The Wire

  • Mo Brooks baffled by Pelosi’s ‘shameless’ move to cancel Trump’s State of the Union

    Excerpt:

    After House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) on Wednesday “suggested” to President Donald Trump that America’s annual State of the Union Address either be canceled and replaced by written remarks or postponed until after Washington, D.C. has ended the current partial government shutdown, Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-5) slammed Pelosi’s “childish, partisan, political stunt.”

    In a statement, Brooks said that Pelosi is using the State of the Union Address as both a political bargaining chip and to muffle the president during the southern border crisis and funding negotiations.

  • Bradley Byrne: We need term limits

    Excerpt:

    On Wednesday, Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-1) announced the introduction of a proposed amendment to the Constitution to impose term limits on members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.

    House Joint Resolution 25 would amend the Constitution to limit Congressional service to six two-year House terms and two six-year Senate terms, or 12 years in each case.

    The legislation has been referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.

    In a statement, Byrne said, “Seats in Congress belong to the American people, not any single elected official. Our Founding Fathers never expected individuals to make a career out of Congressional service, and term limits will allow us to keep fresh blood and ideas in the halls of Congress.”

  • Roby: ‘I won’t stop fighting until our laws and policies protect life at every stage’

    Excerpt:

    Representative Martha Roby (AL-2) spoke on the House floor Wednesday to commemorate the 2019 March for Life, which will take place in Washington, D.C. this Friday.

    In her speech, Roby thanked and encouraged march participants and paid tribute to the unborn lives lost by abortion in the 45 years following the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision.

    “45 years ago this month, the Supreme Court of the United States offered its infamous Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion on demand in this country,” Roby said. “Since that 1973 ruling, more than 60 million unborn children have had their lives terminated by abortion. To say this is a tragedy is an understatement.

    “Our pro-life momentum is strong, especially during this time each year, but our work is far from being complete. I won’t stop fighting until our laws and policies protect life at every stage,” she emphasized.

12 hours ago

Gordon mayor convicted of voter fraud, removed from office

(Houston County Sheriff)

The mayor of Gordon, Alabama, has been convicted of voter fraud and removed from office.

News outlets report Elbert Melton was convicted Wednesday of unlawfully falsifying ballots when he was elected in 2016.

He defeated challenger Priscilla Wilson by a 16-vote margin.

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This conviction strips him of his office. The Gordon Town Council will appoint an interim mayor to serve until an election is held.

Melton was charged in September with absentee ballot fraud and second-degree theft of property.

Arrest warrants say he knowingly obtained or exerted unauthorized control over $1,700 that belonged to the town.

Prosecutor Mark Johnson says the judge has released Melton on bond. Melton is set to be sentenced next month on the fraud charge.

He still is facing the theft charge.
 (Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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13 hours ago

Newly installed Alabama chief justice names a director of courts

(R. Hobson)

Alabama’s chief justice on Wednesday announced that Rich Hobson will serve as his administrative director of courts, a position he held twice under former Chief Justice Roy Moore.

Hobson last year unsuccessfully challenged U.S. Rep. Martha Roby in the Republican congressional primary.

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He also managed Moore’s unsuccessful 2017 campaign for U.S. Senate, a race Moore lost after being accused of sexual misconduct — allegations he denied.

Chief Justice Tom Parker also worked for Moore before being elected to the Alabama Supreme Court in 2004 as an associate justice.

The director assists the chief justice, who oversees the state court system.

Parker was sworn in last week as the state’s new chief justice after winning the November election.

In a statement announcing the appointment, Parker praised Hobson both as an innovator and someone who will help keep “leftist influences” out of the state court system.

“There is no one in Alabama who knows and understands the court system better than Rich Hobson. He is an effective, efficient, and competent administrator who has hit the ground running,” Parker said.

“Like me, Rich is a strong constitutional conservative who shares my philosophy and will help me keep leftist influences out of our court system,” Parker said.

