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Daily News Digest – December 21, 2018

Good morning! Welcome, officially, to Winter. Today is the darkest/shortest day of the year. I guess what I’m saying is, things can only go up from here!
Here’s your Daily News for Friday, December 21.

1. Shut it down.

  • We’re probably going to have a partial government shutdown starting at midnight tonight.
  • Not the end of the world. It’s only a fourth of the federal government and essential personnel will keep working.
  • But it is a mess.
  • 24 hours after telling the Senate he would sign a continuing resolution to keep the government open through February, President Trump changed his mind and doubled back to demanding wall money.
  • The House of Representatives obliged, ping-ponging the funding bill back to the Senate with an amendment for $5.7 billion in border wall money.
  • President Trump is now asking Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to use the “nuclear option” to pass this bill. That means ending the 60-vote threshold needed to cut off debate and pass legislation. It means ending the filibuster.
  • That might sound good. Everybody hates the filibuster when their favorite legislation is up.
  • However, wise Republicans understand that they may well want that 60-vote threshold when Democrats assume the majority in the House in a few weeks.
  • Also, without the filibuster, legislation to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller would have already passed.
  • Just saying, be careful what you ask for here. And remember this is all over about $3.4 billion in border money.
  • Read more HERE.


2. It’s okay to be a little concerned.

  • Secretary of Defense James Mattis is leaving.
  • At 4:20 yesterday, President Trump tweeted that Mattis was retiring and thanked him for his service.
  • Within an hour, Mattis’ letter of resignation was public, telling a much different story.
  • Gen. Mattis outlined in careful detail his foreign policy beliefs, including how he feels about Russia and China and why allies are so important.
  • And he said the President deserves a Secretary of Defense that shares his beliefs on all these things.
  • “Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position,” he wrote.
  • In other words, Trump’s decision to pull out of Syria and Afghanistan was Mattis’ breaking point.
  • Read that full story, plus the letter of resignation HERE.

3. Charter School conversion approved.

  • State Superintendent Eric Mackey and Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange announced that the Capital City will soon open the area’s first charter schools and the state’s first conversion charter school system.
  • Charter schools are public schools that use specially-approved rules to get around some federal and state regulations in order to seek better performance.
  • For instance, they may relax tenure laws in exchange for better teacher pay or change school hours/days.
  • Montgomery is converting the entire feeder system to Lanier High School. That means Davis and Nixon Elementary schools and Bellingrath Middle School will all transition to the same charter over the next few years.
  • This is a pretty significant step for the state and city in terms of school choice.
  • The quote of the day came from State Sen. David Burkette, a Democrat and former educator whose district includes these struggling schools.
  • “We’ve continued to travel down the old path and tried plan A, B, and C but now it’s time to try plan D. You can’t go wrong in this situation because it’s not just for the benefit of this community but it helps move all of Alabama forward. It is high time for us to take a stance and look at the direction we have come from and try to get to the direction we want to get to for the future,” he said.
  • Read the full story from Caroline Beck, who was at the announcement. And wouldn’t you know it, she links to other reporters’ work.


4. Jones denies knowing of Russian-style election tactics.

  • Sen. Doug Jones says he was unaware of an experiment run by outside researchers during his campaign seeking to emulate Russian tactics to influence elections.
  • The Washington Post and New York Times have both reported that a social media researcher acknowledged testing misleading online tactics during Jones’ campaign against Republican Roy Moore last year. The effort was modeled on alleged Russian attempts to bolster the candidacy of President Donald Trump in 2016.
  • Jones told reporters during a conference call Thursday his campaign didn’t know anything about the effort at the time. And Jones says he is “as outraged as everyone else” about the allegations.
  • Alabama Republican Party Chair Terry Lathan said the effort was “deeply disturbing.”
  • Jones says his campaign tracking software didn’t detect any anti-Moore effort.
  • Read more from Alan Blinder and other authors of the original story HERE
  • Also read John Sharp who got Roy Moore’s reaction HERE.
  • And read Sean Ross who got the reaction from GOP Chair Terry Lathan HERE.


