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Daily News Digest – September 18, 2019

Presented by The Boeing Company.


Good morning!
Here’s your Daily News for Wednesday, September 18.



1. In Abbeville, a possible model for rural economic development.

  • A few weeks ago, I travelled down to Abbeville to watch Gov. Kay Ivey, Jimmy Rane, and a host of local and state leaders cut the ribbon on a new sawmill locating in the old WestPoint Pepperell textile mill.
  • It was a local triumph and a uniquely special occasion. However, Abbeville’s story of a foundational rural industry closing and cratering the local economy really isn’t unique at all.
  • Many small towns in rural Alabama face similar situations. I looked into some of those challenges and talked with a long list of political and business leaders to find out what the state is doing to address them in my latest feature story.
  • Here’s an excerpt:
The old WestPoint Pepperell mill in Abbeville, Alabama is a long, greyish white structure that stretches two city blocks in all directions at the corner of State Highway 27 and U.S. 431.
For many southerners, the building’s long, column-stilted concrete exterior is familiar. Textile giant WestPoint Pepperell dotted the Alabama, Georgia, and Carolina landscape with dozens of similar-looking mills during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s when the industry was still booming. Cotton was plentiful and the labor was relatively cheap, as was the power from hydroelectric dams in places like the Chattahoochee River Valley. And while the buildings were spartan and austere on the outside, the inside housed the beating economic heart of their communities.
But over time, a different kind of familiar sight began to set in. In the mid 2000s, WestPoint, now merged and reincorporated as WestPoint Stevens, began moving the manufacturing of many of its popular bedding brands overseas.  Mills once humming with thousands of workers slowly shuttered throughout the South, and the ridge-lined exterior walls turned to empty shells, the leftover fossils of industries that once sustained families and hometowns.
Here in Abbeville, the plant where workers made bedsheets and pillowcases began to close in 2007. More than 1,400 employees were forced to find work elsewhere, not an easy task in rural Alabama, especially once the Great Recession set in.
Abbeville’s story ultimately has a happy ending, or at least they are getting there.  But countless other rural Alabama towns face similar situations and few, if any, have a Jimmy Rane.
  • It’s a long one, so take it in bites if you must. But it’s mostly worth it.
  • Full story HERE



2. In teacher shortage, Alabama looks to South Korea.

  • A group of Alabama education leaders and lawmakers will go to South Korea next month to explore the possibility of bringing Korean math and science teachers to classrooms here.
  • State Superintendent Eric Mackey will be on the late October trip and said the state is interested in a possible program with the Korean government where teachers from that country come to Alabama, finish their master’s degrees and teach for a specified number of years. Mackey and others said South Korea has a surplus of teachers.
  • “We do think it could lead to more teachers here, especially in math and, secondarily, science,” Mackey told Alabama Daily News.
  • New data released from the Alabama State Department of Education last week showed a continuing decline in first-year teachers coming out of Alabama’s public and private educator prep programs from 2016-2017 to 2017-2018.
  • “We know we’re going to have to do some things long term,” Mackey said about the teacher shortage. “This could be a short-term solution for some parts of the state.”
  • There are a variety of details still to be worked out, including obtaining visas for the potential teachers and who would pay for the cost of bringing them to Alabama.
  • State Sens. Tim Melson, R-Florence, and Donnie Chesteen, R-Geneva, plan to go on the trip. They’re chairman and vice-chairman of the Senate Education Policy Committee.
  • Read the full story from ADN’s Mary Sell HERE.




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3. Lyn Head out at Pardons & Paroles.

  • The turnover at the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles continues.
  • The chair of that Board, Lyn Head, is resigning her post effective October 1.
  • Head’s term as chair has already expired and she has been serving until Gov. Kay Ivey appoints a replacement. Ivey had not said publicly whether she would reappoint Head, only saying that “all options are on the table.”
  • Head said she made the decision after fervent prayer. The Tuscaloosa lawyer and former prosecutor has served on the board for a total of three years, including the last year as chair after controversy led Ivey, Attorney General Steve Marshall, and the Alabama Legislature to change the governing dynamics of Pardons and Paroles.
  • Ivey spokeswoman Gina Maiola says the governor will begin the process to name a replacement.
  • Ivey previously appointed former Attorney General Charlie Graddick to serve as the Executive Director of Pardons and Paroles, and he quickly moved to suspend his predecessor and two other administrators within the agency pending investigation.


4. The latest: 20-year-old charged in murder of Tuscaloosa officer.


  • A man faces capital murder charges in the death of an Tuscaloosa police officer.
  • Police said Tuesday that 20-year-old Luther Bernard Watkins is charged with capital murder in connection with the death of 40-year-old Tuscaloosa police officer Dornell Cousette.
  • Authorities say Cousette was shot and killed Monday night while attempting to arrest Watkins who was wanted for robbery and other charges.
  • Lt. Jack Kennedy says that Cousette had received information that Watkins, who had multiple felony warrants, was at a Tuscaloosa home. Police say Cousette drove by the home and Watkins fled inside. Kennedy says Cousette got out of his car and pursued Watkins into the home. Kennedy says “almost immediately gunfire erupted inside.”
  • Story HERE.


