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The University of Alabama

UA in the News: December 22, 2011-January 3, 2012

UA predictions: Social media will play vital role in 2012
Tuscaloosa News – Dec. 28
Should the predictions of some University of Alabama faculty come true, President Barack Obama will be elected to his second term in an election year influenced by running mates and a greater use of social media by candidates and voters. However, UA’s political science chair, Richard Fording, said he doesn’t think the Republican challenger will come from the current field in the early primaries. “I just can’t believe that the Republicans in the establishment — or would-be candidates on the sideline — are going to stand by and let this happen. They don’t have a candidate who can beat Obama,” Fording said as part of UA’s Office of Media Relations annual faculty predictions.

Continued volatility predicted for gas prices
Tuscaloosa News – Dec. 29
For those tired of seeing gas prices dive below $3 a gallon before shooting up 20 or 30 cents, a University of Alabama professor who follows the petroleum markets has some bad news. Peter Clark, professor of chemical engineering at UA, predicts that an increased fuel demand in 2012 combined with continued political and economic unrest will mean unstable prices. As part of the UA Office of Media Relations’ annual faculty predictions, Clark said the recent dip in gasoline prices was caused by a decrease in demand during the past month. However, Clark said political uncertainty in the upcoming election year will end that trend.

University of Alabama Scholars Share 2012 Predictions
Epoch Times – Jan. 1
Predictions from UA experts include how we will deal with natural disasters, emergence of doomsday groups, changes in fuel prices, business with Cuba, and more from the Occupy Movement. The past year went on record as the year of extreme weather. “The U.S. can no longer afford to ignore the management of catastrophic losses at the state and federal levels,” said Dr. William Rabel, professor of finance and head of the insurance program at UA’s Culverhouse College of Commerce, in a press release.

Experts predict technology boom
DeKalb News-Journal (Fort Payne) – Jan. 2
According to experts at the University of Alabama, technology will have a large impact on the coming year. The University of Alabama recently released its 31st annual predictions for 2012. Among the predictions, technology will play a role in everything from politics, medical care and everyday business to online doomsday cults…

Banking expert: Low rates won’t last
Andalusia News – Dec 27
Editor’s note: For the 31st consecutive year, the University of Alabama faculty experts are offering predictions for the coming year. Before we go any further, here is a quick banking lesson. The market rate of interest is the interest rate determined by demand and supply of funds in the money market. Market rates move up or down, depending on demand for funds, economic conditions and Federal Reserve monetary policy. It also is the rate a bank offers to attract deposits, rates that may match or exceed rates offered by competitors. Market rates of interest are at record low levels, says Dr. Benton Gup, professor of finance and Robert Hunt Cochran Bankers Chair. Gup has written or edited more than 50 books on banking. So, if interest rates are at record low levels, it’s pretty safe to predict that they are going to increase, right? “Right,” says Gup, “but let’s not make the same mistakes that led to the failure and consolidation of thousands of financial institutions in the 1980s. Simply stated, when market rates of interest were low in the 1970s, lenders borrowed short-term funds at low rates and made long-term fixed rate mortgage loans at slightly higher rates. “When market rates of interest soared from about 5 percent in the late 1970s to more than 16 percent in the 1980s, many financial institutions failed when their cost of funds exceeded the returns on the long-term fixed rate mortgages.”

UA researcher’s fruit flies offer clues to human obesity
Birmingham News – Dec. 26
Biologist Laura Reed carried a living cargo in her car as she drove from North Carolina State to join the University of Alabama faculty: thousands of fruit flies — 200 separate, inbred lines of the small insects that live for about a month and are commonly considered kitchen pests. But in Reed’s hands these nuisances that appear when the bananas turn black become powerful research tools for genetics. The tiny creatures have helped her win $1.4 million of NIH grant funding for five years.