5. Criminal Justice Reform bill goes to POTUS.

  • The House passed the First Step Act yesterday, a wide-ranging criminal justice bill that will reduce some of the harshest sentences for federal drug offenders and boost prison rehabilitation programs.
  • That secures President Donald Trump a major, bi-partisan legislative victory. He pushed for the bill and got it over the finish line after legislative efforts stalled.
  • 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.
  • The House passed the bill 358-36, sending it to Trump for his signature.
  • “This is a great bi-partisan achievement for everybody,” Trump tweeted moments after the vote. “When both parties work together we can keep our Country safer. A wonderful thing for the U.S.A.!!”
  • Not everybody is happy about it, though.
  • Every Republican in the Alabama Congressional Delegation voted against the bill.
  • To be clear, most wanted some kind of criminal justice reform, but believed the final Senate bill went too far.
  • Rep. Mo Brooks spelled out his displeasure at length…
  • “The Senate version of the First Step Act is a step backward. My experience in law enforcement taught me early on that strong enforcement of criminal statutes and tough penalties for criminal conduct help keep dangerous criminals off the street” Brooks said.
  • “Let the record show, I voted against this irresponsible, soft-on-crime, and dangerous legislation.”
  • So did Reps. Bradley Byrne, Martha Roby, Mike Rogers, Gary Palmer, and Robert Aderholt. Sen. Richard Shelby voted no earlier this week.
  • Alabama’s Democrats – Sen. Doug Jones and Rep. Terri Sewell – each supported the bill.



ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Montgomery to have state’s first conversion charter schools.
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Mattis resigning as Pentagon chief after Trump disagreements
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Trump says a shutdown would ‘last for a very long time’
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Jones denies knowledge of Russian-style online effort
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Mazda Toyota reach environmental agreement over fish
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Alabama asks Supreme Court to review abortion ruling
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – State OKs charter school system takeover of 4 public schools
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Skip Tucker: What the Dickens is Christmas Anyway?
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Daily News Digest – December 20, 2018
AL.COM – U.S. to withdraw about 7,000 troops from Afghanistan, officials say
AL.COM – Man shot dead inside car at east Birmingham apartments
AL.COM – Montgomery gets approval to convert 4 schools to charters
AL.COM – Sunfish dispute ends with $6 million from Mazda Toyota
AL.COM – AG Steve Marshall asks U.S. Supreme Court to hear case on Alabama abortion law
AL.COM – Montgomery gets approval to convert 4 schools to charters
AL.COM – Trump intends to nominate Annette Shelby to Kennedy Center advisory board
AL.COM – Doug Jones says to investigate misleading effort that supported his campaign
AL.COM – Alabama Airbnb hosts made $31 million in 2018
AL.COM – How Alabama contextualized the Confederacy in 2018
AL.COM – Columnist Kyle Whitmire:  How the Alabama Ethics Commission gutted campaign finance law
MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER – Montgomery’s first charter school approved to open in 2019
MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER – After years of Newtown water running brown, Water Works replacing lines.
MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER – Health officials: Flu is widespread across Alabama.
MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER – U.S. Department of Agriculture moves to tighten restrictions on food stamps
MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER – Montgomery police seeking information in fatal shooting of Decoris Davis
MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER – Montgomery man sentenced to 85 years in connection to 2014 capital murder case
YELLOWHAMMER NEWS – ‘Tough on crime’: Mo Brooks touts ‘no’ vote on criminal justice reform package
YELLOWHAMMER NEWS – More Democratic dirty tricks come into view by faking Russian support for Roy Moore in Alabama’s 2017 special election
YELLOWHAMMER NEWS – ALGOP chair Lathan on report Democrats used Russian tactics to support Doug Jones: ‘Deeply disturbing’
DOTHAN EAGLE – Trial scheduled for Dale County man facing murder charges for killing wife
DOTHAN EAGLE – Two arrested on drug and identity theft charges at local motel
DOTHAN EAGLE – Local law enforcement prepare for busy roadways this holiday season
TUSCALOOSA NEWS – CECIL HURT: Alabama can add to already strong recruiting class
TUSCALOOSA NEWS – Here’s where to find St. Nick this weekend in Tuscaloosa
TUSCALOOSA NEWS – Alabama’s population gain lags behind other states
DECATUR DAILY – Mazda Toyota announces agreement to protect sunfish; $6 million committed
DECATUR DAILY – Dec. 21 police reports
DECATUR DAILY – Superintendents say report cards show growth
TIMES DAILY – Ex-UNA student: Title IX probe was handled correctly
TIMES DAILY – Plan offers reduced costs for nursing students
TIMES DAILY – Commission OKs Colbert County Jail painting project
ANDALUSIA STAR NEWS – Spreading Megan’s smiles
ANDALUSIA STAR NEWS – Still need gifts? Here are some ideas! [Gallery]
ANDALUSIA STAR NEWS – Candyland features popular musicians this weekend
TROY MESSENGER – BACK IN TIME: Brundidge uses traditional Christmas decor
TROY MESSENGER – Heating up: Patriots carry momentum into 2019
TROY MESSENGER – Commission approves childcare, assisted living facilities
THE ANNISTON STAR – Douthitt resigns as Anniston superintendent
THE ANNISTON STAR – More Jacksonville traffic tickets raise money, questions
THE ANNISTON STAR – Marshall Shaddix, “Voice of the Yellow Jackets,” dies at 90
GADSDEN TIMES – Trump pulling all US troops from Syria, declaring IS defeat
GADSDEN TIMES – Police departments stopping traffic to give gifts
GADSDEN TIMES – Family, friends oppose parole for Rodney Long’s killer
OPELIKA-AUBURN NEWS – Auburn police charge Montgomery man with attempted murder
OPELIKA-AUBURN NEWS – Police reports from Dec. 20
OPELIKA-AUBURN NEWS – OHS band ‘Spirit of the South’ to perform at TaxSlayer Gator Bowl
CULLMAN TIMES – Mattis leaving as Pentagon chief after clashes with Trump
CULLMAN TIMES – APNewsBreak: US miscalculated benefit of better train brakes
CULLMAN TIMES – Agreement to protect endangered fish reached
SHELBY COUNTY REPORTER – Hoover, Pelham to combine vehicle maintenance, repair services
SHELBY COUNTY REPORTER – Amy’s Hallmark in Alabaster closing after 19 years
SHELBY COUNTY REPORTER – Trial set for former officer facing sex crime charges
THE MADISON RECORD – Data security breach could affect customers of Bruegger’s Bagels in Madison County
THE MADISON RECORD – City of Madison announces holiday schedule for trash, garbage, recycling
THE MADISON RECORD – Huntsville plant stresses safety, reaches 10 years accident-free
DAILY MOUNTAIN EAGLE – Coal truck accident shuts down highway
DAILY MOUNTAIN EAGLE – Community donations key to Shoe Fund success
DAILY MOUNTAIN EAGLE – Walker High grad rises to high Army rank
NEW YORK TIMES – Jim Mattis, Defense Secretary, Resigns in Rebuke of Trump’s Worldview
NEW YORK TIMES -Threats to Mueller Investigation in Memo and Recusal Decision
NEW YORK TIMES – American Withdrawal From Syria Shakes Up the Middle East
WASHINGTON POST – Trump orders major military withdrawal from Afghanistan as Mattis departs
WASHINGTON POST – ‘A tailspin’: Under siege, Trump propels the government and markets into crisis
WASHINGTON POST – Trump says he won’t sign Senate deal to avert shutdown, demands funds for border security
USA TODAY – The border wall fundraiser is already among GoFundMe’s top 5 campaigns ever
USA TODAY – Alaska poised to become first state to allow on-site cannabis consumption
USA TODAY – Federal law won’t stop Guam cockfights, enthusiasts say
POLITICO – ‘I’m OK with a shutdown’: Inside the chaos of the House GOP’s last days
POLITICO – McConnell ‘distressed’ over Mattis’ resignation
POLITICO – Ethics panel expands probe into Arizona Rep. Schweikert



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