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Daily News Digest, September 17, 2019

Presented by The Boeing Company.

Good morning!
Here’s your Daily News for Tuesday, September 17.

1. Tuscaloosa officer killed in the line of duty.

  • A Tuscaloosa police officer has died and the wanted felon he was pursuing is in custody after a shootout.
  • 40-year-old officer Dornell Cousette went to arrest a man who failed to appear in court on felony warrants. A bail bondsman was at the scene. The suspect ran inside a house instead and Cousette pursued him. Tuscaloosa Interim Police Chief Mitt Tubbs said shots were fired, fatally wounding the officer.
  • The 20-year-old suspect, also wounded, fled and was arrested at a hospital. His identity and the extent of his injuries were not immediately released.
  • Cousette was an Army veteran who had been with the police department for 13 years. He was engaged and had two daughters.
  • “And tonight one of our heroes has died in the line of duty, protecting our city,” said Mayor Walt Maddox.
  • “It is my sad and solemn duty to announce the passing of Dornell Cousette, age 40, thirteen plus year veteran of the Tuscaloosa Police Department, a father of two daughters and engaged to be married.”
  • Story HERE.


2. Lockheed breaks ground on hypersonic program facility.

  • Defense contractor Lockheed Martin on Monday broke ground on its hypersonic weapons program in North Alabama, where about 275 new jobs will be added over the next three years.
  • The company held a ceremony in Courtland, where two new buildings will be constructed to serve as a manufacturing and management home for work focusing on super high-speed weapons.
  • Lockheed says 72 new jobs will be located in Courtland, and 200 positions will be added in Huntsville. Additional growth is expected.
  • Lockheed Martin already employs about 2,000 people in Alabama, many of them in the high-tech industries near Huntsville’s Redstone Arsenal and NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.
  • Hypersonic weapons are generally defined as those that travel more than five times the speed of sound.
  • “Hypersonic weapons are a critical priority as we continue to innovate and improve our nation’s defense,” said Senator Richard Shelby, who chairs the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee in the Senate.
  • “The decision by the Army to select Dynetics, located right here in Alabama, and Lockheed Martin’s Courtland facility to advance this important national security initiative is a testament to the complex defense work taking place in our state.
  • Congressman Robert Aderholt, who serves on Defense Appropriations in the House, said U.S. adversaries should be “terrified” of our missile capabilities.
  • “The U.S. military seeks to be excellent in all things. Some of our adversaries seek to be excellent in one or two things. Our presence here today is important because it shows that in our own military work, we are moving out from the research and pioneering work of the AHW to a broadly applied, offensive-weapon capability,” Aderholt said.
  • Story HERE.




A message from The Boeing Company

  • The Minuteman ICBM came on alert during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and stood silently deterring threats throughout the Cold War. This Boeing-built system is still on alert today assuring stability in the U.S. strategic deterrence triad.
  • Boeing’s talent pool of veteran missileers, engineers and other critical employees have the expertise to support the Minuteman replacement – the new Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) program – but are currently excluded from the mission.
  • The U.S. could move forward with Boeing supporting the project – saving not only time but also development cost.
  • Read more about Boeing’s proposal and what it means for Rocket City HERE.



3. Tenn-Tom not yet living up to promise.

  • The Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway was once the largest, most ambitious project ever taken on by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
  • The “big ditch” consisting of 10 locks and a navigable 300-foot canal connecting the Tennessee River to the Tombigbee River was supposed to open up West Alabama, including poor Black Belt counties, to prosperity by way of trade along a new route to the Gulf of Mexico that could compete with the Mississippi River.
  • Yet, almost 35 years after its completion, the waterway hasn’t quite lived up to expectations.
  • As Jay Reeves reports, Corps statistics show an average of only 7.2 million tons (6.5 million metric tons) of cargo traveled the Tenn-Tom annually over the past decade, just a quarter of the initial forecast. By comparison, about 304 million tons (276 million metric tons) of cargo went up or down the Mississippi River, which can accommodate much larger loads, over the same period.
  • “It’s the lack of development. It just hasn’t been what they thought it would,” said Mitch Mays, administrator of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Development Authority. Alabama and Mississippi are making new efforts to promote the Tenn-Tom, he said.
  • Still, officials say waterway generates more than $8 billion annually in economic benefits and more than 24,000 jobs. Tons of wood products, steel, chemicals, crushed rock and grain ply the waterway each year. Hundreds of boats and yachts pass through annually while traveling the “Great Loop” from the Great Lakes to the Florida Keys, a benefit not expected by early proponents.
  • Read Jay Reeves’ full story HERE.


