Huntsville man indicted in three 2010 North Alabama bank robberies

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HUNTSVILLE, Alabama — A Huntsville man was indicted by a federal grand jury today in connection with robberies at three North Alabama banks in 2010, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Birmingham.

Tavares Antwan Oliver, 35, is charged with armed bank robberies of a CBS Bank on University Drive in Huntsville on Sept. 29, 2010, and a Bancorp South in Madison on Hughes Road, Oct. 25, 2010. He is also charged with robbing a Peoples Bank in Decatur, Dec. 8, 2010, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

More than $93,000 was reported stolen in the CBS robbery, prosecutors said.

Two other men have already been sentenced in connection with robberies, according to prosecutors. Ronald Lewis Henderson, 26, of Huntsville was Tuesday sentenced to six years and three months in prison for armed robbery at the CBS Bank and the robbery of the Peoples Bank.

The government said that Henderson said in his plea agreement that he and Oliver wore disguises in robbing the CBS and stole $93,000. He said he and Oliver entered the Peoples Bank and demanded that a teller put money in a plastic bag, the government said.

Decatur police apparently saw the two men leaving the bank and they were arrested after attempting to flee.

Anthony Shawn Clark Jr., 23, of Madison was sentenced in December to four years and 10 months in prison for the Bancorp South in Madison robbery, prosecutors said. He entered a guilty plea last May. As part of his guilty plea, Clark said he and Oliver entered the Bancorp South wearing disguises, Oliver allegedly brandished a gun and Clark told the teller to put money in a backpack. The men were arrested a short time later, prosecutors said.

Article source: http://blog.al.com/breaking/2012/03/huntsville_man_indicted_in_thr.html

Tears, smiles, salutes to service mark first ‘Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day’ in Huntsville

Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama – A tall, thin man with a silver beard stood in the sun among the large crowd at the Madison County Veterans Memorial this afternoon. He wore a dated green Army dress uniform coat buttoned up above jeans. It had no stripes, no badges; if you were close enough to shake his hand, you saw the tiny holes where insignia had been pinned decades ago.

“In three months it will be 43 years since I wore this uniform home,” said 67-year-old Jerry Cox. He lives in Huntsville now, but was in Virginia when he was drafted and served in Vietnam.

“When I came home, I really didn’t get welcomed,” he said. Cox wasn’t one of the returning soldiers who was spat upon, or even yelled at. There was just … nothing.

“So I thought I would wear it today,” Cox said. “This is great. This is typical Huntsville.”

Hundreds of former soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen from across North Alabama made it to the first “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day” in Huntsville, accompanied by family, supporters and ranks of elected officials.

Lawmakers told how members of the newly formed Vietnam Veterans of America Huntsville Chapter had worked to get March 29 – the date in 1973 when the last combat troops left Vietnam – recognized here; how Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, Madison Mayor Paul Finley, Madison County Chairman Mike Gillespie, the Legislature and Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley had made it official with proclamations.

In Washington, President Barack Obama signed another proclamation, nationally recognizing March 29, 2012, as Vietnam Veterans Day. “Today, we reaffirm one of our most fundamental obligations: to show all who have worn the uniform of the United States the respect and dignity they deserve, and to honor their sacrifice by serving them as well as they served us,” it reads.

In Huntsville, Max Bennett, president of the North Alabama Veterans and Fraternal Organizations Coalition, put it simply: “Today, we are here to right a wrong.”

Flags moved slowly overhead as a trumpeter sounded taps, a wreath was placed at the Vietnam marker in the memorial park and ceremonial guns fired a salute. As a Marine honor guard presented the colors, Paul Stanger struggled from his Tut Fann Veterans’ Home wheelchair to his feet, tears on his cheeks, an aide helping support him. Stanger served with the Air Force in Vietnam in 1968, ’70 and ’72.

“Thank you for what you did for our nation,” said State Sen. Bill Holtzclaw, echoing the remarks of many. Holtzclaw, a Marine many years after the Vietnam era, told how he was met and welcomed by Vietnam veterans upon his return from the Persian Gulf.

