Pat Duggins

News Director

Pat Duggins is news director for Alabama Public Radio.  If his name or voice is familiar, it could be his twenty five years covering the U.S. space program, including fourteen years on NPR.  Pat’s NASA experience began with the explosion of Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986, and includes 103 missions.  Many NPR listeners recall Pat’s commentary during Weekend Edition Saturday on February 1, 2003 when Shuttle Columbia broke apart and burned up during re-entry.  His expertise was utilized during three hours of live and unscripted coverage with NPR’s Scott Simon.  Pat later wrote two books about NASA, Final Countdown: NASA and the End of the Space Shuttle Program and Trailblazing Mars, both of which have been released as audio books.  Pat has also lectured about the future of the space program at Harvard, and writes about international space efforts for "Modern Weekly" magazine in Shanghai, China.

Duggins experience goes beyond NASA.  He led the APR news team through the tornadoes of 2011.  Along with dawn to dusk rescue and recovery updates, the news crew also provided national and international coverage for the BBC in London, MSNBC, CBC in Canada, and Australia Broadcasting in Sydney and Melbourne.  Duggins’ efforts, and that of the APR news team, were twice recognized with National Sigma Delta Chi awards from the Society of Professional Journalists. The Radio Television Digital News Association also honored Pat and the team with a national Edward R. Murrow Award for overall excellence. The Alabama Associated Press also recognized APR as the "Most Outstanding News Organization" in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015. And, Duggins' news series on the long-term impact of the Gulf oil spill won a national PRNDI award for best series from the Public Radio News Directors' Association, and a regional Murrow. His documentary "Civil Rights Radio," on the 1963 "children's march" in Birmingham was honored with the international "Silver Radio Award" from the New York Festivals radio competition, and with a "Gabriel Award" from the Catholic Church. 

Pat’s work isn’t limited to radio, with regular appearances on TV.  He also conducts interview/profile segments for "Alabama, Inc." a new University of Alabama TV series on business on airs statewide on Alabama Public Television. Pat also co-hosted “Your Vote Counts,” a program featuring college-age voters who critiqued the final debate between Robert Bentley and Ron Sparks in the 2011 race for Alabama Governor. 

Since his arrival at APR, Pat and the team have won more than sixty awards for excellence in journalism, including a second national Sigma Delta Chi award and the international Gabriel award. Duggins is also the recipient of a Suncoast Regional Emmy.

Ways to Connect

The University of West Alabama takes a big step forward toward opening its own charter school today, amid some concerns that the school may siphon state funding from existing schools in the area.

Pre-registration begins today for Sumter County students from Kindergarten to eighth grade who are interested in attending the new University Charter School.

Members of the Alabama Public Charter School Commission met with school officials in Livingston last month to sign the charter for the new facility, which will teach science, math, technology, and art.

It was a weekend of denials following reports in the Washington Post about Roy Moore. The paper quotes four women from Alabama who say the Republican candidate pursued them sexually when they were teenagers. One of these women was just fourteen years old at the time and Moore was thirty two. Supporters of the twice-removed Alabama Chief Justice are lining up behind while GOP leaders in Washington are keeping their distance. Other observers are watching something else in Moore’s race against Democrat Doug Jones for Alabama’s junior U.S. Senate seat.

President Donald Trump is deflecting questions about whether Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore should drop out due to sexual misconduct allegations against him. Trump, who has been traveling in Asia, says he hasn't had time to see television news coverage about Moore because he's usually too busy reading documents. The story has produced a wave of concern among anxious GOP officials in Washington but little more than a collective shrug from many Republicans in Alabama. The state is holding a special election on December twelfth to fill the junior U.S.

The Majority leader of the U.S. Senate says Roy Moore should drop out of the race for Alabama's junior U.S. Senate seat if reports in the Washington Post are true. The newspaper reports Moore had sexual contact with a fourteen year old, when he was thirty two years old. The woman, Leigh Corfman, told the Post that Moore touched her intimately and guided her hand to do the same to him. Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell says if the allegations are true, then Moore should leave the race. The twice-removed Alabama Chief Justice denies the reports, blaming the news on politics.

The two men campaigning to be Alabama’s junior U.S. Senator have received invitation to a debate. WHNT-TV in Huntsville wants Democrat Doug Jones and Republican Roy Moore to face off ahead of the December twelfth general election. Jones is accusing Moore of avoiding a public discussion of his record. Alabama’s suspended chief justice backed down from his call for a religious litmus test for Congress. The second highest ranking Republican in the Senate disagreed with Moore’s stance and candidate backed down.

APR

“I hurt so bad, and I just stayed in bed like, for years I stayed in bed. I couldn’t get out of bed. I couldn’t wait on myself.”

We’re sitting at the dining table with Fay. She asked us not to use her real name. During our visit, one of her favorite songs plays in the background on an old portable CD player. Fay is seventy two and following her first ever mammogram in the year 2000, she found she had breast cancer.

