Daily News Digest – October 25, 2019

Daily News Digest – October 25, 2019

Presented by AlabamaWorks!

Good morning and Happy Friday!
Here’s your Daily News for October 25.

1. Rains help douse drought

  • In case you haven’t noticed, it’s raining pretty good outside this morning. In fact, the state has been seeing a lot more rain these last two weeks, and drought conditions throughout Alabama have improved as a result.
  • The map above (and corresponding key) are from four days ago on October 22, meaning today’s drenching is sure to improve conditions even further.
  • The latest assessment from the National Drought Mitigation Center said more than a quarter of the Southeast was drought-free, an improvement of more than 10 percentage points in a week. As much as 5 inches of rain from Tropical Storm Nestor helped douse the drought.
  • Anywhere from 2 to 4 inches of rain is expected across the state today and into Saturday.
  • Read more from Jay Reeves HERE.

2. Lawmakers approve $5 million in ‘equalization’funds to universities

  • A special committee of Alabama lawmakers approved $5 million in funding for state universities this week.
  • The funds are part of a higher education “equalization fund” offering some universities who felt slighted by state appropriations in this year’s education budget.
  • Auburn University, Athens State University, Jacksonville State University, the University of South Alabama, the University of Montevallo and Troy University will all receive additional allocations.
  • During this year’s legislative session, state lawmakers approved a record $7.1 billion education budget that contained at least five percent increases for each of the state’s universities. However, some schools got significantly higher increases, leaving some institutions and their local lawmakers unhappy with the new “peer gap adjustment” formula adopted by ACHE.
  • The dust up led to lawmakers creating an “equalization fund” to be dispersed to universities by a specially-appointed committee later in the year. That panel met Wednesday.
  • Read the full story, including which universities got what, from ADN’s Caroline Beck HERE.

 

 

A message from AlabamaWorks!

Success Plus is Alabama’s program for improving the statewide level of education beyond high school. 
Whether it’s a degree earned in a four-year or community college, a professional certification or a credential, this additional preparation creates improved opportunities for Alabamians to better their lives by participating in the workforce.
It also ensures that Alabama businesses can continue to grow with the highly-skilled workforce they need.

 

3. DOJ’s Russia review now a criminal probe

  • The Justice Department has shifted its review of the Russia probe to a criminal investigation, a person familiar with the matter says.
  • It is unclear what potential crimes are being investigated, but the designation as a formal criminal investigation gives prosecutors the ability to issue subpoenas, potentially impanel a grand jury and compel witnesses to give testimony and bring federal criminal charges.
  • The Justice Department had previously considered it to be an administrative review, and Attorney General William Barr appointed John Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, to lead the inquiry into the origins of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election. It’s unclear when Durham’s inquiry shifted to a criminal investigation.
  • Durham is examining what led the U.S. to open a counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign and the roles that various countries played in the U.S. probe. He is also investigating whether the surveillance methods and intelligence gathering methods used during the investigation were legal and appropriate.
  • Mueller’s investigation shadowed Trump’s presidency for nearly two years and outraged the Republican president, who cast it as a politically motivated “witch hunt.” Mueller determined that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 election, but his investigation didn’t find sufficient evidence to establish a criminal conspiracy between Trump’s campaign and Russia.
  • Read more HERE.

 

4. Sports Break: The 2019 SEC as 2020 presidential candidates

  • Time for some fun.
  • More than a year ago, at the beginning of last football season, ADN’s Will Whatley put together a spoof list of Alabama politicians and which SEC school they best resembled at the time.
  • Now, midway through the current football season, Will is back with a list of which presidential candidate resembles which school.
  • It’s pretty funny, in my humble opinion, and this time nobody can be personally offended. Wait. Check that. Some will definitely be offended.
  • Anyway, go read Will’s latest fun column HERE.
  • Best wishes to everyone’s team this weekend. We’ll be stress-carving pumpkins at my house.

 

5. News Briefs

 

Man pleads guilty to murdering 3 when he was 15

  • BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama man has pleaded guilty to three murders he committed when he was 15-years-old.
  • AL.com reports 19-year-old Khalief Marquise Spencer accepted a plea deal Thursday to serve 25 years in prison for fatally shooting three people in 2015. He’ll be eligible for parole after 18 years.
  • The jury indicated Wednesday that they were hung 11-1 in favor of finding Spencer guilty.
  • District attorney Shawn Allen says the deal wasn’t the outcome he hoped for but acceptable under the possibility of a hung jury.
  • Spencer was indicted in 2016 in the slaying of Kenneth Davidson and Shundria Peoples, and the slaying of Tramone Mitchell. All three victims were fatally shot inside a car. Witnesses were able to identify Spencer as the shooter in both cases.