Hobson has three decades of experience in the court system.

He held a variety of jobs before becoming the director of the court system, including court referral officer and managing the judicial volunteer program and the family preservation court improvement project.

Moore twice named Hobson as his administrative director of courts.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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18 hours ago

BioHorizons announces $2M expansion, 60 new jobs

(Biohorizons/Facebook, YouTube)

An Alabama-based company that creates dental implant products has announced a $2 million expansion that is expected to create 60 jobs.

AL.com reports BioHorizons, headquartered in Hoover, currently employs 190 people and says the new jobs will cover manufacturing, quality, distribution and research and product development openings, with the average salary projected at $50,000.

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The Hoover City Council has approved almost $60,000 in tax incentives for the expansion, which will reconfigure the building.

BioHorizons was founded in Birmingham in 1994 and has a second facility in Oceanside, California.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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19 hours ago

Former Alabama lawmaker pleads guilty in health fraud case

(Ed Henry/Facebook)

A former Alabama lawmaker best known for leading the 2017 impeachment push against then-Gov. Robert Bentley, pleaded guilty Wednesday in a health care fraud case.

Former state Rep. Ed Henry entered his plea on a charge of government property theft in a federal court in Montgomery.

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Prosecutors said medical doctors agreed to improperly waive co-pays for certain Medicare patients who enrolled in chronic-pain-management services provided by Henry’s company, MyPractice24.

Henry’s company provided monthly care-coordination calls with patients of about 20 minutes each, according to court documents.

Waiving the required co-pays meant Medicare paid for services patients possibly did not need or would have refused if they had to pay the $8 co-pay, prosecutors said.

“This is a type of health care fraud,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Ross said after the plea hearing.

Henry’s attorney, Max Pulliam, filed a notice last week that his client intended to plead guilty under an agreement reached with prosecutors.

The trial judge still must approve the plea and Pulliam said Wednesday that he could not comment.

Henry faces up to 10 years in prison under the criminal statute, but as part of the agreement prosecutors will ask for one of the lowest recommended sentences, and a lower fine than that allowed.

The Hartselle Republican was charged last year with paying kickbacks to doctors who referred patients to his company. Prosecutors agreed to dismiss those charges.

Henry initially denied all wrongdoing. He wrote on Facebook last year after the charges were announced that, “my goal was to help patients.”

The charge against Henry grew out of a pill-mill investigation in Montgomery.

Ross said federal investigators found evidence of the health care fraud after examining documents seized from a doctor’s office.

Henry served in the Alabama House of Representatives from 2010 to 2018. He did not seek re-election in 2018.

He is perhaps best known in the Alabama Legislature for starting the impeachment push against Bentley.

Henry filed impeachment articles accusing Bentley of willful neglect of duty and corruption in office.

The impeachment effort was launched after Bentley’s former law enforcement secretary accused Bentley of having an affair with a staffer and of interfering with law enforcement business.

Bentley acknowledged making mistakes in his personal life but denied the other accusations.

He resigned in 2017 on the same day lawmakers opened impeachment hearings.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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20 hours ago

Hearing set for suspect in Alabama mall shooting

(CBS 42/YouTube)

A judge in Alabama has scheduled a hearing for a man charged in gunfire that sparked a fatal police shooting which set off weeks of protests near Birmingham.

A preliminary hearing is set for Thursday morning for Erron Brown, who is charged with attempted murder in a shooting that severely injured a man in a suburban shopping mall on Thanksgiving night.

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A police officer fatally shot Emantic “EJ” Bradford, Jr. moments later after seeing him with a gun.

The black man’s death sparked days of demonstrations in Hoover.

The hearing provides prosecutors a chance to lay out evidence against Brown, who was arrested in Atlanta.

The defense could try to poke holes in the case with witnesses of its own.