“And then they told me I had the worst kind," says Faye. "And, I said ‘cancer? What is the worst kind? It’s bad no matter you look at it.”

A federal judge is dealing a double blow to anti-abortion lawmakers in Alabama. Judge Myron Thompson is striking down two restrictions to women seeking abortions in the state. One is a limit to how close abortion clinics can be to public schools. The other is a ban on a procedure to terminate pregnancies in the third trimester. The double ruling is a blow to abortion opponents who are criticized for enacting laws to chip away at the Roe V. Wade decision legalizing a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy.

KUT

Today is the deadline for contractors to finish prototypes for President Trump’s so called border wall, and an Alabama company is among them. The Caddell construction company in Montgomery has two designs for the wall to be built along the U.S. border with Mexico. One has a thick base and a concrete upper wall. The other design has a see through top half and a solid bottom half. Competing designs from Texas, Pennsylvania, and Arizona are in the mix for the job. A private company will begin testing the prototypes in November.

The Interior Department is gearing up for what’s called the biggest oil and gas lease sale ever held in the United States. The seventy seven million acres sits off the gulf coast of Alabama, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Florida. The sale is set for next March and includes all available unleased areas on the Gulf's Outer Continental Shelf. The proposal surpasses a lease sale conducted last year by about a million acres.

The state of Alabama will give prosecutors 674 names of voters who crossed party lines during the September GOP primary for the U.S. Senate. Those people, who voted in the Democratic primary and later in the Republican primary, are in apparent violation of the state's new crossover voting ban. Secretary of State John Merrill says he plans to send the names to the attorney general and district attorneys after local election officials check the list for errors. The move signals a hardline approach to the new state law — used for the first time in the U.S.

APR

During today's University of Alabama homecoming, members of the 1992 championship football team will be recognized for the 25th anniversary of their victory over Miami. Not every reunion of the 92' team was to bask in past gridiron glory. Click here for this APR story from 2012. Pat D.

Not every lesson on the football field involves passing or blocking.

William Bell is out and Randall Woodfin is in as Mayor of Birmingham. Voters in the Birmingham mayor's race elected the challenger over incumbent Bell by a wide margin. Al.com reports Woodfin will be the youngest Birmingham mayor in the city's modern history. Woodfin is the youngest mayor since David Fox took office in 1893. News organizations report that Woodfin got almost sixty percent of the votes over Bell's forty percent, and that Bell conceded the race around 10 p.m. last night. Bell had served as mayor since 2010.

Former Vice President Joe Biden was in Birmingham to stump for Democrat Doug Jones for the U.S. Senate. APR's Pat Duggins reports the campaign is also welcoming news from Montgomery along with support from Biden…

All year long on Alabama Public Radio, we’ve been looking at rural healthcare. Advocates of rural healthcare in Alabama say a critical element is how to pay for treatment. Today’s failed effort by Republican Senators to repeal the Affordable Care Act only serves to punctuate these concerns. Alabamians already face the fourth highest health insurance rates in the nation and rural hospitals here receive among the lowest reimbursements from Medicare. APR’s Pat Duggins has more on what this means for rural healthcare providers, and the people who need that help…

NCAA

An assistant basketball coach at Auburn is among ten people arrested by the FBI on federal corruption charges. Auburn’s Chuck Person was taken into custody along with coaches from Arizona, the University of Southern California, and Oklahoma State. The FBI says they were caught taking thousands of dollars in bribes to steer NBA-destined college stars toward certain sports agents and financial advisers. They are in federal custody and expected to make court appearances sometime today.

Former White House advisor Steve Bannon is heading to Alabama to campaign for former State Chief Justice Roy Moore ahead of Tuesday’s GOP runoff election. Bannon will speak Monday at a Moore which will also feature “Duck Dynasty” personality Phil Robertson. Moore is facing current U.S. Senator Luther Strange who held a rally on Friday headlined by President Trump. Both candidates are embroiled in controversies ahead of Tuesday’s vote.

President Donald Trump stumped for Luther Strange, despite controversies that dog both candidates in the GOP runoff race for Alabama’s junior U.S. Senate seat. The President declared Strange a "swamp" fighter without close ties to GOP leaders. The runoff remains right between Strange and suspended Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore. Prosecutors claim Strange’s fundraising chair has ties to a non-profit accused of bribing a former member of the Alabama State House. Moore has his own legal worries as well.

Former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore may be in hot water with the IRS just days before the GOP runoff election for U.S. Senate. Moore is in a dead heat with sitting U.S. Senator Luther Strange. Now, the Washington-based Campaign Legal Center is filing a formal complaint with the IRS claiming Roy Moore’s Foundation for Moral Law has violated the law regarding charities and political action. Brendan Fischer is with the Campaign Legal Center. He says for several months, the foundation has used its Facebook page and newsletter to promote Moore’s candidacy for U.S. Senate.

