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Daily News Digest – December 23, 2019

Presented by the

Alabama Accountability Act Coalition


Good morning!
The new Star Wars movie was terrific and a great end to the Skywalker saga. I don’t know what all the haters are complaining about.
Here’s your Daily News for Monday, December 23.



1. State defends prison staffing numbers

  • The Alabama Department of Corrections is defending its hiring of a new class of easier-to-train, lesser paid correctional officers as contributing to its staffing numbers and prison safety.
  • Meanwhile, state leaders, including the governor, say more needs to be done to attract qualified correctional officers.
  • U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson earlier this month ordered a breakdown of ADOC staffing. Thompson previously ordered ADOC to hire about 2,000 additional correctional officers by 2022 and quarterly ADOC staffing reports are now required.
  • A new court filing shows that from June 30 to September 30, ADOC lost 41 correctional officers, leaving just 1,040. However, the department added 126 basic correctional officers, bringing that classification to 182.
  • This month, Thompson said he was worried that even though staffing numbers appeared to be increasing, the type of officers being hired might not improve safety in the prisons.
  • In the latest filings, ADOC contends that the basic correctional officers’ training meets all the requirements that COs must reach except for the physical fitness requirements and firearms training.
  • “Generally speaking, the minor differences between the qualifications for BCOs and correctional officers only restrict BCOs from carrying firearms, conducting inmate transports requiring an armed officer, and filling perimeter security posts,” the filing said.
  • ADOC says it has hired more than 340 basic correctional officers in the last seven months, “undeniably improving correctional staffing across the state of Alabama.”
  • Read the full story, including reactions from Gov. Kay Ivey and state lawmakers HERE.


2. New Senate poll tests general election

  • A new Senate poll is out, but it’s not the usual GOP primary horserace numbers we’ve been pouring over all Fall. (FWIW, a breakdown of the last five Senate polls is available via Inside Alabama Politics HERE.)
  • Louisiana-based JMC Analytics on Sunday released a survey of Alabama’s general electorate looking at the re-election prospects of Democratic U.S. Sen. Doug Jones.
  • Much of the survey shows what you’d expect: opposition to the impeachment of President Donald Trump, not-so strong reelect numbers for Jones across the board, but better among younger voters.
  • Perhaps the most interesting results were the head-to-head numbers between Jones and the different GOP candidates.
  • Tommy Tuberville fared the best against Jones at 47-40-13.
  • Any guess who fared the worst? Yep, former Chief Justice Roy Moore. Jones beats him in a head-to-head 47-33-20.
  • This is a different kind of survey that most of us aren’t used to. It uses “hybrid” methods of contacting voters, including both robo calls and text messaging.
  • Also, it’s worth pointing out that while it claims to survey “likely” households, it includes voters who haven’t voted once in the last four elections. Including people who didn’t bother to vote for president in 2016 in a sample testing Senate race is, well, problematic.
  • Anyway, read more and see the full poll results HERE.









A message from the

Alabama Accountability Act Coalition


This holiday season give the gift that keeps on giving the whole year.









3. Increased trooper presence during holidays

  • State troopers will have an elevated presence on Alabama roadways during the holiday travel period.
  • The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency says all available state troopers will be assigned to patrol state roadways. The holiday travel period lasts from 12:01 a.m. Dec. 20 to midnight Jan. 1.
  • “Our goal is simply to save lives,” Alabama Law Enforcement Secretary Hal Taylor said.
  • The state law enforcement agency is urging people to: (1) obey speed limits; (2) buckle up; (3) do not drive while under the influence or while distracted; and (3) don’t follow other vehicles too closely.
  • Be safe out there, everyone!
  • Full story HERE.


4. Evangelical tussling over anti-Trump editorial escalates

  • A top Christian magazine’s editorial calling for President Donald Trump’s removal has caused quite the clamor in the evangelical community, particularly the part that plays a lot in political issues.
  • Christianity Today, a magazine founded by revered evangelist Billy Graham in the 1950s, last week featured an editorial calling the president’s conduct “profoundly immoral” and supporting his removal from office, just as it did with Bill Clinton in the 90s.
  • On Sunday, more than 100 conservative evangelical figures closed ranks around Trump, co-authoring a scathing letter to CT’s leadership.
  • “Your editorial offensively questioned the spiritual integrity and Christian witness of tens-of-millions of believers who take seriously their civic and moral obligations,” the group wrote.
  • Though no groundswell of new anti-Trump sentiment emerged among evangelicals in the wake of Christianity Today’s editorial, the president fired off scathing tweets Friday accusing the establishment magazine of becoming a captive of the left.
  • The magazine’s president, Timothy Dalrymple ran a response of his own response Sunday. Countering Trump’s suggestion that the magazine had shifted to favor liberals, Dalrymple wrote that the publication is in fact “theologically conservative” and “does not endorse candidates.”
  • Read the full story plus all the links to the other articles HERE.



