Here’s your Daily News for Thursday, December 10.
1. Dept. of Justice sues Alabama over violence in prisons
- The tension between the state and federal governments over Alabama’s prison problems just got turned up a notch.
- On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Justice filed suit against the State of Alabama and the Alabama Department of Corrections saying that failing to prevent violence in men’s prisons violates the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights of inmates.
- This lawsuit is the result of a multi-year investigation into allegations of Alabama prisons failing to provide adequate protection from prisoner-on-prisoner violence and sexual abuse, failing to provide sanitary conditions and prison staff using excessive uses of force on prisoners.
- In July, DOJ’s Civil Rights Division issued findings of excessive force in Alabama’s men’s prisons, listing numerous incidents of violence on ADOC facilities and calling for the state to address the systemic issue.
- In a suit filed Wednesday in the Northern District of Alabama, DOJ says the state is “deliberately indifferent to the serious and systemic constitutional problems present in Alabama’s prisons for men…
- “The United States has determined that constitutional compliance cannot be secured by voluntary means,” the suit continues. “Judicial action is, therefore, necessary to remedy the violations of law identified in the United States’ Notices and to vindicate the rights of the individuals incarcerated” in the state’s male prisons.
- “It didn’t take a psychic to see that coming,” said former State Sen. Cam Ward, who now leads the Bureau of Pardons and Paroles. As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he’d warned for years that a federal lawsuit and potential takeover of Alabama prisons could happen.
- Gov. Kay Ivey called the news “disappointing” and pointed to ADOC’s plans to build three new men’s prisons as proof that the state is trying to mitigate prison problems.
- Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said the DOJ’s decision to file a suit against the state now is “illogical at best” and discounts the work the state has put in to correct the problems.
- Read the full story from Mary Sell, Caroline Beck and me (plus the lawsuit itself) HERE.
2. Ivey extends mask mandate
- Gov. Kay Ivey on Wednesday extended a statewide mask mandate until Jan. 22 — but declined to order additional restrictions — as Alabama experiences a record-setting surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
- Ivey announced the six-week extension during a news conference at the Alabama Capitol. The order, which requires face coverings to be worn in public when interacting within 6 feet with people outside your household, had been scheduled to expire Friday.
- While vaccine availability is “just around the corner,” the governor asked the state to weather the upcoming months.
- “These are some of our darkest days since COVID-19 became a part of our daily conversations and the rising number of new cases has put a strain on our healthcare system unlike any time in recent memory,” Ivey said.
- Ivey urged people to wear masks and wash their hands to try to limit the spread of the virus. The governor took a mild, drawling swipe at social media commenters who sometimes call her by a nickname for a southern grandmother while criticizing her COVID orders.
- “I’m not trying to be ‘Governor Mee-Maw’ as some on social media have called me. I’m just trying to urge you to use the common sense the good Lord gave each of us to be smart and considerate of others,” Ivey said.
- Full story from Kim Chandler HERE.
3. Community colleges seek funding for workforce development, correctional campus
- New leadership at the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles prompted the Alabama Community College System to increase its proposed spending on correctional education in the next budget year.
- Chancellor Jimmy Baker on Wednesday told the ACCS board that the appointment of former state Sen. Cam Ward as director of Pardons and Paroles has resulted in a “different approach, a somewhat significantly different attitude about prison education in general.”
- Ward, who’s first full day on the job was Tuesday, told Alabama Daily News he’s been working with Baker and his staff on partnering for more reentry and education programs for people leaving the state’s correctional system.
- “I just believe that is part of our core mission,” Ward said. Part of that will be reopening the LifeTech, a successful job-training center for people recently paroled from state prisons, which had been closed this year by BPP’s previous director, Charlie Graddick.
- Ward said he plans to tour the facility soon and get it reopened.
- “You’re not going to do it on a dime, but it won’t take that long,” Ward said.
- New in the ACCS’s 2022 budget request is $2 million for correctional education at the Perry County Correctional Center, which is privately owned and currently vacant.
- “Our understanding is that you may be hearing something very soon about the state potentially purchasing that facility and so as a result of that, we wanted to put a request in for some money to be able to offer some education and training programs, should that come to fruition,” said Boone Kinard, ACCS’s executive director of external affairs.
- Full story from ADN’s Mary Sell HERE.
4. Congress buys time
- Still spinning their wheels on COVID-19 relief, lawmakers grabbed a one-week government funding extension on Wednesday that buys time for more talks — though there is considerable disagreement over who is supposed to be taking the lead from there.
- Amid the uncertainty, the House easily passed a one-week government-wide funding bill that sets a new Dec. 18 deadline for Congress to wrap up both the COVID-19 relief measure and a $1.4 trillion catchall spending bill that is also overdue. The 343-67 vote sent the one-week bill to the Senate, where it’s expected to easily pass before a deadline of midnight Friday to avert a partial government shutdown.
