Good morning! It’s early national signing day for college football so remember to be patient with distracted coworkers who are minding Twitter to see which teenagers like their school the best.
Here’s your Daily News for Wednesday, December 19.
1. CR coming.
- President Trump appears to have backed off a bit from demanding a full $5 billion in border wall funding.
- Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the president doesn’t want to shut down the government and that he’s open to finding wall money from other areas.
- [Not to get too complicated, but switching already-budgeted money between federal agencies requires Congressional approval, specifically the top Rs & Ds from leadership and appropriations. So who knows what they mean by that.]
- The Senate’s top Republican and Democratic leaders began negotiating new proposals and talks will continue today.
- Enter Sen. Richard Shelby, who chairs Senate Appropriations. He confirmed late Tuesday that his office is drafting a Continuing Resolution to keep the government funded through February.
- That gives Congress a backstop to prevent a Christmas government shutdown if negotiators can’t reach a deal on this border business.
- Remember that Democrats take control of the House on January 3. That would seem to give President Trump a short rope on negotiations, but Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made a good point about incoming-Speaker Nancy Pelosi…
- “If I were in her shoes, I would rather not be dealing with this year’s business next year,” McConnell said.
- Full story HERE.
2. Criminal Justice Reform passes.
- The Senate passed a sweeping criminal justice bill late Tuesday.
- The bill gives President Donald Trump a signature policy victory, and a bi-partisan one at that.
- The House is expected to pass the bill as soon as this week, sending it to the president’s desk for his signature.
- The bill gives judges more discretion when sentencing some drug offenders and boosts prisoner rehabilitation efforts. It also reduces the life sentence for some drug offenders with three convictions, or “three strikes,” to 25 years.
- Another provision would allow about 2,600 federal prisoners sentenced for crack cocaine offenses before August 2010 the opportunity to petition for a reduced penalty.
- Some believe the bill goes too far on the prisoner release part.
- Sen. Richard Shelby was one of 12 Republicans who voted against the bill after saying last week that he wanted to see changes to make sure violent criminals are not released.
- Before his departure, Jeff Sessions had also argued against some of the release provisions during his time as both Attorney General and Senator from Alabama.
- Sen. Doug Jones voted for the bill after speaking in its favor on the Senate floor saying it would help “solve one of the most important, most challenging issues of our time.”
- Read that full story HERE.
- Remember, this is for the federal justice system, not the state.
- However, the state has been working on its own criminal justice reform initiatives the last few years.
- Over the last three fiscal years, the Alabama Legislature has budgeted more than $95 million to hire probation and parole officers, expand behavioral health community-based treatment and services, and support community corrections programs.
- Those investments help keep crime and recidivism down as non-violent prisoners are released and rehabilitated.
- We’ll keep talking about this.
3. Two prison things.
- Three Alabama corrections officers at two different prisons have been arrested on corruption charges.
- DOC says two officers from the Ventress prison in Clayton and a trainee officer at Donaldson prison near Birmingham are charged with using their jobs for personal gain.
- The charges involve soliciting and/or accepting money from inmates in exchange for contraband.
- This may seem like more trouble for Alabama’s prison system, but it’s actually good news that they are cracking down on this behavior.
- Commissioner Jeff Dunn says the department is trying to eliminate corruption. He says the state has fully staffed its investigations and intelligence division to reduce crime inside prisons.
We knew this generally, but…
- Meanwhile, a new report puts the prison staff shortage into specific relief.
- Holman prison in Atmore only has 72 security staff members of the 195 it needs to cover all shifts.
- That’s a 37 percent staffing level. The state’s average is marginally better 48 percent.
- Holman is a maximum security prison and home to Alabama’s death row. It’s inmate occupancy rate is 164 percent.
- There has been a string of violent attacks at Holman that prompted officials to begin transferring prisoners.
- DOC spokesman Bob Horton:
“When built, Alabama prisons were not equipped with the security technology that is available today in modern prison systems…
“This requires more security staff than would be needed if the prisons were better designed and equipped with the needed technology and security features.”