President Trump and former Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin aren’t the only big names to campaign in Alabama’s upcoming vote for the U.S. Senate. Former Vice President Joe Biden is coming to support Democrat Doug Jones. Mr. Biden will headline a campaign rally in Birmingham on October 3rd. The former Vice President says Jones is a proven leader in which we can place our trust. Jones will face either Strange or Moore in the December twelfth special election for U.S. Senate. The seat previously belonged to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Jones is a lawyer and former U.S.

Former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin will campaign for Roy Moore in Alabama on Thursday. This visit comes one day before President Trump holds a support rally for Moore’s GOP opponent Luther Strange in Huntsville. Palin’s rally will take place in Montgomery after Moore and Strange face off in their first, and only, debate before next Tuesday’s runoff. Former Trump strategist Sebastian Gorka will also appear. Strange and Moore, both Republicans, are vying for Attorney General Jeff Sessions' former U.S. Senate seat.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is launching an advertising push on behalf of Luther Strange in Alabama's heated U.S. Senate runoff. The effort includes TV ads supporting Strange as well as mail fliers featuring an endorsement from Alabama Senator Richard Shelby.

Luther Strange and Roy Moore are exchanging jabs following a cancelled debate ahead of the GOP runoff for Jeff Sessions U.S. Senate seat. The two contenders have tentatively agreed to face off on stage later this month. The two traded accusations after Moore withdrew from a debate hosted by the Alabama Policy Institute, a conservative think tank. Moore claims he withdrew because API's president also serves as treasurer of the PAC backing Strange. The Strange campaign then accused Moore of ducking a debate.

The nonprofit Bipartisan Policy Center is teaming up with four U.S. Senators to unveil a detailed economic initiative for Appalachia. The goal is to help reverse struggles with poverty and isolation in the region. Appalachia spans thirteen states including Alabama, and has more than twenty five million people The senators are Democrats Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Mark Warner of Virginia and Republicans David Perdue of Georgia and Thom Tillis of North Carolina.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, says the White House is approving federal emergency aid for the state of Alabama ahead of the arrival of Irma. These dollars will supplement state, tribal, and local response efforts due to the emergency storm conditions in the area starting from last Friday. Specifically, FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency. Emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance, will be provided at 75 percent federal funding.

The city of Greenville, south of Montgomery, is buying its local hospital from a Tennessee company. Tennessee based Quorum Health says it signed a definitive agreement to sell the seventy two bed L.V. Stabler Memorial Hospital to a city health care authority. No price was disclosed. The sale is supposed to be finished before year's end. The company, spun off by Community Health Systems, has heavy debt and is losing money. The Alabama Public Radio news team has spent the year investigating rural health in the state.

The Alabama Department of Insurance is hitting Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama with an eight million dollar penalty. The insurer is being fined for charging rates higher or lower than those approved by the state. The unauthorized rates were imposed between 2005 and 2013 and resulted in thirty three million dollars in over charges and one hundred and seven million in undercharges. Al.com reports the charges occurred in about 1,400 plans issued to small group employers and some insurance plans for former employees.

The National Weather Service put counties on the eastern side of Alabama under a tropical storm warning ahead of Irma. Communities in east Alabama, including Huntsville and Guntersville, could see tropical storm force winds with gusts up to seventy miles per hour. Governor Kay Ivey activated the Alabama National Guard and Alabama’s Emergency Response Center ahead of the storm. Georgia spent the day under a Hurricane warning after State troopers turned Interstate 16 into a one-way escape route for a few hours Saturday as evacuees packed cars and fled the Georgia coast ahead Irma.

All year long, the Alabama Public Radio news team has been investigating rural healthcare in the state. Studies often list Alabama as having the worst infant mortality rate in the nation. One factor is the lack of maternity units in rural hospitals in Alabama. This can lead to premature births or delayed care, which are often blamed for early infant death. APR’s Pat Duggins has more on a hospital business model that could help, but possible changes to the Affordable Care Act might make matters worse…

UAB Campus
UAB

Researchers at UAB are seeking approval from the Food and Drug Administration regarding a new potential treatment for cancer.

Scientists say they’ve developed a way to genetically modify a cancer fighting immune system cell so that it survives chemotherapy. Project Director Dr. Lawrence Lamb says the so called Gamma Delta T-cells recognize cancer cells because of signals of stress the infected cells give off in the patient.

Huntsville may benefit from the White House directive to revamp the nation’s intercontinental ballistic missile arsenal. The Air Force says it has awarded contracts to Boeing and Northrop Grumman for work that could lead to replacement of the nation's intercontinental ballistic missiles. Chicago-based Boeing has built long-range missiles for the Defense Department since Minuteman I in the 1960s. It’s missile-replacement effort will be done in Huntsville, Alabama as well as Utah, Ohio; and other locations. The contracts are part of a planned overhaul of the U.S.

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