- Alabama Reps. Martha Roby, Mike Rogers and Terri Sewell voted for the funding extension, while Reps. Mo Brooks, Bradley Byrne and Gary Palmer voted against it. Rep. Robert Aderholt did not vote as he is still in quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19.
- The measure would give lawmakers more time to sort through the hot mess they have created for themselves after months of futile negotiations and posturing and recent rounds of flip-flopping.
- Top GOP leaders said the right people to handle endgame negotiations are the top four leaders of Congress and the Trump administration, focused on a proposal by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to eliminate a Democratic demand for a $160 billion or so aid package for state and local governments.
- Top Democrats, meanwhile, are placing their bets on a bipartisan group of senators who are trying to iron out a $908 billion package. The bipartisan group is getting no encouragement from McConnell, but members are claiming progress on perhaps the most contentious item, a demand by the Kentucky Republican to award businesses and other organizations protections against COVID-related lawsuits.
- Full story HERE.
5. Hunter Biden tax probe examining Chinese business dealings
- The Justice Department is investigating the finances of President-elect Joe Biden’s son, including scrutinizing some of his Chinese business dealings and other transactions.
- The revelations put a renewed spotlight on questions about Hunter Biden’s financial history, which dogged his father’s successful White House campaign and were a frequent target of President Donald Trump and his allies. They also come at a politically delicate time for the president-elect, who is weighing his choice to lead an agency that is actively investigating his son.
- The tax investigation was launched in 2018, the year before the elder Biden announced his candidacy for president. Hunter Biden confirmed the existence of the investigation on Wednesday, saying he learned about it for the first time the previous day.
- Investigators did not contact Hunter Biden until recently because of Justice Department practice against taking overt investigative actions in the run-up to an election.
- Hunter Biden has a history of international affairs and business dealings in a number of countries. Trump and his allies have accused him of profiting off his political connections, including from his work in Ukraine at the time his father was vice president and leading the Obama administration’s dealings with the Eastern European nation.
- Late Wednesday, Trump tweeted a quote from New York Post columnist Miranda Devine claiming, “10% of voters would have changed their vote if they knew about Hunter Biden.”
- Full story HERE.
RIP: Ray Perkins dies at 79
- Ray Perkins, the former Alabama receiver who replaced Bear Bryant as Crimson Tide’s coach and started the transition with the New York Giants that led to two Super Bowl titles, died Wednesday in Tuscaloosa. He was 79.
- The school announced the death Wednesday, and daughter Rachael Perkins posted the news on her Facebook page. No other details were immediately available.
- “He served the University of Alabama with great class and integrity,” Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said on the Southeastern Conference coaches teleconference. “He was a great coach and had a tremendous impact on the game, and he was a really, really good person and a really good friend.”
- Perkins left a head coaching job with the NFL’s Giants to replace Bryant following the 1982 season. It was a dream job for the former Crimson Tide star receiver.
- Perkins won three bowl games at Alabama and was 32-15-1, but he also went 5-6 in 1984. It was the program’s first losing season since 1957, the year before the school hired Bryant. He also served as athletic director during that period.
- Read more HERE.
INSIDE ALABAMA POLITICS – December 3, 2020
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Dept. of Justice sues Alabama for constitutional violations in men’s prisons
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Ivey extends mask order into January amid COVID surge
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Community colleges seek funding for workforce development, correctional campus
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Lawmakers act to avert shutdown, buying time for COVID talks
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Hunter Biden tax probe examining Chinese business dealings
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Former Alabama coach Ray Perkins dies at 79
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – New voting system, distancing measures in place to protect House members
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Total COVID-19 impact on learning loss in Alabama may not be known for years
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – House approves defense bill with veto-proof margin
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Pfizer vaccine moves closer to getting the OK in the US
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Biden’s attorney general search is focused on Jones, Garland
