2 weeks ago

7 Things: Stimulus deal dead until after the election but Trump wants standalone bills, Brennan briefed Obama on Clinton’s plot, Alabama teachers bailing on the profession and more …

7. Municipal run-off election leads to close races and a fired poll worker

  • The mayor of Decatur was reelected, a city councilman was obliterated in Huntsville, another city councilman lost in Madison, the mayor of  Florence appears to have lost by 11 votes and two separate city councilman kept the seats in Russellville in elections that were decided by two votes as some voters in Alabama returned to the polls to decide who would lead their cities.
  • But all did not go smoothly. In Prichard, a poll worker was fired after a citizen reported that the employee was tampering with their ballot. The mayor of Prichard released the following statement: “The poll workers are hired by the Secretary of State and trained accordingly. The incident that occurred this morning was summarily handled and the poll worker was removed per Alabama’s Poll Worker Guidelines. I applaud the entire team from poll workers to poll watchers to law enforcement that efficiently and professionally helped to address the situation.”

6. Ivey asked to pick a different location for prison site

  • Governor Kay Ivey previously announced the new proposed sites for three men’s prisons across the state, one of the locations being in Elmore County, but now officials are asking that she reconsider this chosen location.
  • Tallassee Mayor John Hammock and county officials have written a letter to Ivey, saying that the site should be pushed to the western part of Elmore County, closer to where two other correctional facilities already are. In the letter, they note the economic benefit of the area and the fact that there’s already state-owned land there.

5. Changes for H-1B visas

  • In an attempt to protect American jobs and wages, President Donald Trump’s administration has announced some changes to the H-1B guest worker program. Deputy Secretary of Labor Patrick Pizzella said that “immediate action is needed to guard against the lower cost foreign labor can post to the wellbeing of U.S. workers.”
  • The change is in the way the “prevailing wage” is determined, which is what the Department of Labor uses to determine what workers should be paid depending on similar employment. Pizzella described this as “one of the more significant reforms made to the H-1B program in the last 20 years.”

4. Precautions being made for Wednesday VP debate 

  • The first vice presidential debate is happening Wednesday night, and there have been new precautions put in place by the Commission on Presidential Elections after President Donald Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis and suspicion that he had the virus during the first presidential debate.
  • U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Vice President Mike Pence will be spaced at least 12 feet apart, there will be a shield between the candidates, and while they won’t have to wear a mask on stage, they will be tested before they can debate.

3. Increase of teachers seeking retirement

  • Since the school year began in the middle of a pandemic, there has been a steep increase in teachers seeking retirement, according to new information put out by the Alabama Teachers Retirement System.
  • Retirements in August, September and October of this year have already been much higher than the last two years, with almost twice as many retirements in September than in 2019 and 2018. This is mostly being attributed to health risks and “technology issues,” according to the president of the Central Alabama chapter of the Alabama Federation of Teachers Marrianne Hayward.

2. Brennan briefed Obama on Clinton’s Russia gambit

  • In the latest news that shows the media and their Democrats’ Russian collusion narrative was a completely fabricated story, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe on Tuesday declassified documents that show former CIA Director John Brennan briefed former President Barack Obama on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s “plan” to distract the American public from the use of her private email server by alleging Russian collusion ahead of the 2016 presidential election.
  • The media could not be bothered to cover this, but the notes are believed to reference then-FBI Director James Comey, former National Security Adviser Susan Rice and Obama chief of staff Denis McDonough. It led to an investigative referral on Clinton for allegedly launching the scheme, but it went nowhere and they focused on the Clinton-originated Trump-Russia collusion.

1. No more stimulus talks until after November 3 but…

  • President Donald Trump has returned to the White House, and he’s now announced that he’s asking Republicans to halt all negotiations on a coronavirus stimulus package until after the general election, saying that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) isn’t “negotiating in good faith.”
  • But that is not the end of the story. Shortly after shutting down the stimulus talks, the president tweeted that he wants to see standalone bills that provide $1,200 stimulus checks to some voters, extend the Paycheck Protection Program and provide relief to airlines with money already approved by Congress.
14 mins ago

Drug discovered, tested at UAB becomes first fully FDA-approved treatment for COVID-19

Remdesivir on Thursday became the first drug to be fully approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating the coronavirus.

