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Daily News – December 21, 2020

Good morning!

Here’s your Daily News for Monday, December 21.



1. Congress seals deal on COVID-19 relief

  • Top Capitol Hill negotiators sealed a deal on a $900 billion COVID-19 economic relief package, finally delivering long-overdue help to businesses and individuals and providing money to deliver vaccines to a nation eager for them.
  • The package, expected to draw votes in Congress later today, would establish a temporary $300 per week supplemental jobless benefit and a $600 direct stimulus payment to most Americans, along with a new round of subsidies for hard-hit businesses and money for schools, health care providers and renters facing eviction.
  • It came together Sunday after months of battling and posturing, but the negotiating dynamic changed in Republicans’ favor after the election and as the end of the congressional session neared.
  • House leaders informed lawmakers that they would vote on the legislation on today, and the Senate was likely to vote today, too. Lawmakers are eager to leave Washington and close out a tumultuous year.
  • Read the latest HERE.
  • Read more details about the package HERE.



2. Telemedicine shift helping rural hospitals, patients

  • Among the many aspects of our lives that the coronavirus pandemic has changed is the simple act of going to the doctor.
  • The use of telemedicine — connecting providers to patients remotely through technology — has increased more than tenfold since COVID-19 arrived in Alabama and will remain once the pandemic abates, experts say. But there’s another significant connection between small and large hospitals through telemedicine that could help save Alabama’s struggling rural hospitals, of which more than a half dozen have closed in recent years.
  • Take Whitfield Regional Hospital in Demopolis, which used to transfer six to eight patients each day, usually in critical situations, to larger hospitals in Birmingham or Tuscaloosa.
  • Thanks to a partnership with the University of Alabama Birmingham hospital system, Whitfield got access via telemedicine to UAB specialists in several fields.
  • “Now, we transfer almost no one … we can keep those patients,” said Doug Brewer, chief executive officer at Whitfield. “It has changed our hospital drastically.”
  • “… It’s not an understatement to say it has changed how we care for people in rural Alabama, at least our area.”
  • Read part one of Mary Sell’s two-part series on the impact of telemedicine in Alabama HERE.



3. Vaccine: People over 75, essential workers next in line

  • A federal advisory panel recommended Sunday that people 75 and older and essential workers like firefighters, teachers and grocery store workers should be next in line for COVID-19 shots, while a second vaccine began rolling out to hospitals as the nation works to get the coronavirus pandemic under control.
  • The two developments came amid a vaccination program that began only in the last week and has given initial shots to about 556,000 Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • The COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc. and Germany’s BioNTech already is being distributed, and regulators last week gave approval to the one from Moderna Inc. that began shipping Sunday.
  • The essential workers include firefighters and police; teachers and school staff; those working in food, agricultural and manufacturing sectors; corrections workers; U.S. Postal Service employees; public transit workers; and grocery store workers. They are considered at very high risk of infection because their jobs are critical and require them to be in regular contact with other people.
  • Full story HERE.



4. Trump floats Sidney Powell as special counsel

  • President Donald Trump floated naming lawyer Sidney Powell as a special counsel investigating allegations of voter fraud.
  • The president’s legal team last month dismissed Powell and distanced itself from the firebrand conservative attorney after she made incorrect statements about the voting process and pushed unfounded conspiracy theories.
  • During a Friday meeting at the White House, Trump went as far as discussing getting Powell security clearance, according to two people familiar with the meeting, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private conversation.
  • It is unclear whether Trump intends to try to move forward with the effort to install Powell. Under federal law, the U.S. attorney general, not the president, is responsible for appointing special counsels. And numerous Republicans, from outgoing Attorney General William Barr to governors and state election officials, have said repeatedly that there is no evidence of the kind of mass voter fraud that Trump has been alleging in the weeks since he lost.
  • Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and White House counsel Pat Cipollone, voiced their objections, the people familiar with the meeting said. So did his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, reports said.
  • The Friday meeting was first reported by The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman and Zolan Kanno-Youngs.
  • Full story HERE.



5. Bama to meet Notre Dame in relocated Rose Bowl

  • Top-ranked Alabama will face No. 4 Notre Dame in the College Football Playoff semifinal originally scheduled to serve as the 107th Rose Bowl.
  • The semifinal game to be played Jan. 1 has been moved from Pasadena to AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, ostensibly based on the growing number of COVID-19 cases in the Los Angeles area, but more significantly because of the resulting ban on fans at spectator sports in California.
  • It’s still unclear whether the game in the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium will be called the Rose Bowl, but the decision ended a streak of 78 straight years in Pasadena for a bowl game first played in 1902.
  • Notre Dame has played in the Rose Bowl only once: In 1925, legendary coach Knute Rockne and his Four Horsemen beat coach Pop Warner and Stanford to complete an unbeaten season.
  • Alabama’s first bowl game was the 1926 Rose Bowl, and the Tide played in six early editions of the game. They haven’t been back in the official Rose Bowl game since 1946, although they beat Texas on Jan. 7, 2010, in the BCS National Championship Game at the Rose Bowl stadium.
  • Read more HERE.



