August 10 Morning Newscast

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August 10, 2012, Morning Newscast

Toxic emissions from power plants in Alabama decreased 27 percent between 2009 and 2010, but the state still ranks No. 14 on a list of the “Toxic 20,” according to a new report by the Natural Resources Defense Council. Nationally, plants that generate electricity (especially coal-fired plants) are the leading source of toxic air releases. In Alabama, manufacturers of paper products lead the list in terms of toxic releases, followed by power plants. The report says power plants accounted for 8 million pounds (or 32%) of toxic releases for Alabama in 2010, compared to more than 12 million pounds (48%) produced by paper products manufacturers.

The state Department of Education says 75 percent of Alabama schools made adequate yearly progress, up from nearly 73 percent last year. But the department got federal approval to use the 2011 passing levels in 2012. Those results came Thursday as state officials announced which schools and which school systems made adequate yearly progress under the No Child Left Behind Law. The federal law seeks to have all students performing at the proficient level for their grades in math and reading by 2014. This may be the last time that Alabama officials announce the scores. They are asking the U.S. Department of Education for a waiver to replace adequate yearly progress with a new state-developed assessment program called Plan 2020.

The state Board of Education has picked eight people, including some with Alabama ties, to interview for chancellor of Alabama’s two-year college system. They include John Schmidt, senior vice chancellor of advancement at Troy University; Gregory Gray, chancellor of the Riverside Community College District in California; Blake Flanders, vice president of workforce development for the Kansas Board of Regents; and Daniel Howard, executive vice president and provost of Arkansas State University. Also on the list are Bruce Murphy, vice president for academic affairs at Air University in Montgomery; Michael Wartell, chancellor emeritus at Indiana University Purdue University Fort Wayne; Mark Heinrich, president of Shelton State Community College; and Kandis Steele, director of academic programs for Alabama’s postsecondary program.

Alabama’s prisons are getting new officers to watch over inmates in the state’s overcrowded lockups. More than 75 new officers graduated from the state’s corrections academy Thursday after a 12-week, 480-hour training program. This is the second class to finish the school in Selma this year, and another class is scheduled to graduate later in 2012. Reports show Alabama’s prisons held more than 25,400 inmates at the end of April, or nearly twice as many as their designed capacity.

State health officials say that for the first time, they will track a full summer’s record of heat-related illnesses and deaths. The Birmingham News reports that the Alabama Department of Public Health is tracking the cases in an effort to cut the number of deaths and injuries. The effort will involve a day-by-day look at how heat affects Alabama residents. Jim McVay, director of health promotion and chronic disease for the state agency, says there were eight heat-related deaths in Alabama last year. So far this year, there have been five deaths. Four of this year’s deaths occurred since the State Committee of Public Health passed an emergency rule June 29. That that added heat-related illnesses and fatalities to the list of diseases that must be reported to the department.

U.S. forecasters are raising their estimate of potential storms in the remainder of the Atlantic hurricane season, which enters its peak period this month. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its updated forecast Thursday. Forecasters say wind patterns conducive to storm formation and warmer-than-normal sea temperatures mean chances are higher for an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season. NOAA forecasters say they expect a total of 12 to 17 tropical storms, with as many as five to eight hurricanes, for the season from June 1 to Nov. 30. Two to three of storms could become major hurricanes. So far this year there have been four tropical storms and two hurricanes. In May, forecasters had predicted nine to 15 tropical storms, with as many as four to eight storms strengthening into hurricanes.

A University of Alabama graduate student has discovered a snail in the Cahaba River that had been declared extinct 12 years ago. Details of the discovery by student, Nathan Whelan, of the Oblong Rocksnail on May 22, 2011 are being published in the Aug. 8 issue of the scientific journal PLOS ONE. Whelan said it’s encouraging to find a species that was thought to be extinct. The snail was found in a short stretch of the Cahaba near where the river crosses the Bibb and Shelby county lines. The snail is about the size of a nickel with a yellow body and a black band on its head. Whelan said it had not been collected in more than 75 years.