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 Alabama Department of Public Health is offering help for people who want to quit smoking in the New Year. The agency has a telephone service called the Alabama Tobacco Quitline that operates daily, and help is also available through the website quitnowalabama.com. The phone number is 1-800-QUIT-NOW. The Quitline offers coaching and an eight-week supply of nicotine replacement therapy patches, and all services are free for people who are eligible.

Some of Alabama's largest cities are getting federal help for projects that involve upgrading their train stations or developing new ones. Al.com reports that Birmingham, Mobile, Anniston and Tuscaloosa are each getting a share of $728,957 in grants for Alabama. Also receiving grants are Baton Rouge, Gonzales and St. John Parish in Louisiana, and Biloxi, Gulfport and Pascagoula in Mississippi. All told, the three states are getting $2.5 million in federal money for train station-related projects.

SELMA

MONDAY...MOSTLY CLOUDY. HIGHS IN THE MID 70S.

MONDAY NIGHT...MOSTLY CLOUDY WITH A 20 PERCENT CHANCE OF RAIN SHOWERS. LOWS IN THE UPPER 50S.

TUESDAY...CLOUDY WITH A 30 PERCENT CHANCE OF RAIN SHOWERS. HIGHS IN THE LOWER 70S.

Tuscaloosa

MONDAY...MOSTLY CLOUDY WITH A 20 PERCENT CHANCE OF RAIN SHOWERS. HIGHS IN THE LOWER 70S.

MONDAY NIGHT...CLOUDY WITH A 50 PERCENT CHANCE OF RAIN SHOWERS. LOWS IN THE UPPER 50S.

TUESDAY...CLOUDY WITH A 40 PERCENT CHANCE OF RAIN SHOWERS. HIGHS IN THE MID 60S.

Mobile

Pat Duggins

SELMA

CHRISTMAS DAY...PARTLY CLOUDY. HIGHS IN THE UPPER 70S.

SUNDAY NIGHT...MOSTLY CLOUDY. LOWS IN THE UPPER 50S.

MONDAY...MOSTLY CLOUDY. HIGHS IN THE MID 70S.

Tuscaloosa

CHRISTMAS DAY...PARTLY CLOUDY. HIGHS IN THE MID 70S.

SUNDAY NIGHT...MOSTLY CLOUDY. LOWS IN THE UPPER 50S.

MONDAY...MOSTLY CLOUDY WITH A 20 PERCENT CHANCE OF RAIN SHOWERS. HIGHS IN THE LOWER 70S.

Mobile

CHRISTMAS DAY...MOSTLY SUNNY. AREAS OF FOG IN THE MORNING. HIGHS IN THE LOWER 70S.

A group in the south Alabama city of Monroeville hopes to develop new attractions and draw more tourists to the hometown of the late "To Kill a Mockingbird" author Harper Lee. One project is a museum in the 1909 bank building that housed the office of Lee's father A.C. Lee. He served as the model for attorney Atticus Finch in "Mockingbird" and Lee's 2015 book "Go Set a Watchman." Other attractions could be added later, including reproductions of places mentioned in the books.

The Alabama Supreme Court has reversed a lower court and says the state can seize more than 800 electronic bingo machines from a west Alabama gambling hall. The unanimous decision released Friday involves the Greenetrack gambling facility, located in Greene County southwest of Birmingham. The justices say that eight hundred and twenty five machines confiscated from Greenetrack amount to illegal slot machines under state law. The justices rejected arguments that the machines are legal under laws that regulate bingo games.

Alabama officials say a tree cut down in a city park and used as a prop at President-elect Donald Trump's recent rally will be used to build cat scratching posts and bird houses. Colby Cooper of the Mobile mayor's office apologized for his role in having the large cedar tree cut down and decorated for Christmas. Cooper said he was "overzealous" in trying to meet expectations of Trump's team for the president-elect's "thank you" rally one week ago. City officials says Thursday the tree branches will be given to Girl Scouts so they can create cat scratching posts for animal shelters.

Priority Mail
USPS

If your neighborhood postal truck looks fuller than usual today, there’s a good reason. 

The U.S. Postal Service says today will be the busiest delivery day of the year around the country as well as here in Alabama. An estimated three quarters of a billion packages will find their way to mailboxes and doorsteps over the holiday season.

