News

This week marks the beginning of a new political era – and the end of another.

Not just in Washington, either. A new administration also brings turnover at the state level. U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance joins us today, on her final day as the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama. She announced her intent to retire last week, and spoke with us about her eight years serving as the head law enforcement official for Alabama's northern district.

Federal authorities say they're investigating threats made to Jewish centers both in Alabama and across the country.

A brief statement released by the FBI yesterday says they and the Justice Department's civil rights division are investigating "possible civil rights violations in connection with threats." The statement from the agency's Washington headquarters doesn't characterize the threats.

But the Anti-Defamation League also issued a statement yesterday citing "a series of bomb threats to Jewish community centers in at least 18 states."

The lone Democrat and black person in Alabama's congressional delegation says she is skipping the inauguration of president-elect Donald Trump.  

Representative Terri Sewell of Selma tweeted Wednesday that she can't accept the disrespect shown to Representative John Lewis of Georgia, a civil rights veteran who grew up in Alabama.

Trump criticized Lewis after the congressman questioned the legitimacy of the election and said he isn't attending the inaugural. Dozens of other congressional Democrats have since said they won't go, either.

stream pollution
Tom Henderson / AP

The state of Alabama has joined a lawsuit seeking to block new rules from the Obama administration that crack down on coal mining near waterways.

Thirteen states, led by Texas, filed that lawsuit in federal court yesterday. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton says the new “Stream Protection Rule” imposes what he calls “mandatory, one-size-fits-all” regulations that violate states’ rights.

The U.S. Department of the Interior says the new regulations will protect over 6,000 miles of America’s streams by preventing coal mining debris from being dumped into nearby waterways.

President-elect Donald Trump has met with one of the judges on his shortlist for potential Supreme Court nominees.   

Judge William Pryor met with Trump in New York Saturday, a person familiar with the meeting said Tuesday. The person, who asked for anonymity because the details of the meeting are not public, provided no further information.

Back Lot render
Core Hospitality Advisors

Developers constructing a new hotel in downtown Mobile area are also rolling out the red carpet for operators of food trucks.

Core Hospitality Advisors is building a Hilton Garden Inn across from Bienville Square in downtown Mobile. The developers say they wound up with some additional land upon beginning construction, and plan to add a food truck court to the property. The space will be called The Back Lot and will have parking and support for three food trucks at a time.

Adam Cowart of Core Hospitality Advisors explains the setup for the food trucks and the patrons.

Charles Todd Henderson
WBRC-TV

The incoming District Attorney for Jefferson County, Charles Todd Henderson, was scheduled to take office today. But he’s been automatically suspended due to a felony indictment.

According to the Alabama Political Reporter, Henderson was a surprise winner over incumbent District Attorney Brandon Falls. Late last week, Henderson was charged with a Class C felony for allegedly providing false information to a judge. Alabama state law dictates Henderson is suspended until the case is resolved.

Sixteenth Street Baptist Church
Alex AuBuchon / APR

Birmingham’s Sixteenth Street Baptist Church held a ceremony yesterday afternoon commemorating the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Loretta Lynch was the keynote speaker at the ceremony, delivering her final speech as the United States Attorney General.

APR’s Alex AuBuchon was at Sixteenth Street Baptist yesterday and offers this glimpse into the ceremony, with excerpts from Lynch’s speech as well as U.S. Representative Terri Sewell and U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance.

Alex AuBuchon / APR

Attorney General Loretta Lynch, in her final speech as head of the Justice Department, said worries of difficult days ahead should be a call for action, not despair.

Lynch spoke at Birmingham's 16th Street Baptist Church where four girls were killed in a KKK bombing in 1963. In the speech for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Lynch echoed King's words after the bombing to not give into despair.

Lynch praised the work of President Obama's administration to achieve justice for all citizens.

 State wildlife officials are cautioning hunters that it remains illegal to bait deer despite the drought that damaged wildlife food plots.

Officials with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources say they have written a large number of citations for baiting deer.    

State law forbids hunters from hunting over bait. Food must be 100 yards away from the hunter and out of the hunter's line of sight.

Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Director Chuck Sykes said there is a false rumor that baiting has been allowed because of 2016's drought.

Dog Flu

Jan 14, 2017
kynbit (Kiyonobu Ito) [Flickr]

Canine influenza - or dog flu - is a highly contagious virus transmitted to a healthy dog from an infected animal that is coughing or sneezing, or by contact with contaminated bowls, leashes, bedding, even toys used by an infected pet.  

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A motel room once used by Martin Luther King Jr. to plan landmark civil rights protests is the centerpiece of a new national monument in Alabama.

President Obama signed an order creating the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument in one of his final acts in office. The announcement Thursday coincides with the upcoming King holiday.

In 1963, King stayed at the A.G. Gaston Motel while planning protests against legalized segregation in Birmingham. King worked with aides in an upstairs suite known as the "war room."

Tutwiler Prison
Dave Martin / AP

The Alabama Department of Corrections has agreed to put new suicide prevention measures in place after an inmate killed himself days after testifying on alleged inadequate mental health care in state prisons.

Joyce White Vance
Wikimedia

U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance has announced her intent to retire from the Department of Justice.

Vance, whose district includes the 31 northernmost counties of Alabama, announced yesterday that her last day as U.S. Attorney will be Jan. 19.

Vance has spent 25 years as a federal prosecutor and was one of the first five U.S. Attorneys nominated by President Barack Obama. The Senate unanimously confirmed her nomination in 2009.