News Briefs

Joe Wheeler EMC launches ‘FlashFiber’ initiative

  • Joe Wheeler Electric Management Corporation on Friday launched ‘FlashFiber,’ an ambitious fiber optic network expansion that aims to give residents of Morgan and Lawrence counties access to high-speed broadband internet.
  • The project, in the works since 2017, will involv the laying of about 3,000 miles of fiber optic cable and take five years to fully complete. However, some residents could have access as soon as early next year, officials announced at a press conference in Trinity, Ala.
  • “Broadband is no longer a luxury; it is a vital component of modern life,” said George Kitchens, chief executive officer at JWEMC.. “We have fully embraced fiber for the future of this region, and we know our members are going to love all the benefits fiber has to offer.”
  • Full story HERE.

South Alabama Civil War battlefield being preserved

  • SPANISH FORT, Ala. (AP) — A south Alabama battlefield where thousands of Black Union troops helped defeat Confederate forces in the final days of the Civil War is being protected with a $300,000 grant, preservation groups announced.
  • While the state already owns about 40% of the 2,000-acre battlefield around Fort Blakeley, located near Spanish Fort north of Mobile Bay, the money will allow for the preservation of about 60 additional acres where some of the most significant action occurred, according to a joint announcement by The Conservation Fund, the American Battlefield Trust and the University of South Alabama.
  • Union soldiers, including 5,000 members of the U.S. Colored Troops, overran the Confederate fort at the site on April 9, 1865, the same day Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered his army at Appomattox Court House. The heavy concentration of Black troops was among the most in any battle of the war, the announcement said.
  • The site being protected is “one of the last critical pieces of the war’s most poignant battles,” Mobile-area writer and naturalist Bill Finch said in the statement.
  • “The result is one of the region’s largest, best-preserved and most significant Civil War parks,” Finch said.
  • A National Park Service grant of $293,000 will be used for long-term protection of the land, which is located in the environmentally sensitive Mobile-Tensaw Delta and owned by The Conservation Fund. The area is just a few miles from the resting place of the Clotilda, the ship that was scuttled after bringing the final shipload of African captives to the United States as slaves before the war.

Judson College launches fundraising appeal to stay open

  • MARION, Ala. (AP) — Judson College, a Baptist-affiliated women’s college in rural west Alabama, said it needs financial help to remain open in 2021.
  • Located in Marion, Judson announced the appeal saying falling enrollment and financial problems caused by both the recession of 2008 and the pandemic had taken their toll.
  • A letter to supporters from President W. Mark Tew said the college needs $500,000 by Dec. 31 and another $1 million by the end of May,
  • “Without these extraordinary gifts, the college will not have sufficient cash to meet its operational responsibilities and will be unable to begin the spring semester. If this happens, all students will be informed of transfer options to complete their degrees,” said the letter.
  • The more than 180-year-old school only has a few hundred students. Tew’s letter said a consulting company will look at changing markets and potential avenues for the college.





ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Congress seals deal on $900 billion COVID relief bill


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Highlights of $900 billion COVID-19 relief, wrapup bills


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Telemedicine connection helping rural hospital, its patients


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Panel: People over 75, essential workers next for vaccines


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Trump floats Sidney Powell as special counsel


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Alabama to meet Notre Dame in relocated CFP semifinal game


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Ivey study group: $700 million in revenue, 19,000 new jobs if gambling expanded


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Alabama jobless rate drops to 4.4%, still above 2019 level


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Alabama to get fewer doses of virus vaccine than expected


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Infant mortality rate rises in Alabama, stays above average


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Weekend Digest – December 20, 2020


AL.COM – Alabama adds 2,548 coronavirus cases Sunday, a decline from recent highs


AL.COM – Which Alabama counties are heating up, cooling off during coronavirus surge?


