who was decked out in a pink outfit of her own.

Walter said funds raised at the event are used for research, education and services to help drive home the point that awareness and early treatment are among the best ways to defeat breast cancer.

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Blaze extinguished at vacant house

Montgomery firefighters responded to a three-alarm fire early Friday morning at Clay and Conecuh streets.

About 1:30 a.m., firefighters arrived to a well-involved fire, said Lt. Kenny Jones, a Montgomery Fire Department spokesman.

Firefighters brought the blaze under control and determined that the house was vacant, Jones said.

The house was not furnished, and there were signs that it possibly had been occupied by vagrants, he said.

No one was injured in the fire.

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City of Montgomery works to finish demolitions on Maxwell Boulevard

The city of Montgomery continues to make way for new developments on Maxwell Boulevard by demolishing unoccupied, city-owned buildings.

Crews on Friday were demolishing a building that Deputy Mayor Jeff Downes said was a potential safety hazard.

?Any unoccupied building that is in poor shape like that, we plan to demolish,? Downes said.

Last week, the city demolished the old Land and Sea building and earlier tore down an old building at Maxwell Boulevard and Whitman Street.

The city is in negotiations to bring in a developer for those locations, and the city?s general strategy along Maxwell Boulevard is to try to meet the demand for residential housing, Downes said.

Friday?s demolition is the last of the unoccupied, city-owned buildings along Maxwell that were in ?deplorable? condition, Downes said.

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Monday, 22 October 2012

ASU to hold public meeting on new stadium

Alabama State University will hold a community meeting to give updates on the progress of the new ASU Stadium.

The meeting will be at 6 p.m. Thursday in the Houston Markham Jr. Football Complex.

Topics will include construction progress, ticket information, parking, shuttle service, vendor information and tailgating.

There will be a second public meeting at 6 p.m. Nov. 8.

The Turkey Day Classic, the annual clash between Alabama State and Tuskegee University, is scheduled to be the Hornets? first football game at the new stadium.

The stadium?s debut will begin a new era for Alabama State while bringing a longtime tradition to an end. more than 40 years, the school has played its home games at Montgomery?s Cramton Bowl.

Alabama State?s 37-34 loss Saturday to Jackson State marked the Hornets? final game at the downtown facility.

-- Scott Johnson

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Alliance aims to alter 'school-to-prison' path

Advocacy groups from across Alabama have joined to create a program to stop what the program?s coordinator calls the ?school-to-prison pipeline.?

Many students wind up incarcerated for behavior that could be dealt with in other ways, said Ebony Howard, a staff attorney with Southern Poverty Law Center and organizer of the Alabama Youth Justice Alliance.

The SPLC is one of 15 members of the alliance, the creation of which was announced Tuesday morning on the steps of the state Capitol.

Arresting a student for minor disciplinary issues can steer that juvenile onto a dangerous path, Howard said.

?When you arrest a kid, you train that kid to be arrested again,? she said.

Once a juvenile has been sent to a youth facility, they become more likely to eventually end up in jail with adults, where they are in danger of physical and sexual assault, Howard said.

Taking a more reasoned approach to behavioral issues in young people can keep that cycle from beginning, she said.

?Kids should be held accountable, but the way they are held accountable should not result in ruining their lives,? Howard said.

The alliance?s stated goal is for partners to work together and with the Legislature, government systems, youth, families and communities to develop appropriate reforms.

Children who are at low risk should not be sent to youth detention facilities, said Linda Tilly, executive director of Voices for Alabama?s Children.

?They are basically going to crime school,? when they are sent to those facilities, Tilly said.

Anger management and family counseling are two alternatives to incarceration, Tilly said, adding that the underlying causes of behavioral issues often are not addressed.

Issues such as undiagnosed mental conditions or abuse in the student?s home are among the potential causes of behavioral problems, she said.

Howard said one of the goals of the alliance is to hear from young people about the struggles they face in and out of school and decide what approach the alliance should take.

Anneshia Johnson with Birmingham Faith of Action said it is important to get youth involved.

?If the youth will lead, adults will follow,? Johnson said. ?But in order for the youth to lead, we have to truly pour into them ... and show them that we do hear them.?

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Montgomery police investigate cause of fatal crash on Interstate 85

Montgomery police are investigating a fatal crash that happened shortly before midnight Thursday.

One person was killed and two were injured in the single-vehicle crash, which happened on Interstate 85 North at the Perry Hill Road exit.

The crash claimed the life of the front seat passenger, Latisha Henderson, 21, of Montgomery.

The driver and an infant were transported to Baptist Medical Center South and their conditions were listed as not life-threatening, said Sgt. Regina Duckett, a police spokeswoman.

Based on the investigation, the vehicle lost control and struck the concrete divider. Investigators continue to work to determine the cause of the crash, Duckett said.

There also was a second crash at the scene that led to the arrest of the driver of a pickup.

The pickup struck and totaled two police cars that were blocking the scene of the fatal crash, Duckett said.

Shana Hanrahan, 30, of Montgomery was charged with driving under the influence.

No one was injured in that crash.

The fatal crash marked the city?s 18th traffic fatality of the year.

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Panel will investigate allegations of grade changing at Lee, JD, Lanier

The Alabama State Department of Education on Monday named the members of the three-person investigative team that will look into allegations of mass grade changes at three Montgomery public high schools.

Dr. Terry Jenkins, former Auburn City Schools superintendent, Larry Raines, a former high school principal and ACCESS Administrator at ALSDE, and A.J. Price, the former technology coordinator and INOW contract specialist for ALSDE, will investigate the charges reported in the Montgomery Advertiser two weeks ago. In the story, numerous teachers at Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and Sidney Lanier high schools made allegations of grade changing at the schools. INOW is the state-mandated student records system that tracks changes in grades.

The investigative team held its first meeting Monday to review information and formulate a plan, according to ALSDE spokeswoman Malissa Valdes-Hubert. The next step will be a review of all student information within Montgomery?s high schools.

Montgomery Public Schools superintendent Barbara Thompson requested the investigation. It will operate in conjunction with a separate investigation that the Montgomery Board of Education approved last week when it voted unanimously to hire a former FBI investigator to also look into the allegations.

MPS board chairman Charlotte Meadows also has sent a letter to Attorney General Luther Strange asking him to conduct an investigation.

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Maxwell Air Force Base shows off tech at its first Home Energy Expo

Maxwell Air Force Base on Friday held its first Home Energy Expo, showcasing products such as electric and hybrid cars, room occupancy sensors and a solar oven that was baking a pie.

David Macon, who organized the expo for Maxwell, said the inaugural event was specifically for military families, but added that he hoped for expanded events in future years.

?Hopefully, in the future (we can) open it up so we can be part of energy expos off base,? Macon said.

The goal is to help people learn the ways they can save money on utility and other energy bills, he said.

Among the cars on display at the expo was an orange Tesla Roadster, a sporty electric car that reportedly is capable of going from 0 to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds. Makers of the roadster said that it can go 245 miles on a single charge.

The room-occupancy sensors cause lights to turn on when someone enters a room and turn off when a person leaves a room.

Solar-energy vendor Craig McManus described how a solar water heater takes in cold water, heats it to 160 to 180 degrees Fahrenheit, then adds more cold water to regulate the temperature.

