The Associated Press

Center for Public Integrity

A national report says Alabama ranks 11th among the states in spending on TV ads for the 2104 state campaigns.

The report by the nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity found that candidates for state level offices in Alabama had spent $6.9 million on TV ads that had aired through Sept. 8.

Nearly half of that came in legislative races. Many larger states didn't come close to that level of spending in legislative races. One of the study's authors says low TV ad rates in Alabama make the advertising available in lower-level races.

A deputy state attorney general is asking for the appointment of an independent investigation into accusations that he interfered with a public corruption investigation.

Deputy Attorney General Sonny Reagan sent a letter Monday to his boss, Attorney General Luther Strange, saying he did nothing wrong.

Reagan asked for Strange or Gov. Robert Bentley to appoint an independent person to look into the accusations against him as well as a misconduct complaint Reagan previously filed against Matt Hart, who's a key prosecutor in the corruption probe.

BP May get an Oil Spill settlement refund

Sep 24, 2014

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The federal judge for Gulf of Mexico oil spill cases will hear arguments about whether BP PLC should get back hundreds of millions of dollars from businesses that got settlement payments between August 2012 and October 2013. The oil company says that's only fair because Judge Carl Barbier found that the formula used then was incorrect and ordered a change. Attorneys for plaintiffs say BP is trying to get out of its obligations. They say the release plaintiffs sign to get a settlement payment is a binding agreement for both sides.

Veterans Administration officials say services at the troubled central Alabama VA health care facilities are improving, with more staff and shorter waits for new patients to get an appointment.

The VA's Southeast director, Charles Sepich, said the goal is to rebuild veterans' trust.

Alabama Gas Company

A judge has lifted his ban that temporarily blocked the Montgomery Advertiser from publishing information from Alabama Gas Corp. documents.

Jefferson County Circuit Judge Robert Vance issued an order Tuesday dissolving his order that prohibited the newspaper from using information from a utility document about gas lines.

Alagasco sought the ban arguing that information in the document could present a national security threat, and the judge agreed initially.

Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes-Benz plans to add 200 production jobs at its operations in Tuscaloosa County.

Al.com reports the company says the move is spurred by customer demand for its vehicles. The new jobs come on top of an estimated 1,400 positions that had already been announced in recent years.

The state's worker training agency plans to post ads for the jobs on its website and in newspapers this fall and winter. The jobs are expected to be filled in 2015.

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Federal statistics show a record number of homeless students in Alabama public schools during the 2012-2013 school year. Al.com reports  that U.S. Department of Education data released Monday show there were 29,749 homeless students enrolled in Alabama preschools and K-12 schools that year. That's an increase of 68 percent over the previous year. The country as a whole reached a new record, but the increase in Alabama's number of homeless students outpaced the national increase of 8 percent.

Wikimedia Commons

The Moral Mondays movement has spread from North Carolina to Alabama.

Founder William Barber urged a crowd on the state Capitol steps Monday to push Alabama's Republican-controlled Legislature to adopt a moral agenda. He said that would include expanding Medicaid, repealing a law to require voters to show a photo ID at the polls, and making sure all citizens have access to justice.

Barber said the tea party has hijacked the Republican Party in Alabama and some of the current leadership should be called "extremists."

The University of Alabama System

University of Alabama trustees selected Karen Brooks to lead the board, making her the first woman to hold the role in 183 years.

The Tuscaloosa News reports that the board members approved Brooks as president pro tempore on Friday. She replaces Paul Bryant Jr., who served the three maximum terms allowed by the board's bylaws.

Brooks says she has huge shoes to fill.

The Associated Press

Gov. Robert Bentley says anyone with information that leads to a suspect's arrest and conviction in an eight-year-old girl's death will receive a $5,000 reward.

Hiawayi Robinson was reported missing Tuesday, and her body was found on Thursday.

Bentley says in a statement released Friday that he and his wife were heartbroken by Robinson's death. He says state law enforcement agencies have assisted police in the girl's hometown of Prichard, and 10 State Bureau of Investigation agents will remain until an arrest is made.

A deputy attorney general has been put on leave following accusations that he leaked information about an ongoing public corruption probe.

A prosecutor says that Deputy Attorney General Sonny Reagan was placed on administrative leave on Thursday by Attorney General Luther Strange.