A judge will decide whether grand jurors hear the case.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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2 days ago

Judge rules against Tuscaloosa’s car search policy

(Wikicommons)

A federal judge says an Alabama police department violated the Constitution by routinely impounding and searching the vehicle of every driver it arrests.

The decision by U.S. District Judge Madeline Haikala came in a lawsuit against the Tuscaloosa Police Department stemming from a traffic stop in 2017.

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The Tuscaloosa News reports Vincent Curry was stopped for having a broken taillight, and police later arrested him on an outstanding warrant.

Police had the vehicle towed and search, and an officer found a loaded handgun under the seat.

Curry’s attorneys argued the officers had no right to tow the vehicle and no reason to search it.

Prosecutors argued the search was legal.

The judge agreed with Curry’s attorney, and the city now says it is reviewing the decision.
 (Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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3 days ago

Judge voids Alabama law protecting Confederate monuments

(Allen Carter WTHR/Facebook, AL UJS)

A judge has overturned an Alabama law meant to prevent the removal of Confederate monuments from public property, ruling the act infringed on the rights of citizens in a mostly black city who are “repulsed” by the memorial.

The 10-page ruling issued late Monday by Jefferson County Circuit Judge Michael Graffeo said a 2017 state law barring the removal or alteration of historical monuments wrongly violated the free speech rights of local communities.

The law cannot be enforced, Graffeo ruled, but the state could still appeal.

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The attorney general’s comment had no immediate response to an email seeking comment Tuesday.

The state sued the city of Birmingham after officials tried to remove a 52-foot-tall (16-meter)-tall obelisk that was erected to honor Confederate veterans in a downtown park in 1905.

Rather than toppling the stone marker, the city built a 12-foot (3.6-meter)-tall wooden box around it.

Birmingham’s population of 210,000 is more than 70 percent black, and the judge said it was indisputable that most citizens are “repulsed” by the memorial.

He rejected the state’s claims that lawmakers had the power to protect historical monuments statewide.

The law includes a $25,000 penalty for removing or altering a historical monument, but the judge said the penalty was unconstitutional.

The city has not had to pay while the lawsuit worked its way through court.

The ruling came hours after the inauguration of Republican Gov. Kay Ivey, who signed the law and opened her campaign last year with a commercial that prominently showed Confederate monuments.

“We can’t change or erase our history, but here in Alabama we know something that Washington doesn’t. To get where we are going means understanding where we have been,” Ivey said in the ad.

Supporters of the law contend it protects not just Confederate memorials but historical markers of any kind, but rebel memorials have been an issue nationwide since a white supremacist gunman killed nine worshippers in a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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3 days ago

Alabama priest who sledgehammered abortion clinic dies at 79

(St. Bernard Abbey/Facebook)

A Catholic priest who served prison time for vandalizing abortion clinics in Alabama has died at 79.

AL.com reports that Rev. Edward Markley died Monday morning at St. Bernard Abbey, where he was a Benedictine monk.

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Markley was convicted for splashing red paint on equipment at a Huntsville clinic in June 1984, and ordered to pay restitution to two employees who required medical treatment.

He refused to pay the restitution and spent 30 days in jail until an anonymous donor paid.

He was also convicted of felony charges stemming from a May 1984 sledgehammer attack on a Birmingham clinic, and given a suspended sentence.

He was sentenced to serve five years in prison after violating probation terms requiring him to stay 500 feet (152 meters) away from abortion clinics.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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7 days ago

Search for two missing boaters in third day on Mobile Bay

(Nelson Family)

The search for two missing boaters is continuing on Mobile Bay.

The Coast Guard says 85-year-old Floyd Nelson and 40-year-old David Stadman have not been seen since they left to go fishing on Tuesday afternoon.

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Relatives reported the two missing Wednesday morning after they did not return in a 20-foot-long white fishing boat.

The capsized boat has been located, but there was no sign of the men.

