Alabama Economy: Downtown Housing

Real estate isn't what it used to be. Home values are dropping. Mortgages are harder to get. And more people are foreclosing. The massive slowdown has hit all sectors of the economy and all places of American life. One area that had been on an upswing is downtown Birmingham, which once boasted a booming condo and loft business. Today, it's getting harder to sell those units, as WBHM's Steve Chiotakis reports as part of our series The Alabama Economy.

Minority Science Brain Drain

To advance in the science-related fields of higher education takes a love of research and a commitment to academic excellence. The work is complicated, yet rewarding. But a large demographic is missing from the classroom and lab. Many African-American women who've chosen those science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields - STEM programs -- are not following all the way through to graduate school and beyond. And that's produced an educational catch-22, as WBHM's Steve Chiotakis reports.

Remembering Lou

Lou's Pub and Package Store is reopening today after its owner and namesake, Louis Zaden died at his home late last week. The place has been dark the past five days, yet regular customers have been holding court every afternoon and evening on its patio since the news of Lou's death broke. WBHM's Steve Chiotakis was one of those regulars who celebrated the life - and the cantankerous personality - of the man so many grew to love.

Alabama Obesity Ranking

Alabama has once again been ranked as one of the most obese states in the country. The latest survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that Mississippi was the most obese state, followed closely by Alabama.

Goalball: Blind Ambition

There are Olympians in town, training for the games in Beijing. They come from all over this country and Europe and Asia sporting athleticism, a pair of blacked-out goggles and a ball with a bell in it. It's not a competition for the faint of heart, or for the sighted.

Air Quality: a history

Birmingham's air quality has improved significantly over the last century. But you wouldn't know it. The area still has problems with smog and other particulate matter, exceeding federal standards. WBHM's Steve Chiotakis harkens back to a time when bad air meant big Birmingham business.

Drought Update – water supply

The latest drought monitor still labels Birmingham and points north and east as in a severe drought, but it is much improved over the exceptional drought that plagued the area months ago. That was when lake levels dropped to historic lows and water restrictions were put in place.

Alabama Adventure sold

The theme park Alabama Adventure has been sold. Southland Entertainment, which bought the park five years ago for a fraction of what it cost to build, sold the acreage that includes the park, but not adjoining property that it hopes to develop.

Smoking ban legislation

A final push to ban cigarette smoking in many public areas and workplaces is set for Monday, the last day of the regular session of the Alabama Legislature. We hear from both sides of the debate: public health and restaurants who say it unfairly targets them.

Severe Storms

People throughout the South are cleaning up today after another round of severe weather stuck the region over the weekend. At least one tornado and severe thunderstorms tore through portions of north and central Alabama, waking people up in the middle of the night with vivid lightning, loud thunder and tornado warning sirens. There are no reports of injuries, but damage has been reported in Marion, Winston, and Cullman counties, with downed trees and power lines in many areas.

Baseball’s Black History

It was a time of separate and not-so equal. In society and baseball. Those days, the first half of the 20th century, featured African-American baseball teams from around the country, including Birmingham. As the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute gets ready to pay tribute to Negro Leaguers, WBHM's Steve Chiotakis talked with two former Black Barons, Shortstop Roger Brown and Outfielder James Jake Sanders.

Fee or Flee

It's been three months since the city of Birmingham initiated a one percent sales tax and business license fee increase to fund economic improvements in the city, including a dome stadium. At the time, Mayor Larry Langford said it was a way to raise money for infrastructure and public safety improvements and to help boost Birmingham's economy. But as WBHM's Steve Chiotakis reports, some businesses are wondering if it will have the opposite effect.

Public arts funding

The world of arts funding can be challenging. There are artists that rely on the marketplace for all of their support. There are artists who only take money from private donors. And then there are arts organizations that support themselves with local, state and federal funds. And it's the latter group that, for nearly a quarter century, has been at the center of a fiery philosophical debate. WBHM's Steve Chiotakis reports.

