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Daily News Digest – December 17, 2020

Presented by

the Energy Institute of Alabama

Good morning!

Here’s your Daily News for Thursday, December 17.

1. Close to a deal

  • Congressional negotiators are closing in on a $900 billion COVID-19 economic relief package that would deliver additional help to businesses, $300-per-week jobless checks and $600 stimulus payments to most Americans. But there is no deal quite yet.
  • The long-delayed measure was coming together as Capitol Hill combatants finally fashioned difficult compromises, often at the expense of more ambitious Democratic wishes for the legislation, to complete the second major relief package of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • It’s the first significant legislative response to the pandemic since the landmark CARES Act in March, which delivered $1.8 trillion in aid and more generous jobless benefits and direct payments to individuals. Since then, Democrats have repeatedly called for ambitious further federal steps to provide relief and battle the pandemic, while Republicans have sought to more fully reopen the economy and to avoid padding the government’s $27 trillion debt.
  • “We’re still close and we’re gonna get there,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky told reporters Wednesday evening as he left the Capitol. And during a Senate GOP lunchtime call a day earlier, party leaders stressed the importance of reaching an agreement before the upcoming Georgia Senate runoff election.
  • Read more HERE.

2. Claim that nurse died after getting COVID vaccine is false

  • Misinformation around the COVID-19 vaccine is surging online, with false claims being shared on everything from the vaccine’s ingredients to possible side effects.
  • On Wednesday, Alabama health care officials were forced to debunk the latest false assertion after the state began distributing the COVID-19 vaccine to health care workers. This one claimed that a nurse had died after getting the shot. In fact, this didn’t happen.
  • After Alabama began administering COVID-19 vaccines to health care workers on Tuesday, posts online began claiming that a nurse had died after receiving the vaccine.
  • The posts circulated on Facebook and Twitter, with some users suggesting it was their aunt who had died or they had received the information from a close friend. Social media users shared screenshots of text messages that said, “omg just found out my aunt dead,” and also said that the woman’s family did not want her name revealed.
  • The posts were shared by accounts that had previously shared anti-vaccine misinformation.
  • “And so it starts… A 42 y/o nurse in Alabama found dead 8-10 hours after the va((ine,” one post on Facebook said.
  • The Alabama Department of Public Health checked with the hospitals that administered the COVID-19 vaccine to confirm that the information being shared online was false. The department released a statement on social media to combat the misinformation.
  • “The posts are untrue,” the department said. “No persons who received a COVID-19 vaccine in Alabama have died.”
  • Read more HERE.






A message from

The Energy Institute of Alabama


  • Significant research shows that consumer interest and, importantly, manufacturer production of electric vehicles and electric vehicle batteries are exponentially on the rise. As evidenced by Mercedes-Benz’ massive $1 billion investment in Alabama supporting electric vehicle production and a new high-voltage EV battery plant, electric vehicles are an important part of the future for Alabama’s booming automotive industry.
  • The Energy Institute of Alabama (EIA) would like to thank Governor Ivey and the legislature for making critical investments in support of Alabama’s 21st century economy and 21st century transportation system.
  • Watch the EIA’s short clip of Chairman Bill Poole HERE discussing the importance of the legislature’s investment in electric vehicle technology and infrastructure.






3. Survey: Pandemic further straining low-income families, widening racial prosperity gap


  • A new report from Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice details how the COVID-19 pandemic has crippled financially insecure families and disproportionately hurt Black Alabamians economically and health-wise, creating dire situations for some.
  • The report is the result of surveying 389 financially insecure Alabamians from 32 counties between May and September 2020, seeking to understand how the pandemic has changed daily lives and financial circumstances.
  • Nearly half of respondents had lost their jobs since March 13, but only about four in 10 of those who applied for unemployment benefits received them, usually after weeks of waiting, the report said.
  • A little more than half of the respondents also said that if they kept their job, they made less money from work since March.
  • “A vaccination program is only the start of the recovery,” Leah Nelson, research director for Alabama Appleseed said in a press release.
  • Read more from ADN’s Caroline Beck HERE.


