- Dozens of Iraqi Shiite militiamen and their supporters broke into the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad on Tuesday, smashing a main door and setting fire to a reception area, angered over deadly U.S. airstrikes targeting the Iran-backed militia. U.S. guards fired tear gas and palls of smoke rose over the grounds.
- President Donald Trump blamed Iran for the embassy breach and called on Iraq to protect the diplomatic mission.
- “Iran killed an American contractor, wounding many. We strongly responded, and always will. Now Iran is orchestrating an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Iraq. They will be held fully responsible. In addition, we expect Iraq to use its forces to protect the Embassy, and so notified!” he tweeted from his estate in Palm Beach, Florida.
- Read more HERE and in the NYT & WaPo headlines below.
1. Greer to bring back church ‘stand your ground’ bill in 2020
- Sunday, after a fatal church shooting in Texas that was stopped by armed congregants, State Rep. Lynn Greer said he began hearing from people in Alabama, including fellow lawmakers.
- Greer in the upcoming 2020 legislative session will again sponsor a bill to clarify that church members can use deadly force if threatened.
- “I don’t carry a gun to church, but I’m more comfortable knowing they’re there,” said Greer, R-Rogersville.
- Since 2017, previous versions of the bill have sought to expand the state’s self-defense law by codifying that a person is presumed justified in the use of physical force if they reasonably believe someone is about to do serious harm to individuals inside a church.
- There has been opposition to the bill, including from Democrats and the group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense.
- In 2018, the bill cleared the House but died in the Senate. In 2019, it never got a vote in the House.
- Now, Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, is offering to work with Greer and sponsor the legislation in the Senate.
- Read more from ADN’s Mary Sell HERE.
- Speaking of the Texas church shooting, more details of the attack are becoming available. The attacker was identified as 43-year-old Keith Thomas Kinnunen. His motives are still under investigation, but he had a criminal record that included assault with a deadly weapon. In their 2012 divorce filings, his ex-wife described him as a “violent, paranoid person with a long line of assault and batteries with and without firearms. He is a religious fanatic, says he’s battling a demon.”
- Meanwhile, we also are learning more about the hero whose response saved lives inside West Freeway Church of Christ. Jack Wilson is a 71-year-old firearms instructor and reserve sheriff’s deputy who had trained up a handful of volunteers to increase church security.
- “The only clear shot I had was his head because I still had people in the pews that were not all the way down as low as they could. That was my one shot,” Wilson said
- Full story HERE.
2. Bloomberg in Alabama
- The Democratic field’s newest presidential candidate, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was in Alabama Monday.
- His campaign stop through the Capital City drew attention to the issue of maternal mortality and his plan to decrease disparities among poor and minority mothers.
- According to Bloomberg, black women are twice as likely to suffer from life threatening pregnancy complications and nearly four times more likely than white women to die in childbirth. He wants to standardize the collection of maternal mortality data, require doctors to have training understanding and countering racial bias and – the big one – provide a free public option for insurance coverage to cover those who don’t qualify for Medicaid.
- Read more about Bloomberg’s visit and what all was said from the Montgomery Advertiser’s Melissa Brown HERE, from AL.com’s Mike Cason HERE and from WSFA’s Lydia Nussbaum HERE.
- Unrelated to his Alabama visit, Bloomberg yesterday tweeted a bizarre photo of a redesigned White House east room promising to turn it into an open workspace he would share with his staff. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen something get so universally dragged on Twitter.
A message from AlabamaWorks!
3. Mobile Amtrak vote today
- Mobile City leaders are preparing to decide a key issue in restoring passenger train service along the northern Gulf Coast, where Amtrak hasn’t operated regularly since Hurricane Katrina.
- Council members were scheduled to vote today on whether to commit as much as $3 million over three years to operate Amtrak trains through the city.
- Katrina badly damaged rail lines in 2005, and Amtrak hasn’t resumed regular east-west service since then. Although Mississippi and Louisiana already have dedicated money toward the project to restart trains, Alabama has been a holdup, partly because officials at Alabama’s main seaport in Mobile worry passenger trains could interfere with freight traffic.