The antiviral produced by the pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences received an emergency use authorization from the FDA in May; Thursday’s announcement will likely expand its usage across the nation. The drug has been approved for the treatment of patients requiring hospitalization.

Remdesivir showed promising results for treating COVID-19 in a much-discussed clinical trial conducted in the spring and early summer. After this trial, White House health advisor and NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci proclaimed to the nation that remdesivir “will be the standard of care” moving forward for coronavirus-positive inpatients. He called the trial results “quite good news.”

The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) was a participating clinical site in the now-famous study and administered the drug to participating patients. However, UAB’s involvement goes significantly farther.

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As reported by Yellowhammer News in February, a drug discovery program housed at UAB led to the development of remdesivir. This discovery came from a public-private partnership that also included Birmingham-based Southern Research and Gilead Sciences.

The drug discovery was funded by federal monies awarded to the Antiviral Drug Discovery and Development Center at UAB after U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) became chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations.

Remdesivir was taken by President Donald J. Trump in his recovery from COVID-19, along with Regeneron’s experimental polyclonal antibody cocktail. That cocktail is currently being tested at UAB.

In a Thursday release, Gilead explained the treatment guidelines for remdesivir and reacted to the FDA approval.

“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gilead has worked relentlessly to help find solutions to this global health crisis. It is incredible to be in the position today, less than one year since the earliest case reports of the disease now known as COVID-19, of having an FDA-approved treatment in the U.S. that is available for all appropriate patients in need,” stated Daniel O’Day, chairman and CEO of Gilead Sciences. “The speed and rigor with which [remdesivir] has been developed and approved in the U.S. reflect the shared commitment of Gilead, government agencies and clinical trial investigators to advance well-tolerated, effective treatment options for the fight against COVID-19. We will continue to work at speed with the aim of enhancing patient outcomes with [remdesivir] to ensure all patients with COVID-19 have the best chance at recovery.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

23 mins ago

U.S. Rep. Gary Palmer: Joe Biden ‘highly, highly compromised’ by China

U.S. Rep. Gary Palmer (AL-06) on Wednesday interviewed on Talk 99.5’s “Matt & Aunie Show,” discussing the recent bombshell stories that have come out indicating that former Vice President Joe Biden was potentially involved in certain lucrative foreign business dealings of his son, Hunter.

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe this week announced the assessment that Hunter Biden’s laptop and the emails on it “is not part of some Russian disinformation campaign.” The FBI has said that it has “nothing to add” to this assessment.

Palmer, speaking to radio host Matt Murphy, emphasized that the questions raised involving the Bidens are serious and “real.”

“This is a real story. The FBI has the laptop. This is not a Russian hoax. This is real,” the central Alabama congressman said.

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“And the most concerning thing is, it’s not what Hunter Biden did — we’ve known about Hunter Biden’s corrupt activities with Russia, with the money he got from the widow of the mayor of Moscow, we’ve known about the corrupt deal he had with Burisma, and there are other people that I think at some point we will be able to talk about that may have been involved, and we’ve known about what he did in China. What is new about this is the possibility, the allegation, that Joe Biden himself benefited personally, that he was taking money off the top for himself,” Palmer continued. “And I think that’s what’s got to be investigated.”

He lamented that “the mainstream media is ignoring this” and that “they think they can keep people from finding out about it.”

On Thursday, a business partner of Hunter Biden told Fox News that Joe Biden was indeed involved in his son’s foreign business dealings and profiting monetarily. The business partner also confirmed the authenticity of emails previously publicized by The New York Post and has provided outlets on Thursday with further electronic communications involving the Bidens not found on Hunter’s laptop.

