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The University of Alabama

UA in the News: March 20, 2012

University of Alabama scientists help identify brand-new frog species
Birmingham News – March 20
University of Alabama researchers had a role in identifying a new species of frog, and this one lives not in some exotic rain forest, but in New York City. Within sight of the Statue of Liberty, no less. The as-yet-unnamed frog was noticed by Rutgers University ecologist Jeremy Feinberg. By its looks, it was indistinguishable from a common species of leopard frog. But the New York frog … well, it talked funny. “It’s a very complex call,” said Leslie Rissler, who heads the University of Alabama lab that helped identify the frog as distinct. “It sounds like laughter under water. “With frogs, the call is how these organisms attract their mates,” she continued. “Differences in calls can be very subtle, but not subtle to a female frog.” The newly identified species is described in a paper published in the most recent edition of the scientific journal Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. The paper’s lead author, Cathy Newman, was pursuing her master’s degree under Rissler, a biology professor whose team uses gene-sequencing and geographic information system mapping to trace the evolution and distribution of amphibians. Newman had turned to Feinberg for information on northern and southern leopard frogs, which prompted Feinberg to ask for help in figuring out what was up with these unusual frogs found on Staten Island and other wetlands in and around New York City. After initial testing at UA, samples were shared with researchers in California, who performed further testing and co-authored the paper announcing the findings.

LaRocca Nursing Home to relocate to Capstone Village
ABC 33/40 (Birmingham) – March 19
LaRocca nursing home was one of the casualties of the April 27 storm in Tuscaloosa. It now plans to rebuild at Capstone Village, a retirement community on the eastern edge of the University of Alabama campus. The nursing home would complete the original vision of the village as a continuing care retirement facility. The plan is to have the home open by the summer of 2013.

Stakes high for Romney rivals in South
Financial Times – March 11
With Tuesday’s primaries in the two southern states being fought in rival Newt Gingrich’s “backyard” – Mr Gingrich hails from Georgia – and the governors of both Alabama and Mississippi endorsing Mitt Romney, the frontrunner in the Republican race, Rick Santorum is trying to rein in expectations. “Santorum and Gingrich are fighting for the same pile of votes,” said Richard Fording, chair of the political science department at the University of Alabama. “Voters here don’t care for Mitt Romney. If you were going to design the exact worst candidate from scratch, you would come up with exactly Mitt Romney,” he said.

Possible Southern breakthrough for Mitt Romney
New York Daily News – March 11
 The South has been unfriendly terrain for Mitt Romney — but the GOP front-runner may finally have a chance to break through below the Mason-Dixon line. Romney has poured in time and resources in Alabama and Mississippi ahead of Tuesday’s primaries…But the obstacles facing the former Massachusetts governor in Dixie remain imposing, politicos said. “This is not an easy sell for Romney on a few different levels,” said Richard Fording, a political science professor at the University of Alabama. “He’s from a liberal state, and his record in Massachusetts on social issues — like abortion and gay marriage — aren’t popular here,” Fording said. “Plus, he’s superrich, and there are a lot of low-income voters.”… “A recent poll of evangelicals around here showed that 30% would simply not vote for a Mormon — and the number who wouldn’t admit that in a poll is probably a lot higher,” Fording explained…“These are states that he would win in November, since they are not going to vote for Barack Obama,” Fording said. “But getting (a win) now would be a huge victory for him. It would symbolically be very important.”

Political Geography: Alabama
New York Times – March 11
Our state-by-state profile of the Republican electorate — a mixture of analysis from local experts, demographic data and past voting results — lands today in the Deep South, first in Alabama, then in Mississippi. Gathering a sense of the political geography of these states seems particularly useful because past polling in both Alabama and Mississippi has not been terribly reliable. In any case, the polling we do have shows a close three-way race in both states among Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney. To get a better sense of Alabama, we consulted a few local experts: Steve Flowers, a longtime political columnist in the state, as well as two political science professors from the University of Alabama, Richard Fording and William H. Stewart.

Trends in electoral politics make Alabama’s presidential primary more than a rubber stamp
Anniston Star – March 11
Alabama is finally feeling the love. The campaign-year love, that is…After years as a primary-season afterthought but a GOP shoo-in in every general election, Alabama this year has at least a small voice to contribute to the process of selecting a presidential candidate. “Definitely, this time we matter,” said Richard Fording, a professor of political science at the University of Alabama. “A lot of things have changed, and the changes are in our favor.”… “If you’re a voter in New Hampshire, you get to meet every candidate,” Fording noted. “That’s just not fair.”…According to University of Alabama political science professor Carol Cassel, it was the 2008 election that put Alabama back on the political map…“It was a surprise that the battle between Obama and Clinton went on that long,” Cassel said. “But it worked to Alabama’s advantage, and now we have a similar situation with the Republicans.”…Fording said Santorum, a clear favorite of social conservatives, has turned off female voters with his hard line on birth control while Gingrich, a political veteran with a good understanding of Southern sensibilities, is known too well for his three marriages and past political dust-ups. And as for Romney? Well, in Fording’s view, the former governor and businessman is the perfect man — for someplace else.
“If you could design a Republican who wouldn’t work in the South, that candidate would look like Romney,” he said. “He’s rich, which doesn’t connect here. He’s from Massachusetts, the most liberal state in the country. And he’s a Mormon, which many evangelicals view in the same way a Catholic candidate was viewed 50 years ago.”

For 2nd year, a sharp drop in law school entrance tests
New York Times – March 19
The Law School Admission Council reported that the LSAT was given 129,925 times in the 2011-12 academic year. That was well off the 155,050 of the year before and far from the peak of 171,514 in the year before that. In all, the number of test takers has fallen by nearly 25 percent in the last two years … For some law schools, the dwindling number of test-takers represents a serious long-term challenge. “What I’d anticipate is that you’ll see the biggest falloff in applications in the bottom end of the law school food chain,” said Andrew Morriss of the University of Alabama School of Law.

UA Professor believes immigration law will hurt economy
The Crimson White – March 20
The controversial immigration law that has been in effect in Alabama since September is hurting the overall economy of the state, according to one University of Alabama professor. Samuel Addy, the director of UA’s Center for Business and Economic Research, released a position paper in January titled, “A Cost-Benefit Analysis of the New Alabama Immigration Law.” Addy wrote that the law will annually shrink Alabama’s economy by more than $2.3 billion and will cost the state at least 70,000 jobs. “This report presents an initial cost-benefit analysis of HB56, the new Alabama immigration law, and finds that the law is rather costly to the state,” wrote Addy.

UA students battle pollen and allergies
WVUA (Tuscaloosa) – March 19
Spring temperatures are on the rise and so is the pollen count. WVUA’s Winnie Wright has more on how you can keep the sniffles at bay. Everywhere you look, you see that yellow powdery pollen covering plants and cars. It’s easy to see allergy season is in full swing, and it has many across west Alabama looking for relief. University of Alabama students returned to campus after spring break to find their cars covered in pollen and their heads aching.

UA student photo contest: My college diet – March 19
It’s getting close to that point in the year when students resign to ramen noodles. Only a couple of months are left in spring semester, and you’re stretching quarters until summer. Even if you are dining on nothing but ramen and off-brand macaroni, you could take some creative pictures of them. If you’re enrolled at the University of Alabama, we want you to participate in’s “My College Diet” photo contest. Use your favorite camera app to snap a photo of what you’re eating — whether it looks delicious or disgusting.


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.