Daily News Digest – December 2, 2020

Presented by the

Business Council of Alabama

 

Good morning!

FYI – we’ll have a new edition of Inside Alabama Politics out tomorrow, so make sure your ADN Insider subscription is up to date. Or, if you’re not yet an ADN Insider, subscribe today!

Here’s your Daily News for Wednesday, December 2.

 

1. Heath officials fear virus ‘tidal wave’ in Alabama

  • Alabama reported another 2,104 COVID-19 cases Tuesday and, more significantly, 1,785 Alabamians are now hospitalized due to the virus.
  • That, plus the backlog of cases reported from the last few days, puts the state firmly in a new peak in the coronavirus pandemic, and that’s before an expected post-Thanksgiving surge in new transmissions.
  • The last peak, which occurred in late July and early August, saw hospitalizations climb to 1,613.
  • There were 34 coronavirus related deaths reported in Alabama Tuesday and the 7-day average now stands at 16.43.
  • Just as they did early on in the pandemic, hospital officials are beginning to worry about capacity.
  • Only 11% of the state’s intensive care beds were available Monday, according to the Alabama Hospital Association, and the remaining spaces could be filled as more patients are admitted than leave hospitals.
  • “We could really be in a situation in two to three weeks that compromises our ability to provide health care,” said Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, director of infectious diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
  • At UAB Hospital, where 60 to 70 COVID-19 patients have been treated at a time ever since summer, the number of patients has jumped to 125 recently, she said, and an expected flood of cases linked to holiday travel could overwhelm the system as even nurses and doctors fall ill.
  • Full story from Jay Reeves HERE.

 

2. Latest on vaccines

  • Health care workers and nursing home residents will be at the front of the line when the first coronavirus vaccine shots become available, a government advisory panel said Tuesday.
  • The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted 13-1 to recommend those groups get priority in the first days of any coming vaccination program, when doses are expected to be very limited. The two groups encompass about 24 million people out of a U.S. population of about 330 million.
  • The panel will meet again at some point to decide who should be next in line. Among the possibilities: teachers, police, firefighters and workers in other essential fields such as food production and transportation; the elderly; and people with underlying medical conditions.
  • Tuesday’s action merely designated who should get shots first if a safe and effective vaccine becomes available. The panel did not endorse any particular vaccine. The recommendations go to the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who almost always approves them.
  • Vaccines are expected to be available to every American who wants them by June.
  • More on that HERE.

 

  • Meanwhile, the head of the agency responsible for authorizing COVID-19 vaccines said Tuesday that it would take the time needed to “get this right,” despite increasing pressure from the White House to speed up the process.
  • “No one at FDA is sitting on his or her hands. Everyone is working really hard to look at these applications and get this done,” said Stephen Hahn, the head of the Food and Drug Administration. “But we absolutely have to do this the right way.”
  • Hahn’s comments came not long after he was summoned to the White House by chief of staff Mark Meadows as the agency weighs whether to allow emergency use of the first vaccines that could begin the long road to defeating the coronavirus in the U.S.
  • President Donald Trump has been livid with the FDA for not moving faster to approve the shots, blaming the fact that a vaccine was not available ahead of the Nov. 3 election in part for his loss.
  • The United Kingdom today became the first country to formally approve a vaccine.
  • Read more on that HERE.

 

 

 

 

 

A message from

the Business Council of Alabama

  • The Business Council of Alabama has launched Keep Alabama Open, working to unite hardworking Alabamians in the earnest pursuit of protecting jobs and safeguarding self governance.
  • Businesses, while following state health orders to keep customers and themselves safe, should be able to continue to earn a living and support their families.

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Talks resume on next relief package

  • It was two steps forward, one step back in Washington Tuesday as talks resumed on passing a COVID-19 relief package before the end of the year.
  • Early in the day, a group of bi-partisan lawmakers led by Sens. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, and Joe Manchin, D- W.Va., put forth a compromise plan intended to restart the conversation.
  • The proposal provides $908 billion, including $228 billion to extend and upgrade PPP subsidies for a second round of relief to hard-hit businesses. It would revive a special jobless benefit, but at a reduced level of $300 per week rather than the $600 benefit enacted in March. State and local governments would receive $160 billion, and there is also money for vaccines.
  • At least two members of Alabama’s congressional delegation told me they were open to the bi-partisan compromise floated early Tuesday.
  • Read more on that proposal HERE.
  • Then, around midday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell confirmed that he had received an updated proposal from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and that he hoped to negotiate something that could pass the Senate and be signed by the president, most likely as part of an omnibus appropriations package (that’s smart because Trump threatened to veto another omnibus when he signed the last one).
  • However, by day’s end, the details of an updated Senate GOP proposal had leaked showing it wasn’t much different than the ones Democrats flatly rejected months ago, leading the parties to retreat to their corners and pouring some cold water on the idea that a deal was fast moving.
  • “We don’t have time for messaging games. We don’t have time for lengthy negotiations,” McConnell said. “I would hope that this is something that could be signed into law by the president, be done quickly, deal with the things we can agree on now.” He added that there would still be talks about “some additional package of some size.”
  • Read more on where things stand now HERE.