- That concurs with what Sen. Cam Ward told me a few weeks ago about the danger of antiquated security technology in prisons. It’s another officer recruiting deterrent as well.
- Proud to host the AP’s pick up of this story at Alabama Daily News, but you really should go read Mellisa Brown’s original reporting for The Montgomery Advertiser. And follow her on Twitter.
4. Career Tech comes into its own.
- We’ve always had career tech programs. But now, thanks to a new-found focus from the state and synergies with local schools, Alabama is taking career and technical job training to the next level.
- Go inside one such example with Mike Cason, who writes about the Montgomery Preparatory Academy for Career Technologies, or MPACT.
- If you haven’t visited MPACT you really should. They’ve transformed the old Montgomery Mall into something really special.
- More rural areas are also seeing a greater emphasis on career tech training.
- Thanks to cooperation between the Alabama Department of Education and the Alabama Community College System, students can come out of high school half way through with course work and certifications. That means they can start earning money quicker at in-demand jobs and without the debt from college loans.
- Read Mike’s full story with photos from MPACT and conversations with Jeff Lynn of ACCS and Josh Laney of ALSDE.
5. Everybody’s pretty excited about UAB.
- Two seasons after shutting down its football program, UAB closed out the year on an electrifying note.
- Tyler Johnston III threw for 373 yards and four touchdowns, three of them to Xavier Ubosi, and UAB beat Northern Illinois 37-13 in the Boca Raton Bowl.
- Ubosi had seven catches for 227 yards for the Conference USA champion Blazers (11-3), who got their first-ever bowl victory in three appearances. UAB played in its second consecutive bowl since the program was reinstated after the self-imposed hiatus.
- “I guess in our wildest dreams we dreamed of winning a conference championship and then cap it off with a bowl win, so it’s really that sweet,” UAB coach Bill Clark said.
- “I don’t think it could have gone any better for us, so I’m very proud.”
- He should be. And everybody is pretty proud of UAB and Coach Clark.
- I got to know Coach Clark toward the beginning of his career at Prattville and it was pretty evident he was a special coach who would be successful.
- Now he just has to figure out how to replace 35 seniors, including 15 starters.
- But he’s got a clever recruiting weapon. As he told SEC Network’s Alyssa Lang (pictured top right), he just asks recruits, “who’s going to play you in the movie?”
- Congrats, Coach, and to all involved.
Trump signs order crating Space Force
- President Donald Trump launched the Pentagon’s new Space Command Tuesday, an effort to better organize and advance the military’s vast operations in space that could cost as much as $800 million over the next five years.
- Trump signed a one-page memorandum Tuesday authorizing the Defense Department to create the new command. Speaking at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Vice President Mike Pence said, “a new era of American national security in space begins today.”
- The goal is to set up a command to oversee and organize space operations, accelerate technical advances and find more effective ways to defend U.S. assets in space, including the vast constellations of satellites that American forces rely on for navigation, communications and surveillance. The move comes amid growing concerns that China and Russia are working on ways to disrupt, disable or even destroy U.S. satellites.
- Full story HERE.
Government bans ‘bump stocks’
- The Trump administration Tuesday banned bump stocks, the firearm attachments that allow semi-automatic weapons to fire like machine guns and were used during the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
- The regulation gives gun owners until late March to turn in or destroy the devices. After that, it will be illegal to possess them under the same federal laws that prohibit machine guns.
- Bump stocks became a focal point of the gun control debate after they were used in October 2017 when a man opened fire from his Las Vegas hotel suite into a crowd at a country music concert, killing 58 people and injuring hundreds more.
- The regulation was signed Tuesday by Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker. It will take effect 90 days after it is published in the Federal Register, which is expected to happen Friday.
- Full story HERE.
Flynn sentencing delayed
- A federal judge Tuesday abruptly postponed the sentencing of President Donald Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, declaring himself disgusted and disdainful of Flynn’s crime of lying to the FBI and raising the unexpected prospect of sending the retired Army lieutenant general to prison.