Nearby, what looked like an open, silver box reflected the sunlight. Inside, a pie was baking at 300 F.

October typically is considered Energy Awareness Month, but the Air Force decided that wasn?t strong enough, Macon said.

?The Air Force said, ?Hey, let?s take it a step further,? and this is now Energy Action Month,? he said.

Master Sgt. Stacy Powell tried out a stationary bicycle that was powering two light bulbs. The florescent bulb was glowing brightly while the incandescent bulb dimly flickered.

Powell said a bicycle that could provide electrical power would be a useful thing to have around.

?If you had that in your house, you could put it in your workout room,? Powell said.

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Saturday, 20 October 2012

Walk 'N Wag raises funds for pet care

It was one paw in front of the other Saturday at Blount Cultural Park as the Montgomery Humane Society presented the 12th annual Walk ?N Wag.

Lea Turbert, marketing and development manager for the humane society, said the day included a 1-mile walk to raise funds for homeless pets. Activities, including a 50-yard Doggie Dash and pet relay, allowed owners and pets to bond.

?We wanted to give the dogs and their owners something fun to do,? Turbert said.

Money was raised through sponsorships and pledges. Turbert said she hoped they brought in about $10,000.

?We think today went very well,? Turbert said. ?With all the other activities going on this weekend we got a bit worried, but it was well-attended.?

She said about 250 people attended the event.

Owners got a chance not only to get outside with their pets but also to mingle with other owners.

Lori Milner stood with her dog Sadie, a labrador and husky mix, and talked with others.

?I?ve been coming to this for about six years to support the humane society,? Milner said. ?It?s a good way to get out and socialize.?

Milner said she first attended the event when Sadie was a puppy. She wanted her to learn how to interact with other dogs.

?I wanted to take her where she could get comfortable around different dogs,? Milner said. ?A lot of pet owners do the same, and I?ve enjoyed seeing them as well as the different breeds today.?

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Autauga County woman dies in house fire

An elderly Autauga County woman died early Friday when fire raged through her rural home in one of the county?s northernmost areas.

According to Autauga County sheriff?s office reports, 82-year-old Nell Taylor Logan was the victim of the fatal fire, which was reported to sheriff?s office dispatchers about 2:30 Friday morning.

A deputy arrived at the Autauga County Road 21 North scene first to find heavy smoke and flames coming from the dwelling.

The county officer tried to force his way into the burning structure, but the advanced state of the fire prevented him from gaining entry.

The sheriff?s office call sheets show that volunteer fire departments from Billingsley, Marbury, Pentecost, Pine Level, White City and Old Kingston responded to fight the fire, but the phalanx of firefighters and rescue personnel were unable to prevent the total loss of the house and the death of its only occupant.

The victim?s son, William Logan, and daughter, Charlotte Moore, also were called to the scene, as was Autauga County Coroner David Golson.

An investigator from the office of State Fire Marshal Ed Paulk was at the site early Friday, continuing to gather evidence of the fire?s cause and origin.

The investigator is reportedly concentrating on the bedroom where the woman slept, a room in which a space heater was reportedly employed to ward off the overnight chill.

View the original article here

Friday, 19 October 2012

Al Benn's Alabama: Humorist David Misch wrote 'The Book' on comedy

If love really does make the world go ?round, as the popular song suggests, then humor has to be the glue that keeps it from falling apart.

That?s pretty much what a California comedy writer stressed Sunday when he spent part of the afternoon explaining the importance of laughter.

His name is David Misch, and his appearance at Agudath Israel-Etz Ahayem Synagogue led to laughter and a few dollars for him from those who bought a copy of ?Funny: The Book ? Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Comedy.?

In addition to tracing the history of humor to near prehistoric times, Misch also was asked to make a different kind of connection with the audience.

Dale Evans, who helped organize the event, said a request was made for Misch ?to elaborate on the correlation between humor and health ? that laughter is the best medicine ? and why.?

Two Agudath members, Dickie and Joy Blondheim, didn?t really need those details because they were well aware of that correlation.

Joy is a breast cancer survivor and creator of the foundation named for her, one that provides free mammograms for underserved women in the region.

She said humor was a vital ingredient in her recovery.

?A good sense of humor means everything to us,? she said. ?It was important throughout my treatment and surgery, and we?ve been laughing ever since.?

Without that sense of humor, Joy said, ?you won?t make it through the pain and fear you might be facing.?

Misch, a transplanted Yankee from Massachusetts who wound up in California, where he honed his writing skills on shows such as ?Mork and Mindy? and ?Saturday Night Live,? is as much a historian as an author.

Wearing a black T-shirt with ?Hey, Y?all? on the front ? something that certainly ingratiated himself to his Southern audience ? Misch sprinkled commentary with an audio-visual presentation in the synagogue?s large social hall.

He noted that ?comedian? wasn?t a word way back when. Instead, he said those with a good sense of humor ? one that didn?t cost them their head ? often wound up with royal approval.

That led to court jesters and, eventually, masters of comedy such as Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, W.C. Fields, Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Godfrey Cambridge, Rodney Dangerfield and, of course, Johnny Carson.

Carson?s one-liners and Benny-inspired comedic timing produced what many believe was the funniest moment in television history.

It happened in 1965, when singer-turned-actor Ed Ames attempted to show Carson how to toss a tomahawk to finish off an enemy.

Instead of striking the cardboard target in the chest or head, the sharp blade struck the ?victim? somewhere south of that area, setting off loud, sustained audience laughter.

Misch said there was no way Carson?s response could have been scripted or rehearsed, but the uproar did give him about 20 seconds to think, and he came up with: ?I didn?t even know you were Jewish,? followed by: ?Welcome to Frontier Bris.?

Not all humor is derived from scripts, Misch stressed, and some of the funniest moments result from verbal comebacks, often in response to cutting comments aimed at them from someone else.

The master of the comeback had to be Winston Churchill, whose dry sense of humor elicited unforgettable quips that would leave his adversary beet red.

Some of his best involved his favorite foil, American-born Nancy Astor, who had ?lady? attached to her name ? but there were those who said she certainly was no lady.

As the story goes, she and Churchill were at a lavish dinner party in 1912, when ?Lady? Astor turned to him and said: ?Winston, if you were my husband, I?d put poison in your coffee.?

Without giving it a thought, Churchill responded with: ?Nancy, if you were my wife, I?d drink it.?

President Calvin Coolidge, known as ?Silent Cal? because of his reticence, actually could display a biting sense of humor, such as the night he was at recital where a famous opera singer performed.

He was asked by one of the guests, ?What do you think of the singer?s execution?? Coolidge responded: ?I?m all for it.?

On another occasion, a man once bet a friend that he could make ?Silent Cal? say at least three words in a conversation. When he met Coolidge and told him of the wager, the answer Coolidge gave was: ?You lose.?

View the original article here

Alabama State's $2.3 million deal to buy Alabama Public Television building on hold

Alabama State University?s $2.3 million purchase of the former Alabama Public Television building in Montgomery has been delayed as lawyers from three parties try to ?unwind? the details of leasing and ownership.