The search has included a Coast Guard helicopter and boat, plus crews from Baldwin and Mobile counties.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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7 days ago

Thirteen-year-old Bessemer City Middle School student caught with loaded gun

(YHN/Pixabay)

Authorities say a 13-year-old boy has been caught with a loaded gun at an Alabama school and taken into custody.

Police Chief Mike Roper says the student was arrested at Bessemer City Middle School on Thursday around 12:30 p.m.

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AL.com reports the investigation began when a school resource officer received information that the boy was in possession of the weapon.

Police and school officials found the loaded firearm in the student’s backpack.

Roper says the school was placed on lockdown while school officials carried out additional searches.

The student is initially being charged with certain persons forbidden to possess a pistol.

It is unclear if he has a lawyer who could comment.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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1 week ago

Alabama bans smoking on public beach

(J. Tuggle/Flickr, Pixabay)

The sugar-white sand in Gulf Shores is Alabama’s most popular half-mile stretch of public beachfront.

This area also is undergoing $15 million in renovations and city officials want to keep it looking nice.

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So, in June, city officials adopted a wide-ranging list of regulations that included an Alabama first: The public beachfront became smoke-free.

The ban is part of a national trend as politicians try to keep popular attractions from looking like ashtrays and turning away tourists, AL.com reported.

In New Jersey, a new law goes into effect on Jan. 16 banning any kind of tobacco use on beaches or boardwalks, with offenders fined up to $1,000.

In Florida, lawmakers are considering legislation that would implement a wide-ranging ban on smoking at any public beach, empowering law enforcers to cite offenders.

“What Florida is doing is not surprising,” said Grant Brown, recreation and cultural affairs director with the city of Gulf Shores, comparing smoking bans on beaches with restrictions to smoking at outdoor athletic stadiums.

Alabama has 52 miles of beaches, which includes state property and Mobile and Baldwin counties.

Dauphin Island, Orange Beach and Gulf Shores have jurisdiction over the most popular public beach spots that fuel a significant chunk of Alabama’s $14.3 billion tourism industry.

The smoke-free public beach in Alabama is part of an ordinance that also bans pets, fireworks, alcoholic beverages, open fires, drones and laser pointers. The ordinance makes exceptions for service animals.

Brown said enforcement is not rigorous but fines are stiff. Violators could face fines of up to $500 and jail time.

The Gulf Shores ordinance represented the first time an Alabama governing body adopted a smoking ban to also include e-cigarettes, anywhere along a beachfront.

A Florida lawmaker introduced a bill this week that would criminalize smoking on public beaches, levying $25 fines on offenders or up to 10 hours of community service. Alabama beach cities are keeping an eye on the Florida measure, with an interest in possibly following suit.

Florida has had a statewide indoor smoking ban in place 2003, although bars are exempt.

“We’ll be curious to see how Florida proceeds,” said Phillip West, coastal resource director for Orange Beach. “If it passes, we’ll be interested in how they enforce it and what kind of push back they might get.”

“I am aware of what’s being pursued in Florida and (a beach smoking ban) has come up before in the past. But there have been no heavy conversations about it,” said Dauphin Island Mayor Jeff Collier.

In Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, both cities are now three years into the “Leave Only Footprints” campaign which advocates against beach litter, among other things.

Brown said cigarette butts remain an issue.

“We sift the sands and get quite a few cigarette butts as we clean the beaches,” he said.

The police “won’t be down there writing tickets,” Brown said.

But signage is in the works alerting beach visitors about the smoking ban.

“The goal is not to have the beach turned into an ash tray,” he said.

Not everyone is on board: Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon does not see the need to add regulations enforcing cigarette smoking, and does not believe it is a big problem.

“I really don’t want to see government getting involved in any personal issues unless absolutely drug into it because of a public safety issue,” Kennon said. “I don’t see any issue with smoking on the beaches here. I don’t even know if it’s a perceived problem here. I think we would stay out of it.”
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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1 week ago

BP approves expansion of Gulf oil project

(Pixabay)

BP has approved a $1.3 billion expansion at one of its oil projects in the Gulf of Mexico and discovered an additional 1.4 billion barrels at two of them.