- Mobile’s commitment of money to match federal funding wouldn’t be needed until 2023, the year service connecting New Orleans to Mobile could restart. The city faces a deadline of Jan. 6 for a decision, with the vote set on New Year’s Eve.
- However, a vote to postpone the decision until after the new year is now likely.
- Read more HERE.
4. Messy campaign finally meets election year
- There are 34 days to go until the Iowa Caucuses, when the first votes will be cast in the Democratic race for the presidential nomination. A week after that, New Hampshire will vote. And on March 3, 14 states including Alabama will participate in the “Super Tuesday” election that could very well determine who the Democratic nominee will be.
- That’s coming quickly, so don’t be surprised if the candidates start mixing it up a lot more.
- Can former Vice President Joe Biden continue to hold serve over the rest of the field? Will Sen. Elizabeth Warren make another resurgence? What is Michael Bloomberg’s impact on the field, especially for candidates like Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Mayor Pete Buttigieg? And maybe the biggest question of all: can any of the candidates pull together a voter coalition broad enough to defeat President Donald Trump?
- Our old friend Bill Barrow is covering the election as a national political reporter for the Associated Press, and his latest “2020 Watch” report is worth a read this morning if you want to catch up on the narratives and questions at play in the Democratic primary.
- His full story HERE.
5. Newseum closes today
- A latter day Washington mainstay is closing its doors for good today.
- The Newseum, a private museum dedicated to exploring modern history as told through the eyes of news men and women, is closing after years of financial difficulty.
- After starting across the river in Rosslyn, Virginia, the Newseum in 2008 moved to prime Washington real estate on Pennsylvania Ave., putting it on the list of places to see for those touring destinations along the National Mall.
- But that proximity to other museums, particularly the free Smithsonian Institution ones, eventually led to its demise.
- Newseum isn’t free. In fact, an adult ticket is $25. And while the visit well worth the price in many ways, for those with limited time and money, it’s an easy call to take in the free exhibits at the nearby Air & Space Museum, the National Museum of American History, the new African American History Museum or the National Gallery of Art.
- Newseum officials attributed the failure to a “mosaic of factors,” one of them being unfortunate timing. The opening coincided with the 2008 economic recession, which hit newspapers particularly hard and caused mass layoffs and closures across the industry.
- The building was sold for $372.5 million to Johns Hopkins University, which intends to consolidate its scattered Washington-based graduate studies programs under one roof.
- Nice get for them, but it’s going to be a little unseemly to see them scrape the giant First Amendment off the building’s facade.
- Full story HERE.
Pompeo to visit Ukraine as Senate weighs impeachment trial
- WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will visit Ukraine this week, making his first trip to the country at the heart of President Donald Trump’s impeachment.
- Pompeo will depart Thursday on a five-nation tour of Europe and Central Asia. Ukraine will be the first stop on the trip, the State Department said Monday.
- In Kyiv, Pompeo will meet with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, whose July 25 phone call with Trump triggered the whistleblower complaint that led to Trump’s impeachment. In that call, Trump disparaged Yovanovitch and asked Zelensky for “a favor,” suggesting he wanted Ukrainian authorities to investigate Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, for corruption. Trump has said the call was “perfect” and has denied doing anything wrong.
- In his meetings, Pompeo will “reaffirm U.S. support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity” as the country continues to battle Russia-backed separatists in the east, the State Department said. Pompeo also will honor Ukrainians who have died in the conflict, which intensified after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in 2014, in a move condemned and rejected by most of the international community. The senior official said Pompeo would underscore that the U.S. will never recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
- Full story HERE.
Police chief apologizes for officer’s ‘homeless quilt’ post
- MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — A police chief in the south Alabama city of Mobile is apologizing for an officer’s social media post appearing to ridicule homeless people that was shared widely over the holidays.
- The Facebook post showed two Mobile Police officers, holding what the post called a “homeless quilt” made of cardboard signs that apparently had been confiscated from panhandlers around the city, according to al.com.