4. Kavanaugh debacle.

  • On Sunday, much of the media and Democratic presidential hopefuls were tweeting and talking about what appeared to be a newly-surfaced allegation of sexual misconduct against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh in The New York Times.
  • Headlined “Brett Kavanaugh Fit In With the Privileged Kids. She Did Not,” the story was primarily about Deborah Ramirez, a Connecticut woman who alleged that Kavanaugh, as a freshman at Yale in 1983, had pulled down his pants and thrust his penis at her. Kavanaugh has denied those claims.
  • By Monday morning, The Times had issued a significant revision to its story, admitting it left out a crucial detail: that the woman allegedly involved in the incident declined to be interviewed and her friends say she didn’t remember it at all.
  • By Monday night, The Times was under scrutiny for its call to run the story and the paper isn’t answering questions why.
  • The Washington Post, detailing its own decision on the story, called into question The Times’ decision to run with the accusation in the first place.
  • The Post said that last year it had independently confirmed that lawmakers and authorities knew of the second accusation against Kavanaugh, but did not write about it because the woman involved would not comment and the alleged witnesses were not identified.
  • The debacle gave President Donald Trump and his allies fresh ammunition in his campaign against the media, where The Times was already a favorite target.
  • The failure to initially report that the woman did not remember the alleged incident “is one of the worst cases of journalistic malpractice in recent memory,” John McCormack wrote in the conservative magazine National Review.
  • The White House distributed a copy of a New York Post editorial headlined “The latest Times hit on Brett Kavanaugh is a clear miss.”
  • “How many stories are wrong? Almost all of the stories the New York Times has done are inaccurate and wrong,” Trump wrote in a tweet Monday.
  • Full story, including a video report from CBS News’ Jan Crawford, HERE.



5. News Briefs.


Pendergrass Named Chief Communications Officer for Alabama Policy Institute
  • Josh Pendergrass has been named the Chief Communications Officer for the Alabama Policy Institute, a conservative think tank based in Birmingham.
  • API’s President Caleb Crosby announced Pendergrass’s appointment in a statement on Monday saying that they are excited to have a person with his amount of experience on their team.
  • “With his knowledge of media relations, Alabama politics, and his conservative credentials, Josh adds rocket fuel to our efforts communicate what true conservative values are and to advocate for those values here in Alabama.”
  • Pendergrass was named by Governor Kay Ivey as Communications Director in 2017. He was responsible for the Governor’s entire communication efforts including crafting speeches, press statements, public comments and overseeing press relations, social media and other activities.
  • He also worked closely on communications efforts with the Alabama House Rural Caucus and played a role in dozens of Alabama campaigns in the 2010, 2014, and 2018 cycles.
  • Read more HERE.
House Judiciary Committee to hold 1st impeachment hearing
  • WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee will hold their first official hearing in what they are calling an impeachment investigation.
  • Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s outspoken former campaign manager, is scheduled to appear Tuesday to discuss the report by former special counsel Robert Mueller.
  • But it’s unlikely that Democrats will get much new information. A devoted friend and supporter of the Republican president, Lewandowski isn’t expected to elaborate much beyond what he told Mueller’s investigators last year. Mueller himself testified this summer, with no bombshells. Two other witnesses who were subpoenaed alongside Lewandowski — former White House aides Rick Dearborn and Rob Porter — won’t show up at all, on orders from the White House.