Alabama Appalachian Trail

State tourism officials are hailing their latest attraction as something hundreds of millions of years in the making. It is a natural path that connects Alabama's portion of the Appalachian Mountains to the Appalachian Trail. The decades long effort has spurred some to ask why the trail doesn't officially end in Alabama. WBHM's Steve Chiotakis reports.

Parliament House checks out

The Parliament House hotel is history. Literally. It was built with fanfare in the 1960s, financed partly by actress Doris Day, patronized by President Richard Nixon, Governor George Wallace and Coach Bear Bryant. But it was a place that never seemed to take off for everyone else. Different owners tried different things. WBHM's Steve Chiotakis remembers the hotel, his family's part in it and an early morning wake-up call to watch it come to an end.

SFS: Black on Black

All this week, WBHM has explored how crime affects the community, whether suburban or central city. While crime knows no race or neighborhood, some areas have more of it. In those places where poverty depletes the community of hope and where gangs run rampant, crime takes hold. Many of those neighborhoods are inner-city and predominantly black, leading to the term 'black-on-black crime.' But critics say categorizing crime by race further detaches it from the mainstream consciousness. That it makes it someone else's problem - other peoples' trouble. Some say it is a community and economic problem that warrants everyone's attention. WBHM's Steve Chiotakis wraps up our series.

Bridge to Safety

According to the Federal Highway Administration, Alabama ranks 14th in the nation in the number of structurally deficient bridges in use. In the wake of last summer's collapse of an interstate bridge in Minnesota, there is a call to bolster the infrastructure here and in the rest of the country. Alabama Department of Transportation officials are checking and, in some cases, double- and triple-checking bridges to make sure they're safe. But is it enough? WBHM's Steve Chiotakis reports.

Langford takes over

A judge has ruled that Mayor Larry Langford was qualified to run for mayor and is a legal resident of the city and able to hold office. Judge Allwin Horn says Langford provided reasonable evidence that he did establish residency within the legal parameters. Second-place mayoral candidate Patrick Cooper filed the suit against Langford claiming he lived in Fairfield a majority of the time and set up in a loft downtown as an affront in his bid for the mayor's office. Langford took the oath of office Tuesday, November 13, a swearing-in that capped months of campaigning and years of what he calls stagnation and getting few things done. But Langford's never been at a loss for words and he's come into his new job with high hopes and lots of ideas. They are plans that will cost money in a city that doesn't have an endless supply of it. WBHM's Steve Chiotakis caught up with Langford.

Birmingham: Suburbanly Divided

For the last week, our series "Birmingham: the Urban Divide" has focused on issues affecting the city's changing population, a struggling school system, housing issues and economic development. But those things are part of a broader picture of how Birmingham not only faces its challenges, but faces its neighbors... and, more importantly, how the neighbors look back. Increasingly, they're not. Suburban communities have all but turned their backs on Birmingham, claiming that the city turned its back on them. Some see it as a racial problem - Birmingham is a majority black city - others see it as an historical problem. As WBHM's Steve Chiotakis reports, one thing's for sure, very little is getting done.

WBHM’s 30th Anniversary

Tom Godell was one of the first voices on 90.3 WBHM, when the station signed on the air more than 30 years ago. As part of our year-long look back celebrating WBHM's 30th anniversary, Godell -- who's now in Kentucky -- talks about the early days of public radio and what it was like to be in the studio when the switch was pulled and public radio in Birmingham came alive.

Semantics Antics

Proponents of an expanded civic center in downtown Birmingham will have to wait at least another year while lawmakers hammer out details of funding sources. It's not a new plan; it's been drawn up for years, and neither are the words that have been infused into the debate. Whether it's identified as a dome stadium or arena, WBHM's Steve Chiotakis reports that the public relations effort has been exhausting on both sides.

Twice as Good: Condoleezza Rice and Her Path to Power

From the Titusville neighborhood to the West Wing of the White House, it seems Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has made it past nearly every obstacle put in front of her. But according to the author of a new book, her upbringing in the segregated South had a lot to do with how she looked at those obstacles - and whether they even mattered at all.