 

 

 

4. Trump threatens to veto defense bill; Rogers wins committee spot

  • President Donald Trump is threatening to veto a defense policy bill unless it ends protections for internet companies that shield them from being held liable for material posted by their users.
  • On Twitter Tuesday night, Trump took aim at Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which protects companies that can host trillions of messages from being sued into oblivion by anyone who feels wronged by something someone else has posted — whether their complaint is legitimate or not.
  • Trump called Section 230 “a serious threat to our National Security & Election Integrity,” adding, “Therefore, if the very dangerous & unfair Section 230 is not completely terminated as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), I will be forced to unequivocally VETO the Bill.”
  • Tuesday’s veto threat is another potential roadblock for the passage of the annual defense policy measure, which is already being held up in Congress by a spat over military bases named for Confederate officers. The measure, which has passed for 59 years in a row on a bipartisan basis, guides Pentagon policy and cements decisions about troop levels, new weapons systems and military readiness, military personnel policy and other military goals.
  • Read more on that HERE.
  • Meanwhile, Alabama Congressman Mike Rogers is poised to take the top Republican position on the House Armed Services Committee.
  • Politico reports that the Steering Committee of the House Republican Conference has voted to nominate Rogers as Ranking Member for the committee that oversees U.S. national defense. A vote of the full conference is still needed to make it official but, according to Politico, the Steering Committee vote wasn’t close, so there’s little chance the full conference would reject it.
  • This is a big deal.
  • The promotion puts Rogers in a key spot as the Biden administration takes shape over the next several months. Any change in defense posture will be examined by HASC, and as the top Republican, Rogers would play a key role in questioning DOD officials and requesting information.
  • Most importantly, should Republicans win back the House majority in 2022, Rogers would become chairman, giving him enormous influence over national defense in a state that is scattered with important military installations and industries.

 

 

5. Barr: No evidence of widespread election fraud

  • Attorney General William Barr said Tuesday the U.S. Justice Department has uncovered no evidence of widespread voter fraud that could change the outcome of the 2020 election.
  • Barr said that U.S. attorneys and FBI agents have been working to follow up specific complaints and information they’ve received, but “to date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election.”
  • The comments, which drew immediate criticism from President Donald Trump’s attorneys, were especially notable coming from Barr, who has been one of the president’s most ardent allies. Before the election, he had repeatedly raised the notion that mail-in voting could be especially vulnerable to fraud during the coronavirus pandemic as Americans feared going to polls and instead chose to vote by mail.
  • “There’s been one assertion that would be systemic fraud and that would be the claim that machines were programmed essentially to skew the election results. And the DHS and DOJ have looked into that, and so far, we haven’t seen anything to substantiate that,” Barr said.
  • More to Trump’s liking, Barr said he had appointed U.S. Attorney John Durham as a special counsel, giving the prosecutor the authority to continue to investigate the origins of the Trump-Russia probe after Biden takes over and making it difficult to fire him. Biden hasn’t said what he might do with the investigation, and his transition team didn’t comment Tuesday.
  • Trump has long railed against the investigation into whether his 2016 campaign was coordinating with Russia, but he and Republican allies had hoped the results would be delivered before the 2020 election and would help sway voters. So far, there has been only one criminal case, a guilty plea from a former FBI lawyer to a false statement charge.
  • Full story HERE.

 

 

News Briefs

Photo credit: Hal Yeager, Governor’s Office

 

Christmas tree arrives at State Capitol

  • It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas at the Alabama Capitol.
  • The state Christmas tree was delivered Tuesday. Workers hoisted the 35-foot tree in place and will now spend the rest of the week decorating it.
  • The annual tree lighting ceremony is planned for Friday at 4:30 p.m.
  • The tree is an Eastern Red Cedar from Letohatchee and was donated by Robbins Taylor Sr., the governor’s office said.

Mazda Toyota resumes hiring for production workers

  • HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) — Mazda Toyota Manufacturing in Huntsville is gearing up for a massive round of hiring for production workers.
  • The company announced in a news release that it will resume hiring production line employees on Dec. 7. The company is holding a Facebook live event Thursday for people to learn more about the positions. The event begins at 3:30 pm Thursday at www.facebook.com/aidtedu.
  • Job applicants may submit their application beginning Dec. 7 at MazdaToyota.com.
  • The plant is expected to eventually employ about 4,000 people.
  • The pay for production workers starts at $17-an-hour and will increase to $23-an-hour plus a shift premium.
  • Japanese automakers Toyota and Mazda announced in 2018 that they were building a joint-venture auto plant in Alabama. Production is expected to begin next year.