Van Davis, the acting attorney general in the corruption probe, says Reagan for months had undisclosed communications with individuals affiliated with people indicted, or under investigation, by a Lee County grand jury. Davis says Reagan also took steps to obstruct the investigation.

Shelton State Community College

Alabama's unemployment rate has declined slightly.

Gov. Robert Bentley announced Friday the 6.9 percent measured in August was down from 7.0 percent in July. But the rate was higher than the 6.5 percent recorded a year ago and it was higher than the national figure of 6.1 percent.

Bentley says the August rate represents about 147,000 unemployed Alabamians. That is down about 1,300 from a month ago.

State Labor Commissioner Fitzgerald Washington says all but two counties saw declines in unemployment in August.

A judge is siding with Alabama Gas Corp. and blocking a newspaper from publishing information about the utility's safety plan for gas lines. Jefferson County Circuit Judge Robert Vance granted a request by Alagasco to temporarily prevent the Montgomery Advertiser from using information it says it received from the Alabama Public Service Commission. Vance issued an order Thursday saying he'll hold a hearing Monday on whether his order should stand. The newspaper says the ban is unconstitutional prior restraint. It says much of the information in the document already is available publicly.

CNN

A lawyer for an Alabama federal judge isn't saying whether the judge will step down over his arrest in a domestic violence case.

Attorney Barry Ragsdale declined comment Thursday on statements by Alabama's U.S. senators who are calling on U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller to resign.

Ragsdale says Fuller is still working through the complaint process initiated by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals following his arrest last month. That process could result in action including a reprimand or a court request for Fuller's resignation.

A lawyer for Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard is calling for an investigation into comments attributed to a state prosecutor.

An employee of the attorney general's office said prosecutor Matt Hart told him that he was going to take down Hubbard and dismantle former Gov. Bob Riley's political "machine." Sonny Reagan made the accusation in a July 22 internal memo included in court filings that were unsealed Wednesday.

Hubbard's lawyer said the comments are evidence of a political inquisition by the prosecutor leading a yearlong public corruption probe.

apr

Officials say non-resident students now outnumber Alabama residents at the University of Alabama.

Al.com reports that there are 17,830 Alabama residents enrolled this fall compared to 18,325 out-of-state, military and international students.

In the 2014 freshman class -- the largest in school history -- there are 2,474 Alabama residents and 4,382 out-of-state students (including military and international).

Out-of-state students tipped the numbers in their favor this year after a six-year trend of decreasing resident enrollment.

Alabama Congresswoman speaks out on Domestic Violence

Sep 16, 2014
Alexandriava.org

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - An Alabama congresswoman is speaking out about domestic abuse and says she's closely monitoring a case involving a federal judge from Montgomery. Republican U.S. Rep. Martha Roby issued a statement Tuesday saying the disciplinary process for U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller is ongoing and Congress has the power to impeach members of the judicial branch for misconduct. The 55-year-old judge was arrested Aug. 10 after a fight with his wife at an Atlanta hotel.

Rivers A. Langley / Wikimedia Commons

An Alabama Department of Corrections veteran says she's using her position as deputy commissioner of women's services to improve worker education and inmate safety in women's prisons.

The Montgomery Advertiser reports the state Department of Corrections appointed Wendy Williams to serve as a deputy commissioner in April. Williams oversees the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women, the Montgomery Women's Facility and Birmingham Work Release.

Federal officials have criticized Tutwiler and the state Department of Corrections for reports of sexual harassment and abuse.

renegadehealth.com

A campaign offering flu shots to University of Alabama students, faculty and staff begins on Monday.

College of Community Health Sciences Dean Dr. Richard Streiffer tells the Tuscaloosa News that the vaccine is the "first and most important" step to prevent the flu. Nurses will visit sites all over the campus during the next three months to provide the free shots, and no insurance is required. All students and employees need is their campus identification.

The vaccines also are available to children of UA employees.

educationnews.org

The Alabama Education Association board of directors met behind closed doors for four hours Friday to discuss concerns raised by its longtime leader.

Former AEA executive secretary Paul Hubbert, in a Tuesday letter to board members, said AEA was in crisis. Hubbert said he was concerned about the association's finances and also the management style of current executive secretary Henry Mabry.