“I’m indebted for that,” he said. “They know how they should have been welcomed home, and that was how I was welcomed.”

Retired Marine Lt. Gen. Frank Libutti, himself a Vietnam veteran, said in his keynote speech that there had been “confusion” about the best way to prosecute the war in the 1960s, and division among the public, the media, the government and leadership in the nation. The impact was demoralizing, especially on troops and their families.

“But in spite of all of that, in spite of those challenges, you continued to execute your mission, day in and day out, on the ground, in the air and at sea. Professionally, and with devotion to duty seldom seen,” Libutti said. “No one, no one did it better than you did. … “

He asked everyone to always remember the more than 58,000 who made the ultimate sacrifice and called for more help to go to the men and women still suffering the physical and mental wounds of their service in Vietnam, the longest war in the nation’s history.

“Here’s the bottom line: Your efforts were in support of a noble cause. … My dear friends, your nation and your community now welcome you home. And the message is profound, albeit simple,” Libutti said. “Thank you for your extraordinary service and sacrifices, including the sacrifices of your families.”

Fred Golden came from Section with his wife, Laura, for the “Welcome Home” ceremony. Golden served with the Marines in Quang Nam province near Da Nang in 1968, the height of the war. “No years over there were good, though,” he said.

“I wanted to come and pay tribute to those who did not get to be here today,” Golden said.

Carol Kirk of Huntsville was smiling, hugging and sharing stories with many of the former soldiers. She served as an Army nurse in Vietnam in 1969-70.

“We were just so grateful for the ones we got home,” she said, shaking hands with a man who said Army nurses had saved his life. “You were all our heroes.”

“We’re extremely happy,” said retired CW4 Warren Harmon, one of the organizers with the Huntsville Chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America. “Next year it’s going to be even bigger.”

Article source: http://blog.al.com/breaking/2012/03/tears_smiles_salutes_to_servic.html

Foreclosure rates inch up in Pascagoula, down in Mobile, Gulfport-Biloxi, new data shows

Foreclose.jpgA foreclosure sign is seen at a residence in Florida in 2010. (The Associated Press/Chris O’Meara)

Foreclosure rates for January fell in both the Mobile and Gulfport-Biloxi areas compared with the same month last year, but the rate inched up in Pascagoula, according to California-based research firm CoreLogic.

The rate of Mobile area foreclosures among outstanding mortgage loans was 1.85 percent in January, down .23 percentage points from the January 2011 rate of 2.08 percent.

Foreclosure activity in Mobile was lower than the national rate of 3.43 percent for January.

In Pascagoula, the rate matched the national one — 3.43 percent for January, an increase of .01 percentage points compared with January 2011.

In Gulfport-Biloxi, meanwhile, the rate of foreclosures among outstanding mortgage loans outpaced the national rate at 3.84 percent for January. But that was still down .04 percentage points when compared to the same month in 2011, when the rate was 3.88 percent.

Mortgage delinquency rates increased in Pascagoula and Mobile, and decreased in Gulfport-Biloxi, according to the data.

In Pascagoula, the delinquency rate inched up .25 percentage points to 8.79 percent in January.

In Gulfport-Biloxi, the delinquency rate fell .19 percentage points, continuing a trend from last month, with 8.86 percent of mortgage loans 90 days or more past due in January.

In Mobile, meanwhile, the mortgage delinquency rate increased .39 percentage points over the same period last year. According to CoreLogic data for January, 8.88 percent of mortgage loans there were 90 days or more delinquent compared to 8.49 percent in January 2011.

Article source: http://blog.al.com/press-register-business/2012/03/foreclosure_rates_inch_up_in_p.html

Quality Filters of Robertsdale lands national contract to make new Lysol filters

Quality Filters.JPGLocal dignitaries and Quality Filter employees gather at the company’s Robertsdale plant Wednesday, March 28, 2012. (Press-Register/Guy Busby)

ROBERTSDALE, Alabama — Baldwin County-manufactured air-conditioning filters designed to remove allergens and bacteria will start being shipped throughout the United States and Canada through an agreement between a local company and Lysol announced today.