UA program doles out free books to Black Belt schools
Tuscaloosa News – Dec. 26
The University of Alabama’s School of Library and Information Studies will give more than $7,000 in free books to six schools in the Black Belt region of the state this month as part of its annual Book Bonanza for the Black Belt program. The schools, selected from 20 applicants, will each receive more than $1,000 each in new books for children or teens.
Fox 6 (Birmingham) — Dec. 26 & 27
WSFA-NBC (Montgomery) — Dec. 27

Diligence marks renovation of UA’s historic Gorgas House
Tuscaloosa News – Dec . 28
Seated at the heart of the University of Alabama campus, the Gorgas House has served the school in many capacities in its 182-year history. Built in 1829, two years before the university was established, the house first served as a hotel. Gorgas House was one of the few buildings left standing after Union soldiers burned most of the campus to the ground on April 4, 1865. Since then, the building has served as a guest house for UA professors, a dining hall for students, a faculty residence and the home of the Gorgas family…Now the house is a museum that gives visitors a glimpse into the Gorgas family’s home life. But over the years, elements of the structure — including the roof, parts of the brick and mortar, windows and doors — were weakened. So when it came time to renovate the house, project manager Rob Cooper and Tim Leopard, UA’s assistant vice president of construction, said the university was intent on giving painstaking attention to the delicate process. The renovation began in 2010 and was completed in the spring of this year. The attention to detail has apparently already paid dividends. Brice Construction, contractor of record for the project, received two awards for top historical renovation project. The first award was given by Associated Builders and contractors for the top project under $2 million. The second award came from the Associated General Contractors of America for the top renovation project under $5 million.

UA chemistry professors named fellows of science association – Dec. 20
Two University of Alabama professors have been named fellows of the world’s largest general scientific society. Arun Gupta and Robin Rogers, both UA chemistry professors, were honored by their peers as fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Crimson White included on PBS ‘most viral student media’ list – Dec 23
University of Alabama student newspaper the Crimson White’s April 27 tornado coverage has been recognized by PBS Mediashift as one student media project that took the Internet by storm in 2011. The site, which tracks trends in digital media, included the CW’s tornado coverage in its “Year in Review: Most Viral Student Media of 2011” list for the newspaper’s stories, photos, video reports and social media efforts in the wake of the April storms.

70% of Alabama population already home for the holidays because they were born here
Birmingham News – Dec. 25
If you’re home for the holidays, chances are you didn’t have to go far to get there. About 70 percent of Alabama’s population was born in the state, according to figures recently released by the U.S. Census Bureau. Nationally, on average, 60 percent of people are living in their native state. According to a Governing Magazine analysis, states in the interior South and Midwest tend to have a higher percentage of natives. Louisiana tops the list, with 79 percent of its population born there. . . . The city of Birmingham itself ranks 6th-highest among 547 cities and towns in the U.S., with 80 percent of its population born in Alabama. “I’m not too surprised,” University of Alabama geography professor Bobby Wilson said when he saw the numbers. Alabama in general and Birmingham in particular have trailed the economic and population growth rates of neighbors in the Sun Belt. New migrants follow jobs. . . . Richard Fording, chairman of the University of Alabama political science department, said there are both advantages and disadvantages to having such a high percentage of native-born population. “People are likely to have more family and social networks that are going to be more helpful in various ways, and people may be more likely to be involved in the community,” Fording said.

State’s jobless rate drop second largest in US
Associated Press – Dec. 22
Alabama’s big unemployment drop in November tied the state for the second-largest decrease in the nation and gave Alabama the third-lowest unemployment rate in the Southeast. The news comes one month after Alabama tied for the nation’s biggest drop in October. “This year has ended up being much better than we forecast. We hope the same story will be seen in 2012,” said Sam Addy, director for the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Alabama.

Advertiser Editorial: Job outlook better
Montgomery Advertiser – Dec. 22
Gov. Robert Bentley actually may start getting a salary as governor before he has to start running for office again. Bentley promised not to take his pay as governor until the state reached full employment, which he later defined as 5.2 percent. For much of his first year in office, it seemed that might never happen. Now things are looking up. In October, Alabama tied for the biggest decrease in its unemployment rate among the states, going from 9.8 percent to 9.3 percent. Then in November, Alabama saw another big drop, this time dropping to 8.7 percent. That was the second-largest decrease in the nation, and it pushed Alabama to the third-lowest unemployment rate in the Southeast, according to The Associated Press. Sam Addy, director for the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Alabama, told the AP, “This year has ended up being much better than we forecast. We hope the same story will be seen in 2012.”

Tuscaloosa home sales rise this year
Tuscaloosa News – Dec. 22
Home sales in the Tuscaloosa metro area have picked up since summer, according to a report released Wednesday by the Alabama Center for Real Estate. Grayson Glaze, executive director of the University of Alabama-based center, said Tuscaloosa will end the year as the state’s top performer in sales growth.