Palmer in a subsequent part of Wednesday’s interview commented on what would be the consequence of Joe Biden becoming president while potentially compromised by China.

“You are in danger of being held hostage,” the congressman warned. “The whole world would suffer if Biden gets elected president. Because the Chinese have the goods on him.”

“Now think about that,” Palmer continued, “how it would impact nations like Australia and Japan and South Korea and Vietnam, who’s becoming an ally of ours because they fear the hegemony of China. It’s going to spread across the world. This is a critical moment for this country. And you literally have left-wing media that are part of a conspiracy to defeat a president. They tried to remove him from office, now they’re trying to defeat him and put somebody in office that is highly, highly compromised.”

He also raised the specter of what could happen if Biden is elected on November 3 and then investigations subsequently reveal that he is compromised by a foreign power.

“[I]t doesn’t give me any comfort whatsoever to think that Biden would be removed from office and replaced with … Senator [Kamala] Harris,” Palmer decried. “Communist Kamala.”

RELATED: Director of National Intelligence: Iran attempting to damage Trump’s reelection

In stark contrast to recent revelations and Palmer’s Wednesday remarks come the past statements of U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) about the Bidens’ foreign endeavors. Jones, an earlier endorser of Biden’s 2020 presidential bid, recently explained that he has considered Biden a friend and mentor since 1978. Jones recently had Biden campaign for him virtually in Alabama, and the former vice president also campaigned for Jones in his 2017 special election bid.

Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01) last year called for an investigation into Joe Biden’s China ties.

“Do you think everything about these ties between the vice-president’s son and China are OK? Don’t you think we ought to ask some important questions like we spent all this time and money doing with President Trump? I’d like to hear what he has to say about that,” Byrne asked of Jones at the time.

When Byrne subsequently filed a bill to investigate the Bidens over foreign dealings, Jones then went into defense mode for his old friend.

“We should all want the same things – the facts, the truth, and the rule of law – not pandering partisanship trying to be relevant,” Jones asserted at the time, while not supporting an investigation.

His campaign spokesperson at the time also claimed, “Information about Joe Biden and his son has been around for a long time and all alleged improprieties have been debunked by numerous sources.”

RELATED: Jones on Biden investigation: ‘We cannot go around trying to investigate every perceived enemy of the president, especially this president’

Overall, Jones has been quick to come to Biden’s defense this election cycle. Alabama’s junior senator defended Biden last year when he came under fire for remarks about former segregationist Democratic senators, as well as deeming past sexual misconduct allegations against Joe Biden as distractions from beating Trump in 2020.

Additionally, Jones earlier this year attacked the “credibility” of Tara Reade, the former Biden Senate staffer who has accused Biden of sexually assaulting her in 1993. She recently interviewed with “60 Minutes” in Australia about the alleged assault.

RELATED: Doug Jones: Biden does not have ‘senior moments’ — Just ‘Joe Biden moments’

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

39 mins ago

After staying flat for weeks, Alabama’s coronavirus numbers are going up again

Alabama’s coronavirus statistics have climbed steadily over the last week after spending more than a month on a plateau.

Over the last seven days, the state has averaged 898 new cases per day, a rate not experienced since the first few days of September.

Especially troubling to experts, 16.06% of coronavirus tests administered in the last 14 days have come back positive, the highest rate the state has ever experienced.

Yellowhammer News used numbers from the website BamaTracker for this report. BamaTracker collects and charts the information gathered by the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH).

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The disease has reached Alabama’s halls of power; Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth and at least five state senators have come down with the virus. Ainsworth reports being asymptomatic, but State. Sen Randy Price (R-Opelika) was hospitalized earlier this year during an endured an extended battle with COVID-19.

Between 6,300 and 7,000 coronavirus tests have been reported each day in Alabama during October, a rate that has remained consistent as the totals of new positive results have risen.

Yellowhammer News is referencing new cases as those testing positive via a molecular-based PCR test and confirmed by ADPH. When including positive results from rapid test devices, the average new cases per day for the last week rises to 1,129.