Trump, White House ‘fighting a ghost’ on impeachment defense

  • As the impeachment probe hits the one-month mark, President Donald Trump and his aides have largely ignored the details of the Ukraine allegations against him. Instead, they’re loudly objecting to the House Democrats’ investigation process, using that as justification for ordering administration officials not to cooperate and complaining about what they deem prejudicial, even unconstitutional, secrecy.
  • Asked about criticism that the White House lacks a coordinated pushback effort and could do a better job delivering its message, spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said, “It’s hard to message anything that’s going on behind closed doors and in secret.”
  • “It’s like you’re fighting a ghost, you’re fighting against the air. So we’re doing the best we can,” she said on Fox News Channel.
  • While they do not believe there will be enough votes to remove the president, as Democrats hope, the West Wing believes more must be done to shore up Republican support to avoid embarrassment and genuine political peril.
  • Complaining privately and publicly that Democrats “stick together” better than the GOP, Trump has leaned on Republican congressional allies to do more, according to White House officials and Republicans close to the West Wing.
  • Trump urged the GOP earlier this week to fight back, a lesson that was taken to heart by a group of conservative Republicans, including members of the Freedom Caucus, who stormed a Capitol Hill hearing room on Wednesday to disrupt testimony in the probe.
  • Full story HERE.

Alabama Power to pay $222K over chemical spill, dead fish

  • PARRISH, Ala. (AP) — Alabama Power Company has agreed to pay about $222,000 to settle a chemical spill that killed hundreds of fish near its coal-fired plant about 30 miles (48 kilometers) northwest of Birmingham, according to a notice Wednesday from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.
  • More than 500 fish were found dead in March, days after about 700 gallons of flame retardant spilled into Baker Creek near the now-shuttered plant in Parrish, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources said.
  • Alabama Power spokesman Michael Sznajderman told AL.com that the company removed some of the dead fish after the spill and disposed of them properly.
  • Read more HERE.

White House moves to halt Times, Post subscriptions

  • WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump has had it with The New York Times and The Washington Post. The White House is preparing to instruct federal agencies not to renew their subscriptions to the newspapers.
  • White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham is describing the move as a cost-saving measure.
  • Grisham said that “not renewing subscriptions across all federal agencies will be a significant cost saving for taxpayers — hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
  • Trump is often critical of the two newspapers and said in a Fox News interview on Monday that “we don’t want” the Times in the White House anymore, and “we’re going to probably terminate that and The Washington Post.”
  • White House aides say the print editions of the newspaper are no longer coming into the White House, though online access continues.
  • Read more HERE.

Facebook launches a news section – and will pay publishers

  • Over the course of its 15 year history, Facebook has variously ignored news organizations while eating their advertising revenue, courted them for video projects it subsequently abandoned, and then largely cut their stories out of its newsfeeds .
  • Now it plans to pay them for news headlines — reportedly millions of dollars in some cases.
  • Enter the “News Tab,” a new section in the Facebook mobile app that will display headlines — and nothing else — from the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, BuzzFeed News, Business Insider, NBC, USA Today and the Los Angeles Times, among others. Local stories from several of the largest U.S. cities will also make the grade; headlines from smaller towns are on their way, Facebook says.
  • Tapping on those headlines will take you directly to publisher websites or apps, if you have any installed. Which is more or less what publishers have been requesting from Facebook for years.
  • It’s potentially a big step for a platform that has long struggled with both stamping out misinformation and making nice with struggling purveyors of news. Though media watchers remain skeptical that Facebook is really committed to helping sustain the news industry.
  • Read more HERE.

Headlines.

ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Lawmakers approve additional $5 million in ‘equalization funds’ for state universities
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – SPORTS BREAK: The 2019 SEC as 2020 Presidential Candidates
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Southern drought shows first improvement in weeks
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Source: DOJ review of Russia probe now a criminal inquiry
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS  – Facebook launches a news section – and will pay publishers
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – White House moves to halt Times, Post subscriptions
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Trump, White House ‘fighting a ghost’ on impeachment defense
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Sen. Del Marsh: Look at the ‘big picture’ on education
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Chaotic scene as Republicans disrupt impeachment deposition
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Shelby warns of shutdown, urges Senate to fund military
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Daily News Digest – October 24, 2019
AL.COM  – Campaign critical of Alabama’s Poarch Creeks won’t reveal donors.
AL.COM  – Black and Missing Inc.: missing black children are underrepresented in news
AL.COM  – ‘Dixiecrats’ and memories of ‘Big Jim’: How an Alabama delegate race is stealing the political show
AL.COM  – UAB nursing, social work departments team up for million-dollar grant
AL.COM  – 300 officers search Bullock prison for weapons, contraband
AL.COM  – Mobile could be second-largest city in Alabama under mayor’s annexation plan
AL.COM  – Deferring funding for an accurate Census puts Alabama at risk
Montgomery Advertiser – Doug Jones compares SCIF disruption to George Wallace’s Stand in the Schoolhouse Door
Montgomery Advertiser – Booker T. Washington Magnet High principal gets creative, saves magnet program
Montgomery Advertiser – Highland Home forfeits 6 wins; 1 ends Calhoun’s lengthy losing streak
YellowHammer News – Alabama’s ‘Rocket City’ shows off advantages at international space conference
YellowHammer News – NASA attaches first of four engines to historic Huntsville-managed SLS rocket core
YellowHammer News – Nick Saban, Gus Malzahn, Bill Clark named to Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant Award watch list
Dothan Eagle – $150K bond set for Wiregrass firefighter charged with multiple sex crimes
Dothan Eagle – Lab owner accused of falsifying results faces additional charges
Dothan Eagle – Police search for suspect in Thursday shooting
Tuscaloosa News – Alabama man pleads guilty to murdering 3 when he was 15
Tuscaloosa News – Greensboro Police officers fire at suspect with shotgun
Tuscaloosa News – Police release name of man found dead in vehicle
Decatur Daily – Southwest Decatur shooting leaves 1 dead, police say
Decatur Daily – Morgan commission approves $500,000 incentive for Mazda Toyota
Decatur Daily – Property near school given Planning Commission OK for urgent care clinic with pharmacy
Times Daily – Tally of children split at border tops 5,400 in new count
Times Daily – 3 arrested in fatal shooting of Northern California deputy
Times Daily – California governor “owns” blackouts, takes political risk
Anniston Star – Weekend rain might ease Alabama’s drought
Anniston Star – Judge denies bond reinstatement murder defendant
Anniston Star – County Commission sets March 3 date for Sunday alcohol sales vote
Troy Messenger – Planning commission gives new shopping center final approval
Troy Messenger – Brundidge council must fill vacancy in District 2
Troy Messenger – Troy DKE to remain suspended through Fall semester
Andalusia Star News – Thomas honored as Outstanding Graduate
Andalusia Star News – SHS scores 87 on school report card
Andalusia Star News – AHS HOMECOMING TRADITIONS: Float Building
Opelika-Auburn News – ‘They saw an opportunity to take a young child’: Two face charges after 3-year-old abducted from party found dead
Opelika-Auburn News – Photos: Fast-moving wildfires ignite in California’s wine country, prompting evacuations
Opelika-Auburn News – Photos: Elijah Cummings lies in state at US Capitol
Daily Mountain Eagle – Festival rescheduled; doc screenings and trunk or treat to go on
Daily Mountain Eagle – Commission approves security grant
Daily Mountain Eagle – Commission to start scanning county documents
Trussville Tribune – Clay woman fighting cancer also fighting to one day be a mom
Trussville Tribune – 19-year-old girl missing in Auburn, police ask public for assistance locating her
Trussville Tribune – Alabama man pleads guilty to murdering 3 when he was 15
Athens News Courier – Clay woman fighting cancer also fighting to one day be a mom
Athens News Courier – Drugs and guns seized from east Jefferson County home
Athens News Courier – Alabama man pleads guilty to murdering 3 when he was 15
Sand Mountain Reporter – 14 charged in drug busts over 12 days in DeKalb Co.
Sand Mountain Reporter – Patient-turned-volunteer wanted to give back
Sand Mountain Reporter – 10th annual Pink Pumpkin Run set for Saturday
WSFA Montgomery – MPS addresses intervention status at town hall
WSFA Montgomery – Both suspects in Kamille McKinney case now in custody at Jefferson County jail
WSFA Montgomery – What you need to know about reporting a missing person
Fox 6 Birmingham – Suspect in custody after early-morning shooting in Ensley
Fox 6 Birmingham – Court records reveal criminal past and childhood of Derick Brown
Fox 6 Birmingham – Grief counselors helping residents of Tom Brown Village
WAFF Huntsville – Huntsville City Council votes to join lawsuit against opioid manufacturers
WAFF Huntsville – Alabama recorded 1,605 illegal school bus passes in single day
WAFF Huntsville – Child stable after being hit by car in Albertville
WKRG Mobile – 2 charged in murder of Kamille ‘Cupcake’ McKinney
WKRG Mobile – In time for Halloween, museum holds creepiest doll contest
WKRG Mobile – Alabama law enforcement, school system teaming up to keep students safe
WTVY Dothan – Man murdered Thursday night, the third Dothan shooting in one day
WTVY Dothan – Dothan City Schools flips the switch on for new, energy-efficient lighting
WTVY Dothan – Police: Man wearing Halloween mask murders in Dothan
WASHINGTON POST  – Federal judge holds DeVos in contempt in loan case, slaps Education Department with $100,000 fine
WASHINGTON POST  – Trump instructs federal agencies to end Washington Post and New York Times subscriptions
NEW YORK TIMES  – American, Spirit Eye More Mobile Deliveries to Avoid Airbus Tariffs
NEW YORK TIMES  – America’s Air Quality Worsens, Ending Years of Gains, Study Says

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