Stores expect huge crowds on Monday
Tuscaloosa News – Dec. 25
Most Tuscaloosa-area retailers will close earlier than usual today and will be closed Christmas Day. But Monday will be a different story. The day after Christmas is traditionally a big shopping day, and stores expect even bigger crowds this year. Because Christmas falls on a Sunday, most people will take Monday off as a paid holiday. Dec. 26 continues to be an important shopping day, said Kristy Reynolds, a marketing professor at the University of Alabama. Christmas celebrations and the planning that went into them will be over, and people with the day off will be looking for things to do, she said. Retailers know that, and the majority of stores “will have special sales and promotions because that is what is needed to get shoppers into the stores in today’s economy,” she said. “Many shoppers have a tradition of going out on the day after Christmas and shopping the deals.”

2012 Legislature: Power, agenda in GOP’s grip
Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger – Dec. 31
The GOP will have more power than ever this legislative session, with Republicans in control of the state House and Senate for the first time since Reconstruction. Lawmakers return to the Capitol on Tuesday, and Republicans are bringing long wish lists, including anti-illegal immigration measures, a law that would require reporting of suspected child sex abuse, charter school proposals and restrictions on the attorney general’s office, among others. . . . Republicans seized control of the Alabama Legislature in 2010, and in their first session in power, passed a slate of new laws, said William H. Stewart, professor emeritus at the University of Alabama. “It’s been a big change,” he said. In addition to drawing more focus to their own priorities, Republicans also have effectively killed proposals that Democrats pushed there in the past, Stewart said. “There’s no need in trying to bring it up,” he said.

Local enthusiasts gather to count bird population
Tuscaloosa News – Dec. 31
The morning air was nippy, with a temperature of 40 degrees and a wind chill of 33 when local birders set out early on Dec. 17. With binoculars strung around necks and charts in hand, the bird enthusiasts were ready to conduct the annual bird census in our area. Counting birds at Christmas began as a game to steer men away from a less genteel pastime. In 1900, Frank Chapman, editor of Bird Lore magazine, proposed counting birds instead of shooting them as men had been fond of doing on the holiday. . . . “It turned out pretty decently,” said Bing Blewitt, coordinator of Tuscaloosa’s bird count (and a retired UA professor). “We saw 82 species.” . . . David Arnold, a UA professor, will file the results with the Audubon Society, which will publish the findings next fall.

Donate to the Scholarship Foundation to help gifted students in need
Rossmoor (Calif.) News – Dec. 31
It is a given that the student recipients of the Rossmoor Scholarship are outstanding; but the students also have a unique point of view of the world and an ability to determine their own path. One such student is Tyler Carroll. Carroll, who received a scholarship last year, is known for his love of his Datsun 240Z, which he has been slowly building from the ground up with the help of a professional in auto repair. It’s no small challenge. It might be said that the car reflects just a bit of his personality. Once questioned about his choice to attend the University of Alabama, Carroll said that the Honors College was a prime consideration since it provides top students with an opportunity to have more challenging, smaller classes and, as a result, closer relationships with faculty.

Dance Workshop with Whitney Thompson
Wheeling (W. Va.) Herald-Star – Dec. 30
Oglebay Institute’s School of Dance will offer a special workshop covering ballet and jazz with Whitney Thompson Monday at the dance studios. Thompson is a 2011 graduate of the OI School of Dance…She has participated in dance intensives at the Ballet Met and American Ballet Theater in Detroit and performed in local productions of “Copelia,” “Peter Pan,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “Cinderella,” “Alice in Wonderland” and “The Nutcracker.” Currently she is a student at the University of Alabama and member of the Alabama Repertory Dance Theatre II.

Hartselle native writes about integration crisis
Hartselle Enquirer – Dec. 27
Hartselle native Dr. Brandon Sparkman uses the pages of a new book titled “Call To Jackson, Mississippi: The Last Bastion Of Segregation” to detail the excruciating birth of desegregation in Jackson while he served there as assistant superintendent, then superintendent of schools during the early 1970s… In the book’s foreword, James E. McLean, dean of the college of education at the University of Alabama writes, “The book brought home to me the bravery and strength of character school leaders had to have during that period if they were to be effective. The threats and problems they faced were very real! It is clear that the people like Brandon Sparkman hastened the process of integration and probably saved schools millions of dollars and possibly lives in doing so.”