- Lawyers for Flynn, who admitted lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts, requested the delay during the stunning hearing in which U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan told the former Trump aide in a blistering rebuke that “arguably you sold your country out.”
- “I can’t make any guarantees, but I’m not hiding my disgust, my disdain for this criminal offense,” Sullivan said.
- The postponement gives Flynn a chance to continue cooperating with the government in hopes of staving off prison and proving his value as a witness, including in a foreign lobbying prosecution unsealed this week.
- Full story HERE.
Protests called off after meeting with Hoover mayor
- Planned protests Tuesday about a police killing of a black man in an Alabama shopping mall have been called off after organizers met with city officials.
- Birmingham Justice League met with Hoover Mayor Frank Brocato and City Manager Allan Rice to discuss the incident that left 21-year-old Emantic “EJ” Bradford Jr. dead on Thanksgiving Day. Organizers say they reached common ground on enough concerns to call off protests throughout Hoover and at Brocato’s home.
- The group said it will hold a press conference Wednesday to provide further details and “lay out a framework” for a better working relationship with law enforcement.
- Meanwhile, a man charged in the shooting that led to Bradford’s death is asking a judge to lower his bond from $125,000 to $60,000. A hearing is scheduled Jan. 17.
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Criminal justice bill passes Senate; House approval expected
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Protests called off after group meets with mayor
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Alabama mall shooting suspect seeks lower bond
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Report: 60 percent of security jobs vacant at Alabama prison
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – 3 Alabama prison officers arrested
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – UAB’s Johnston, Ubosi torch N. Illinois in Boca Raton Bowl
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS -Funding government without border wall appears back on table
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Trump signs order to create Space Command
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Trump administration bans ‘bump stocks’
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Matthew Stokes: We’ll miss The Weekly Standard
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Daily News Digest – December 17, 2018
AL.COM – UAB Blazers go out winners in unprecedented season
AL.COM – UAB’s Xavier Ubosi caps career with big Boca Bowl performance
AL.COM – Social media researcher admits to questionable tactics in 2017 Alabama Senate race
AL.COM – Some Alabama schools look more like factories to get students job-ready
AL.COM – Alabama sheriff agrees to plead guilty to federal tax charge
AL.COM – Social media researcher admits to questionable tactics in 2017 Alabama Senate race
AL.COM – Columnist Kyle Whitmire: Hey, NY Times, don’t Nash my Birmingham
AL.COM – Columnist Mike Oliver: Why not a single-payer health care system for USA?
AL.COM – Bump stock ban: Gun owners have 90 days to turn in rapid fire devices
AL.COM – Birmingham among 10 most affordable cities
AL.COM – The average Alabamian owes more than $9,000 in credit card debt
MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER – Terrance Webster denies involvement in shooting that led to Keiauna Williams’ death
MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER – Draft plan for residential rental licenses to be introduced in March
MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER – Staffing issues plague Holman prison: 13 inmates for every one guard
MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER – Trump administration bans rapid-fire bump stocks, but a half-million have already been sold
MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER – Anonymous tip leads to capture of armed robbery suspect