State sets February execution date for man in 1991 killing

  • MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama on Tuesday set a February execution date for a man convicted of the 1991 killing of a woman abducted near an automatic teller machine and later found shot in a cemetery.
  • The Alabama Supreme Court ordered that 51-year-old Willie B. Smith III be put to death on Feb. 11 for the shotgun slaying of Sharma Ruth Johnson.
  • Prosecutors said Smith abducted Johnson at gunpoint in October 1991 as she waited to use an ATM machine in Birmingham, forced her into the trunk of a car and withdrew $80 using her bank card. Prosecutors said he then took her to a cemetery where he shot her in the back of the head and later returned to set the car on fire.
  • A jury convicted Smith in 1992 in the death of Johnson, who was the sister of a Birmingham police detective.
  • Appellate courts rejected Smith’s claims on appeal, including that his lawyers provided ineffective assistance at trial and that he shouldn’t be executed because he is intellectually disabled. Court records indicate a defense team expert estimated his IQ at 64 while a prosecution expert pegged it at 72.
  • The Alabama attorney general’s office said Smith has exhausted his appeals.
  • “The murder of Ms. Johnson, which was committed during the course of a robbery and kidnapping, was as brutal as they come, and there is no doubt that Smith committed those offenses,” the attorney general’s office wrote in the motion seeking an execution date.
  • Alabama uses lethal injection to carry out most death sentences.
  • Attorneys for Smith have an ongoing lawsuit against the state prison system challenging the lethal injection procedure as unconstitutionally cruel. They also argued Smith’s intellectual disability prevented him from understanding what was at stake when the state gave inmates a short window to select hydrogen hypoxia as their preferred execution method.
  • Alabama lawmakers authorized nitrogen hypoxia as an execution method, but the prison system has not developed a protocol for carrying out executions that way.

Baby goat missing from old ‘Big Fish’ movie set in Alabama

  • MILLBROOK, Ala. (AP) — The owners of an outdoor recreation destination in Alabama fear a days-old baby goat has been stolen from a free-ranging herd near a former movie set and tourist attraction.
  • Two newborn goats from the herd on Jackson Lake Island in Milbrook have disappeared since November, according to the owners.
  • The property has public access for fishing and camping, as well as the fictional town of Spectre, where scenes for the 2003 Tim Burton film “Big Fish” were shot, The Montgomery Advertiser reported. There are about 55 grown goats on the property and they sometimes sleep under the church on the set, the newspaper said.
  • One of the goats, Bambi, was taken in early November but was returned about a day later, said Lynn Bright, who owns the property and goats and is the former first lady of Montgomery.
  • Bambi died after being away from his mother, she added. Bluebell, who was born Friday, has since gone missing.
  • “We know who took Bambi,” Bright said. “We have addressed that with the young man’s family, and we are still considering taking legal action. We can’t be certain if Bluebell wasn’t carried off by an animal. But we had reports of a family passing her around before she went missing.”
  • The owners posted photos of Bluebell to Facebook on Monday calling for the public’s help in returning the animal and putting a stop to stealing the goats. Bright added that baby goats have gone missing from the property before.
  • “We love sharing our goats for everyone to enjoy,” the post said. “However, we can’t continue to let them roam free and play with everyone if this keeps happening. We love our babies too much, and we must keep them safe. We are now installing even more cameras on the island, and we hope this post helps.”

 

 

 

Headlines

ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Moore enters Congress focused on infrastructure, defense

 

ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Panel: 1st vaccines to health care workers, nursing homes

 

ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – FDA head says feds will get vaccine ‘right’

 

ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Centrist lawmakers push $908B plan to break virus impasse

 

ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Talks resume, but partisan impasse remains with COVID relief plan

 

ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Trump threatens defense veto over social media protections

 

ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – AG Barr says no widespread election fraud

 

ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Beshear retiring from ADMH; Boswell appointed commissioner

 

ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Daily News Digest, December 1, 2020

 

AL.COM – ‘Masks work’: Alabama governor pushes mask requirement ahead of health order expiration

 

AL.COM – Alabama adds nearly 3,400 COVID cases on Tuesday, as state reports holiday backlog

 

AL.COM – Huntsville students out all week after computer system attack

 

AL.COM – ‘Transformative’ Mobile deal could bring beaches, pier and industry to Brookley complex

 

AL.COM – COVID-19: Some Alabama school systems change schedules

 

AL.COM – Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed says school tax vote was city’s ‘most crucial’ in decades

 

Montgomery Advertiser – King’s Canvas to host 2nd annual ‘BBQ & Brushes’ fundraiser, honoring bus boycott anniversary

