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Top News Links: Friday, May 22

Memorial Day weekend bookings brisk on beach

Building on four years of record tourism growth, Baldwin County's coast continues to be Alabama's star attraction rolling into the Memorial Day weekend. According to some of the area's largest property management companies, spring break outpaced 2014 and last weekend's Hangout Music Festival in Gulf Shores filled condos and beach houses to near capacity. – AL.com

Tuscaloosa County upgrades Mercedes tax breaks

Tuscaloosa County officials have approved larger tax breaks for Mercedes-Benz to help offset expansion costs at the automaker's plant in Vance. The Tuscaloosa County Industrial Development Authority agreed Thursday to increase the value of tax abatements granted to Mercedes to about $28.1 million. That's up from $12.5 million in tax abatements for the automaker that were approved in 2011. – AP/TribTown

Student’s choice of UA gets national attention

When choosing which college to attend next year, high school senior Ronald Nelson made what some people might see as a controversial decision. He turned down every school in the Ivy League and decided to attend the University of Alabama. – Business Insider

NASA’s SLS gets $1.85B nod

The House Appropriations Committee has passed a NASA budget for 2016 that tells the space agency Congress is serious about the big new rocket being developed in Alabama, wants it used more, and is ready to spend more money to build it. The budget passed Wednesday by a voice vote gives NASA $519 million more than 2015 and the Space Launch System $150 million of that. SLS would get $1.85 billion in 2016 compared to $1.7 billion this year. – AL.com

Shelby bill to ease banking rules moves ahead

A bill crafted by U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, to ease regulations across the U.S. financial sector passed a Senate committee on Thursday with no support from Democrats, in a setback to the largest overhaul of 2010 banking reforms since the rules were put in place. The Senate Banking Committee cleared the Financial Regulatory Improvement Act of 2015 with all 12 Republicans voting in favor, and all 10 Democrats voting against. – Reuters

New study links BP spill, dolphin deaths

In a new study, a team of scientists says there's a definite link between the massive BP oil spill in 2010 and a record number of dolphin deaths along the northern Gulf of Mexico. The scientists on Wednesday said large numbers of dead bottlenose dolphins found along shores since the spill suffered from lung and adrenal lesions caused by swimming in oil-contaminated seas. – AP/AL.com

T-Mobile opens new Birmingham facility

T-Mobile opened the doors Thursday on its all-new, expanded customer care facility in Birmingham while simultaneously stepping up its support of youth in the local community, announcing a $10,000 grant to the YMCA of Greater Birmingham by the T-Mobile Foundation. – News release

ACE designates five new communities

Alabama Communities of Excellence (ACE) recently designated five new communities after they successfully completed the ACE three-phase approach to economic and community development for cities with populations between 2,000 and 18,000. Alexander City, Elba, Fairhope, Rainsville, and Saraland were recognized as the newest members of an elite group of Alabama’s small communities. – News release

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