Ninety-nine Alabamians have been admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 each day over the last week, a tick up from the mid-80s average seen for most of the last six weeks, but not as pronounced as the rise in the new case count.

Clicking image opens interactive new cases chart in new tab. (BamaTracker)
Clicking image opens BamaTracker in new tab. (BamaTracker)

Public health experts have reported on numerous occasions that a rise in hospitalizations usually follows a rise in new cases by around two weeks, and increased deaths follow hospitalization surges by two to five weeks.

Sixty-five of Alabama’s 67 counties reported a new case of COVID-19 on Wednesday, indicating continued widespread transmission throughout the state.

Rural counties like Dekalb, Covington and Jackson have all had pronounced outbreaks in the last two weeks.

For the last seven days, Alabama has averaged 10 deaths among people with a confirmed case of the coronavirus. The state’s total death toll from the virus is now 2,843, with another 183 that are listed as probable but not yet confirmed by ADPH.

Alabama’s new cases, hospitalizations and deaths are all down from their mid to late summer peaks.

Dr. Don Williamson, head of the Alabama Hospital Association, told WSFA this week that he does not expect Alabama to be exempt “from what looks like it’s going to be a second wave” of the coronavirus.

Williamson further surmised to the Associated Press in recent days that Alabamians were suffering from “COVID fatigue” and not observing precautions like wearing masks or socially distancing as much as citizens did earlier in the fall.

Health officials are urging every citizen to go get a flu shot, saying that a bad flu outbreak on top of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic could be disastrous for the state and nation’s health care system.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

54 mins ago

Ainsworth stands by opposition to mandatory masks, vaccines — ‘Everybody needs personal responsibility,’ ‘Gov’t mandate is a dangerous precedent’

Late Wednesday, Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth’s office revealed he had tested positive for COVID-19, noting the diagnosis despite having followed CDC health and safety protocols.

Ainsworth had been a critic of the mask mandate and other restrictions implemented by Gov. Kay Ivey and State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris done in the name of preventing the spread of coronavirus in the past.

During an interview with Mobile radio’s FM Talk 106.5 on Thursday, Ainsworth said he still felt the mandates were a “dangerous precedent” and suggested emphasizing personal responsibility.

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“It doesn’t at all,” he said. “I think everybody needs personal responsibility. I think the government mandate is a dangerous precedent. I stand by that. Here’s what I want you to understand, Jeff — I had a mask on in Sunday school and was the only person on the row I was sitting on. Maybe I got it somewhere else. Maybe I didn’t. But I guess my point is you can still do all these things, and I exercise caution. The virus — maybe it was on a doorknob. Who knows? But I still got it. So, I don’t think the mask is the cure-all that everybody necessarily thinks it is.”

“My thing is this: I think it is smart to wear a mask,” Ainsworth continued. “It’s going to be an extra layer of protection if you’ve got health issues. You need more than a mask. You probably don’t need to be out and about. You really need to be careful. But most people — they’ll be fine. They’ll get over it. We just need to utilize common sense and, you know, I think we’ll get through this. When a vaccine gets here, it’s going to help a lot.”

Ainsworth added that he was concerned about the possibility of mandatory vaccinations, as well.

“To me, Jeff, that’s just a policy issue,” he said. “I don’t think we need to be mandating masks.  I don’t think we need to be mandating vaccines. I don’t think that’s government’s role. I think that’s each individual’s role to decide what’s best for his or her family and that government should not be involved with that. That’s been my issue with this. Jeff Poor should decide whether or not he wants to wear a mask, or whether or not he should get a vaccine, not the government.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

2 hours ago

This weekend’s college football TV schedule

For a printable version, click here. Pro tip: Save the image below to your phone for quick and easy access all weekend.

(Note: All times are Central)

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Zack Shaw is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News and former walk-on for the Auburn Tigers. You can contact him by email: zack@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @z_m_shaw

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @hayden_crigler.