Code Red

The Birmingham metropolitan area was placed under an air quality alert once again Wednesday for particle pollution, a code red for what officials say was a particularly dangerous situation: smoke coming from wildfires burning in Georgia and Florida. Winds have shifted and the smoke has moved out of the area -- for now.

Alabama lures steelmaker

German steelmaker ThyssenKrupp has chosen Alabama for a $ 3.7 (B) billion dollar steel mill that, at full capacity, is expected to employ more than 2,700 workers. The company says the plant will be built in northern Mobile County, near Mount Vernon. Completion of the project is expected in 2010.

Prison Arts and Education

The vast majority of people who are in prison will get out. Legally. And chances are, those inmates who were locked up won't be rehabilitated or prepared for re-entry into society. But some lockup programs are trying to tackle prison recidivism through education and the arts. Studies show that they?re working. WBHM's Steve Chiotakis looks at one particular program in Alabama that offers inmates the opportunity to learn while paying their debt to society. But it still has yet to win over some victims.

VA Missing Hard Drive

Officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs and the FBI continue their investigation into a missing hard drive with more than 1.8 million patient and doctor names and sensitive information that went missing from the Birmingham VA Medical Center. The VA says it's notifying those who may be included in the records, is updating its security policy and - according to the Associated Press - is eliminating its research enhancement awards programs in Birmingham and other sites until tighter security standards are met. But criticism continues about the length of time it took the department to disclose the disappearance and the security issues. WBHM's Steve Chiotakis reports.

General Wesley Clark

State and local Democrats have been spending time over the remaining weeks of this election cycle trying to bolster the party's image as being tough when it comes to national defense and offsetting attacks by Republicans - including President Bush - who say they are nothing but a party of 'Cut and Run' when it comes to Iraq. Helping in that effort was retired General Wesley Clark - NATO's Former Supreme Commander and a former presidential candidate - who was in Alabama over the weekend speaking on behalf of Democratic candidates.

Paying for Progress

It is a difficult place to be, in between fertile and fading. Urban areas - parts of Birmingham included -- that were once 'hot spots' are now 'not-so-much-spots'. Businesses have a hard time staying afloat because people have left or are shopping someplace else. But increasingly, developers see green in those places as local governments pony up to lure business back. As WBHM's Steve Chiotakis reports, tax incentives and infrastructure improvements are carrots in a new kind of economic development model.

North Korea Nukes

The U.S. and its allies have confirmed that North Korea has tested a nuclear weapon in the northern part of the country. Calling it a defense against invasion, the rest of the world looks warily on believing a nuclear North Korea puts other nations -- particularly those geographically close -- at risk. One Asian expert and UAB history professor, Dr. John Van Sant, tells WBHM's Steve Chiotakis that what complicates a diplomatic resolution is the history of bad blood - not only with the U.S., but with North Korea's neighbors.

Katrina: One year later

One year ago, Hurricane Katrina roared ashore the central gulf coast, killing hundreds, causing billions of dollars in damage and displacing more than a million people from New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. More than 3-thousand headed for the Birmingham area. Coordinators of one project went out and talked to those who fled, and WBHM's Steve Chiotakis talked to them about the project.

The New, New Normal

Security measures in Britain and the US -- already tightened after the September 11 terrorist attacks -- were made even more stringent after British authorities announced that they'd foiled a terror plot to blow up U.S.-bound aircraft. Twenty-four suspects are in custody; more are being sought. The men were allegedly planning to use liquid explosives on board the planes to bring them down over the Atlantic. U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials placed the air transportation system on high alert and travelers all over the country were affected.

Caught in Beirut

Fighting continues between Isrealis and Hezbollah militants. Infrastructure inside Lebanon keeps getting pounded by Isreali bombs while Hezbollah sends rockets into northern Israel. Hundreds have been killed on both sides. For a time, 22-year old Birmingham native Jay Saxon -- a university student studying Arabic -- was caught in the middle of the violence with other American students. But before he left Beirut, WBHM's Steve Chiotakis spoke with him about all that was going on around him. (Full update and map inside)