Then-ASU President William Harris said in June that the school hoped to finalize the sale in time for its students to begin using the facility for hands-on broadcast media instruction by the start of fall semester, which began Aug. 20. That plan is on hold as city representatives have joined APT and ASU officials in working through the legal process.

?There are some legal issues related to who owns the property, who owns the building and what the terms of the lease are,? Montgomery Deputy Mayor Jeff Downes said.

The school hired longtime WSFA-TV anchor Bob Howell in June to lead its recently formed Center for Applied Communications Media.

Howell said at the time that the former APT facility near Paterson Field will offer the ?missing link? of hands-on experience for those students, who will learn technical skills and eventually will produce newscasts from the building.

Downes said the city wants to help make that happen as soon as possible.

?We want Alabama State to operate their program there,? Downes said. ?It?s a great use for a facility that may otherwise be vacant.?

The Advertiser reported in July that Howell will make $187,000 a year, making him one of the highest-paid employees at the university.

Harris stepped down Sept. 17 to make way for new ASU President Joseph H. Silver Sr., who previously was provost and vice president of academic affairs at Clark Atlanta University.

View the original article here

'Advertiser' plans to sell building

The Gannett Company, which publishes the Montgomery Advertiser, has reached an agreement with Graham and Company LLC, a commercial real estate broker based in Birmingham, to assist them in selling the building that houses the Advertiser?s news and business operations at 425 Molton St., in downtown Montgomery.

The Advertiser?s production facility, located next door at 475 Molton St., is not included in the agreement. Print products will continue to be produced at this facility.

?Our business has changed over the past few years and we find ourselves in a building that doesn?t suit our needs as well as it once did,? said Advertiser publisher Sam Martin.

?The sale of the building in no way minimizes our commitment to this community,? Martin said. ?We are committed to continuing our role as the No. 1 provider of news and information in the marketplace. Our readers will continue to receive the local news and information they expect, and our advertisers will continue to reap results from their investment. This is simply a real estate transaction.?

The Advertiser will look for office space more suited to current business needs, Martin said.

In addition to the daily newspaper, the Advertiser Company also publishes, the weekly Prattville, Millbrook and Wetumpka Progress and the Bulletin Board.

? Staff report

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Annual gourmet event to benefit Carver culinary arts program

Good food. Good prices. Good cause.

That?s what you can find at the 2012 ClubCorp Charity Classic at the Capital City Club at 6 p.m. Thursday.

Carver High School culinary arts students, one of the three beneficiaries of the fundraiser?s proceeds, will lend a hand at the event to the 15 participating area vendors.

Dubbed ?An Epicurean Adventure in Gourmet Dining,? the event will feature samples from beer and wine vendors as well as restaurants such as Garrett?s and Railyard Brewery Co. that will showcase unique cuisines. There also will be games and a silent auction.

Carver?s culinary arts students will share the proceeds with the Muscular Dystrophy Association Augie?s Quest and ClubCorp?s employee assistance program.

Although this is the event?s sixth year, it is the second year of the Carver partnership.

The high school?s culinary arts classes are a part of the Hospitality and Tourism Career Academy, which is a technical track that prepares students upon graduation to work full-time in the field, or part-time while continuing their education.

Capital City Club private events director Ashley Brandle said she first became interested in supporting the program when the students catered a professional luncheon she attended nearly two years ago.

?It was surprising to see that these were young people who were working hard, and they were proud,? she recalled of the luncheon. ?I thought it was great for them to see that being in culinary industry is more than flipping burgers. So I decided then that I wanted to do as much as I could to help.?

Although students train in a fully-equipped commercial kitchen and have on-site dining and instructional rooms in the school, the program operates with limited funds for supplies, culinary arts teacher Diane Wilkerson said.

But she won?t let that hinder her students from successfully sharing the skills they have acquired ? etiquette, food preparation and presentation ? with the community.

Last year, they catered an event for 600 people for the city?s Department of Safety. More recently, they won first place at a marketing expo at Auburn Montgomery and claimed best decorated booth at the Taste of the River Region.

Thursday?s event will offer professional development while raising money for the program, which matches Brandle?s goal of exposing students to the result of their hard work.

?This provides the opportunity to show them the light at the end of the tunnel,? Brandle said.

Last year, the event raised $10,500. This year?s goal is $15,000, Brandle said.

View the original article here

Changes will help city enforce property maintenance

The Montgomery City Council approved amendments Tuesday to two ordinances aimed at residents who aren?t concerned with the maintenance or upkeep of their properties.

One of the amendments will allow the city to charge residents $50 for the second and all subsequent public hearing notices sent to the person?s home when they violate the abatement ordinance.

The abatement ordinance prohibits overgrown grass and weeds, visible debris, graffiti and litter in yards.

A second amendment changes the city?s ordinance that prohibits individuals from parking motor vehicles in their yards. The ordinance will now include any vehicle that is self-propelled, propelled by a motor or drawn by a self-propelled or motorized vehicle.

Currently, if someone reports a violation, the city?s property maintenance department goes out to the property to determine if there?s a violation. If there is, a sign is posted in the yard and a public hearing notice is sent to the property owner.

The inspections staff will go back out to the property 10 days later. If the property owner doesn?t comply, a $150 fine is charged.

City Councilman Charles Smith, who proposed the ordinance, said the problem is that there are a number of repeat offenders. City staff will go out to the property multiple times in a year, but in many cases, the property owner won?t be charged because they will comply within the 10 days. A few weeks later, staff will be out there again for a new complaint.

?The goal is to get people to take care of their property and (so we can) quit making these ridiculous trips,? Smith said. ?We have lots of repeat offenders who are complying within the 10-day period and they?re costing the city boatloads of money.?

City Councilman Richard Bollinger said the department makes a total of about 40,000 trips per year to properties in violation of the ordinance. He said it?s costing the city a lot of staff time and money.

Under the amended ordinance, the first public notice in a calendar year will be free, but all other notices will be $50. The new fee won?t replace the $150 non-compliance fine.

City Councilman Jon Dow said he?s not happy that the council keeps adding new fees for residents.

?I?m concerned we?re going to keep assessing a fee for everything that goes out there, putting more and more of a burden on the community,? Dow said. ?We?re always assessing a fee.?

The change in the yard-parking ordinance doesn?t include any new fees, but the language was changed to include things that might not be considered a vehicle, such as a trailers or tractors.

Police officers or the city?s property maintenance department can write the $50 tickets for a violation.

City Councilman Tracy Larkin said stricter enforcement on the books will encourage people to act more responsibly when it comes to keeping up their property.

View the original article here

Different city, county voting precincts will not impact Nov. 6 election

Although the city of Montgomery and Montgomery County currently have different voting precincts and polling places, that will have no impact on the Nov. 6 election since there are no municipal elections on that date.

The Montgomery City Council on Tuesday appointed a committee to consider whether it wants to adopt municipal voting precincts and polling places that coincide with changes the county made last year.

Last October, the Montgomery County Commission drew new districts based on the 2010 census. The commission adopted new precincts and polling places that were approved by the Department of Justice and went into effect Jan. 13, said Justin Aday, director of the Montgomery County Election Center.

But the next municipal election is not until 2015, providing the City Council ample time to decide if it will use the same voting precincts and polling places that the county has decided on.