AEA President Anita Gibson said board members had extensive discussions about the issues raised by Hubbert.

al.com

 VictoryLand casino is trying to break the attorney general's winning streak in a series of cases involving gambling machines seized in raids.

A four-day trial ended Friday involving the legality of 1,600 gambling machines the attorney general seized from VictoryLand in Macon County last year. Circuit Judge William Shashy will rule in a few weeks.

The outcome will determine whether VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor can reopen what was once Alabama's largest casino or whether the attorney general can destroy the machines.

Alabama Power / Wikipedia

  Alabama Power Co. is warning its customers to be on the lookout for a new type of scam.

The company says scammers are sending text messages warning that a payment is due immediately. The text message lists the name of a bill payment company and a reference number to use in paying the bill.

Alabama Power spokesman Ike Pigott says the reference number could belong to anyone and once the money is transferred it is almost impossible to trace.

Pigott says customers with questions about their accounts can call a 24-hour customer service number, 1-800-245-2244.

The Birmingham News file

Alabama has adopted a new combination of drugs for executions and is once again seeking to put inmates to death.

The attorney general's office is asking the Alabama Supreme Court to set execution dates for nine death row inmates. Lawyers said the Department of Corrections this week adopted a new three-drug protocol for executions.

Executions in Alabama had come to a halt after Alabama and other states ran out of a key drug used in executions.

Wikimedia Commons

The federal government says 12 health centers in Alabama will receive nearly $3.5 million in funding to help expand primary care services.

Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell announced Friday that the $3,468,448 comes under the Affordable Care Act.

The agency says the money will help the health centers hire an estimated 45 new staff members, stay open for longer hours and expand the care they provide. Some new services could include oral health, mental and behavioral health, pharmacy and vision services.

Alabama Education Association

The Alabama Education Association board of directors is set to meet Friday night in the wake of a letter from the retired leader of the group, who says the organization is now in.

Hubbert sent a letter this week to the AEA's board, saying the group is in danger of losing its strong membership and financial might that made it a formidable force in Alabama politics.

Hubbert led the AEA for more than 40 years before retiring in 2011 for health reasons.

educationnews.org

The retired leader of the Alabama Education Association says the teachers' organization that he built into a political powerhouse is now in crisis.

Paul Hubbert wrote a letter to the AEA board of directors, saying the organization is in danger of losing its strong membership and financial standing.

Hubbert said AEA has management, financial and organizational problems. Hubbert particularly criticized the organization's dwindling reserve funds and investment in high-risk stocks.

By Mike Disharoon / Wikimedia Commons

A federal appeals court has delayed Gov. Don Siegelman's case again.

In April, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court Appeals tentatively scheduled Siegelman's case for the week of July 28. Then the court moved it to the week of Oct. 13, and now records show it has been tentatively reset for the week of Dec. 8.

A federal jury in 2006 convicted Siegelman and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy on bribery and other charges. Prosecutors said Scrushy bribed Siegelman for a spot on a state regulatory board with donations to Siegelman's 1999 lottery campaign.

al.com

Alabama voters aren't likely to see debates between Alabama's two candidates for governor.

Representatives of Republican incumbent Robert Bentley and Democratic challenger Parker Griffith had been talking about scheduling debates, but those talks failed.

Bentley says he welcomed a spirited exchange, but Griffith was only interested in negative campaigning and name-calling.

Griffith says Bentley is unmanly and arrogant for not being willing to debate his policies.

blog.al.com

The head of Gov. Robert Bentley's security detail made $16,918 in August including overtime.

Al.com reports the August income pushed Wendell Ray Lewis' salary, including overtime, so far this fiscal year to $153,000. That's with one month to go in the fiscal year. Lewis' salary is almost $50,000 more than the head of the state Department of Public Safety made in the same period.

Al.com reports that during the last four years on Bentley's security detail, Lewis has made $563,000, or an average of nearly $141,000 per year.

istockphoto

Advocacy groups say Alabama prisons are giving inmates virtually unlimited access to razors, a practice that's leading to deaths and injuries inside the lockups.

The Southern Poverty Law Center and the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program asked a court Thursday to bar prisons from freely distributing razor blades to male inmates.

The groups are making the request on behalf of prisoners who've tried to kill themselves using the razors. They say razors are being distributed even after an inmate used one to kill himself at Limestone prison in 2011.

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