In a statement Tuesday, BP says development of Atlantis Phase 3 is the latest example of its “strategy of growing advantaged high-margin oil production through its existing production facilities in the Gulf.”

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The Atlantis expansion will include the construction of a new subsea production system from eight new wells that will be tied into the current platform, 150 miles (241.4 kilometers) south of New Orleans.

The company says it’s scheduled to begin operating in 2020 and is expected to boost production by an estimated 38,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day gross at its peak.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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1 week ago

Former Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford dies at 72

(CBS 42/YouTube)

Larry Langford, the former Birmingham mayor whose captivating political career was ended by a conviction on public corruption charges, died on Tuesday.

He was 72.

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His death was confirmed by his lawyer, Tiffany Johnson Cole.

Langford died a little more than a week after being released from federal prison because of his failing health.

The cause of death was not announced but attorneys said earlier that Langford had end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and emphysema.

Langford was raised in poverty in a Birmingham housing project but rose to become one of the Birmingham area’s most charismatic and influential leaders.

He served in the U.S. military and in the early 1970s became one the first black television reporters in the city of Birmingham.

Langford served as mayor of Fairfield, the president of the Jefferson County Commission and mayor of Birmingham.

With a flair for the theatrical, he never shied away from big ideas for the areas he served.

During his political career, he championed the creation of an amusement park called Visionland and other efforts to make Birmingham a tourism destination.

His unrealized plans included bringing the Olympics to Birmingham and building a domed stadium.

“Mayor Langford had an unmatched love for his community – a love he expressed through his boldness and creativity,” current Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin said Tuesday.

Jefferson County Commissioner Lashunda Scales said Langford, while unconventional in his approach, “was a pioneer and visionary who was well ahead of his time.”

His political career ended in 2009 when he was convicted of taking bribes — in the form of cash, clothing and a Rolex— as a member of the county commission in exchange for steering bond business to an investment banker.

A federal judge sentenced Langford to 15 years in prison.

“He sold Jefferson County out” Assistant U.S. Attorney George Martin said at his 2010 sentencing.

Langford maintained his innocence.

“This whole thing, my being in prison, found guilty by a jury that said it had made up its mind before hearing any testimony and sitting here watching elected officials take credit for my work just adds insult to injury,” Langford told The Birmingham News in 2013.

Langford’s supporters for years had lobbied for his release from prison because of his ill health.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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1 week ago

Alabama prison system won’t face contempt hearing on staffing

(Gov. Bentley/Flickr)

Alabama will not face possible federal court sanctions for failing to meet mental health staffing targets after attorneys told a judge Monday they have reached a temporary agreement.

A scheduled Monday contempt hearing was canceled after lawyers for the Alabama Department of Corrections and state inmates said they have agreed how to measure compliance with his order to boost mental health staff in state prisons.

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U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson must approve the agreement.

Attorney Maria Morris, who represents the inmates, said they believe the state is short of the staffing requirement of 263 full-time positions.

Morris said the shortages are the highest in positions with the most advanced training such as psychiatrists and nurse practitioners.

“It is our position that they failed to meet the deadline,” Morris said.

However, Morris said they agreed to drop their request to hold the state in contempt in exchange for the agreement which more concretely spells out what is compliance and how to handle disputes moving forward.

The prison system had acknowledged that its health care vendor was having trouble filling all of the positions, but disputed it was in contempt.

“In sum, the state is not contending that it has fulfilled every requirement of the staffing remedial order. But it has made in good faith all reasonable efforts to do so, and those efforts have resulted in substantial progress,” attorneys for the state wrote last month.

Judge Thompson last year ruled that mental health care was “horrendously inadequate” in state prisons and created unconstitutional conditions.