5. News Briefs.


Sacha Baron Cohen asks judge to dismiss Roy Moore lawsuit
  • MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Comedian Sacha Baron Cohen asked a federal judge to dismiss Roy Moore’s defamation lawsuit over a television segment that lampooned Moore in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations.
  • Lawyers for Baron Cohen, Showtime Networks and CBS wrote last week in a joint court filing that Moore signed an agreement waiving all legal claims before appearing on the “Who is America?” segment. They said in the agreement that Moore waived claims related to the program and anyone associated with it. They also said the segment was satire and is protected under the First Amendment.
  • “This lawsuit conflicts directly with the long tradition of First Amendment protection for political parody and satire of public figures — especially where the satirical work ‘could not reasonably have been interpreted as stating actual facts about the public figure involved,'” lawyers wrote.
  • The segment ran after Moore faced misconduct accusations during the 2017 Senate race in Alabama. He has denied the allegations and is running for Senate again in 2020.
  • Moore said he was told he was receiving an award for supporting Israel when he agreed to appear on the show. Instead, Baron Cohen lampooned him as a possible pedophile.
  • Full story HERE.
Teacher suspended after beer shotgunning stunt back in class
  • TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — A University of Alabama teacher who was suspended after video surfaced of a person drinking beer in class is returning to work.
  • School spokesman Chris Bryant says marketing instructor Joel Strayer was allowed to return to work Tuesday after a review.
  • Bryant says the university won’t have any further comment.
  • The university said it had suspended Strayer last week after video appeared online of a young man drinking a beer during one of his classes. The man isn’t a student at the university and later apologized for his actions.
  • The video shows surprised students watching the stunt and clapping. The young man later said the incident was an attempt to boost a career producing viral videos.
  • Story HERE.
Song lyrics lead to terroristic threat charge at university
  • MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — Prosecutors say a University of South Alabama student is accused of making a terroristic threat after he wrote song lyrics by a popular rapper on a large flip chart in the school library — the second such case within a week on the campus.
  • Jack Aaron Christensen, 21, wrote song lyrics that referred to killing people and burning things, according to a criminal complaint. The lyrics are from the song “Radicals” by rapper Tyler, The Creator.
  • Court records don’t say why the flip chart was in the library or whether it was part of a university program. The complaint says it happened on or around Sept. 11, the anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.
  • Court records don’t list a lawyer for Christensen who could be reached for comment on his behalf.
  • In a separate case, another student was arrested on the same charge within a week of Christensen’s arrest, authorities said.
  • That case involved a written threat on social media and is unrelated to Christensen’s case, Michael Mitchell, vice president for student affairs, wrote in an email to students and employees.
  • “The students involved in each incident have been barred from university property pending the outcome of student conduct processes,” Mitchell wrote.
  • “No matter the circumstances, our police must treat any possible threat with the utmost seriousness and act immediately to ensure the safety of our campus community.”
  • Details of the social media threat haven’t been released by the university or its police department. The Mobile County District Attorney’s Office didn’t immediately respond to messages on Tuesday seeking information.



ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – In Abbeville, a potential model for rural economic development
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – In teacher shortage, Alabama looks to South Korea
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – The latest: 20-year-old charged in murder of Tuscaloosa officer.
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Alabama teacher suspended after beer shotgunning stunt back in class
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Comedian Baron Cohen asks judge to dismiss Roy Moore lawsuit
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- Daily News Digest – September 17, 2019
AL.COM  – Repeal of Obama-era clean water rule puts Alabama’s environment at risk, say experts.
AL.COM  – Report says Alabama prison population declined more than most.
AL.COM  – Survey: Alabama court system ranked among worst in U.S.
AL.COM  – UA faculty senate calls for change in campus culture.
AL.COM  – Alabama Pardons and Paroles Chair Lyn Head resigns.
AL.COM  – 3 people hospitalized with vaping-related illnesses in Mobile County.
AL.COM  – Alabama historical commission claims control of Clotilda, the last US slave ship.
AL.COM  – How Birmingham is prepping to host the 2021 World Games.
AL.COM  – Fall numbers are in: Sampling what’s up (and down) in Alabama college enrollment.
AL.COM  – Mazda Toyota update: Production schedule, plant’s ripple effect on jobs.
AL.COM  – Contributor Jeremy Dys: An open letter to Alabama Public Schools’ administrators about prayer in school.
AL.COM  – Contributor Jan Hiles: Restricting enforcement and restoring dignity are keys to lasting immigration reform.
AL.COM  – Columnist Dana McCain: The Jerry Falwell, Jr. dumpster fire.
Montgomery Advertiser – Preliminary MPS enrollment numbers continue to decline
Montgomery Advertiser – Man accused of kicking in door, choking the mother of his children
Montgomery Advertiser – Prattville council approves pay raise, balks at passing budget
YellowHammer News – SAWDC AlabamaWorks! to host career event for high school students
YellowHammer News – ‘Will never be forgotten’: Ivey ordering flags to half-staff for Tuscaloosa PD’s Dornell Cousette
YellowHammer News – Blount county sheriff to hold prayer vigil over ‘rampant evil’
Dothan Eagle – Man accused of burning puppy arrested for animal cruelty
Dothan Eagle – Alabama unemployment rates at remarkably low record-breaking numbers
Dothan Eagle – Man convicted on felony gun and drug charges
Tuscaloosa News – Faculty Senate criticizes UA’s silence on dean’s departure
Tuscaloosa News – University of Alabama teacher reinstated after beer video
Tuscaloosa News – Tuscaloosa City Council action for September 17, 2019
Decatur Daily – Alabama Shakes drummer charged with violating domestic protection order
Decatur Daily – Constitution celebration scheduled at Athens State
Decatur Daily – Council votes to offer landfill/recycling director’s job to Mississippi woman
Times Daily – Florence school board sets $59.3M budget for fiscal year 2020
Times Daily – Littleville to rebid wastewater system improvement project
Times Daily – AAUW meeting to feature Carol Behel
Gadsden Times – McDonald faces murder charge in shooting
Gadsden Times – Elementary student brings gun to school
Gadsden Times – Council approves budget with education funding cuts, personnel raises
Anniston Star – Heflin council crunches numbers without clerk
Anniston Star – Piedmont council hears pitch from dog breeder
Anniston Star – Most former Cooper residents still in Anniston, housing officials tell council
Troy Messenger – Murder trial continues
Troy Messenger – Troy school board hires new CFO
Troy Messenger – Troy to host community forums on education
Andalusia Star News – Smith’s goal is to teach respect for other countries
Andalusia Star News – Weeks arrested in Opp for cocaine and ecstasy
Andalusia Star News – Five Runs Farm plans to open next month
Opelika-Auburn News – More than 50 people facing drug charges in Chambers County
Opelika-Auburn News – Enterprise man accused of burning puppy arrested for animal cruelty
Opelika-Auburn News – Police reports from Sept. 17
Daily Mountain Eagle – Opioids crisis is personal for Marshall
Daily Mountain Eagle – Huey overcomes addiction to lead recovery program
Daily Mountain Eagle – Bradford official details opioid epidemic at seminar
Trussville Tribune – Trussville motorcycle association participating in honor ride for Tuscaloosa fallen officer
Trussville Tribune – Jefferson County man wanted on murder and weapon charges
Trussville Tribune – Suspect identified in Tuscaloosa Police Officer shooting death
Athens News Courier – West Limestone, East Limestone named Schools of Distinction
Athens News Courier – County commissioner pulls back funding plans
Athens News Courier – APD: Man arrested on theft, fraud charges
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 – Man charged with capital murder in shooting death of Tuscaloosa police officer
WSFA Montgomery – ‘This has been a very difficult year’: AG talks about Ala. officer deaths
WSFA Montgomery – Former Tuscaloosa D.A. resigns from board of pardons and paroles
Fox 6 Birmingham – Opossum problems in Birmingham apartment
Fox 6 Birmingham – Hoover City Schools sued, lawsuit alleges first grader was sexually harassed
Fox 6 Birmingham – Emergency meeting scheduled for JSU board of trustees
WAFF Huntsville – Mother says Huntsville apartment complex took advantage of teen son, won’t give money back
WAFF Huntsville – Wildfire risk heightened in Alabama right now
WAFF Huntsville – ‘This has been a very difficult year’: AG talks about Ala. officer deaths
WKRG Mobile – Spanish Fort and Fairhope vote to raise property taxes to fund schools
WKRG Mobile – Another Named Storm Expected to Form in the Atlantic
WKRG Mobile – Man arrested following fatal auto-pedestrian crash in Crestview
WTVY Dothan – Dothan’s Daughters of the American Revolution ring bell for Constitution Day
WTVY Dothan – Wiregrass telecom leaders host panel on expanding rural broadband
WTVY Dothan – Dothan police nab suspected pawn shop burglar after standoff and fire
WASHINGTON POST  – Trump administration to revoke California’s power to set stricter auto emissions standards
WASHINGTON POST  – Biden and Sanders take fight over health care to union workers
WASHINGTON POST  – The U.S. abortion rate falls to lowest level since Roe v. Wade
WASHINGTON POST  – Tennessee becomes first state with a plan to turn Medicaid into a block grant
WASHINGTON POST  – The surprising holes in our knowledge of America’s homeless population
NEW YORK TIMES  – Trump and California See Same Homeless Problem, but Not the Same Solutions
NEW YORK TIMES  – New Mexico Announces Plan for Free College for State Residents

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