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Daily News Digest – May 17, 2021

Good morning!

You’re welcome for the Wilson Phillips earworm today.

Here’s your Daily News for Monday, May 17.


1. Last day of session


  • At long last, today is the final day of the Alabama Legislature’s 2021 Regular Session.
  • After last year’s session got curtailed by COVID-19, lawmakers this year have taken their full compliment of 30 meeting days within 105 calendar days and the clock runs out at midnight.
  • The House gavels in at 10 a.m. and is taking up an agenda that starts with vaccine passports and ends with delaying the Literacy Act. In between there are bills on civil asset forfeiture, public health orders, bail bonds, prison bureaucracy and occupational therapy.
  • Notably, not on the calendar are bills on banning transgender medical treatment for minors or gambling. There could always be changes to the special order calendar or motions to bring bills up out of order, but those take a two thirds majority vote to pass.
  • The House still has to take up the General Fund conference committee report, which Chairman Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, said should happen without fanfare first thing this morning.
  • The Senate comes in at 11 a.m. and will take up an agenda of mostly non-controversial bills, including storm shelter tax credits, highway construction zone violations, allowing dogs in outdoor dining areas and RV park disruption.
  • The Senate might be busy taking messages from the House and either concurring or voting to go to conference.
  • It could be a late night. You never know what might cause a legislative trainwreck. But the top items that could create fireworks – gambling, transgender and a prison bond – are unlikely to emerge today.
  • Read more about what to expect today and see the calendars for yourself HERE.


2. CDC director: mask turnaround based on science

  • The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Sunday defended the decision to ease mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people, stressing that increasing political pressure had nothing to do with the abrupt shift in guidelines.
  • “I’m delivering the science as the science is delivered to the medical journals. And it evolved,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said on FOX News Sunday. “I deliver it as soon as I can when we have that information available.”
  • The sudden change sparked praise from those eager to return to pre-pandemic life, particularly those who see the new guidelines as a way to reopen workplaces, schools and other venues that went dark during the pandemic.
  • The timing of the change has also faced questions. Just days earlier, Walensky had defended the agency’s strict mask guidance in front of a Senate committee where some Republicans on the panel described the CDC’s guidance as “unworkable.”
  • When pressed about the quick turnaround on the agency’s stance on mask wearing, Walensky said the agency was not giving in to pressure but instead needed time to review evolving science.
  • Read more HERE.


3. Afghans who helped the US now fear being left behind

  • The fate of interpreters after the troop withdrawal from Afghanistan is one of the looming uncertainties surrounding the end of America’s military engagement.
  • Interpreters and other civilians who worked for the U.S. government or NATO can get what is known as a special immigrant visa, or SIV, under a program created in 2009 and modeled after a similar program for Iraqis.
  • Both SIV programs have long been dogged by complaints about a lengthy and complicated application process for security vetting that grew more cumbersome with pandemic safety measures.
  • U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters last month that the U.S. is committed to helping interpreters and other Afghan civilians who aided the war effort, often at great personal risk. The Biden administration has also launched a review of the SIV programs, examining the delays and the ability of applicants to challenge a rejection. It will also be adding anti-fraud measures.
  • Amid the review, former interpreters, who typically seek to shield their identities and keep a low profile, are becoming increasingly public about what they fear will happen should the Taliban return to power.
  • “They absolutely are going to kill us,” Mohammad Shoaib Walizada, a former interpreter for the U.S. Army, said in an interview after joining others in a protest in Kabul.
  • Read more HERE.


4. Israel says Gaza tunnels destroyed in heavy airstrikes

  • The Israeli military unleashed a wave of heavy airstrikes on the Gaza Strip early Monday, saying it destroyed nine miles of militant tunnels and the homes of nine Hamas commanders.
  • The military said it struck nine houses in different parts of northern Gaza that belonged to “high-ranking commanders” in Hamas, the Islamic militant group that has controlled the territory since seizing power from rival Palestinian forces in 2007.
  • The war broke out last Monday, when the Hamas militant group fired long-range rockets at Jerusalem after weeks of clashes in the holy city between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police. The protests were focused on the heavy-handed policing of a flashpoint sacred site during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinian families by Jewish settlers.
  • Since then, the Israeli military has launched hundreds of airstrikes that it says are targeting Hamas’ militant infrastructure. Palestinian militants in Gaza have fired more than 3,100 rockets into Israel.
  • Read more HERE.


5. About 88% of children qualify for monthly payments in July

  • The Treasury Department said Monday that 39 million families are set to receive monthly child payments beginning on July 15.
  • The payments are part of President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, which expanded the child tax credit for one year and made it possible to pre-pay the benefits on a monthly basis. Nearly 88% of children are set to receive the benefits without their parents needing to take any additional action.
  • Qualified families will receive a payment of up to $300 per month for each child under 6 and up to $250 per month for children between the ages of 6 and 17. The child tax credit was previously capped at $2,000 and only paid out to families with income tax obligations after they filed with the IRS.
  • But for this year, couples earning $150,000 or less can receive the full payments on the 15th of each month, in most cases by direct deposit. The benefits total $3,600 annually for children under 6 and $3,000 for those who are older. The IRS will determine eligibility based on the 2019 and 2020 tax years, but people will also be able to update their status through an online portal. The administration is also setting up another online portal for non-filers who might be eligible for the child tax credit.
  • The president has proposed an extension of the increased child tax credit through 2025 as part of his $1.8 trillion families plan. Outside analysts estimate that the payments could essentially halve child poverty. The expanded credits could cost roughly $100 billion a year.
  • Story link.



ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Here’s what to expect on final day of 2021 session


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Alabama lawmakers return for final day of session


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – CDC director says mask turnaround based solely on science


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – About 88% of children qualify for monthly payments in July


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Israel says Gaza tunnels destroyed in heavy airstrikes


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Afghans who helped the US now fear being left behind


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Pipeline operator says “normal operations” have resumed


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Some aren’t ready to give up masks despite new CDC guidance


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Judge hears arguments in lawsuit over prison leases


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – ‘Foot soldiers’ of Birmingham to BLM: ‘Keep on keeping on’


AL.COM – ‘Why us?’ Black Belt counties struggle with state of Alabama casino legislation.


AL.COM – Alabama ban on transgender treatments for minors among last-day bills


AL.COM – Here are changes coming to Alabama schools as legislators consider final bills


AL.COM – Columnist Kyle Whitmire: What I learned about Alabama (and covid) from taking out the trash


AL.COM – Space Force officer removed following comments on conservative podcast


AL.COM – Why some people aren’t ready to give up COVID masks


AL.COM – Huntsville backs mental health program after fatal police shooting


AL.COM – 8% of Alabama gas pumps on empty after Colonial Pipeline restores operations


Montgomery Advertiser – Robert and Jeannie Graetz historic marker unveiled on Dunbar Street


Montgomery Advertiser – Publix ditches mask requirement for fully vaccinated shoppers, employees as CDC loosens guidelines


Decatur Daily – Women’s Work: Marker at site where Susan B. Anthony spoke recognizes Decatur’s role in suffrage movement


Decatur Daily – State Supreme Court rules for schools in Morgan; money may go to SROs, new Hartselle school


Decatur Daily – Police track capital murder suspect through surveillance cameras


Times Daily – Knights of Columbus taking orders for Memorial Day fundraiser


Times Daily – Health officials: CDC’s OK to drop masks doesn’t apply to everyone in the Shoals


Times Daily – Hundreds flock to first day of Arts Alive


Anniston Star – Cheaha Challenge drawing record numbers this year


Anniston Star – Gospel music to be performed on Jacksonville square May 22


Anniston Star – Kishin Gehi’s promise benefited his family, Anniston


WBRC Fox 6 Birmingham – 20-year-old Oneonta man struck and killed in two-vehicle accident


WBRC Fox 6 Birmingham – Birmingham PD: Two dead in shooting after altercation over dog


WBRC Fox 6 Birmingham – Polaris hiring fair for graduating high school seniors


Tuscaloosa News – More McFarland Boulevard lane closures as interstate, bridge work nears end


Tuscaloosa News – PHOTOS: Druid City Arts Festival 2021


Tuscaloosa News – Publix ditches mask requirement for fully vaccinated shoppers, employees as CDC loosens guidelines


YellowHammer News – Construction milestone achieved at Auburn’s world-class Tony and Libba Rane Culinary Science Center


YellowHammer News – Four Birmingham PD officers shot in line of duty, expected to recover


YellowHammer News – Alabama softball wins 2021 SEC Tournament


Gadsden Times – Anti-rendering plant bill, occupational tax phaseout bills ‘technically dead’


Dothan Eagle – Court clears way for Samoa to get its first woman leader


Dothan Eagle – Watch Stelter press IDF spokesman on Gaza tower airstrike


Dothan Eagle – 5 things to know for May 17: Mideast violence, coronavirus, Capitol riot, US policing, Tigray


Opelika-Auburn News – Court clears way for Samoa to get its first woman leader


Opelika-Auburn News – EU, US agree to temporarily suspend tariffs in steel dispute


Opelika-Auburn News – Global stocks, US futures mixed as virus cases surge in Asia


WSFA Montgomery – 4 Birmingham officers injured, 2 shot and 2 grazed, suspect killed


WSFA Montgomery – Body found in Coosa County creek Sunday evening


WSFA Montgomery – Helena Park shut down Sunday due to swarm of aggressive bees


WAFF Huntsville – Are there penalties for filing a tax extension?


WAFF Huntsville – 4 Birmingham officers injured, 2 shot and 2 grazed, suspect killed


WAFF Huntsville – Oneonta man dies following a two-vehicle car crash


WKRG Mobile – Mobile man arrested for assault, reckless endangerment, eluding police


WKRG Mobile – Man wanted for attempted murder arrested in Panama City Beach


WKRG Mobile – 4 Birmingham officers shot, suspect dead after allegedly killing 2 people


WTVY Dothan – Alabama lawmakers return for final day of session


WTVY Dothan – Friends of Army Aviation, Troy University honor military through Armed Forces Day


WTVY Dothan – Woman killed in single-vehicle crash in Pike County


WASHINGTON POST – Biden’s America: Democrats see competence, Republicans see chaos


WASHINGTON POST – Israel-Hamas conflict hurtles into its second week with more airstrikes on Gaza


WASHINGTON POST – The roar of an Israeli airstrike, buildings collapsed and a family buried under rubble


NEW YORK TIMES – Live Updates: Conflict’s Second Week Begins With Heavy Israeli Strikes in Gaza


NEW YORK TIMES – Covid Live Updates: Where Virus Surged in Northeast U.S., Cases Fall as Shots Rise


NEW YORK TIMES – What It Would Take for N.Y.C. Schools to Fully Reopen This Fall


WALL STREET JOURNAL – Myanmar’s Military Detained a Poet. He Was Soon Dead and Disfigured.


WALL STREET JOURNAL – Bill Gates Left Microsoft Board Amid Probe Into Prior Relationship With Staffer


WALL STREET JOURNAL – After Gaza’s Deadliest Day, Israel Says It Is Targeting Hamas Tunnels




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