The ruling came after the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program filed a class-action lawsuit over health care in state prisons.

The first inmate to testify at the trial killed himself days after describing past suicide attempts and a lack of psychiatric treatment while in state custody.

The two sides had disputed whether compliance with the staffing order should be measured by the number of positions filled or the number of hours worked.

Attorneys told Thompson they had settled on an hours worked model.

Plaintiffs agreed not to seek another contempt motion on staffing levels until June.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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1 week ago

Alabama asks federal officials to investigate Senate race

(Wikicommons, AG Office, CNBC/YouTube)

The Alabama attorney general has asked federal election regulators to investigate reports of online fakery in the 2017 Alabama Senate race, a spokesman said Monday.

Attorney General Steve Marshall had previously said he wanted to look into the reports himself, but after evaluating them “has determined the matter to be under the exclusive jurisdiction of the U.S. Federal Election Commission,” Mike Lewis said.

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Marshall’s request to federal authorities comes amid continued reports of online deception in the 2017 Senate race.

The Washington Post and New York Times first reported that a social media researcher acknowledged testing misleading online tactics during Democratic Sen. Doug Jones’ 2017 campaign against Republican Roy Moore.

The newspapers said operators posed as conservative voters on a Facebook page and that Twitter accounts were used to make it appear that Russian bots were following Moore.

“Alabamians have a right to know if illegal activity occurred during the 2017 race for the U.S. Senate. The reports of what may have transpired are deeply troubling and appear to warrant a full investigation by the Commission,” Marshall wrote in a Friday letter to the FEC.

The New York Times reported Monday that progressive Democrats were behind a “Dry Alabama” social media presence in the waning days of the campaign that associated Moore with a call to ban alcohol in the state, something likely to be opposed by moderate and business-oriented Republicans.

The newspaper reported that Matt Osborne, a progressive Alabama activist, worked on the project.

In an interview with The Associated Press on Monday, Osborne acknowledged being part of the scheme.

He said he doesn’t necessarily like such tactics, but they have become a reality in politics, and Republicans are also using them.

“In this Wild West environment we are in, you either have to play by the rule set or you will get killed,” Osborne said.

He said there needs to be a “public policy conversation about this.”

Osborne said his primary interest was to get data, but also the “obvious intent on everybody’s part was to elect Doug Jones.”

He said the project was given a relatively small budget of $100,000 but that he believes it was successful, garnering millions of Facebook views.

He said alcohol was chosen as the subject because it is an “interesting little culture war wedge issue.”

The Jones campaign itself had nothing to do with the scheme, he said.

Jones has called for a federal investigation.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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2 weeks ago

Playing chicken? Spilled chicken causes traffic problems

(Pixabay)

An Alabama sheriff’s office is warning people against eating chicken that tumbled on to a rural highway after a truck wreck.

An 18-wheeler crashed on Alabama 35 on Sunday, spilling boxes of chicken tenders in Cherokee County near the Georgia line. Motorists began stopping to pick up the food, which authorities say created a traffic hazard.

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The Cherokee County Emergency Management Agency posted a notice on its Facebook page asking people to quit picking up the chicken. The notice says the food is not safe to eat after hours on the ground.

The post also says the situation was creating a traffic hazard and it is a crime to block traffic. Violators could face charges.

The sheriff’s office says a wrecker crew was on the scene Monday cleaning up the mess.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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2 weeks ago

Environmentalists to foot bill for Decatur crane event amid shutdown

(U.S. FWS/Flickr)

An environmental group says it will help fund an event celebrating whooping cranes at a federal refuge in Alabama during the partial government shutdown.

The annual Festival of the Cranes brings hundreds of people to the Wheeler Wildlife Refuge near Decatur, but the facility is closed because of the funding impasse in Washington.

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Thousands of Sandhill cranes and about a dozen whopping cranes are there, nonetheless.