5. Bradley Byrne: Alabama will see benefits from new trade deal

  • During last week’s crazy news cycle, you could be forgiven if you overlooked a significant story: a new North American trade deal with Canada and Mexico cleared the House and is now on its way to final passage.
  • Congressman Bradley Byrne contributes an op-ed for today’s Daily News emphasizing some of the benefits of the new United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement (USMCA). In particular, Byrne says the new agreement will “unlock new opportunities” for the state’s agriculture and automotive sectors to keep the economy “humming.”
  • Here’s an excerpt:
“NAFTA, the predecessor to the USMCA, had some pretty negative effects on our state. I’ve traveled to many Alabama towns over the last few years and heard horror stories about how NAFTA took jobs out of the United States and sent them to other countries…
“The USMCA will be positive for every state in the country, but as United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer recently joked with me, the USMCA ‘is going to weigh Alabama down with jobs.’ This is because Alabama is uniquely positioned to benefit from the USMCA due to the nature of our economy, the Port of Mobile, and our strong trading relationship with both Mexico and Canada. In fact, Canada and Mexico are two of Alabama’s biggest trading partners, as they buy 35% of the goods we export.”
  • Read the full op-ed HERE.


News Briefs

Parts of popular state park closed after Alabama tornado

  • ROGERSVILLE, Ala. (AP) — It’s unclear when a popular north Alabama state park that was hit by a tornado will be fully reopened.
  • The lodge, marina and some other sections of Joe Wheeler State Park are operating following Monday’s strike by what forecasters determined was an EF-1 twister. But the campground and day-use areas were badly damaged, and park officials said clearing away fallen trees and other debris will take time.
  • The park is on the Tennessee River at Rogersville. The weather service said it was struck by a twister with 110 mph maximum winds that left a trail of damage as wide as 500 yards.

Landmark fountain on Alabama campus breaks; repairs planned

  • FLORENCE, Ala. (AP) — Officials at the University of North Alabama are getting ready to repair a campus landmark.
  • Part of a three-tiered fountain on a plaza at the school entrance collapsed on Wednesday, raining pieces of a limestone bowl down into the pool below.
  • An assistant vice president for facilities, Michael Gautney, tells the TimesDaily that workers will take apart much of what’s left of the structure and decide how to replace it.
  • He says the fountain was made with limestone obtained from Florence, Italy, in a nod to the university’s location in the northwest Alabama city of Florence.
  • The fountain was dedicated in October 2002 through a $600,000 endowment from donors. Cracks developed on the limestone bowls, and the frequent freezing and thawing from temperature changes during winter aggravated problems.
  • “It’s always been a challenge,” Gautney said. “Being elevated, the wind-chill factor plays into it, as well.”
Pastor sentenced to over 1,000 years for sex abuse
  • GADSDEN, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama youth evangelist was sentenced Friday to more than 1,000 years in prison after pleading guilty to multiple child-sex charges.
  • reports that a judge handed down the maximum sentence on every count to Paul Edward Acton Bowen. Bowen had pleaded guilty in Etowah County to 28 counts involving six boys between the ages of 13 and 16.
  • The 39-year-old Bowen faced charges that include sexual abuse, sodomy, enticing a child for sex and traveling to meet a child for sexual abuse. He still faces other charges in the Birmingham area.
  • Victims and family members wept as the judge slowly read out the maximum sentence and fine on every count, the newspaper reported.
  • The shackled minister apologized to his own family and victims in the courtroom.
  • “The shame and guilt I feel is overwhelming and has been for a long time,” he said. “My heart was never wanting to hurt anybody but my mind was not well.”
  • He had previously pleaded not guilty by reason of mental disorder.
  • Bowen was arrested on sex abuse charges last year. Authorities say additional victims came forward after he was in jail.
  • Bowen was a Christian minister who wrote books, ran his own youth ministry and traveled to speak at youth events.
  • Bowen pleaded guilty as his first trial was set to begin.