  • The hearing underscores what has been a central dilemma for House Democrats all year — they have promised to investigate Trump, aggressively, and many of their base supporters want them to move quickly to try to remove him from office. But the White House has blocked their oversight requests at most every turn, declining to provide new documents or allow former aides to testify. The Republican Senate is certain to rebuff any House efforts to bring charges against the president. And moderate Democrats in their own caucus have expressed nervousness that the impeachment push could crowd out their other accomplishments.
  • Full story HERE.
No one claims ownership of last slave ship ‘Clotilda’
  • MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — Alabama’s state historical commission apparently will retain control of the last U.S. slave ship, the Clotilda.
  • Friday was the deadline for any potential owners to claim the wreckage of the wooden schooner, which was burned near Mobile after illegally bringing about 110 captives to Alabama from Africa in 1860.
  • Because no one claimed the ship’s remains, the state can now move forward in federal court to take permanent possession.
  • Researchers identified the wreckage of the ship earlier this year north of Mobile.
  • Officials say they’re unsure how much of the Clotilda remains, but they believe at least some of the hull could be intact in the muddy bottom of the Mobile River near an island.
  • It’s unclear what might be done with the wreckage or whether it can be raised.
Police: Scorned girlfriend scorches ex-boyfriend’s home
  • PLEASANT GROVE, Ala. (AP) — Authorities in Alabama say a woman admitted to setting her ex-boyfriend’s house on fire the day after he broke up with her.
  • News outlets report 33-year-old Ashlee Mack was arrested Monday and charged with second-degree arson and third-degree burglary.
  • Pleasant Grove police Lt. Danny Reid says the man broke up with Mack earlier this year. Reid says Mack broke into the man’s home the next day, doused his belongings in gasoline and set everything on fire.
  • Reid says no one was injured but the house was a total loss.
  • Reid says police were working the case for months until Mack admitted to starting the blaze. It’s unclear whether she has an attorney who can comment.
Murder charge dropped for man accused of killing mom
  • BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama judge has dropped a murder charge against a man accused of killing his mother, after key witnesses failed to show up for trial.
  • reports 22-year-old Jonathan Pitts was charged with murder in the 2016 death of Cheryl Harrell. Police accused Pitts of killing Harrell and burning her body after her charred remains were discovered in Birmingham.
  • Court records show Pitts’ case was set for a Sept. 9 trial, but the prosecution was unable to proceed when state witnesses didn’t show up. Jefferson County Judge Tracie Todd dropped the charges, though they could be reinstated if new or additional evidence is presented.
  • Pitts’ attorney John Lentine maintains his client’s innocence and says the case was dropped because prosecutors didn’t have enough evidence to prove Pitts killed his mom.
Suspect’s wife charged in case of body found in Alabama well
  • TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — A homicide suspect’s wife is now among those accused of murder in the slaying of an Alabama woman whose body was hidden in a well.
  • Tuscaloosa police say they think Monic Battles was at the home she shared with her husband, Tyler Battles, while 20-year-old Willoe Watkins was beaten with a bat and strangled with a cord. Investigators believe Tyler Battles, Joseph Nevels and Devin Hall wrapped Watkins’ body in trash bags and drove to another house to dispose of it.
  • The Tuscaloosa News reports the three men were arrested in July on charges including murder after Watkins’ body was discovered concealed in a well. Investigators have said they found her body under concrete blocks and fast-setting concrete, about 35 feet (11 meters) inside the well in rural Tuscaloosa County.



ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Officer dies, suspect arrested in Tuscaloosa shooting
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Lockheed Martin to base hypersonics program in Alabama
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – $2B waterway through Deep South yet to yield promised boom
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – The New York Times faces questions over Kavanaugh story
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS -House Judiciary Committee to hold 1st impeachment hearing
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Josh Pendergrass Named Chief Communications Officer for API
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS- Alabama officials find spiked CBD products sold in the state
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Biden visits Birmingham, says whites ‘will never fully understand’ racism
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Energy prices spike after Saudi oil attack, US blaming Iran
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS- Daily News Digest – September 16, 2019
AL.COM  – Alabama women mobilize for the 2020 election
AL.COM  – ’Evil is running rampant’: Blount County sheriff sets prayer vigil following brutal killings
AL.COM  – Huntsville mayor makes new case for putting Space Command in Alabama
AL.COM  – Alabama Policy Institute hires former Ivey communications director
AL.COM  – Lockheed Martin opens plant to test hypersonics in Alabama
AL.COM  – Judge tosses lawsuit over law center’s hate group labels
AL.COM  – Alabama restaurant has no prices, just a box for donations
AL.COM  – 16-year-old charged with making terrorist threats against Alabama schools
AL.COM  – It’s now easier to get information on vehicle titles, registration in Alabama
AL.COM  – Columnist Kyle Whitmire: How does the future work without work? It’s time to take universal basic income seriously
AL.COM  – Contributor Anthony Daniels: It’s back to school and we need to better serve rural students
AL.COM  – Columnist Roy Johnson: UA’s silence on Riley resignation isn’t golden
Montgomery Advertiser – Tallassee woman killed in single-vehicle wreck in Elmore County
Montgomery Advertiser – Montgomery doctor faces new indictment alleging improper prescribing, money laundering
Montgomery Advertiser – Group hopes to save First Presbyterian, Montgomery’s oldest standing church
YellowHammer News – Alabama Forestry Association endorses Brad Mendheim for state Supreme Court
YellowHammer News – Alabama’s Tony Cochran launches new initiative to help grow small businesses
YellowHammer News – EPA: Proposed deal with Mobile company would reduce air pollution
Dothan Eagle – Two accused of stealing cats from Wiregrass Humane Society
Dothan Eagle – Lawsuit claims female first-grader sexually assaulted by group of other first-grade girls at Alabama school
Dothan Eagle – A California woman dreamed she swallowed her engagement ring. She woke to find that she had.
Tuscaloosa News – Brentson Skidmore’s death ‘a nightmare,’ mother says
Tuscaloosa News – Mistrial declared in high-profile rape case
Tuscaloosa News – Third suspect convicted in 2015 slaying of paralyzed man
Decatur Daily – Work-zone crashes, deaths on the rise
Decatur Daily – Officer dies, suspect arrested in Alabama shooting
Decatur Daily – Morgan sheriff: Decatur man charged with trafficking, 3 pounds of meth seized
Times Daily – UNA climbs ranks in 7 categories from U.S. News and World Report
Times Daily – Mayor proclaims day, week for family
Times Daily – Sheffield Council considers clarifying weed, grass ordinances
Gadsden Times – Gadsden police investigate fatal shooting
Gadsden Times – Habitat for Humanity to hold House Blessing for East Gadsden home
Gadsden Times – Woman arrested for failing to report to serve manslaughter sentence for Gadsden man’s crash death
Anniston Star – Alabamians urged to wait for rain before burning anything
Anniston Star – Cleburne County workers may see a raise next year; coroner requests upgrades
Anniston Star – Anniston man dead after being struck by train
Opelika-Auburn News – Dothan man accused of stealing cats from Wiregrass Humane Society
Opelika-Auburn News – Mistrial declared in case of slain Opelika taxi driver
Opelika-Auburn News – Police reports from Sept. 16
Daily Mountain Eagle – 16 arrested in joint operation with state probation
Daily Mountain Eagle – Loss leads Poe into life of addiction
Daily Mountain Eagle – Nelson Brothers celebrates expansion opening in Parrish
Trussville Tribune – Center Point Fire respond to 3 crashes Monday night
Trussville Tribune – Suspect’s wife charged in case of body found in Alabama well
Trussville Tribune – City of Springville imposes 10 p.m. curfew on minors during homecoming week
Athens News Courier – APD: Man arrested on theft, fraud charges
Athens News Courier – THE LATEST: Councilman thanks community for prayers
Athens News Courier – LCSO seeks suspect in Dollar General robbery
Sand Mountain Reporter – Parker Hannifin hosts family picnic
Sand Mountain Reporter – Family Day to be observed Sept. 30 in Crossville
Sand Mountain Reporter – Boaz taps LADD Environmental for sidewalk improvements
WSFA Montgomery – Police officer dead, suspect in custody after shooting in Tuscaloosa
WSFA Montgomery – Railroad maintenance to cause street closures in Montgomery
WSFA Montgomery – Prosecutors from across U.S. walk Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma
Fox 6 Birmingham – Police officer dead, suspect in custody after shooting in Tuscaloosa
Fox 6 Birmingham – Mountain Brook PD explains impact drones have on public safety
Fox 6 Birmingham – Neighbors concerned about speeding cars in west Birmingham
WAFF Huntsville – Family remembers mother fatally shot following domestic altercation in Jackson County
WAFF Huntsville – Guntersville Lake HydroFest returning in 2020
WAFF Huntsville – Man sought in failed riding mower theft in Fort Payne
WKRG Mobile – Tuscaloosa police officer dies in officer-involved shooting, suspect in custody
WKRG Mobile – Humberto could threaten Bermuda in the coming days
WKRG Mobile – No one claims ownership of last slave ship ‘Clotilda’
WTVY Dothan – Police officer dead, suspect in custody after shooting in Tuscaloosa
WTVY Dothan – Dothan City School officials address concerns over fighting at DPA
WTVY Dothan – Man arrested for cruelty to animals in the 1st degree
WASHINGTON POST  – From ‘my generals’ to ‘my Kevin,’ Trump’s preferred possessive can be a sign of affection or control
WASHINGTON POST  – Farm bailout money likely to be included in stopgap spending bill amid pressure from moderate House Democrats
WASHINGTON POST  – As Trump prepares big push on homelessness, White House floats new role for police
NEW YORK TIMES  – $2B Waterway Through Deep South Yet to Yield Promised Boom
NEW YORK TIMES  – G.M. Workers Say They Sacrificed, and Now They Want Their Due
NEW YORK TIMES  – The Cost of Running Guantánamo Bay: $13 Million Per Prisoner
NEW YORK TIMES  – Contributor Sarah Smarsh: Something Special Is Happening in Rural America

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