YELLOWHAMMER NEWS – Carnival Cruise Line: Passenger reported missing on cruise from Alabama
YELLOWHAMMER NEWS – Ethics commission set to consider more public official employment limitations
YELLOWHAMMER NEWS – Doug Jones cannot win in Alabama again until he acknowledges why he beat Roy Moore
DOTHAN EAGLE – Dothan hires contractor to eradicate feral hogs from Eastgate Park
DOTHAN EAGLE – Man treated for accidental shooting near local business
DOTHAN EAGLE – Eufaula High School names Carroll High Principal Sean Clark to same position
TUSCALOOSA NEWS – Report: 60 percent of security jobs vacant at prison
TUSCALOOSA NEWS – New PARA facility opens, will serve eastern Tuscaloosa
TUSCALOOSA NEWS – PREP ROUNDUP: Turnipseed leads Sumter Central to victory
DECATUR DAILY – Sheriff pleads guilty to tax violation
DECATUR DAILY – Dec. 24, 31 will be paid holidays for most area government workers
DECATUR DAILY – Dec. 19 police reports
TIMES DAILY – 5 houses on Florence demolition list
TIMES DAILY – Sheffield mayor reaches out to restaurant owners
TIMES DAILY – 39 kids still available for Christmas for Kids
ANDALUSIA STAR NEWS – Gitty-Up-N-Go gives $357K to area charities
ANDALUSIA STAR NEWS – SBI investigating Sunday death of Kinston teen of
ANDALUSIA STAR NEWS – Students enjoy 2 days in Seuss-like Whoville [with gallery]
TROY MESSENGER – HONORED: Green celebrated at retirement ceremony
TROY MESSENGER – Brundidge City Council tables splash pad request
TROY MESSENGER – Continental Cinemas offers free movie in exchange for canned goods
THE ANNISTON STAR – Council appoints mayor, city manager to negotiate with GSA on courthouse
THE ANNISTON STAR – Heated debate brings no change in Piedmont alcohol question
THE ANNISTON STAR – Jailer charged, fired over tobacco smuggling
GADSDEN TIMES – Judge delays Flynn sentencing, ‘not hiding disgust’ at crime
GADSDEN TIMES – Middle school students learn about giving
GADSDEN TIMES – ECSO hosts blood drive Wednesday
OPELIKA-AUBURN NEWS – Lockhart hearing to resume in February
OPELIKA-AUBURN NEWS – Our View: Auburn University professor sounds a serious warning to Senator Shelby
OPELIKA-AUBURN NEWS – Opelika council to recognize hiker
CULLMAN TIMES – Actor, director Penny Marshall dies at 75
CULLMAN TIMES – Retired police K-9 dumped at animal shelter gets adopted by his old trainer
SHELBY COUNTY REPORTER – 2018 All-County football team released
SHELBY COUNTY REPORTER – Students test engineering, design principles with earthquake simulator
SHELBY COUNTY REPORTER – Civic complex main ice arena to undergo upgrade
THE MADISON RECORD – Madison City Council presents second city coin to Jack Clift
THE MADISON RECORD – Frankenfield joins library staff as event coordinator
DAILY MOUNTAIN EAGLE – Firemen respond to Empire blaze
DAILY MOUNTAIN EAGLE – Tirey, county’s longest-serving sheriff, dies at 59
DAILY MOUNTAIN EAGLE – Allison officiated weddings throughout the county
NEW YORK TIMES – As Facebook Raised a Privacy Wall, It Carved an Opening for Tech Giants
NEW YORK TIMES – ‘Not Hiding My Disgust’: Judge Rebukes Flynn, Then Delays Sentencing
NEW YORK TIMES – Hacked European Cables Reveal a World of Anxiety About Trump, Russia and Iran
WASHINGTON POST – Senate overwhelmingly backs overhaul of criminal justice system
WASHINGTON POST – ‘I’m not hiding my disgust, my disdain’: Veteran judge upends hopes of Trump allies as he spotlights Flynn’s misdeeds
WASHINGTON POST – Trump backs off demand for $5 billion for border wall, but budget impasse remains ahead of shutdown deadline
USA TODAY – Impeach Trump? Lessons learned from Clinton’s impeachment, 20 years later
USA TODAY – Chicago-native ‘El Chapo’ cocaine distributor describes national U.S. drug-selling network
USA TODAY – Trump signs executive order giving employees time off on Christmas Eve
POLITICO – How Trump the ‘Tariff Man’ could lose to ‘Dow Man’ Trump
POLITICO – Anti-abortion groups demand ouster of NIH chief over fetal tissue
POLITICO – Comey: FBI told Flynn he could have lawyer in interview
Front Pages (images link to newspaper websites, which you should visit and patronize)