Officials with Quality Filters of Robertsdale said the company will manufacture the filters with the Lysol label through the agreement with Reckitt Benckiser, parent company of Lysol, Rich Scott, Quality Filters president, said.

“This is a brand that is known literally by every American and has been trusted for generations to provide health and cleanliness in our homes,” Scott said. “We’re leveraging our 30 years of expertise in air quality with their consumer awareness and trust to create a truly unique, high performance air-filter.”

He said the move is the company’s biggest step in 30 years.

Jim Gates, brand manager for Quality, said the move could mean five times the business for the Robertsdale company and the creation of as many as 150 jobs over the next four years.

The new filters operate at three levels: trapping dust particles and allergens, killing bacteria that cause odors and using carbon to capture chemical vapors and other pollutants, according to a company statement.

Gates said the filters will provide health benefits in any home, but are designed to help asthma and allergy sufferers.

Gates said production should start by the end of summer. “It will be residential first and commercial and industrial later,” he said.

He said Quality Filters has been negotiating with Reckitt Benckiser on the project since November 2009.

The company did not release estimates of the amount of investment in the new operation or estimates of income.

Quality Filters has about 100 employees making filters for air-conditioners, heaters and other products in the 65,000-square-foot Robertsdale plant.

The company had nine employees working in a 7,000-square-foot plant when purchased 30 years ago by George Spottswood and his father, Horace Turner Spottswood, who later died.

George Spottswood, company owner and chief executive officer, said Quality Filters has made about 50 million filters in the last 30 years.

Article source: http://blog.al.com/press-register-business/2012/03/quality_filters_of_robertsdale.html

Best Buy to close 50 ‘big box’ stores; open 100 mobile locations

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MINNEAPOLIS — Best Buy will close 50 big box stores and open 100 small mobile locations in the U.S. in fiscal 2013 and cut $800 million in costs by fiscal 2015. The news came Thursday as the biggest U.S. specialty electronics retailer posted a fiscal fourth quarter loss partly due to restructuring charges, but its adjusted results topped Wall Street’s expectations.

Best Buy’s strategy of focusing on closing some of its hulking stores to concentrate on smaller Best Buy Mobile outlets illustrates the shifting nature of the electronics industry. Shoppers aren’t flocking to big-box stores like they used to. And sales of TVs, digital cameras and videogame consoles have weaken, while sales of tablet computers, smartphones and e-readers have increased.

Best Buy lost $1.7 billion, or $4.89 per share, for the period ended March 3. That compares with a profit of $651 million, or $1.62 per share, a year ago.

The Minneapolis company said its quarterly results included $2.6 billion in charges. They were mostly related to its purchase of Carphone Warehouse Group PLC’s interest in the Best Buy Mobile profit-sharing agreement and related costs, as well as an impairment charge tied to writing off Best Buy Europe goodwill and restructuring charges.

Taking these items out, adjusted earnings were $2.47 per share, above the $2.15 per share that analysts surveyed by FactSet forecast.

Revenue rose 3 percent to $16.08 billion, but missed Wall Street’s $17.18 billion estimate.

Best Buy’s stock fell 32 cents to $26.30 before the market opened.

Revenue at stores open at least a year – an indicator of a retailer’s health – slipped 2.4 percent. But it was a smaller drop than a year earlier when the company reported a 4.7 percent decline.

For the full year, Best Buy lost $1.23 billion, or $3.36 per share, compared with a profit of $1.28 billion, or $3.08 per share, in the prior year. Adjusted earnings were $3.64 per share, which tops the previous year’s $3.43 per share.

Annual revenue rose 2 percent to $50.71 billion. Revenue at stores open at least a year fell 1.7 percent. In the prior-year period, the figure dropped 1.8 percent.

Going forward, Best Buy said it expects to reduce about $250 million of its costs in fiscal 2013. The company foresees fiscal 2013 earnings of $2.85 to $3.25 per share and adjusted earnings of $3.50 to $3.80 per share. Analysts expect earnings of $3.67 per share.