The Decatur Daily reports Friends of Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge has agreed to cover electricity costs for two refuge buildings next weekend if the shutdown continues.

Volunteers and members of the Friends group will staff the visitors’ center. Refuge workers can be on hand, but not in uniform.

Festival activities include nature walks, photography workshops, children’s activities, art exhibits, concerts and other events.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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2 weeks ago

Birmingham Civil Rights Institute rescinds Angela Davis honor

(AFROPUNK/YouTube)

The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in Alabama has rescinded its decision to honor political activist and scholar Angela Davis following unspecified complaints.

Davis is a Birmingham native who has spent decades fighting for civil rights.

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She was an active member of the Black Panther Party, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and Communist Party USA.

The institute announced Saturday that an examination of Davis’ statements and public record concluded that she did not “meet all of the criteria” for the Fred Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award.

The statement did not indicate what criteria it found Davis did not meet or the origin of the complaints.

But while expressing “dismay” at the decision, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin cited protests from the “local Jewish community and some of its allies.”

Davis has criticized Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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2 weeks ago

Judge orders delayed release of prison staffing numbers

(Alabama Humanities/YouTube)

A federal judge on Wednesday ordered the Alabama Department of Corrections to publicly disclose the number of correctional officers at each Alabama prison, but with a time delay because of security concerns.

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson ruled that quarterly staffing reports submitted to the court should be unsealed.

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However, Thompson said the release of prison-specific information would be delayed for five months because of security concerns.

The ruling came in an ongoing lawsuit over mental health care in Alabama prisons.

Attorneys for inmates sought to have the reports unsealed.

Thompson wrote that the prison system agreed to release the information but wanted a 12-month delay in releasing staffing data for individual prisons because of security concerns.

Thompson wrote that there is some degree of risk in publishing correctional officer numbers for each prison but it “is not significant enough to overcome the strong interest in public disclosure of the information.”

“To hide the details of understaffing is to hinder public oversight of ADOC,” Thompson wrote.

Thompson in 2017 ruled that mental health care in state prison was “horrendously inadequate” and said that understaffing is an overarching issue behind the unconstitutional conditions.

Prior to the 2017 ruling, the state published staffing numbers on the prison system’s website, but officials told the court they stopped because of concerns the information was not accurate.

Thompson wrote that the prison system should file the facility-specific correctional data under seal and then refile the information publicly five months after the last day of the quarter covered by the report.

Prison system officials have acknowledged they need to add correctional staff, and have stepped up recruiting and other efforts.

Alabama Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn told The Associated Press last year that estimates filed with the court show the state needs to add between 1,800 and 2,000 officers — almost doubling current staffing levels.

Last year the department authorized a five and 10 percent pay increase for officers at minimum – and maximum – security prisons.

The raise will boost the starting salary for entry-level correctional officers from $28,516 to $31,368 at maximum-security prisons and $29,942 at medium-security facilities.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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2 weeks ago

Alabama sheriff pleads guilty to not filing tax return

(R. Garrison/Facebook)

An Alabama sheriff who leaves office this month has pleaded guilty to failing to file a tax return.

AL.com reports 54-year-old Morgan County Sheriff Ana Franklin pleaded guilty Thursday to not filing a 2015 tax return by its April 2016 deadline.

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She is set to be sentenced in May.

Franklin has been accused of bribery, intimidation and other offenses including conducting an illegal search on a person critical of her during her time as sheriff.

Court records say she was held in contempt in 2017 and fined $1,000 for taking $160,000 from a jail food account and investing part of it into a car lot.

Hartselle Police Chief Ron Puckett will take over as the county sheriff on Jan. 15. Franklin did not seek a third term in the recent election.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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2 weeks ago

Judge upholds charges against former Auburn Coach Chuck Person

Photo from AuburnTigers.com

A New York judge gave the go-ahead Thursday to a trial next month over charges that former Auburn basketball assistant coach Chuck Person accepted bribes from a financial adviser working for the FBI to steer athletes his way.

