MYSTERY RESPIRATORY ILLNESSES
Alabama closes mystery illness probe
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Alabama health officials investigating a cluster of respiratory illnesses say the total has increased to 10, but they are closing the investigation.
State Health Officer Don Williamson said Thursday the cases are unrelated and all have reasonable explanations. He said health officials took extraordinary caution because of 2 new viruses - one in China and another in the Middle East. But they found no evidence of new or unexpected viruses or bacteria in the cluster of cases in southeast Alabama.
Two have died, six remain in hospital and two have been released from hospitals. The 10 people range in age from 24 to 87.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced earlier that testing on 7 of the patients found no sign that the illnesses were caused by any single germ.
2 schools evacuated after Ala. train derailment
BEAR CREEK, Ala. (AP) - Authorities in northwest Alabama say a train has derailed near the town of Bear Creek.
Marion County emergency dispatcher Heather Burgett says no injuries were reported after the derailment Thursday afternoon.
Officials say 12 cars came off the tracks and two schools were evacuated after the accident.
Information on what the train was carrying and what caused the derailment was not immediately available.
Bear Creek is about 40 miles south of Florence.
Alabama tops Mississippi 7-5 in 10 innings
HOOVER, Ala. (AP) - Mikey White hit a two-run single in the 10th inning to give Alabama a 7-5 victory against Mississippi at the Southeastern Conference tournament on Thursday.
Alabama (34-25) trailed 3-0 early in the elimination game, but rallied for two runs in the fourth, one in the fifth and two more in the sixth to take a 5-3 lead. The Rebels' Stuart Turner hit a two-run single in the seventh inning to tie the game at 5-5 and eventually send it to extra innings.
White led the Tide with a 2 for 5 day that included three RBIs. Tucker Hawley (5-2) earned the win with three innings of scoreless relief.
Ole Miss (37-22) was led by Turner and Will Jamison, who each had two hits. Tanner Bailey (4-2) took the loss, giving up two runs in 2 1/3 innings of relief.
Auburn among fastest-growing US cities
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) - A new Census report shows Auburn is among the fastest growing cities in the country with more than 50,000 people.
The estimate released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau shows Auburn ranked 14th in growth between July 2011 and July 2012, with 3.71%. The report estimated Auburn's population at 56,908.
The home of Auburn University has added several major industries in recent years, including a GE Aviation plant that opened last month.
Another university town was 15th on the list. Manhattan, Kan., had 3.71% growth and 56,069 people.
Eight Texas cities made the top 15 with San Marcos, located between San Antonio and Austin, topping the list with a 4.91% increase.
Analysts caution against drawing too many conclusions from a year-to-year population estimates.
Hurricane forecast: Another busy Atlantic season
COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) - Federal forecasters are predicting yet another busy hurricane season.
Thursday's outlook calls for 13 to 20 named storms, 7 to 11 that strengthen into hurricanes and 3 to 6 that become major hurricanes.
The prediction by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is more than what's considered an average Atlantic season.
Last year was the third-busiest on record with 19 named storms. Ten became hurricanes and were two major storms, with winds over 111 mph.
That included Sandy, which caused $50 billion in damage even though it lost hurricane status when it made landfall in New Jersey.
The last time a major hurricane made landfall in the United States was Wilma in 2005. The seven year U.S. landfall drought is the longest on record.
The six-month season starts June 1.
Vicksburg marks anniversary of Civil War siege
VICKSBURG, Miss. (AP) - The Mississippi River town of Vicksburg is holding several events this week to mark the 150th anniversary of its siege during the Civil War.
Concerts, lectures and wreath-laying ceremonies are planned at the Vicksburg National Military Park.
On Thursday, the U.S. Postal Service unveiled a Vicksburg stamp that's part of a Civil War commemorative series.
On Saturday, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad will be in town to rededicate his state's monument in the military park.
Union forces waged a protracted campaign to take Vicksburg and gain control of the lower Mississippi River.
The city came under siege in late May 1863, and Confederate forces surrendered July 4.
Vicksburg is commemorating the 150th anniversary now because Gettysburg, Pa., is expected to be a bigger draw for tourists in July.
ESPN hires sports radio host Paul Finebaum
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - Longtime Alabama sports talk show host Paul Finebaum is joining ESPN and the SEC Network.
ESPN announced Thursday that Finebaum will host a daily radio show from Charlotte, N.C., starting in August. He will also make appearances on other platforms for the network.
The SEC Network, scheduled to launch in August 2014, will simulcast Finebaum's afternoon show. He's the network's first on-air hire.
ESPN says Finebaum will also make appearances on "SportsCenter," ''College Football Live" and "College GameDay" and write for ESPN The Magazine.
"The Paul Finebaum Show" was syndicated on stations from South Carolina to St. Louis and aired nationally on Sirius XM. His show started in 2001.
Ala. governor reviewing some bills from final day
CLANTON, Ala. (AP) - Gov. Robert Bentley says he's signed many of the bills the Legislature passed on its final meeting day, but he's holding back a few for additional review.
Bentley talked about the legislation Thursday in Clanton. The governor's press secretary, Jennifer Ardis, said one bill under review would revise Alabama's campaign finance law, including lifting the limit on campaign contributions by corporations.
She said the Legislature passed and sent to the governor 165 bills on Monday. Bentley can sign them into law and let them die by not signing them.
Ardis said the bills signed by the governor include one revising Alabama's gun laws. One provision allows workers to keep guns locked in their cars while on the job and parked in their employer's parking lot.
AUBURN TREE POISONING
Analysis: Toomer's Oaks as old as 85 years
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) - An analysis of Toomer's Oaks has revealed the trees were as old as 85 years when they were removed last month after being poisoned by a University of Alabama fan.
The Opelika-Auburn News reports that Auburn University horticulturist Gary Keever and Brian Via, an associate professor in AU's School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, made the determination last week after counting the tree's growth rings.
Keever says the wood has been taken to a location where it is irrigated to keep it from drying out while a use is determined. Meanwhile, items made from wood collected from earlier pruning are being sold to university-licensed manufacturers, with royalties funding scholarships.
Keever says his hope is a section of wood will be displayed on campus.
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