- “Wanna wish everybody in the 4th precinct a Merry Christmas, especially our captain. Hope you enjoy our homeless quilt. Sincerely Panhandler patrol,” the post read.
- Mobile police chief Lawrence Battiste apologized for the post, calling it an “insensitive gesture.”
- “Although we do not condone panhandling and must enforce the city ordinances that limit panhandling, it is never our intent or desire as a police department to make light of those who find themselves in a homeless state,” Battiste said.
- Both officers are recent graduates of the Mobile Police Academy and the picture appears to have been taken inside a police department office, al.com reported.
- It is unclear if there will be an investigation or if the officers will face reprimand.
- Mobile passed a panhandling law in 2010. It stipulates that asking for money is only allowed outside of a downtown area popular with visitors. Panhandling in the restricted zone can result in a fine of up to $500, community service and up to 6 months in jail.
Woman drowns after her car was trapped by floodwaters
- ANDERSON, Ala. (AP) — Severe weather led to the death of a woman in north Alabama after her car was stuck in rising floodwaters on Sunday night, authorities said.
- WAAY-TV reports that Lauderdale County Coroner Butch Tucker said 20-year-old Jenna Williams died in the flood waters Sunday night in Anderson, Alabama.
- Tucker says the cause of death was drowning.
- Two other vehicles were pulled from the water, but those drivers were injured.
- A line of strong storms pushed through the state Sunday evening.
Body found on Lake Guntersville
- GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. (AP) — A body was found Monday on Lake Guntersville, authorities said.
- Marshall County Sheriff Phil Sims told news outlets that a man’s body was found and recovered from the water near the Lake Guntersville Sailing Club marina.
- Authorities said the body could be that of a person who was reported missing. The body was sent to a state forensics department to try to identify the man.
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Greer to bring back church ‘stand your ground’ bill in 2020
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Firearms instructor took out gunman at Texas church service
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Mobile to decide key issue on Amtrak future on Gulf Coast
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – 2020 Watch: Messy primary finally meets election year
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Pompeo to visit Ukraine as Senate weighs impeachment trial
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Newseum hailed free press, but got beaten by free museums
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Congressman John Lewis says cancer is his latest battle
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – AP Alabama’s top stories of 2019
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Alabama inmate deaths rise despite national attention
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Taliban council agrees to cease-fire in Afghanistan
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – SEC Basketball: Auburn surging while rivals are staggering
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Daily News Digest – December 30, 2019
AL.COM – Mike Bloomberg campaign takes aim at healthcare for mothers
AL.COM – What Happens When Alabama Sheriffs Release Violent Offenders to Avoid Paying Their Medical Bills
AL.COM – Alabama population older than national average, and keeps growing grayer
AL.COM – Mobile police officers appear to ridicule homeless people in viral Facebook post
AL.COM – Alabama’s stunning biodiversity includes many unusual plants
AL.COM – Alabama car insurance law changing Jan. 1
AL.COM – Man once elected Jefferson County DA reports for 6-month jail term
AL.COM – Rush Propst linked to new private school in Alabama
Montgomery Advertiser – Targeted patrols planned in effort to curb New Year’s Eve celebratory gunfire in Montgomery
Montgomery Advertiser – Shut down: Montgomery Council pulls The Shack’s business license
Montgomery Advertiser – Presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg rolls out maternal health plan in Montgomery
YellowHammer News – Alabama’s top faith moments of 2019 — Jalen Hurts, Tua Tagovailoa & much more