 

Montgomery Advertiser – Prattville council approves pay raises for all city employees in $64 million budget

 

Montgomery Advertiser – On Rosa Parks Day, Maxwell Air Force Base unveils tribute to legendary former employee

 

WBRC Fox 6 Birmingham – UAB diversity research team to begin focus groups for vaccines

 

WBRC Fox 6 Birmingham – UAB expert explains ways to teach your kids about online safety

 

WBRC Fox 6 Birmingham – Birmingham city leaders requesting briefing from county and state health officials on vaccine plan

 

Tuscaloosa News – Tuscaloosa’s Tinsel Trail brightens up holiday, even during pandemic

 

Tuscaloosa News – Tuscaloosa County schools seeks feedback on proposed 2021-22 academic calendar

 

Tuscaloosa News – Alabama COVID-19 hospitalizations spike to record high in ‘disturbing escalation’

 

Decatur Daily – Decatur Morgan Hospital breaks record on number of COVID patients

 

Decatur Daily – Suspect in 1995 slaying free on bail

 

Times Daily – Boswell replaces Beshear as state health commissioner

 

Times Daily – 2 inmates in Lauderdale crimes up for parole

 

Times Daily – 2 Tuscumbia residents identified as suspects in Fuel City robbery

 

Anniston Star – Ranburne gives light to its Christmas tree in livestreamed event

 

Anniston Star – Homeless Anniston residents to get hotel rooms as temperature plummets

 

Anniston Star – Jacksonville sees small, socially distant tree lighting

 

YellowHammer News – Alabama’s Mike Rogers in line to be top Republican on House Armed Services Committee

 

YellowHammer News – Partnership created to keep Birmingham’s talented students in the city

 

YellowHammer News – Dr. Allen Parrish named senior policy advisor at Energy Institute of Alabama

 

Gadsden Times – New substation to be built at Etowah County Mega-Site

 

Gadsden Times – Alabama COVID-19 hospitalizations spike to record high in ‘disturbing escalation’

 

Gadsden Times – Gadsden council takes no action, hears lots of talk about rendering plant

 

Dothan Eagle – Hamilton positive for COVID-19, will miss F1’s Sakhir GP

 

Dothan Eagle – In dark day for UK retailing, 242-year-old Debenhams to shut

 

Dothan Eagle – Joe Biden weighs Rahm Emanuel for transportation secretary

 

Opelika-Auburn News – The Latest: Germany hits a record for daily virus deaths

 

Opelika-Auburn News – Lee County Sheriff’s Office personnel test positive for COVID-19, processing delayed

 

Opelika-Auburn News – Opelika police searching for missing teen

 

WSFA Montgomery – Selma police searching for double murder suspect

 

WSFA Montgomery – Montgomery mayor moves to rename street for civil rights attorney Fred Gray

 

WSFA Montgomery – Alabama breaks COVID-19 hospitalization record for third day

 

WAFF Huntsville – Huntsville City Schools’ cyber attack keeps students out of the classroom

 

WAFF Huntsville – Meet the only known certified police sketch artist in Alabama

 

WAFF Huntsville – Tennessee man killed after vehicle crashed through a fence, hit a tree

 

WKRG Mobile – Apollo’s Mystic Ladies cancels 2021 parade and ball

 

WKRG Mobile – Christmas tree lighting brightens spirits in Citronelle

 

WKRG Mobile – Victim in serious condition following shooting in Pensacola

 

WTVY Dothan – Decision on future of Rip Hewes stadium nears

 

WTVY Dothan – Cottonwood third grader gives others a merry Christmas

 

WTVY Dothan – Third annual Feast in the Streets and jacket event happening this weekend

 

WASHINGTON POST – Barr says he hasn’t seen fraud that could affect the election outcome

 

WASHINGTON POST – Justice Dept. investigated potential ‘bribery-for-pardon’ scheme involving White House

 

WASHINGTON POST – Black Lives Matter movement at a crossroads as Biden prepares to take office

 

NEW YORK TIMES – Trump Has Discussed With Advisers Pardons for His 3 Eldest Children and Giuliani

 

NEW YORK TIMES – Covid-19 Live Updates: U.K. Becomes First Country to Approve Pfizer Vaccine

 

NEW YORK TIMES – ‘It Has to Stop’: Georgia Election Official Lashes Trump

 

WALL STREET JOURNAL – How a Couple’s Quest to Cure Cancer Led to the West’s First Covid-19 Vaccine

 

WALL STREET JOURNAL – Bets on More Fed Bond-Buying Help Contain Treasury Yields

 

WALL STREET JOURNAL – Salesforce Confirms Deal to Buy Slack for $27.7 Billion

 

 

Front Pages (images link to newspaper websites, which you should visit and patronize)