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

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.

Alabamians from the Tennessee Valley to the coast are getting ready to view Monday’s solar eclipse. The prime spot to see the sun completely blotted out by the Moon is north and east of Alabama along a line extending from Nashville, Tennessee to Columbia, South Carolina. But Alabama is expected to get about a ninety five percent eclipse over much of the state. Stores in northern Alabama are selling thousands of protective glasses to view the sun, and the University of Alabama in Huntsville has an eclipse-watching party.

The Southern Poverty Law Center is clashing with Secretary of State John Merrill over Alabama voters listed as “inactive.” The civil rights organization is asking the state to restore hundreds of thousands of people to active voter status ahead of a U.S. Senate runoff election in September and the General Election in December. The SPLC says there was widespread confusion in Election Day last Tuesday. The group believes large numbers of people were incorrectly moved to inactive voting status during an update of rolls.

All year long, the Alabama Public Radio news team has been investigating the state’s rural healthcare system. One issue is hospitals. Seven rural counties in Alabama don’t have one, and one more county may be added to that list by the end of the month. John Paul Jones hospital in Wilcox County says it will close after sixty years. Five other rural hospitals have closed since the year 2010. Eighty percent of those that are left are operating in the red, in part due to Medicare which pays less in rural Alabama than almost anywhere else in the nation.

APR

Advocates working to fix problems with rural health care say Alabama is ground zero nationally. Studies say Alabama has the highest infant mortality rate in the U.S. The state also leads the nation for diabetes. Alabama is also home to Gadsden which had the lowest life expectancy in the nation in 2016. Despite all this, rural hospitals in the state receive among the lowest reimbursements nationally from Medicare. That’s blamed for eighty percent of Alabama’s hospitals that are operating in the red.

President Trump is making his feelings known on Alabama’s Republican primary for the U.S. Senate. The Commander-in-chief is endorsing Luther Strange ahead of next week’s contentious GOP election. Trump’s support came in the form of a Tweet. Strange is in a tight race with former state chief justice Roy Moore and Congressman Mo Brooks, a member of the House Freedom Caucus. Republican contenders have openly tried to woo Trump voters in the state where he continues to enjoy heavy popularity. Civil Rights icon and Congressman John Lewis is endorsing Doug Jones in the Democratic primary race.

NASA is gathering stakeholders in the International Space Station to look at the future of the orbiting complex, and potential changes could impact the city of Huntsville.

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville controls science work that’s done aboard the football field-sized space station. That could soon mean working for or with private industry on the complex.

Alabama will be part of a new U.S. Justice Department initiative aimed at crimes related to opioid addiction. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is dispatching twelve federal prosecutors to focus on health care fraud and opioid scams. The northern district of Alabama will get one of the prosecutors as well as states like Florida, Tennessee, Nevada, Kentucky, and Maryland. Today’s DOJ announcement was a reversal of Obama-era policies that may send more people to prison and for much longer terms. Sessions is making aggressive prosecutions of drug crimes a top priority.

Alabama U.S. Senator Luther Strange is far outspending his challengers in the Republican primary to fill  Jeff Sessions' old Senate seat. Session left Congress' upper chamber to be U.S. Attorney General. Fundraising reports show Strange raised nearly $3 million dollars so far in the Senate race. Strange has also benefited from high-dollar spending on his behalf by a super political action committee with ties to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The money has allowed Strange to dominate airwaves in the GOP battle to replace Sessions.

Descendants of African-American men in the infamous Tuskegee Syphilis study want what’s left in a $9 million dollar legal settlement. The group sent a letter to U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson asking him to withhold a decision on the money until they have time to hire a lawyer and file documents in the long-running, class-action lawsuit over the study. Supporters of the Tuskegee descendants say the money could help fund college scholarships the group provides, and members would like to develop a memorial garden dedicated to the men.

The city of Huntsville is rolling out the red carpet for what it hopes will be a new employer. The city council unanimously approved a two-part deal to bring the Blue Origin rocket engine factory to town. If built, the facility could bring with it four hundred high paying positions. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns Blue Origin. His two hundred million dollar factory could reduce America’s reliance on Russian rocket engines to blast cargo into space. Rocket builder United Launch Alliance would have to ink a deal with Blue Origin for the Huntsville factory to become a reality.

A lot of outdoor activities are scheduled for Independence Day today. The temperatures are also creeping into the nineties with lots of humidity. So, health officials say it’s important to be aware of the risk of heat illness. One of the most common conditions is heat exhaustion. That’s when you get overheated and lose electrolytes through sweating. If it goes untreated, heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke, which can be fatal. Dr. Ed Geno teaches family medicine at the University of Alabama. He says people need to know what to look out when it comes to heat stroke…

A new survey shows optimism is high among Alabama business leaders. The latest Alabama Business Confidence Index shows level of sixty one point six percent. That's well above the five-year average for the third straight quarter. The report is compiled from a survey on expectations for the coming quarter. Those numbers are compared to the current quarter. The index looks at industry sales, profits, hiring, capital expenditures, plus expectations for Alabama’s economy and the nation’s. The survey is conducted by the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Alabama.