4. Nursing students, teachers to fill gaps at UAB Hospital

  • Short of staff as COVID-19 cases increase rapidly, UAB Hospital is bringing in more than 120 students and faculty members from the University of Alabama at Birmingham nursing school to help care for patients sickened by the coronavirus pandemic, officials said Wednesday.
  • The hospital, which already has enlisted retired nurses to assist with care, will use faculty members and graduate students, all licensed registered nurses, to fill out patient care teams. Undergraduate students will serve as technicians and assist with vaccine distribution, the hospital said in a statement.
  • Almost 50 of the new workers are faculty members, while more than 70 are nursing students. The program is meant to assist nurses, not replace them, the hospital said.
  • Statistics compiled by show the state on Wednesday added more than 4,100 new cases of COVID-19, and the virus has killed almost 4,200 people statewide. The Alabama Hospital Association said staffing shortages have worsened as cases increase, partly because seriously ill COVID-19 patients require extra care.
  • While COVID-19 causes only mild or moderate symptoms for most people, it can be deadly for people who have other serious health problems.
  • Health care workers and a few others including elderly veterans have begun receiving vaccines to guard against the illness, but health officials say most members of the general public won’t begin receiving vaccinations for weeks.
  • Story link.



5. Funeral held for Bennie Adkins

  • Alabama Medal of Honor recipient Bennie G. Adkins, who died from COVID-19 earlier this year, was remembered at his funeral Wednesday both for his battlefield heroics and the work he did to help others after Vietnam.
  • Adkins’ flag-draped coffin sat at the front of an Arlington National Cemetery chapel decorated with Christmastime poinsettias as Lt. Col. Michael Shellman, an Army chaplain, described the retired Army command sergeant major as a decorated veteran and “a man well-loved.”
  • Special Forces Gen. John W. Brennan Jr. recalled meeting Adkins at the ceremony in 2014 where Adkins was presented with the nation’s highest military honor for heroism during the Vietnam War. Adkins ran through exploding mortar rounds to drag several troops to safety, according to his medal citation, and then exposed himself to sniper fire to carry wounded comrades to medical care.
  • Adkins was “obviously courageous,” Brennan said, and he didn’t stop serving others after retiring from the Army.
  • Once home, Adkins earned college degrees and taught night classes for adults seeking their high school equivalency degrees. Three years ago he established The Bennie Adkins Foundation, which has provided about 50 educational scholarships to Special Forces soldiers.
  • “What he did after his career in the military is absolutely amazing,” Brennan said.
  • Adkins died in April at the age of 86 after developing the illness caused by the new coronavirus. His funeral was delayed because of the pandemic, and the service from Arlington National Cemetery was shown by livestream.
  • Gov. Kay Ivey ordered the lowering of flags to mark Adkins’ funeral. He was buried beside his late wife, who died last year.
  • Story link.




News Briefs

Early civil rights supporter Jean Graetz dies in Alabama

  • BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Jean Graetz, an early white supporter of equal rights for Black people in Alabama at the start of the civil rights movement, died early Wednesday, a family spokesman said.
  • Recently diagnosed with lung cancer, Graetz died at home less than three months after the death of husband Robert Graetz, the only white minister to openly support the Montgomery bus boycott. She was 90.
  • Jean and Robert Graetz moved to Alabama in 1955, the same year Black seamstress and activist Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of a city bus, sparking a yearlong boycott that often is considered the start of the modern civil rights movement.
  • In a state where racial segregation was the law and relatively few white people supported change, Jean and Robert Graetz were friends with Parks, King and his late wife Coretta Scott King. Known as “Jeannie” to many, Jean Graetz was a “full partner” with her husband in openly, actively supporting civil rights.

School board to pay $320K to teacher suit over dismissal

  • OPELIKA, Ala. (AP) — Opelika’s city school board will pay $320,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a former teacher who claimed she was dismissed in retaliation for speaking out about the mistreatment of a special education student.
  • The Opelika-Auburn News reported that members agreed Monday to end the suit filed by Meagan Norris, who taught at Jeter Primary School.
  • Norris reported to an administrator in 2017 that she had been a physical education teacher improperly using a barrier made of tape to segregate a special needs student from other children. The incident led to a series of meetings and a hearing, and two physical education teachers claimed they saw Norris drop a child.
  • The superintendent recommended against renewing Norris’ contract in May 2018, but a state child welfare investigation found no indicate that Norris had abused a child.
  • Principal David Carpenter and others said performance issues were behind the decision to get rid of Norris, she had received favorable written performance evaluations during her two years at the school, a judge’s memorandum said.
  • In a statement, the school board said it determined its employees “behaved appropriately at all times,” but its attorneys recommended settling.