A life remembered: UI law professor ‘turned it up to 11 on everything’
Champaign (Ill.) News-Gazette – Dec. 28
Friends and colleagues of Larry Ribstein say they’ll remember him as a first-rate legal scholar and original thinker who enjoyed debate and was an expert in business law. . . . “I remember his fierce intensity about everything he did,” said Andrew Morriss, a former colleague at Illinois who is now a law professor at the University of Alabama. “He turned it up to 11 on everything.” “He was one of the few original thinkers in law,” Morriss said. “Most legal scholarship is recycling, but Larry had original thoughts.”

Actress who grew up in Tuscaloosa buried with her parents in Evergreen Cemetery
Tuscaloosa News – Dec. 27
Before filming was completed on Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s 1937 movie “Saratoga,” starring Jean Harlow and Clark Gable, the 26-year-old Harlow died, jeopardizing the film’s completion. It was Mary Dees, Harlow’s stand-in, who took her place in the film’s final minutes to ensure its completion. Dees, whose place of birth is claimed by both Syracuse, N.Y., where she was born, and Tuscaloosa, where she was raised, has returned to Tuscaloosa; her ashes were buried in Evergreen Cemetery, near the graves of her parents. . . . Unsure what to do with Dees’ belongings, Blake turned to Dees’ yearbook from the National Society Daughters of American Colonists to locate Camilla Saunders, a Tuscaloosa resident and national corresponding secretary for the organization. . . .  The two corresponded with staffers at W.S. Hoole Special Collections Library, where it was determined the scrapbooks, as well as a reel of “Saratoga,” would be permanently housed.

Wilson lands internship in St. Petersburg
Florence Times Daily – Dec. 26
Karly Wilson has always had an interest in international travel and working for the federal government. An internship with the U.S. State Department will soon make her dreams come true. Wilson accepted an internship that will allow her to work for the U.S. Consulate General’s office in St. Petersburg, Russia, for 10 weeks. The University of Alabama student is a 2008 graduate of Rogers High School in Greenhill and the daughter of Bob Wilson and Deidre Schad.

College News
Tuscaloosa News – Dec. 25
Literacy Is The Edge, or LITE, a student advocacy group, announced that it raised more than $4,000 in its 2011 campaign “Empower Literacy.” The campaign, which ran Nov. 7-Dec. 1, aimed to raise awareness about illiteracy problems in West Alabama, recruit reading tutors, produce communication materials and raise money for the Literacy Council of West Alabama. Money raised and communication materials produced by LITE will support the Literacy Council 2012 campaign.

Religion in the Civil War Symposium coming to Columbia
Columbia (S.C.) Star –Dec. 23
On Saturday, January 28, 2012 from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., The South Carolina Confederate Relic Room & Military Museum in partnership with the South Carolina Department of Archives and History and the South Carolina Historical Society will host a oneday symposium exploring the topic of Religion in the Civil War. . . . The day’s events will feature a keynote presentation from Dr. George Rable, professor at the University of Alabama and author of God’s Almost Chosen Peoples: A Religious History of the American Civil War. 

Sewell concentrates on serving constituents in first year in Congress
Montgomery Advertiser – Jan. 2
As someone who appreciates the value of compromise, Terri Sewell has found lots of reasons to feel frustrated during her first year in Congress. “The political gridlock has definitely been the most disappointing, no doubt about it,” said Sewell, the only Democrat in Alabama’s congressional delegation and the first black woman elected to Congress from the state. . . . Bill Stewart, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Alabama, recalled that Sewell was on the scene in Alabama after the tornadoes, an image he said resonated with her constituents.

Scholarship would honor young teacher’s life
Birmingham News – Jan. 2
Robert Jeremy Lespi, Ph.D., died the day after Christmas four years ago. He was only 30 years old, but he packed as much living as he could into those three short decades. A poet and a scholar, Lespi loved the written word; he loved to teach; he loved to travel. Lespi’s mom and sister, Jenny Lespi and Nicole Rose, are working to establish a scholarship in his memory at the University of Southern Mississippi, where he taught. The university requires a seed contribution of $10,000 to establish any such award, and the Lespis need to raise a little more than half that amount to meet the university’s requirement. . . . When he returned home, Lespi taught in the English Department at the University of Alabama until his death.

Challenges confront new AEA leaders
Tuscaloosa News – Dec. 30
The Alabama Education Association’s future in the short term is in the hands of a new generation of leaders who will need to take a long-term outlook to keep the organization viable. Beginning Sunday, new AEA executive secretary Henry C. Mabry, 44, and associate executive secretary Gregory T. Graves, 37, take over from retiring executive secretary Paul Hubbert and associate executive secretary Joe Reed. . . . Retired University of Alabama political science professor William Stewart said the AEA’s challenge will be to develop relationships with “the movers and the shakers in the Legislature without at the same time alienating those who don’t have a lot of influence.”