?Regardless of what any entity ? city, county or otherwise ? chooses to do with voting precincts or polling places, it won?t have any impact on the Nov. 6 election,? Aday said.

City Council President Charles Jinright said the committee will start discussing whether the city will draw new precincts or use the county?s after the November election is over. The committee members include Jinright, Tracy Larkin, Jon Dow and Arch Lee.

?We want to study (the county precincts) more and make sure we?re on track,? Lee said. ?We don?t want to confuse the public any more than we have to. We?re not in a big hurry. We just want to double check since we have time on our hands.?

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Montgomery mayor asks media to 'shut up' about grade-change allegations until investigation complete

As he closed his media briefing Thursday, Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange said everyone should ?just shut up? about reports of improperly changed grades at three Montgomery high schools until investigations of the allegations are completed.

?Whatever the facts are, wherever they lead, I know that the (county) Board of Education will do the right thing because our community, including your city government, including your county government and including the state Board of Education, will be watching,? he said. ?Because at the end of the day, we?ve got to have a great educational system for us to continue to make this step forward, continue to have these dreams that we all have realized in this, the capital of dreams.

?So my advice is, let?s just shut up until we see what the results (are), and then it will be time for (editorializing), for talking, for taking action or for doing whatever else it is that is appropriate.?

On Oct. 3, after being informed that a Montgomery Advertiser investigation had found nearly 30 current and former Montgomery Public Schools employees who said hundreds of grades had been changed improperly for failing students at Robert E. Lee, Jeff Davis and Sidney Lanier high schools, MPS Superintendent Barbara Thompson announced she would ask the school board to approve hiring an outside investigator to look into what she called ?rumors? of alleged grade changing.

A former FBI investigator has been hired to look into the allegations, and after another request from Thompson, the Alabama Department of Education has appointed a three-person investigative team to also investigate the allegations. MPS board chairman Charlotte Meadows has requested that Attorney General Luther Strange conduct a third investigation.

The Montgomery mayor believes that should be enough, and that the newspaper and other media should stop reporting on the allegations until the investigations are complete.

Advertiser reporter Josh Moon has written a series of exclusive stories in which teachers and data-entry specialists have said on the record that they witnessed improper grade changes.

Advertiser executive editor Wanda Lloyd said while the Advertiser understands the importance of focusing on the city?s accomplishments, it also realizes it has to focus on the problems.

?We always walk the fine line between being a champion for the positive developments in our community and our watchdog responsibility to investigate and share information about things that may need to be corrected,? she said. ?We are committed to continue in this role.?

She said the community needs to know the good and the bad.

?Our journalism is based on the information we gather and verify, and the community?s need to know,? she said ?When we hear about good things going on in the community, we write about it because the community needs to know about the progress being made here. There has been a lot good news about economic development in Montgomery in the past few years and we proudly share those stories with our readers.

?At the same time, we take very seriously our First Amendment responsibility to help readers understand some of the things that may be a lot less than positive news. When a reporter came to us several months ago with information about allegations by teachers of grade changing in Montgomery schools, we approached the story with the same level of attention to verify sources and fairness that we do with any other story that may have great impact for the community. For every allegation made by teachers, we asked MPS officials to respond or to help us verify information.?

The Montgomery mayor said Thursday that he believes the stories focusing on the allegations are keeping people from focusing on the good things the school system is accomplishing, and that this is hurting the city because ?so goes education, so goes Montgomery.?

?When we talk to economic development people, when we talk to companies that come in here, we will share the message of having the No. 1 high school in the state of Alabama, of having 72 percent of the national merit scholars in our public schools in this River Region,? he said.

?The graduate rates are higher than others, not as high as anyone wants them. (It?s incredible) to be able to have our magnets and to have MTEC (The Montgomery Technical Education Center) and to have the academies that are doing all of these great things.?

But he said because of the grade-changing allegations, that?s not the message others are seeing.

? ... I wake up mornings and I read about allegations of grade changing, a very serious allegation,? he said. ?We as the city, the county, the state, we take that not lightly at all. But we?re not going to comment about that until we know what the facts are.

?And I promise the citizens and I promise the (members of the) media who all (are) here, the city leadership, the City Council, the County Commission, the local elected officials will assure ourselves that we?re doing the right thing for the kids in our public schools in Montgomery.?

The mayor said that he, Thompson, County Commission Chairman Elton Dean and state Rep. Jay Love, who is head of the House Education Committee, will hold a 6:15 p.m. forum Tuesday at Carver High School to address the good things that are happening with education in the city and will make themselves available to ?answer questions from the community via live TV, call-ins, questions at the forum, texts, whatever.?

View the original article here

EXCLUSIVE: Two MPS employees say they witnessed violations of grade changing

Data entry specialists working at two Montgomery high schools said they witnessed school administrators routinely violating system policy in order to help students achieve higher grades with little or no work, and both specialists said they reported the actions to their superiors within Montgomery Public Schools.

Tina Fleming, who worked at Robert E. Lee High School for 10 years before retiring last spring, and Edwina Riddlespriger, who currently works at Jefferson Davis High School after serving two years at Sidney Lanier High School, said most of the wrongdoing they witnessed was related to credit recovery at the two schools.

Fleming said she reported the actions to her computer services director. Riddlespriger said she reported her situation to assistant superintendent Lewis Washington and MPS director of human resources Ann Sippial.

?It?s not right, what I was asked to do and what they?re doing,? Riddlespriger said. ?I was told to change grades or I would be considered insubordinate. I was written up when I refused to break the rules. When I went to report what was happening, I was threatened with job abandonment.?

Riddlespriger provided the Montgomery Advertiser with a copy of the letter of reprimand and other documents that Lanier principal Michael Gibbs sent to her.

Asked about Riddlespriger?s comments following an MPS board meeting last week, Sippial said she did not recall meeting with her.

The Advertiser submitted several written questions last week that dealt specifically with allegations made by Riddlespriger and Fleming to be asked of Sippial, Gibbs and Lee principal Lorenza Pharrams.

MPS spokesman Tom Salter provided this response from Superintendent Barbara Thompson:

?MPS board counsel James ?Spud? Seale has advised that the board, superintendent and staff should refrain from discussing the grade-changing allegations and allow the investigative process (to) take its course.

?At the request of the superintendent, the board has hired an independent investigator and asked the state Department of Education to conduct a separate inquiry into the allegations. We are confident these investigations will provide the facts. The findings will be shared publicly, and at that point it will be determined what actions, if any, are necessary. Thus, on advice of counsel, the administration of the Montgomery County Board of Education will only respond to requests on this matter from state and independent investigators so that the investigation is neither compromised nor impeded.?

Riddlespriger said her issues at Lanier began last June, just before the end of the school year, when Gibbs asked her to input grade changes for several students who had completed credit-recovery courses at the school. Credit recovery is a Web-based process that allows students who have failed a course to retake only portions of that course and achieve a passing grade in much less time.

The primary responsibility of a data entry specialist is entering students? grades into the computer grading system and assisting teachers in making necessary corrections. Because most of this work involves protected student information, specialists are trained and have to be familiar with federal privacy laws and MPS guidelines in order to avoid missteps that might result in improper changes or inadvertently violating the law.