YellowHammer News – 7 Things: Violent attacks on worshipers, abortion called Alabama’s biggest story of 2019, ‘God’s almighty power’ at work and more …
YellowHammer News – Alabama Power Anniston employees help Santa give holiday surprises to seniors
Dothan Eagle – Following fatal Geneva wreck, ALEA reminds parents about Alabama’s Graduated Driver’s License Law
Dothan Eagle – 2019 Year in Review: Positive components highlight economic growth
Dothan Eagle – 2019 Year In Review: Dothan sees growth in tent cities, leaders discuss solutions
Tuscaloosa News – One shooting suspect in custody, two more sought after violent weekend in Tuscaloosa
Tuscaloosa News – Alabama man charged with abusing baby who had 22 broken ribs
Tuscaloosa News – Tuscaloosa Housing Authority director to retire
Decatur Daily – Road closures, other changes planned in Decatur for New Year’s Eve
Decatur Daily – Greer to refile church ‘stand your ground’ bill
Decatur Daily – Ghosn in Lebanon, says he left Japan because of ‘injustice’
Times Daily – Greer to refile church ‘stand your ground’ bill
Times Daily – Flooding of Colbert roadways receded quickly
Times Daily – Garbage collections altered for New Year’s Day
Gadsden Times – Downtown Gadsden sees progress in 2019
Gadsden Times – Cleanup Crew claims robotics awards
Gadsden Times – Cecil Hamiter, longtime hospital administrator, dies at 100
Anniston Star – Man killed in shooting had attacked man two days prior
Anniston Star – Anniston councilman proposes bonus for city staff who help bring in businesses
Anniston Star – Anniston councilman proposes bonus for city staff who help bring in businesses
Troy Messenger – Officials urge firework safety
Troy Messenger – John Lewis diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer
Troy Messenger – Local jobless rate remains near record low
Andalusia Star News – Inmate dies in county jail; SBI takeover investigation
Opelika-Auburn News – Body found in well prompts homicide investigation
Opelika-Auburn News – Facebook disables some misleading ads on HIV prevention drugs
Opelika-Auburn News – As robots take over warehousing, workers pushed to adapt
Daily Mountain Eagle – U.S. Census hiring workers for Walker County
Daily Mountain Eagle – AARP’s Tax-Aide to offer free tax prep
Daily Mountain Eagle – New Year’s closings, garbage routes listed
Trussville Tribune – TRUSSVILLE: No shoplifting arrests during Christmas week
Trussville Tribune – Trussville woman wanted on felony warrant for drug trafficking
Trussville Tribune – CRIME STOPPERS: 2 wanted by Trussville PD on identity theft charges
Sand Mountain Reporter – Body found at Lake Guntersville Sailing Club
Sand Mountain Reporter – Year’s honorable mentions
Sand Mountain Reporter – Traynor to run for Marshall County school board
WSFA Montgomery – Ala. man caught after chase requests photo with arresting deputies
WSFA Montgomery – Auburn Tigers get day to relax before Outback Bowl
WSFA Montgomery – $35k worth of items stolen from Brundidge car lot
Fox 6 Birmingham – Dylan Moses announces return for 2020 season
Fox 6 Birmingham – Last minute fireworks rush as New Year’s approaches
Fox 6 Birmingham – Shelby County Sheriff warns about scam call
WAFF Huntsville – NWS confirms tornado hit Limestone County
WAFF Huntsville – Body found in Lake Guntersville
WAFF Huntsville – Authorities searching for 2 escaped Morgan County work release inmates
WKRG Mobile – CEO encouraged by Mobile’s interest in scooters
WKRG Mobile – Dylan Moses to return to Alabama
WKRG Mobile – Crews working sewer main break in Lake Forest
WTVY Dothan – Six families displaced following apartment fire in Dothan
WTVY Dothan – $35k worth of items stolen from Brundidge car lot
WTVY Dothan – Geneva holds candlelight vigil for three teens who died in Christmas car accident
WASHINGTON POST – Sanders releases doctors’ letters saying he’s fit for presidency, three months after heart attack
WASHINGTON POST – Protesters chanting ‘Death to America’ break into U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad
WASHINGTON POST – Trump accuses Democrats of avoiding Senate trial to protect Bidens
NEW YORK TIMES – Iraq Protesters Break Into U.S. Embassy Compound in Baghdad
NEW YORK TIMES – Suspect in Monsey Stabbings Searched Online for ‘Hitler,’ Charges Say
NEW YORK TIMES – With Births Down, U.S. Had Slowest Growth Rate in a Century
NEW YORK TIMES – Inside a Texas Church, Guns, Bibles and a Spirited Firearms Debate