Shelby County recovery has been slow for once-booming area
Birmingham News – Jan. 1
For most of the last three decades, Shelby County was the place in Alabama where the greatest number of houses were being built because it was where the greatest number of people were moving to live. Schools were bursting at the seams, developers were building retail centers and office parks, and new roads, sewers, water mains and power lines were installed to keep up with all of the growth. . . . New home construction in Shelby remains far below its peak. In October, there were 10 single family building permits issued in Calera, four in Pelham and three in Alabaster, according to the Alabama Center for Real Estate at the University of Alabama. In June 2007, before the downturn, there were 42 permits issued in Calera, 25 in Pelham and 15 in Alabaster.

Shelby Iron Co. history lives in documents but funds needed to digitizes
Birmingham News – Dec. 27
A group of volunteers who have worked to restore the one-time home of the Shelby Iron Co. in south Shelby County are hoping to preserve a mass of historic documents pertaining to the company’s operation. Members of the Historic Shelby Association are seeking financial assistance to digitize the company’s labor and financial records, production reports, correspondence and other items from 1862 to 1930 that are stored at the University of Alabama. . . . The collection is housed at the W.S. HooleSpecial Collections Library at the University of Alabama, where stacks of acid-free folders and boxes containing the documents cover nearly 500 feet of material.

Birmingham has one of the worst home sales-to-inventory ratios
Fox 6 (Birmingham) – Jan. 2
Birmingham has one of the worst home sales- to- inventory ratios in the state according to a a study by the University of Alabama. The study says in November 775 homes were sold, but there were more than 8,400 homes for sale in the metro area.

UA accepting Christmas trees for recycling
ABC 33/40 (Birmingham) – Jan. 2
…the University of Alabama’s recycling center will accept trees. It’s at 1115 14th Street.

UA students continue to serve the community
WVUA (Tuscaloosa) – Jan. 2
It certainly says a lot about the two institutions that people care enough to take time out of their schedule for getting ready for the game and tailgating and all of that, to be able to help out in those communities. We’ve seen so many students and other folks helping out in Tuscaloosa in the last year, and we just think this will be a good way to continue that. If you’d like to see the University of Alabama through the eyes of a student, go to…

UA athletics director Mal Moore talks about Alzheimer’s disease
WBRC-Fox 6 – Dec. 29
University of Alabama Athletics Director Moore is talking about an issue that’s dear to him, Alzheimer’s disease. As we have told you before, he cared for his wife, Charlotte, for almost 20 years as she battled Alzheimer’s. Right now, money is being raised for the “Mal and Charlotte Moore Center” at the “caring days” facility where Mrs. Moore lived.

Commentary: God behind vastly formed universe
Fort Wayne Journal Gazette – Dec. 31
The amazing things of our world cause pause for wonder and reflection. I finally visited Cape Canaveral a few years ago and was overwhelmed as I stood by one of the early shuttles that went into space. . . . All the accomplishments in medicine reveal how much we do not know about our bodies and the wonder of life. Dr. Phillip Bishop, professor of exercise physiology at the University of Alabama, said: “So we’re complex, so what? So, we’re so complex that our bodies reflect a system containing an abundance of information. We’re so complex it seems highly doubtful that we are the product of chance errors of our forebear’s DNA.” There are continuous discoveries about the body and advances in medicine that promote wellness and the extension of life.

Guest Columnist: Don Brown: All is calm, not so bright in the ICU
Tuscaloosa News – Dec. 25
The big black hands of the wall clocks in the Intensive Care Unit move steadily — a second, a minute, the hour, then a morning, an afternoon, all night. They measure time that seems not to exist in this place where the very sick lie, in one room after the other. White sheets, white blankets and thin gowns cover the patients. The upper bodies of some are slightly raised, and pillows shield others’ heels from bed abrasions. Smiling nurses with friendly voices meet the immediate needs of these people, while computer screens with red and green lines and changing numbers monitor the longer-term effects of the medicine seeping into their veins or through tubes in their mouth or nostrils. . . . Donald Brown is a former editor of The Tuscaloosa News. He teaches journalism at the University of Alabama.


The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.