Morgan County man sentenced to life imprisonment in wife’s slaying

  • DECATUR, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama man convicted of killing his former wife at her business the day after their divorce became final has been sentenced to life imprisonment.
  • A Morgan County judge handed down the penalty to Roger Dale Stevens, 68, during a hearing Wednesday, the Decatur Daily reported.
  • Stevens was convicted of capital murder last month in the death of Kay Letson Stevens, 64. She was shot to death outside her bakery in Decatur in November 2015.
  • The couple’s divorce had become final the day before the killing, and witness Brenda Suggs, who was Stevens’ sister and business partner, testified earlier that the man complained that his former wife got everything in the split. Stevens shot the woman and then beat her head against a curb, evidence showed.
  • Speaking by Zoom from Rhode Island, Angela Stevens, the couple’s daughter, told the court she has been treated for post-traumatic stress disorder since the shooting and has nightmares almost every night.
  • Angela Stevens said that she lost both her mother and father the day of the shooting.
  • “I can never understand why my father did what he did,” she said. “But, I forgive him.”

Court tosses death sentence in girl’s slaying

  • MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A Madison County judge wrongly sentenced a man to die for the shooting death of his 20-month-old daughter four years ago, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals ruled Wednesday.
  • The court said Lionel Rory Francis, 38, of Huntsville could not be condemned for his capital murder conviction in the killing of Alexandria Francis because a judge mistakenly ruled he had a prior felony conviction for aggravated assault in North Dakota years before.
  • The case actually was a misdemeanor, the appeals court said, so it couldn’t be used as a reason to increase Francis’ punishment for the child’s slaying. Francis must be sentenced again with a maximum punishment of life in prison without parole, the court ruled.
  • The court refused to overturn Francis’ capital murder conviction.
  • Evidence showed the child suffered a point-blank gunshot to the head, the ruling said. Her mother was Francis’ girlfriend, and the three of them lived together. Francis claimed the shooting was an accident.




A message from

Auburn University

Auburn alumnus, trustee selected to be next Secretary of Defense
Auburn celebrates a lifetime of achievement by Gen. Lloyd Austin, who provides immeasurable support to our university.
We are grateful for his leadership in defending our freedoms and know his best days in serving our nation are still ahead.
Congratulations and thank you!
See the full story here.



ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Close but not yet: Deal near on COVID-19 economic aid bill


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Claim that nurse died after getting COVID vaccine is false


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Report: Pandemic further straining low-income families, widening racial prosperity gap


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Nursing students, teachers to fill gaps at UAB Hospital


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Funeral held for Medal of Honor recipient Bennie Adkins


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Daily News Digest – December 16, 2020


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Hatcher wins Democratic primary runoff for Senate seat


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Lawmaker wants limits on AI use in arrests


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – McConnell warns GOP of Electoral College brawl in Congress


AL.COM – U.S. quarantines some Alabama COVID-19 vaccine shipments after vials too cold


AL.COM – Former Alabama lawmakers Richard Laird, Jack Page die after contracting COVID-19


AL.COM – Richard Shelby accepts electoral college vote; ‘it’s time to move on’


AL.COM – Jean Graetz, Alabama civil rights supporter, dead at 90


AL.COM – ‘Excited’ Huntsville Hospital staff get COVID vaccine, hope for ‘new chapter’


AL.COM – Alabama tornado survivor: ‘Burying my husband is the worst thing I’ve ever had to do’


AL.COM – Huntsville lands $20 million Buffalo Rock plant; will provide 130 jobs


AL.COM – Alabama Power coal ash cleanup estimate grows to $3.3 billion


Montgomery Advertiser – COVID-19 vaccine death rumor quickly dispelled by Alabama health officials


Montgomery Advertiser – Case numbers, hospitalizations point to need for continued COVID-19 precautions


Montgomery Advertiser – What does a COVID-19 vaccine feel like? ‘3 days with a sore arm beats 3 months on a ventilator’


WBRC Fox 6 Birmingham – COVID-19 pandemic stressing hospitals. Is there a breaking point?