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Daily News Digest – December 9, 2020
AL.COM – Alabama adds 3,500-plus new COVID cases; ‘Dark days for the foreseeable future’
AL.COM – U.S. Department of Justice sues Alabama over unsafe prison conditions
AL.COM – Mobile’s MoonPie-themed New Year’s Eve festivities called off
AL.COM – Alabama and Roy Moore join in support of Texas lawsuit challenging election of Joe Biden
AL.COM – COVID-19 vaccine update: First coronavirus vaccinations in Alabama could start next week
AL.COM – Ivey: ‘I have no plans to close Mardi Gras’
AL.COM – Biden on Alabama native Lloyd Austin for defense secretary: ‘He is the person we need’
AL.COM – Alabama’s deadliest jail sees nine inmate deaths since 2019
AL.COM – Rural schools in Alabama hit hardest by enrollment losses during pandemic
Montgomery Advertiser – Bell Station a mix of family and patio homes
Montgomery Advertiser – ‘Deliberately indifferent’: Federal government sues Alabama over prison conditions
Montgomery Advertiser – That’s My Child celebrates 8th anniversary
WBRC Fox 6 Birmingham – Rescue turns to recovery with 2 workers still missing in Adams County power plant collapse
WBRC Fox 6 Birmingham – Faith leaders react to 100 B’ham homicides for the year
WBRC Fox 6 Birmingham – Advocacy group claims hospitals still don’t have enough PPE, hopes pandemic makes systemic changes
Tuscaloosa News – University of Alabama’s “Hilaritas” holiday show will go on with radio, video versions
Tuscaloosa News – Overpass on campus will facilitate Tuscaloosa traffic flow
Tuscaloosa News – Maddox: No need for additional limits despite rising COVID-19 cases
Decatur Daily – State mask order extended as local hospitalizations spike
Decatur Daily – Almost half of Limestone’s virtual elementary students returning to classroom
Decatur Daily – Decatur City Schools to have full week off for fall break, earlier start date next year
Times Daily – Muscle Shoals Council approves $24M budget
Times Daily – Tuscumbia drainage projects costly, but much needed, mayor says
Times Daily – Man pleads to child porn charges
Anniston Star – Man charged with domestic violence by strangulation
Anniston Star – Dept. of Justice sues Alabama for constitutional violations in men’s prisons
Anniston Star – Local jury trials postponed due to COVID
YellowHammer News – DOJ suing State of Alabama for alleged 8th, 14th Amendment violations in men’s prison system
YellowHammer News – C Spire rolls out Alabama broadband services in Jasper
YellowHammer News – State Health Officer Dr. Harris gives update on vaccine distribution plans in Alabama; Says there’s ‘optimism with the rollout’
Gadsden Times – Family, Attalla police ask for help locating missing man
Gadsden Times – Alabama mask mandate extended amid worsening COVID-19 spread
Gadsden Times – Trio charged in Albertville-area burglary
Dothan Eagle – Police: Marijuana grow rooms discovered in Enterprise residence
Dothan Eagle – WATCH NOW: Ozark Christmas parade
Dothan Eagle – In an Iranian intensive care unit, doctors grapple with Covid-19 and US sanctions
Opelika-Auburn News – EAMC experiencing third COVID-19 peak
Opelika-Auburn News – Local organization gives COVID care kits to Lee County seniors
Opelika-Auburn News – Watch now: Gov. Kay Ivey extends mask mandate, health order
WSFA Montgomery – Churches make changes to Christmas services amid pandemic
WSFA Montgomery – Online state surplus property auction starts this week
WSFA Montgomery – UAB running short on beds, staff to treat growing number of COVID-19 patients
WAFF Huntsville – Huntsville man accused of asking a child for sex is back in jail after violating bond
WAFF Huntsville – Marshall County Commissioners pass new resolution regarding protests, county property
WAFF Huntsville – Arab Electric Cooperative breaks ground on new substation
WKRG Mobile – Anonymous donor gives nearly $65K to cover layaway items at Tennessee Walmart
WKRG Mobile – MPD: Man pretends to be delivery driver charged with robbery
WKRG Mobile – MoonPie Over Mobile New Year’s Eve event canceled
WTVY Dothan – Feds allege inmate violence, sexual abuse in lawsuit against Alabama prisons
WTVY Dothan – Holmes County: Highway 2 and Intersection 173 gets an upgrade
WTVY Dothan – Real Christmas trees can look wonderful this time of year, but can become a hazard in your home if not cared for
WASHINGTON POST – U.S., states sue Facebook as an illegal monopoly, setting stage for potential breakup
WASHINGTON POST – Silicon Valley feared Facebook’s bullying tactics years before they came to the attention of regulators
WASHINGTON POST – Lessons from the pandemic fall: Infections are rare in classrooms, not off campus
NEW YORK TIMES – U.S., Breaking a Record, Tops the 3,000 Daily Death Mark
NEW YORK TIMES – U.S. and States Say Facebook Illegally Crushed Competition
NEW YORK TIMES – ‘Is Austin on Your List?’: Biden’s Pentagon Pick Rose Despite Barriers to Diversity
WALL STREET JOURNAL – Zuckerberg’s Deal Making for Facebook Is Central to Antitrust Cases
WALL STREET JOURNAL – Airbnb Prices IPO at $68 a Share, Higher Than Expected Range
WALL STREET JOURNAL – FDA Advisory Panel Takes Up Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 Vaccine