According to several teachers, the data entry specialists often were treated on school campuses as default IT techs, helping teachers set up their gradebooks, explaining why errors occurred and maintaining the integrity of the system.

In the final week of school last spring, Riddlespriger said she received several credit-recovery grade-change forms for students who went through recovery courses in alternative programs, such as Saturday school and extended day school or the Progressive Academy of Creative Education (PACE). Saturday school and extended day are options for students who need extra time to make up failed courses, while PACE is an alternative school for students with behavioral issues.

Riddlespriger said the grade-change forms tied to many of those students were missing three of the required signatures: those of the teacher of the class being retaken, the teacher who taught the credit-recovery course and the principal. In fact, she said, the only signatures on the forms were from a guidance counselor at Lanier and from a credit-recovery administrator.

Riddlespriger said the credit-recovery administrator was brought in two days before the end of the school year to ?retest some students who failed.?

In addition, Riddlespriger said some of the grades listed on the forms weren?t allowable under credit-recovery rules, and that the grades the students earned in the original courses should have prohibited them from taking part in the credit-recovery process.

According to a credit-recovery guidelines manual posted on Lanier?s website, no student can earn higher than a 70 in a recovered course ? and achieving a 70 required passing the credit-recovery course with a 90 or higher ? and no student who earns lower than a 40 can participate in the recovery program.

Another Lanier employee showed an Advertiser reporter copies of grade-change forms that showed some students enrolled in credit recovery had earned nine week?s averages of 6, 15, 28 and 38, yet were still allowed to participate in the program, and listed the final recovery-course grades as 76, 78 and 80.

?It wasn?t being done right at all,? Riddlespriger said. ?I told my principal that I can?t enter those. He came back to me and said, ?Lewis Washington says you are to enter those grades or come see him.??

The Advertiser made several phone calls and left messages for Washington over the past several weeks, including Wednesday afternoon. Washington has not returned any of the calls.

Riddlespriger said several teachers would not sign grade-change forms because they were uncomfortable with the process.

Math teacher Annette Boykin was one of the teachers Riddlespriger said refused to sign off. Contacted and asked about Riddlespriger?s comments, Boykin confirmed that she wouldn?t sign the grade-change forms, because the ?students did not earn those grades.?

?I was not comfortable with what was being asked of me,? Boykin said. ?I felt as though it jeopardized my teaching certificate to give a grade. And that?s what I was being asked to do.?

When Boykin and other teachers wouldn?t sign off, Riddlespriger said, she became the next option and Gibbs began to pressure her into making the changes.

?They went to the small man on the totem pole on the last day of school, in the midst of entering grades,? Riddlespriger said.

In addition to written questions submitted to an MPS spokesman, messages were left for Gibbs in his office requesting Gibbs to respond to allegations made by Riddlespriger.

Riddlespriger said Gibbs reported her to Washington, the assistant superintendent, and she said she was given a performance warning: Either make the changes or face disciplinary action, Riddlespriger said she was told.

She didn?t budge. And a day later, she said she received a letter of reprimand.

Riddlespriger said she went to the Alabama Education Association, the teacher?s union, to report the situation, and along with an AEA representative, went to the MPS central office to meet with Washington and Sippial. She said she explained what was happening and asked for advice on how to handle the situation.

?(Washington) just blew off what I was saying,? Riddlespriger said. ?I was told to do what my principal told me to do. They did make Mr. Gibbs put the request in writing. But no one seemed concerned about what I was telling them.?

Riddlespriger provided the Advertiser with a copy of the email Gibbs sent to her asking that she enter the grades of all recovery students, along with her response to the letter of reprimand. She said she forwarded Gibbs? email to Thompson.

Riddlespriger did not provide the Advertiser with any private student information or any other MPS-restricted information.

At Lee, Tina Fleming said she removed herself from the school because she feared she would be in a similar situation as Riddlespriger.

?I purposely missed the last week of school because I had a bad feeling that some shady things were going to go on the closer we got to inputting grades,? Fleming said. ?(Several) administrators kept coming to me, asking me questions about processes and little things. I just knew what was coming.?

Also contributing to Fleming?s angst, she said, was a string of troubling events that left her questioning the integrity of the credit-recovery-grading process at Lee.

In March, Fleming said she received a request from Pharrams, the Lee principal, to remove all students from the Access credit-recovery courses at Lee and put them into classrooms.

The Access courses are Internet-only recovery classes.

Pharrams said in an interview earlier this month that he did remove students from the courses, because of a high failure rate, but he insisted the move occurred in January, not in March.

?I had to dissolve entire classes and move teachers from teaching one class to teaching an entirely different class,? Fleming said. ?I asked Mr. Pharrams if he wanted me to talk with these teachers first, and he said no. ... He didn?t tell them anything. So, I did what I was told.?

Fleming said some teachers had two classes changed, affecting dozens of students, and because no one was warned or provided any information about the changes, there was a lot of confusion on the day of the switch.

?I showed up and all of the (students) I had been teaching for six months were gone off my rolls,? said a teacher who had been at Lee for over five years. ?I had an entire new list of kids. They weren?t even (the same grade level). And no one would tell me what was going on. After searching all morning to figure this out, I finally had a registrar give me the name of the class I was supposed to teach. To this day, no one has ever given me a reason why the change was made or given me instructions on how to handle it.?

Teachers at Lee have accused Pharrams of making the change as a way to manipulate the grades of failing students. Their contention is that dissolving the Access courses was a way to erase the failing grades and allow those students to essentially start over.

Fleming said the only way to obtain grades for the students transferred out of the online credit-recovery courses was for someone to go into the Access system, find each student?s grade for that course and post the grades to the student?s online gradebook at Lee. The system would then automatically copy those grades and fill in the holes.

?I?m pretty sure no one (went back and made the changes),? Fleming said. ?Those kids? online gradebooks were with the Access teacher. When I dis-enrolled them from the online-recovery course, I didn?t make that change. It was not my place to do that. The new teachers could not have done it, they wouldn?t have access (to the system).?

A student who took one of the recovery courses, Tommy Youngblood, who graduated last spring, confirmed that his grades in the course reflected only what he earned after the changeover.

In the weeks that followed, as Fleming said she watched the fallout from the Access changeover and from the faculty at Lee being vacated after failing to meet the average yearly progress standards set under the No Child Left Behind Act, she started to get a sense that she would be pressured to participate in improper grade changes.

Fleming said she contacted her superiors at computer services, the department for which she worked, and told them of her concerns and of the things she had heard and witnessed. She said she was told to speak to her principal about it. Fleming said she tried, but Pharrams refused to speak to her. She said that?s when she made the decision to miss several days of work.

When she returned after graduation, Fleming said she found that her computer system access had been revoked and that someone had ransacked her office.

?Things were scattered everywhere, my desk drawers were all pulled out and the contents emptied and stuff was just everywhere,? Fleming said.

Fleming said she was present when teachers at Lee received their grade verification sheets, which show the grades their students will receive on their report cards. She confirmed statements by numerous teachers that an unusually high number of ?errors? ? all of them favorable for the students ? were being spotted by teachers.