 

Article source: http://blog.al.com/press-register-business/2012/03/best_buy_to_close_50_big_box_s.html

SouthCity Bank changes name to First Partners Bank

FirstPartners.jpgSouthCity Bank has adopted a new name, First Partners Bank.

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — Vestavia Hills’ SouthCity Bank has adopted a new name — First Partners Bank.

It says the name reflects its core purposes — to act as bankers and partners.

CEO Elam Holley said the bank has been “involved in a very thorough and strategic branding process” over the past year.

“Although we have made changes to our outward identity, what has not changed is our commitment to the internal core competencies of excellent service and an exceptional team of people,” he said in a statement.

SouthCity Bank was founded in 2007.

Article source: http://blog.al.com/businessnews/2012/03/southcity_bank_changes_name_to.html

FedEx founder Fred Smith to speak at Birmingham-Southern College

Fred Smith FedEx CEO.jpgFred Smith is CEO of FedEx.

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — FedEx Corp. CEO Frederick W. Smith will speak on entrepreneurial leadership at Birmingham-Southern College next month.

The school said Smith will present the 2012 Stump Entrepreneurship Lecture at 7 p.m. April 12 in the Bruno Great Hall of the Norton Campus Center. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Smith will discuss the connections between leadership and entrepreneurship while reflecting on his experiences at FedEx, which he founded in 1971. FedEx serves more than 220 countries and territories, employs more than 290,000 people and handles in excess of 8.5 million shipments each business day.

He has also been a leading proponent for a national energy policy, better vehicle energy-efficiency standards, free trade, regulatory reform, and “open skies agreements” for aviation around the world.

The Stump Entrepreneurship Lecture is part of the Birmingham-Southern College Entrepreneurship Programs. It is endowed by Jane and Kevin Stump of Birmingham, both BSC graduates, with support from an existing endowed fund created by Joseph S. Bruno. Kevin Stump is founder and CEO of Birmingham’s Interconn Resources Inc.

Article source: http://blog.al.com/businessnews/2012/03/fedex_founder_fred_smith_to_sp.html

UAB research may make quick identification of fish imposters possible

phony grouper fish 120223.JPGCases of catfish that were being sold as grouper. (Special/NOAA)

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — If research being conducted at the University of Alabama at Birmingham pans out, you may soon be a lot more likely to get the fish you order in restaurants and at the market, instead of getting a cheaper species being passed off as the real thing.

A group of UAB graduate students working in a university program designed to take biotechnology research to market is developing a genetic test that may enable the seafood industry to quickly identify species of fish.

A study by the nonprofit organization Oceana found that a quarter to a third of all seafood is fraudulently labeled, and government studies have reached similar conclusions. Fish sold as red snapper, wild salmon and Atlantic cod most often is mislabeled. Catfish, tilapia and rockfish often are passed off as other, more expensive species, Oceana and federal regulators have found.

Jeff Hicks, a UAB graduate student working on the project, said current tests are complex and time-consuming, with a wait of days or even weeks for results. The method Hicks and other students are developing would use a DNA testing system created at the nonprofit HudsonAlpha Institute in Huntsville and would take about three hours.

“If a fisherman brings in a catch in the morning, you could know before lunch what they’re selling,” Hicks said Thursday.

The HudsonAlpha system, called iCubate, is essentially a DNA lab in a box. Researchers place samples in a cassette, which is loaded into a self-contained machine that includes a centrifuge and a laser and is capable of searching for multiple DNA markers simultaneously. HudsonAlpha executives have said in the past that they anticipate the technology will allow for rapid testing for multiple viruses and have other applications.

Hicks, who has had discussions with some of the leading scientists in the field, learned Thursday that the FDA agreed to share control samples of fish DNA to assist in the project.

“This has been really exciting,” he said.

Hicks’ project is one of five from the program recently selected for consideration by the UAB Research Foundation, the school’s technology transfer office.

HudsonAlpha scientist Dr. Jian Han, who regularly works with students in UAB’s biotechnology program, challenged graduate students to come up with applications for iCubate that could be marketed.