Before that, Vance spent 18 years in the federal prosecutor's office, last serving as chief of its Appellate Division.

High schools dominate Alabama's new list of failing schools as tenth-graders struggled under the new ACT Aspire test.    There are nearly 50 high schools on the list of 75 failing schools released Thursday by the Alabama Department of Education.   

State law requires the department to designate schools in the bottom 6 percent of standardized test scores as failing.

Conditions in Alabama’s state prisons are poor. The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating possible constitutional violations, and the Alabama Department of Corrections is on trial for allegedly not providing adequate health care to inmates. It’s bad enough that the state is having trouble keeping correctional officers employed.

The number of correctional officers assigned to Alabama’s state prisons fell twenty percent this past year, from just over 2000 in September 2015 to 1627 last September, according to the Alabama Department of Corrections.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch will deliver her final speech as attorney general in Birmingham at 16th Street Baptist Church.

The Sunday speech will commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr. and comes on the eve of the national holiday named for King.

Lynch has served as attorney general in the Obama administration since 2015.

The U.S. Department of Justice announced the visit Wednesday.

Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions will continue his confirmation hearing before his peers on the Senate Judiciary Committee this morning.

A group of black lawmakers is expected to speak out against Sessions as he attempts to become the next U.S. Attorney General. That group includes New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, taking the rare step of testifying against a current Senate colleague.

The man accused of attempting to rob the Alabama Credit Union and taking nearly a dozen people hostage in Tuscaloosa has been identified.

18 year old Cedrick Lamar Collins of Tuscaloosa was taken into custody roughly two hours after the standoff began. According to a University of Alabama news release, he’s been charged with first-degree robbery, but more charges are expected to follow.  

The University of Alabama has announced that police have a suspect in custody and all hostages appear to be OK after an active hostage situation at the main office of the Alabama Credit Union on Paul W. Bryant Drive in Tuscaloosa, near the UA Law School.

Police and the FBI responded to the situation.

Alabama Credit Union CEO Steve Swofford has announced that all Alabama Credit Union employees are safe.

Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions will face his peers on the Republican-led Senate Judiciary Committee today as he begins confirmation to become the next U.S. Attorney General.

Last night, members of the NAACP continued protests and prayer vigils outside Sessions’ Alabama offices. The organization has criticized Sessions' stance on civil rights, immigration, criminal justice reform and voting rights enforcement.

APR--Pat Duggins

Alabama head coach Nick Saban will have to wait until next season to try to tie the national championship record of the legendary Bear Bryant. The Crimson Tide lost the College Football Playoff Championship to Clemson in a game that came down to some critical mistakes by Alabama and a last minute score by the Tigers. APR’s Pat Duggins was at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa and files this reports…

North Alabama has a huge new structure on its landscape.

NASA says construction work is finished in Huntsville on a 221-foot-tall, twin-tower stand that will be used to test hardware for the space agency's new rocket.

 The massive structure is located at Marshall Space Flight Center, where engineers are installing equipment needed to test the largest fuel tank that will be part of the Space Launch System rocket.

Sessions
AP

The confirmation hearing for Senator Jeff Sessions is set to begin this week.

The Alabama senator has been nominated for the U.S. Attorney General post. Sessions’ nomination has drawn criticism from groups like the NAACP because of comments he made regarding the Ku Klux Klan and his prosecution of three activists accused of voter fraud in Perry County, Alabama. The son of the defendants in that case has come forward to endorse Sessions for Attorney General.

The Alabama state legislature reconvenes next month, and one bill that has been pre-filed would clamp down on public restrooms in Alabama.

The bill bears several similarities to the so-called “Bathroom Bill”, HB2, that passed in North Carolina last March, requiring individuals to use restrooms and changing facilities corresponding with their biological sex.

CAE training center
Jay Hare / Dothan Eagle

Construction is complete on a new Army flight training facility at the Dothan Regional Airport in southeast Alabama.

The Dothan Eagle reports the Army's new fixed-wing training contractor, CAE USA, recently finished construction on a 75,000 square foot training facility. CAE USA President and General Manager Ray Duquette says completing the facility ahead of schedule and less than nine months after groundbreaking is a major milestone, and they will soon welcome their first class of Army students.

Amtrak passengers between New Orleans and Atlanta will be affected by routine maintenance on the tracks next week, and will be put on buses instead.

Oakley Originals [Flickr]

Some pets can handle wintry conditions better than others, but even pets that stay outdoors most of the time need shelter, a place where they can curl up and be protected from low temperatures, wind, and rain, snow and sleet.

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The University of Alabama reports the Crimson Tide arrived in Tampa at noon today for Monday's championship game against Clemson. The Tigers own flight landed hours later. Some college football fans may not have as smooth a trip. Forecasters are saying travel could be a problem through Saturday, and some flights already have been canceled because of the weather. The game is Monday night. Elsewhere, state government offices in Montgomery and northward closed early Friday because of potential travel problems.

Today’s winter storm warning has already closed schools and governmental offices in Alabama, as well as the southeastern U.S. Forecasters are concerned how freezing temperatures after the snow falls could mean ice on the roads that southern drivers aren’t used to handling. What’s worse, snowy condition could mean delayed package deliveries. Shipping giant FedEx says delays are possible for parcels delivered across the country Friday due to winter weather that has swept through its home base in Memphis.

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