?I can?t tell you if someone made improper changes, but I can tell you that the number of errors was much higher than anything we?ve ever experienced in the 10 years I?ve been there,? she said.

Pharrams and other MPS officials said the errors were due to a glitch within the computer system that caused problems at several MPS schools.

Follow Josh Moon on Twitter at @joshmoon

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Passenger airlifted after crash on Alabama 14 in Prattville

A passenger in a pickup that left the roadway and struck three parked vehicles was airlifted to a hospital Wednesday.

The pickup was traveling west on Alabama 14 near Prattville about 11:30 a.m. when it passed another vehicle and the driver lost control, authorities said.

The pickup struck a culvert, flipped, struck three vehicles in front of a mobile home and came to rest atop a car.

The driver had minor to moderate injuries and was taken to Baptist Medical Center South by ambulance.

The passenger was partially ejected from the vehicle and taken by helicopter to Baptist South. Their condition was not immediately known.

Booth and Prattville fire departments responded, along with Prattville police and Alabama state troopers.

? Staff report

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Poarch Creeks halt casino construction

The Poarch Creek Indians stopped construction of their planned 20-story hotel and casino in Wetumpka this week with plans for more discussions soon about the future of the site that some Creeks consider sacred.

Construction halted at 5 p.m. Tuesday, according to statements from the Poarch Band of Creek Indians and the Muscogee Nation of Creek Indians, which fought expansion of the casino.

Muscogee (Creek) Nation Principal Chief George Tiger met with Poarch Creek leaders including Chairman Buford Rolin on Oct. 8 to discuss the ongoing rift between them over the expansion of the casino, according to a Tuesday news release from the Muscogee Creeks.

?Construction will be halted today at 5 p.m. which will include removing construction personnel, park equipment, and measures to ensure the safety of the site,? according to the Muscogee Creek news release that referenced a Monday email from Poarch Band Attorney General Venus McGhee to Principal Chief Tiger?s legal counsel Yonne Tiger. ?The decision to halt construction was made to show a measure of good faith from the Poarch Band of Creek Indians after a request from Principal Chief George Tiger.

?As ongoing discussions between the Muscogee Creek Nation and the Poarch Band continue, construction will not proceed until further notice.?

Tiger, according to the news release, said they are scheduling a meeting ?in the coming weeks to discuss a resolution to this matter.?

Robert McGhee, treasurer for the tribal council for the Poarch Creek Indians, confirmed the stoppage in an email to the Montgomery Advertiser on Wednesday morning and wrote that the decision was made by Rolin and the Muscogee chief.

?Our tribal leadership has a meeting scheduled with the Muskogee Creek Nation?s leadership in the next few days. We will have a comment after that meeting,? McGhee wrote.

Leadership of the Muscogee Nation of Creek Indians demanded in August that the Poarch Band of Creek Indians stop expansion of Creek Casino Wetumpka. They had vowed to take legal action if the expansion at the site along the Coosa River did not stop.

The Muscogee Creeks believe the land where the casino is located is on sacred land they know as Hickory Ground, where their ancestors lived and where there is a ceremonial ground, a tribal burial ground and individual graves. They believe the sacred land is being desecrated.

The Poarch Band of Creek Indians, which operate casinos in Montgomery, Atmore and Wetumpka, announced in July that they were expanding the casino in Wetumpka, spending $246 million to create a 20-story hotel and casino on the banks of the Coosa River. Tribal officials said construction started in July and was expected to be complete by January 2014.

The Muscogee Creeks, in their news release, said the Poarch Creeks agreed to the stoppage after the Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes unanimously approved a resolution Friday stating ?the Inter-Tribal Council of Five Civilized Tribes supports the lawful efforts of the lineal descendants of Ocevpofv (Hickory Ground) ceremonial ground/tribal town to halt the desecration and all future desecrations of Ocevpofv ceremonial ground/tribal town located in Wetumpka, Alabama, as should be afforded protection under federal laws.?

Earlier in the resolution, the tribes wrote that the Poarch Band of Creek Indians desecrated the original location of Hickory Ground, that they are currently in violation of Federal Historic Preservation laws, and that they are violating Muscogee Creek traditions.

The council, according to the resolution, unites the tribal governments of the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Cherokee, (Muscogee) Creek, and Seminole nations, which represent more than 750,000 blood descendants of those tribes from the southeastern United States.

McGhee said in a previous statement that ?we have taken great care to honor history and preserve the past while ensuring the future for our tribe.?

Archaeologists from Auburn University excavated approximately 52 human remains and associated funerary objects during previous construction at the site. The archaeologists discovered the ceremonial ground at the site in 2005 and, according to the Poarch Creeks, ?construction was halted immediately and plans were undertaken to begin historic preservation of the area.?

The Poarch Creeks told the Advertiser in August that there would not be any further removal of remains for the casino expansion and they would not disturb the ceremonial ground.

McGhee also recently told the Advertiser that all of the human remains and burial objects that were previously excavated at the site were reinterred in mid-April after unsuccessfully trying to work with the Muscogee Creeks to agree on a location for reinterment for six years. The Muscogee Creeks wanted the remains reinterred where they were exhumed with the associated funerary objects.

The sacred land was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

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Prattville ends fiscal year in better shape

PRATTVILLE — The city of Prattville ended the recent fiscal year in improving financial health, with revenues up about 14 percent over the same period last year.

Also, there is enough money in the debt reserve account to make the Nov. 1 bond payment of about $3 million without taking out another short-term, bridge loan. Interim Finance Director Doug Moseley gave the City Council the good news during his monthly budget update at the Tuesday night meeting.

There are still some outstanding bills as the fiscal year winds down, but for the most part, the year has closed out, he said.

?Year-to-date, we have received 13.96 percent more revenue this year than last year,? Moseley said. ?That?s very positive. Almost every single department is right on line with their budget. We?ve spent about 94 percent of our budget so far.

?There are some accruals that still need to come in. But we should end the year well below budget.?

The debt reserve fund has about $2.56 million now, he said.

?The additional $500,000 collected in October will put us right in line to make the November payment without taking out a bridge loan,? he continued. ?That?s always a positive sign.?

District 2 Councilman Willie Wood Jr. asked Mosley if there is any excess in the debt reserve account, and Moseley answered no.

?So we are running neck and neck with the additional sales tax making these payments that we have before us?? Wood asked.

?Correct,? Moseley answered.

The council overrode the mayor?s veto of the sales-tax extension Tuesday night. The 1-cent sales-tax increase, earmarked to pay the city?s debt service, will remain until Sept. 30, 2031, or until all the current city long-term debt is retired.

The additional sales tax, which brought the total sales-tax rate to 9.5 percent, brings in about $400,000 a month, according to records at City Hall. The bump was passed in March 2011.

The city?s financial woes started in October 2010, when it had to take out a bridge loan to pay the Nov. 1, 2010, bond payment. Another bridge loan was taken out for the May 1, 2011, payment. And a partial loan was taken out for the Nov. 1, 2011, payment. Those loans have been paid back.

No loan was taken out for the May 1 payment this year. The bond payments, used for incentives to land retail growth on the east side of town, are about $3 million on Nov. 1 and about $1 million on May 1.