“I challenged them to develop an app that would protect human health or the environment,” he said in a prepared statement.

Han and UAB faculty picked the top five proposals, and students were divided into teams to develop them further. Other applications being developed include one that would serve the poultry industry, one for testing of turf on golf courses or athletic fields, and one that would test fungi.

Kathy Nugent, a UAB professor and director of the biotechnology program, said UAB has long been a major player in research, but hasn’t had as much success in turning discoveries into viable businesses. The 3-year-old biotechnology program is meant to address that.

“For every job created in biotechnology, five other jobs are created” in supporting or related fields, she said. “We’re not just giving students a skill set. We’re also training them on the business side, (teaching them) to understand industry.”

Hicks said he should within weeks be able to prove definitively whether the iCubate technology can be used to root out fish fraud, and if all goes as expected he and other students then will begin trying to turn the technology into commercial success. If it works as expected, the tests may one day be marketed to buyers and sellers of seafood at all levels of the supply chain, he said.

“I’d like for this to be available to everyone,” he said.

Article source: http://blog.al.com/businessnews/2012/02/uab_research_may_make_quick_id.html

TVA to replace sirens around Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant, multiple siren tests expected over next two months

NRC Browns Ferry_Bran.jpgTVA’s Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant in Athens, Ala. (AP Photo/Jay Reeves)

ATHENS, Alabama — TVA announced today it is replacing 100 emergency sirens in a 10-mile radius around the Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant near Athens, after 88 of the sirens went off-line last year during the April 27 storms.

The new sirens will still be powered by electricity, but will have a battery back-up. The failure of the sirens last year was attributed to a loss of power to the nuclear plant, which forced the plant into an emergency shutdown.

TVA said crews will be replacing four to six sirens a day beginning in late March. The crews will be working six days a week to finish the job by late spring.

The replacement will mean a number of siren tests.

TVA said sirens will be sounded multiple times a day, six days a week, for the next two or more months, until all sirens are replaced.

Upon completion of the Browns Ferry siren installation, TVA will then replace the sirens around its other two nuclear plants Sequoyah in Soddy Daisy, Tenn., and Watts Bar near Spring City, Tenn. TVA is investing about $7 million to replace the sirens.

Article source: http://blog.al.com/breaking/2012/03/tva_to_replace_sirens_around_b.html

Huntsville man indicted in three 2010 North Alabama bank robberies

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HUNTSVILLE, Alabama — A Huntsville man was indicted by a federal grand jury today in connection with robberies at three North Alabama banks in 2010, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Birmingham.

Tavares Antwan Oliver, 35, is charged with armed bank robberies of a CBS Bank on University Drive in Huntsville on Sept. 29, 2010, and a Bancorp South in Madison on Hughes Road, Oct. 25, 2010. He is also charged with robbing a Peoples Bank in Decatur, Dec. 8, 2010, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

More than $93,000 was reported stolen in the CBS robbery, prosecutors said.

Two other men have already been sentenced in connection with robberies, according to prosecutors. Ronald Lewis Henderson, 26, of Huntsville was Tuesday sentenced to six years and three months in prison for armed robbery at the CBS Bank and the robbery of the Peoples Bank.

The government said that Henderson said in his plea agreement that he and Oliver wore disguises in robbing the CBS and stole $93,000. He said he and Oliver entered the Peoples Bank and demanded that a teller put money in a plastic bag, the government said.

Decatur police apparently saw the two men leaving the bank and they were arrested after attempting to flee.

Anthony Shawn Clark Jr., 23, of Madison was sentenced in December to four years and 10 months in prison for the Bancorp South in Madison robbery, prosecutors said. He entered a guilty plea last May. As part of his guilty plea, Clark said he and Oliver entered the Bancorp South wearing disguises, Oliver allegedly brandished a gun and Clark told the teller to put money in a backpack. The men were arrested a short time later, prosecutors said.

Article source: http://blog.al.com/breaking/2012/03/huntsville_man_indicted_in_thr.html