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ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Dept. of Corrections defends staffing numbers, leaders say more is needed to recruit correctional officers
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – New Senate poll shows Jones trailing Tuberville, Sessions, Byrne
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Troopers to have elevated presence during holiday travel
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS  – Evangelical tussling over anti-Trump editorial escalates
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Bradley Byrne: Alabama will see benefits from new trade deal
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Medical marijuana commission approves draft bill
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Two Alabama charter school programs awarded $1.5M each
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Scams targeting holiday shoppers in Alabama
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS  – Plans for impeachment trial get foggy before holiday break
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Daily News Digest – December 20, 2019
AL.COM  – Young athletes give back by feeding homeless at Birmingham park
AL.COM  – Heroic Mobile pilot who saved lives during Hurricane Harvey awarded top military medal
AL.COM  – Alabama city celebrates women at heart of suffrage movement
AL.COM  – Alabama school system intends to sue 3M over toxins from closed landfill
Montgomery Advertiser – Prattville officer struck, injured at accident scene
Montgomery Advertiser – Alabama Senate poll: Doug Jones trails Sessions, Byrne, Tuberville
Montgomery Advertiser – Brantwood director Gerald Jones is a Community Hero
YellowHammer News – Brooks touts anti-illegal immigration stance, support for Trump’s effort to oppose Democrat ‘dictatorial policies’ on stump in Huntsville
YellowHammer News – University of South Alabama teams up with Yale on mosquito research
YellowHammer News – Senate poll shows Doug Jones ‘in deep trouble’ against three leading GOP contenders
Dothan Eagle – Answer Man: Didn’t the Army National Guard Armory in Dothan used to be on Montgomery Highway?
Dothan Eagle – Warren’s origin story, her mother and THE dress, comes home
Dothan Eagle – 2019 Year In Review: Coley McCraney, charged in deaths of J.B. Beasley and Tracie Hawlett
Tuscaloosa News – Alabama seeks juror questionnaires in case against sheriff
Tuscaloosa News – Three Aliceville residents killed in crash, troopers say
Tuscaloosa News – Suspect charged in armed robbery near the Strip
Decatur Daily – Visitor numbers, dollars increase but details on Decatur-Morgan Tourism spending scarce
Decatur Daily – Sufferin’ till suffrage: Exhibit celebrates Morgan County’s 1st women voters
Decatur Daily – DCS gives notice of intent to sue 3M over ‘forever chemicals’
Times Daily – Forest Hills Elementary earns District 7 Safe School Award
Times Daily – Drive collects more than 3,600 toys for children
Times Daily – Governor appoints 5 from Shoals to Technical Advisory Committees
Gadsden Times – Gadsden Altrusa provides Christmas meal, gift cards to Boys & Girls Club members
Gadsden Times – Decatur schools to sue 3M over chemicals
Gadsden Times – Acton Bowen receives 1,008 years for sex crimes
Anniston Star – Anniston Schools Christmas Angels
Anniston Star – Oxford EMS employees and families endure insurance lapses
Anniston Star – Phillip Tutor: From one Anniston council to another: Hold
Troy Messenger – Officials urge safe holiday travel during record traffic
Troy Messenger – ‘Snowball’ rescued from smoke stack
Troy Messenger – CHRISTMAS VILLAGE: Sardis woman completes massive outdoor holiday diorama
Andalusia Star News – Zebra, cow, miniature horses killed; info sought
Andalusia Star News – AT&T store robbed; Two suspects in custody
Andalusia Star News – ALEA to increase patrol during holidays
Opelika-Auburn News – Warren’s origin story, her mother and THE dress, comes home
Opelika-Auburn News – My terminally ill mother wanted to end her own life. What would it take to fulfill her last wish?
Opelika-Auburn News – Home for the holiday: Lee county resident presented with new home
Daily Mountain Eagle – Sumiton Middle makes Christmas possible for over 50 students
Daily Mountain Eagle – Scholars busy with holiday volunteer work
Daily Mountain Eagle – Dora students volunteer at Mission of Hope
Trussville Tribune – Pair charged in St. Vincent’s East slaying now face 9 murder counts in Illinois shooting
Trussville Tribune – BREAKING: – Updated – Trussville woman missing after leaving Birmingham bar
Trussville Tribune – Man killed in Pinson crash
Athens News Courier – Officials: New Huntsville City Hall would cost $60M
Athens News Courier – Harmonicist, age 90, plays music to make the season bright
Athens News Courier – White House predicts Pelosi to `yield’ on impeachment delay
Sand Mountain Reporter – Snead State Community College employees receive 2019 Chancellor’s Awards
Sand Mountain Reporter – SSCC Foundation appoints 3 to Board of Directors
Sand Mountain Reporter – SSCC receives Workforce Development Training grant
WSFA Montgomery – Missing 15-year-old Birmingham girl found
WSFA Montgomery – Bessemer woman missing since Thursday found
WSFA Montgomery – Senators Shelby, Jones outline provisions impacting Ala. in appropriations package
Fox 6 Birmingham – Bessemer woman missing since Thursday found
Fox 6 Birmingham – Women say, in light of missing cases, never go out alone
Fox 6 Birmingham – Auburn University starts collaborative effort to fight opioid abuse
WAFF Huntsville – WAFF Exclusive: Toney shooting victim returns homes after 3 month long hospital stay
ille – Florence Police identify victim in deadly weekend shooting on Long Ln.
WAFF Huntsville – North Alabama family on board Carnival cruise ship collision
WKRG Mobile – BIKER DAD: Community helps disabled combat vet get back on two wheels
WKRG Mobile – UPDATE: Double homicide on Steiner St. off DIP
WKRG Mobile – One dead, two others shot near Hillsdale Heights park
WTVY Dothan – 7 injured in south Ala. crash, 1 in critical condition
WTVY Dothan – Expensive race car, other vehicles stolen during crime spree0
WTVY Dothan – Security guard shot, killed during altercation in Enterprise
WASHINGTON POST – 1 in every 4 circuit court judges is now a Trump appointee
WASHINGTON POST – Trump touts Putin speaking out against his impeachment
WASHINGTON POST – House freshmen get an education in limits of power and legislative pragmatism
NEW YORK TIMES – Fear and Loyalty: How Donald Trump Took Over the Republican Party
NEW YORK TIMES – More Than 1 in 5 U.S. Papers Has Closed. This Is the Result
NEW YORK TIMES – The Movement to Bring Death Closer: Home-funeral guides believe that families can benefit from tending to — and spending time with — the bodies of their deceased

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