If your Fourth of July plans include a visit to Orange Beach, it’ll cost less to get there. The company that operates the Beach Express Toll bridge is lowering its prices for the summer. Toll rates for visitors to Orange Beach are dropping by seventy five cents. The toll is going from three dollars and fifty cents to two dollars and seventy five cents until after Labor Day. Orange Beach residents will see their tolls drop by a twenty five cents, down from a dollar twenty five to just a dollar. The drop is meant to help ease congestion on Alabama highway fifty nine.

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill says his office will not share voter data with a Presidential commission on elections integrity. Both Republican and Democratic States are refusing to comply with the request for voter names, social security information, and voting history. The Commission grew out of questions from the Trump administration after the GOP candidate won the White House, while losing the popular vote to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. According to a Washington Post analysis, Alabama joins one third of U.S.

Thousands of Alabamians may see a difference in their credit scores starting today. Not because their finances have changed--but, rather how their scores are added up. The three major credit reporting companies, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion will change which records they use. These companies will now only use public records with someone’s name, address, social security number, and date of birth. That means tax liens and civil judgments may be deleted since many of these legal actions lack all this information.

APR news director Pat Duggins represented the news team at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. as APR was presented with its 3rd national Sigma Delta Chi award from the Society of Professional Journalists. This prestigious honor is for APR's documentary "...and justice for all." Click on the "Youtube" link at the bottom of this page.

Today is the deadline for business owners in fifteen Alabama counties to get drought relief from Washington.

The U.S. Small Business Administration is taking applications for loans of up to two million dollars at four percent interest. The money would go to business owners who can prove they lost income because of the extreme drought conditions last year.

SBA spokesman Jay McKenna says these loans aren’t for ranchers or farmers, who can get help from other federal agencies.

One of two groups that sued over Alabama's legislative districts says it accepts the state's new map, although the other group opposes the new districts. The Alabama Democratic Conference notified a three-judge panel this week that the map approved by Alabama legislators complies with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling. The Democratic group and the Legislative Black Caucus had filed a lawsuit that brought a redistricting order. They argue African-American voters were "stacked and packed" into minority districts to limit their ability to influence elections elsewhere.

Former Alabama Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb is running for governor in 2018. Cobb made the announcement Wednesday morning. She told The Associated Press in an interview that "it's time to have a governor who cares more about people than party." She says people in the state have a yearning for courageous leadership and "it's time for honesty in every branch of our government." Cobb, who resigned from the Supreme Court in 2011, was one of the last Democrats to win statewide election in Alabama.

Alabama might allow more former felons to vote in upcoming elections. The change may come after the State approved a list of what crimes will cause someone to lose their voting rights. The State House and Senate passed legislation last month that defines a crime of "moral turpitude" as one that will cause someone to lose their voting rights. Governor Kay Ivey signed the bill aimed at ending confusion over who can, and can't vote, because of prior convictions.

Robert Melson
ADOC

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals halted this week’s scheduled execution of convicted killer Robert Bryant Melson. His defense team successfully argued against Alabama’s plans to use a sedative which will not render their client unconscious before other drugs stop his lungs and heart. A three-judge panel granted the emergency stay requested by Robert Bryant Melson. He was scheduled to be executed this Thursday for killing three Gadsden restaurant employees during a 1994 robbery.

Churches in the Selma area may soon be on the front lines to combat gang violence. District Attorney Michael Jackson is launching a program he calls "Adopt-a-Gang Member." He says the idea is to help gang members feel more worthwhile by getting them involved in churches. Jackson held a summit in Selma recently with about 50 pastors to explain the program.

Three people are back on dry land after a water rescue twelve miles south of Dauphin Island. The Coast Guard and Alabama Department of Marine Resources received a report shortly before 7:30 a.m. on Friday about a collision between a catamaran with four people aboard and a pleasure craft with three people. The pleasure craft capsized and its three passengers were thrown into the water. The Alabama marine resources boat crew recovered the three survivors and transported them to emergency medical services at Billy Goat Hole.

It looks like the 2017 legislative session ended with big news for expectant mothers in Alabama. After thirteen years of lobbying, lawmakers voted to let midwives can come out of the shadows and practice legally in the state. APR’s Pat Duggins has more as midwives wait for Governor Kay Ivey’s signature to make it all official…

Residents of Sumter County with questions about a proposed charter school can voice their questions tonight.

The Alabama Department of Education is coordinating a public hearing on the proposed new school to be held in Livingston. The University of West Alabama is hoping to open a charter school catering to children from pre-kindergarten through fifth grade. The proposed school would teach science, math, technology, and art.

The Alabama House of Representatives approved a plan gto shorten death penalty appeals. Representatives voted seventy four to twenty six in favor of a bill that would pattern Alabama's process after the one used in Texas. It requires inmates to raise claims such as ineffective counsel at the same time as appeals claiming trial errors. Currently, inmates appeal trial errors first and then raise other issues. Senator Cam Ward is sponsoring the measure. He says it should drop the appeals time from about eighteen years to nine.

Law officers and school officials will be meeting in Hoover today to try to make schools safer.

The non-profit National Association of School Resource Officers is holding its first-ever national leadership summit. The conference is meant to teach lawmen and educators how to pick the best police officers to work on school campuses. NASRO says veteran officers with no disciplinary problems tend to be the best candidates.

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