AL.COM – Hunter Biden: President-elect won’t discuss probe with AG candidates Doug Jones, Merrick Garland


AL.COM – Donald Trump spoke with Tommy Tuberville, who hinted at challenging to election result


AL.COM – Columnist Dana Hall McCain: Pro-life Dems: they do exist


AL.COM – Infant mortality rate rises in Alabama, stays above average


AL.COM – The story of Catherine Flowers, a Lowndes County native turned environmental activist


AL.COM – Columnist Kyle Whitmire: The Biggest Phony


AL.COM – Romney: Trump’s fraud claims ’embarrassing’, should be championing COVID vaccine


Montgomery Advertiser – Police investigate after man fatally shot Saturday night in Montgomery


Montgomery Advertiser – Infamous Tuskegee Study sparks mistrust of COVID vaccine among many Black Americans


Montgomery Advertiser – ‘Gambling will work’: State panel finds it could bring $700 million a year, 19K new jobs


WBRC Fox 6 Birmingham – Mother pleads for answers 3 years after son found dead on Christmas Day


WBRC Fox 6 Birmingham – Children who lost both parents to COVID receive Christmas gifts


WBRC Fox 6 Birmingham – Community Food Bank of Central Alabama tapped out after a busy year


Tuscaloosa News – Lesley Powell announces bid for Tuscaloosa City Board of Education


Tuscaloosa News – Tuscaloosa businesses honored for work, efforts made during pandemic


Tuscaloosa News – Residents say openness needed about Tuscaloosa County Jail COVID-19 cases


Decatur Daily – With deadline looming, local governments struggle to spend CARES Act funds


Decatur Daily – Some long-term campers upset with Point Mallard changes


Decatur Daily – Ivey study group: $700 million in revenue, 19,000 new jobs if gambling expanded


Times Daily – Florence gets new food bank storage warehoue


Times Daily – Gambling study: Advantages outweigh disadvantages


Times Daily – COVID-19 cases remain high, but officials say they’re stabilizing


Anniston Star – Anniston Mayor Draper, others with volunteer group step in to assist Salvation Army


Anniston Star – Local group offers chili, soup in Zinn Park holiday meal


Anniston Star – Local ‘vaccine strike team’ preparing for Moderna distribution next week


YellowHammer News – Lockheed Martin to acquire Aerojet Rocketdyne in $4.6B deal


YellowHammer News – Trump hints ‘great gentleman’ Tommy Tuberville could join Mo Brooks in challenging the Electoral College


YellowHammer News – Auburn to play Northwestern in Citrus Bowl


Dothan Eagle – The Latest: Russia reports record 29,350 new virus cases


Dothan Eagle – 6 Hungarian parties join forces to try to defeat Orban


Dothan Eagle – UAE top diplomat acknowledges visa restrictions on Pakistan


Opelika-Auburn News – Asia Today: Seoul area curbing public gatherings


Opelika-Auburn News – With winter at hand, the virus whips up winds of uncertainty


WSFA Montgomery – Alabama revenue department issues guidance for tax relief measures


WSFA Montgomery – Woman volunteers time and money to provide better living conditions for neighborhood pets


WSFA Montgomery – Prattville chef delivers ‘snow cakes’ this Christmas


WAFF Huntsville – Health officials and community members express holiday travel concerns


WAFF Huntsville – Multiple county chase ends with suspect in custody


WAFF Huntsville – Russellville City Schools create GoFundMe for 9-year-old student killed in car accident


WKRG Mobile – Father, son kill each other in Washington County shooting


WKRG Mobile – Homeless man charged with attempted murder in Pensacola


WKRG Mobile – Skanska suspect foul play in loose barge in Gulf Breeze


WTVY Dothan – 70-year-old Taco Bell employee gifted more than $6,000


WTVY Dothan – Man sets truck on fire to give Okaloosa County deputies ‘something to do’


WTVY Dothan – Agreement likely Sunday on nearly $1 trillion virus aid bill


WASHINGTON POST – Senate majority leader announces approximately $900 billion deal on emergency relief package


WASHINGTON POST – Here’s what we know about the new European coronavirus mutation


WASHINGTON POST – As E.U. nations cut ties to Britain over virus mutation, fears mount over supply chain disruptions


NEW YORK TIMES – Congress Strikes Long-Sought Stimulus Deal to Provide $900 Billion in Aid


NEW YORK TIMES – More Countries Impose U.K. Travel Restrictions Amid Concern Over Virus Mutation


NEW YORK TIMES – Frontline Workers and People Over 74 Should Get Shots Next, C.D.C. Panel Says


WALL STREET JOURNAL – CDC Panel Recommends Covid-19 Vaccines for Front-Line Workers, People Over 75 Next


WALL STREET JOURNAL – Countries Ban Travel From U.K. in Race to Block New Covid-19 Strain


WALL STREET JOURNAL – Hospitals Retreat From Early Covid Treatment and Return to Basics



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