WBRC Fox 6 Birmingham – More than 120 UAB School of Nursing students and faculty helping fight COVID-19 at UAB Hospital


WBRC Fox 6 Birmingham – COVID-19 vaccine rumors, how to tell what’s fact or fiction


Tuscaloosa News – COVID-19 vaccine death rumor quickly dispelled by Alabama health officials


Tuscaloosa News – Case numbers, hospitalizations point to need for continued COVID-19 precautions


Tuscaloosa News – Investigation underway after 11 units at apartment complex catch fire


Decatur Daily – Decatur lawmaker wants limits on AI use in arrests


Decatur Daily – Roger Stevens sentenced to life in prison without parole


Decatur Daily – Morgan applies for grant to build downtown storm shelter


Times Daily – Online auction will benefit historic Shoals Theatre


Times Daily – Muscle Shoals council makes changes to comment policy


Times Daily – Tuscumbia school board approves “thank you” stipends


Anniston Star – RMC warns ambulances away as COVID-19 fills ICU beds


Anniston Star – Anniston council approves tax break for developer


Anniston Star – Cafe Korea in Saks closing after more than 30 years


YellowHammer News – Coronavirus hospitalizations remain near record levels in Alabama as new case count plateaus


YellowHammer News – ‘Transformative’ logistics park launching in Mobile, bringing jobs and future growth potential


YellowHammer News – Nursing students, faculty answer call to serve in hospital to help fight COVID-19


Gadsden Times – COVID-19 vaccine death rumor quickly dispelled by Alabama health officials


Gadsden Times – Christmas parades ahead, on the Coosa River and through Whorton Bend


Gadsden Times – Case numbers, hospitalizations point to need for continued COVID-19 precautions


Dothan Eagle – Asia Today: S. Korea marks deadliest day, over 1,000 cases


Dothan Eagle – Will children be able to get COVID-19 vaccines?


Dothan Eagle – California sets records for cases, deaths as virus surges


Opelika-Auburn News – Lee County now averaging 74 new COVID-19 cases per day


Opelika-Auburn News – Mobile man arrested, charged with murder in connection to fatal Shug Jordan Pkwy crash


Opelika-Auburn News – MacKenzie Scott says she has given $4.1 billion to charity


WSFA Montgomery – Dadeville hospital among first in Alabama to get COVID-19 vaccine


WSFA Montgomery – Prattville police searching for burglary, theft suspects


WSFA Montgomery – 2 more state inmates die after testing positive for COVID-19


WAFF Huntsville – Madison Police Chief talks about his time on the force before retiring


WAFF Huntsville – “An angel among us” DeKalb County man restores bikes for children this Christmas


WAFF Huntsville – Alabama state representatives hoping for more federal aid


WKRG Mobile – 2 trays, roughly 2,000 doses, of COVID-19 vaccine on lockdown due to temperature anomaly in Alabama


WKRG Mobile – Bodycam video released in Pensacola officer-involved shooting


WKRG Mobile – Several COVID-19 vaccine recipients got Bell’s palsy – why you should ignore these social media posts


WTVY Dothan – Dr. Ashley Elizabeth Jackson is first female physician to receive vaccine in Alabama


WTVY Dothan – Dr. Ashley Elizabeth Jackson is first female physician to receive vaccine in Alabama


WTVY Dothan – Southeast Health is first in Alabama to administer Pfizer COVID vaccine to their doctors


WASHINGTON POST – FDA says Pfizer coronavirus vaccine contains extra doses, expanding nation’s supply


WASHINGTON POST – Record numbers of covid-19 patients push hospitals and staffs to the limit


WASHINGTON POST – Two outsiders emerge as top contenders for Biden’s education secretary


NEW YORK TIMES – Hospitals Discover a Surprise in Their Vaccine Deliveries: Extra Doses


NEW YORK TIMES – Staring Down Deadline, Congress Nears $900 Billion Stimulus Deal


NEW YORK TIMES – Hospitals Discover a Surprise in Their Vaccine Deliveries: Extra Doses


WALL STREET JOURNAL – Ten States Sue Google, Alleging Deal With Facebook to Rig Online Ad Market


WALL STREET JOURNAL – Lockerbie Bombing: U.S. Said to Be Near Charges for Another Suspect in 1988 Plane Crash


WALL STREET JOURNAL – Fed Reinforces Plans to Provide Open-Ended Stimulus to Spur Recovery

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