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Montgomery turns development focus to Faulkner area, Atlanta Highway 'nodes'

Referencing the city development mantra ?never let the money get in the way of the vision,? Montgomery officials trumpeted long-term plans Wednesday to improve the look and access at key points along Atlanta Highway while praising Faulkner University?s role in those plans.

The city will focus on three ?nodes,? or connection points, along Atlanta Highway: the Ann Street intersection, the Perry Hill Road intersection and Faulkner, where university and city leaders gathered on the steps of the Jones School of Law to discuss the area.

?If you?re here at Faulkner and you want to go to the dinner theater across the street, there?s not a logical way to do that on (foot),? said Chad Emerson, the city?s director of development. ?You have to drive 100 yards. We?re going to transform this environment so that the cars will still flow freely, but that pedestrians will also walk safely and comfortably.?

The plan, created with the input of residents, is meant to help increase the economic viability of the area by creating sidewalks, bike paths, green space and street trees ? an atmosphere that would be functional to pedestrians and attractive to residents and shoppers. It will serve as a guide for future projects along Atlanta Highway.

While it could take years for the vision to lead to major development and a full transformation, no one questioned the importance of setting it in motion.

Montgomery City Councilman Richard Bollinger was one of those who referenced the motto that was coined by former city planning guru Ken Groves.

?We?re not going to let that money get in the way of that vision that we?ve created,? Bollinger said. ?It?ll be some good connectivity, not just for the campus but for all of the neighborhoods to enjoy.?

City officials also praised the economic development role of Faulkner University, which they said draws students from across the state and nation.

Mayor Todd Strange said he recently spoke to a group of about 250 incoming freshmen, asking them how many were not from Montgomery.

?I just thought there would be a scattering of hands,? he said. ?Almost 90 percent of the individuals that were in that room were from outside of Alabama. From an economic development standpoint, that is meaningful.?

Students at Faulkner?s law school regularly pass the state Bar exam on their first try at a higher rate than students from any other state school ? including the most recent exam, which was administered in July. Jones School of Law associate dean Tim Chinaris said its students have led all state law schools in success rate among first-time takers on four of the past six administered exams.

That?s a source of comfort to Ashley Norgard, the editor-in-chief of the Faulkner Law Review, who is originally from Kentucky.

?It makes me feel like my family is making a good investment, not only in my own education but in this community because we plan to stay here,? she said.

Strange pointed to a potential influx of new businesses that could lead to an even brighter future for the city. He said that the city currently is actively recruiting 55 companies, representing a potential 11,500 jobs and $202 million of investment.

?We may be No. 1, 2 or 3 on some of those lists,? he said. ?We may be (No.) 14 or 15 and we?re just not getting eliminated, but we?re now having an opportunity to win.?

Strange said during such recruitment processes, city officials point out that Montgomery is 3,700 people away from becoming the state?s largest city, that business confidence is high and that 1,200 more people are employed in Montgomery than at this time in 2011.

?We do not hide the other facts, the challenges that we work on day in and day out, but we want to celebrate (the successes),? he said.

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ASU officials say new stadium will be game-ready Nov. 15

Alabama State University officials addressed an overflow crowd of more than 200 fans that crammed into a meeting room at the Markham Football Complex on Thursday night to listen to a report on the university?s new football stadium.

Officials discussed the progress of stadium construction, the parking that will be available for the Nov. 22 game with Tuskegee University, the tickets available and tailgating options, leaving the end of the 75-minute presentation available for a question-and-answer session.

?This is actually a 24-month project that has been compressed into 18 months, then we?re trying to get an extra month so we can move in,? said Eric Thornton, vice president for buildings and grounds. ?We have about 250 people per day working on this project, seven days a week, to make sure we make this project happen on Nov. 22.?

Thornton said the stadium scoreboard for the west end zone ? adjacent to Harris Way (Hall Street) ? will be installed Monday and the stadium should be game-ready by Nov. 15.

Some elements of the stadium, such as the restaurant and retail space to the right of the scoreboard, isn?t slated for completion until February, but all of the interior work will be completed in time for the Turkey Day Classic.

?How long have we been waiting on this? A long time,? ASU?s executive vice president and chief operating officer John Knight said. ?It?s here. There were some that said it would never happen, but it?s here. And you will be there on Turkey Day.

?Our effort was to make certain that we provided for you a stadium second to none. You won?t find a stadium anywhere that will be able to even be competitive, in many cases, to what we have brought here to the campus of Alabama State University.?

The $62 million, 26,500-seat stadium includes suites and a club-level lounge as part of the south stands, which are visible from Interstate 65. While 18,521 tickets have already been sold for the Turkey Day Classic, 1,164 remain in the center of the north stands and 1,887 remain in the south upper deck as part of the 7,979 tickets still available.

Of the 31 questions asked by the fans, 16 were specifically about parking and nearly half of the remainder were about tailgating procedures, which require a $75 fee for both recreational vehicles that will park by the baseball stadium and tents that will be located on the academic mall on Harris Way.

?We knew that would be the bulk of the questions but I think the plan the police department has developed will definitely alleviate any problems that we have,? said Danielle Kennedy, vice president for university relations.

?Basically, all of the parking people always had when we were at Cramton Bowl, they?ll have that plus some, and then we?ll provide a shuttle free of charge.?

There are just 400 parking spaces at the stadium and 1,500 available on campus for a $15 fee, but ASU police chief Huey Thornton said other available spaces, such as Cramton Bowl and the RSA parking decks, will be available free and the university will provide a shuttle service.

The university will have another community meeting Nov. 8, and fans can go to the stadium website ( for more information.

?It went really well,? Kennedy said of the meeting. ?People had very good questions. I think this brings a lot of clarity for them. They really understand what the process is and what they need to do, so from where we sit, it?s great. We?d rather get the tough questions now ? and people know ? than for them to get here on game day and not have the best experience they can have.?

Kennedy also treated the guests to first-hand news regarding the Wednesday night Turkey Day Classic concert on campus that will include comedian Dominique, the R&B band Legacy and recording artists Eric Benet and Charlie Wilson.

The campus will be cleared of all vehicles by 2 a.m. Thursday and the gates will be locked. The campus will reopen at 6 a.m. for the Turkey Day Classic.

Thornton said campus police, working with the Montgomery Police Department, have worked out a plan to get fans off the campus after the game by directing traffic down one-way streets toward the interstate.

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Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Rwanda and Uganda Arm Congo Rebels, U.N. Report Says

AppId is over the quota
AppId is over the quota
The U.N. Security Council's Group of Experts said in a confidential report that Rwanda and Uganda - despite their strong denials - continued to support M23 rebels in their six-month fight against Congolese government troops in North Kivu province.

"Both Rwanda and Uganda have been supporting M23," said the 44-page report, which was seen by Reuters on Tuesday.

"While Rwandan officials coordinated the creation of the rebel movement as well as its major military operations, Uganda's more subtle support to M23 allowed the rebel group's political branch to operate from within Kampala and boost its external relations," it said.

Bosco Ntaganda, a former Congolese general wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes, controls the rebellion on the ground and M23 leader Sultani Makenga is in charge of operations and coordination with allied armed groups, the U.N. report said.