U.S. District Judge Loretta A. Preska said there was enough evidence to let the case against Person and Atlanta clothier Rashan Michel proceed.

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She said federal bribery, wire fraud charges and Travel Act conspiracy charges against Person were supported by detailed descriptions and enough supporting evidence to let a jury decide the case.

Michel was not charged with wire fraud, but Preska declined to toss out the other charges he faces.

A trial is set to start in Manhattan on Feb. 4. Both men have pleaded not guilty.

Lawyers did not immediately return messages seeking comment on Preska’s ruling.

Prosecutors allege that Person — a onetime NBA star known as the Rifleman for his long-range shooting skills — solicited and accepted over $91,000 in bribes to steer Auburn players and their families to a federal cooperating witness, a former financial adviser.

They also said Person encouraged at least one Auburn player to use Michel’s clothing company.

Defense lawyers had asked Preska to reject the charges, citing insufficient evidence and flaws in the legal reasoning used to bring them 16 months ago.

They said he did not commit wire fraud with any of his actions because any harm to the school was inadvertent.

They also said failure to report NCAA violations is not a crime.

Among their challenges were claims that a recent Supreme Court ruling changed definitions of what constitutes public corruption, which should negate some of the charges.

But Preska disagreed, saying that the alleged behavior in the basketball-related case violates a contract while a high-court ruling that reversed the conviction of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell concerned conduct protected by the First Amendment.

Defense lawyers did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Person became the associate head coach at Auburn after a professional career that included playing for five NBA teams over 13 seasons.

He was drafted by the Indian Pacers in 1986. In 2010, he earned a championship ring as an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Auburn, Person’s alma mater, fired him within weeks of his September 2017 arrest.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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2 weeks ago

Airbus to build additional aircraft on US Gulf Coast

(Airbus Alabama)

Airbus says it will fulfill two new aircraft orders at an expanding manufacturing operation on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

The European aircraft maker said Thursday that 120 passenger aircraft ordered by JetBlue Airways and the start-up airline Moxy will be built in a new factory near the company’s existing plant in Mobile, Alabama.

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The company says construction on the plant will begin later this month.

JetBlue and Moxy each ordered 60 of the A220-300 aircraft manufactured by Airbus.

The plant will be located beside a factory where Airbus already produces the A320 aircraft in Mobile.

Airbus produced its first airplane on the Alabama coast in 2016.

The new A220 line in Alabama is in addition to one the company is opening in Mirabel, Canada.
 (Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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2 weeks ago

Alabama closes shellfish growing areas

(Pixabay)

Shellfish growing waters in Baldwin and Mobile counties in Alabama have been closed because of possible contamination.

The Alabama Department of Public Health says Areas I, II, III, IV, V and VI are closed and includes Cedar Point, Portersville Bay, Heron Bay and Dauphin Island Bay.

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The order by State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris closed harvesting as of 8:45 p.m. on Dec. 30.

It was issued as a result of possible bacteriological contamination of the oyster beds due to recent rainfall.

Officials say harvesting will be resumed as soon as areas meet acceptable bacteriological criteria.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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2 weeks ago

Heavy rains causing flooding problems in Alabama

(CBS 42/YouTube)

Heavy rains are causing flooding problems in parts of Alabama.

Forecasters have issued flood watches and warnings for western and northern Alabama, and the National Weather Service says an additional two inches of rain could fall in spots by Friday morning.

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A food pantry in Cullman had to shut down after water seeped into the building.

A road collapsed in Hale County after being undercut by floodwaters, forcing the evacuation of about 20 people.

The weather service says flooding is occurring in mostly rural areas around the Black Warrior, Tombigbee and Sucarnoochee rivers in western Alabama.

The Tennessee River at Florence is near flood levels last seen nine years ago in northwestern Alabama.

Some areas have had more than six inches of rain in the last week.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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