Both Ntaganda and Makenga "receive direct military orders from RDF (Rwandan army) Chief of Defense staff General Charles Kayonga, who in turn acts on instructions from Minister of Defense General James Kabarebe," it said.

Uganda and Rwanda have denied the accusations of involvement by the U.N. experts, who monitor compliance with sanctions and an arms embargo on the Congo and delivered their report to the Security Council's Congo sanctions committee earlier this month.

"Rwandan officials exercise overall command and strategic planning for M23," the report said. "Rwanda continues to violate the arms embargo through direct military support to M23 rebels, facilitation of recruitment, encouragement and facilitation of FARDC (Congolese army) desertions as well as the provision of arms and ammunition, intelligence, and political advice."

"UPDF (Ugandan army) commanders sent troops and weapons to reinforce specific M23 operations and assisted in M23's recruitment and weapons procurement efforts in Uganda," it said.


Nearly half a million people have been displaced due to the fighting. M23 has proven so resilient that one senior U.N. diplomatic source told Reuters that Rwanda has effectively "annexed" mineral-rich eastern Congo thanks to the rebel force.

U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said last month that the rebels had set up de facto administration in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, controlling the people and collecting taxes.

The rebellion also is being funded by traders in Rwanda who are profiting from tin, tungsten and tantalum smuggled across the border from mines in the eastern DRC, according to the U.N. experts' report.

An interim report from the Group of Experts that was published in June raised similar accusations against Rwanda but with far less detail. Kigali was furious about that report, saying it was one-side and contained false allegations.

Rwanda has backed armed movements in the Congo during the past two decades, citing a need to tackle Rwandan rebels operating out of Congo's eastern hills.

The new report said that M23 had expanded its control of Rutshuru Territory with extensive foreign support in July 2012 and had taken advantage of a recent informal ceasefire "to expand alliances and command proxy operations elsewhere."

The experts said that units of the Ugandan and Rwandan armies "jointly supported M23 in a series of attacks in July 2012 to take over the major towns in Rutshuru Territory, and the (Congolese army) base of Rumangabo."

During these attacks, the rebels killed a U.N. peacekeeper and fired on a U.N. peacekeeping base at Kiwanja.

"According to several M23 soldiers, RDF troops provided the rebels with heavy weapons such as 12.7 mm machine guns, 60 mm, 91 mm and 120 mm mortars, as well as anti-tank and anti-aircraft launchers ahead of the attack," the report said.

"RDF Special Forces in Rutshuru also aided the rebels and fired 13 rounds on a FARDC (Congolese army) combat helicopter during the takeover of Kiwanja," it said.


Ugandan military spokesman Felix Kulayigye rejected the report.

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Obama and Romney turn up the temperature in their second debate

 Second presidential debate: full Video: The second presidential debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney were in a town hall format at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.

President Obama and Mitt Romney engaged Tuesday in one of the most intensive clashes in a televised presidential election debate with the tension between them growing into the disruption, personal air disaster and accusations of lying as they parried over the last four years under Mr. Obama and what the next four would look like under a President Romney.

Follow with this interactive replay of the second debate, fact-checking, and graphics to take a closer look at attacks and allegations that President Obama and Mitt Romney.

Hour Cast | Presidential debate analysisa one-stop destination for the latest political news — from The Times and other top sources. Plus opinion polls, campaign data and video.

President Obama and Mitt Romney, his Republican challenger, answered questions from the audience in town hall-style debate mode generated by Candy Crowley, right, of CNN. More photos»

Compete for a shrinking sliver of the uncertain voters, many of them women, their engagements, at times borders against physical as they circle each other or bounded from their seats, while the other talked, sometimes more intention to argue than to deal with the issues of jobs, taxes, energy, immigration and a host of other issues.

Mr. Obama, criticised by his own party for a lackluster debate performance two weeks ago, this time pushing an attack that allowed him to often dictate the terms of the debate. But an unbowed Mr. Romney was there to meet him each time, and seemed enthusiastic about the opportunity to challenge a sitting President.

Mr. Obama assertive posture may well have stopped the clamor of concern from supporters, who had weighed on his campaign of three weeks and one more debate to go before the elections.

The President's broadsides started with a criticism of Mr. Romney for his opposition to his administration in its first reply automobile bailout — "Governor Romney said, let us go bankrupt Detroit" — and ended more than 90 minutes later with an attack on Mr. Romney taped secretly comments on "47 percent" of Americans who he said do not take responsibility for their own lives.

"When he said behind closed doors that 47 percent of the country consider themselves victims who refuses personal responsibility — think about who he was talking about," said the President at the end of the debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.

It was as if another highly charged President had taken the scene rather than the reticent, seeming disconnected candidate who turned out to meet Mr. Romney in their first debate two weeks ago.

Mr. Romney remained acutely focused on Mr. Obamas record of it all, said that the President had failed to deliver what he promised in his 2008 campaign and arguing repeatedly and vigorously, "we just can't afford four more years like the last four years."

He credited Mr. Obama for being "high as a speaker." and describes his vision But then he brought down the ultimate hammer in a challenge to an incumbent: "it is wonderful, unless we have a record to look at. And that record shows he just could not cut the deficit, putting in place reforms of Medicare and Social Security to maintain them, to get us the rising income we need. "

Two took pains to fashion their arguments against female voters, with the debate seems at times directed completely on them. Mr. Obama cited Mr. Romney pledge to cut government funding for planned parenthood at least four times Mr. Romney repeatedly mentioned, under Mr. Obama: "there are three and a half million more women living in poverty today than when the President took office. We need to live that way. "

And Mr. Romney tried to broaden its appeal to women, to soften its tone on reproductive issues, says: "every woman in the United States should have access to contraception."

Stressing his record of diversity as Governor based on his own recruitment, he said, "I brought us across the binders full of women."

It is a bit of conventional wisdom that uncertain voters seeking comity in their leaders. There was none of this Tuesday.

At times back and was personal in small ways. The effective tax rate to 14 percent, to Mr. Romney paid personally have already invoked Mr. Obama said Mr. Romney investments in Chinese companies. Then asked Mr. Romney, if Mr. Obama had looked at its own pension for its investments.

"I don't look at my pension," said Mr. Obama. "It is not as big as yours."

But at other times, the verbal sparring took on a deeper, emotional resonance, as when Mr. Romney suggested that the Administration was deliberately misleading in his changing explanations for the attack on the u.s. mission in Benghazi, Libya, which resulted in the American Ambassador, j. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans who died.

"The suggestion that anyone in my team, about the secretary of state, our UN Ambassador, would someone on my team play politics or mislead when we lost four of our own, Governor, is offensive," Mr. Obama said, standing and looking intently at his opponent. "It is not what we do. It is not what I am doing as President. "

Mr. Obama noted that he had gone to the Rose Garden on the day after the attack saying, "it was an act of terrorism".

Mr. Romney argued that Mr. Obama had not said that until 14 days later to ask the moderator, Candy Crowley of CNN, to interject, "he did actually, sir." Mr. Obama interjected with a hint of anger, "you can say that a little louder, Candy?" (She said Mr. Romney broader point about changing explanations were "right.")

Vitriol that moment through the campaign for months, in tv ads and dueling speeches played on exceptionally close area for much of the 90-minute debate.

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