Debra Fetterly is the U.S. Postal Service’s regional spokeswoman in Alabama. She says this extra holiday business means a twelve percent increase over holiday parcel deliveries last year.

Alabama's unemployment rate rose slightly last month. The state says the number of Alabamians without work jumped to 5.9 percent in November. That's up from 5.7 percent in October. Alabama's jobless rate is still better than it was a year ago, but the state still trails the nation. The U.S. unemployment rate was 4.6 percent in November. The state says there are positive signs about Alabama’s economy with more workers on the job than at any other time in 2016. Shelby County has the best jobless rate at Shelby County at four point one percent.

The city of Mobile is the next stop for Donald Trump’s victory lap tour. The President elect will address supporters at Ladd-Peebles Stadium tomorrow at 3 pm. The Alabama visit is a departure for Trump, who’s spent most of his post-election visits in swing states. His last campaign rally in Mobile attracted an estimated twenty thousand people, which was seen as a symbolic turning point for Trump. One of his early cabinet picks was Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions. He was turned down for a federal judgeship in 1986 over allegations of making racist remarks.

An Alabama man is just hours away from execution by lethal injection. Ronald Bert Smith was sentenced to die for killing a convenience store clerk in 1994. It would be the first execution in the state since 2013. But it’s how a judge arrived at the death penalty in this case that has civil rights groups crying foul…

Ronald Smith’s jury recommended life in prison. The judge overturned that suggestion and imposed the death penalty. Alabama is the only state where a judge is empowered to do that. The APR news team reported on this policy during our series on justice reform.

Pat Duggins

The Alabama Crimson Tide became the SEC College Football Champions, for the third year in a row, by defeating the Florida Gators 54 to 16 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Florida was the underdog going into the game, but the Gator struck first by scoring a touchdown on their very first drive. That didn’t sit well with game MVP Reuben Foster of Alabama.

“We don’t like that," says Foster, "We don’t like giving points, we don’t like giving up first downs. We hate that. So, we had to overcome that and step up.”

Alabama Public Radio News Director Pat Duggins covered the Crimson Tide's victory in the 25th SEC Championship at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Prior to kickoff, Duggins shot this video from the sidelines during warm-ups for the Tide,.

While President-Elect Donald Trump assembles his White House team, Alabama Republicans have a laundry list of things they want from the new administration. The state gave the GOP nominee its nine electoral votes last week and Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions is part of Trump’s inner circle. State GOP Chair Terry Lathan says Republican voters in Alabama have specific goals in mind once Trump takes office in January…

Veterans’ advocates are making sure President-Elect Trump has the best interests of the nation’s veterans in mind as he prepares to take office. The group Disabled American Veterans has a list of priorities the next commander-in-chief needs to address during his administration. One key provision is assuring vets have access to quality and timely health care – something that’s received a lot of scrutiny recently here in Alabama. Joy Ilem is the Legislative Director for Disabled American Veterans.

Could Alabama be looking for a new U.S. Senator? President Elect Donald Trump acknowledged Alabama Republican Jeff Sessions during his victory speech in New York City. There’s already speculation Sessions could be the Defense Secretary in the new administration or even a member of the U.S. Supreme Court. Terry Lathan chairs the Alabama Republican party. She says there are a number of things Senator Sessions is qualified to do…

The American people have a good idea of what Donald Trump is like on the campaign trail. But, what he’ll do as Commander-In-Chief appears less certain. Mr. Trump’s campaign drew large support from groups who feel economically disadvantaged by globalization. Speculation on a Trump administration includes Dr. Allen Linken. He’s an assistant professor of political science at the University of Alabama. Linken says one of Mr. Trump’s first actions will likely be regarding the media.

APR--Pat Duggins

Alabama Quarterback Jalen Hurts broke loose for a twenty one yard touchdown run to break a scoreless tie early in the fourth quarter against LSU. Number one ranked Alabama's defense thoroughly stifled Leonard Fournette and the Tigers in a 10-0 victory in Baton Rogue. Freshman Hurts established himself as one of the most dynamic, explosive players in college football, was the game's leading rusher with one hundred and fourteen yards on twenty 20 carries.

The GulfQuest Maritime Museum is closing to the public on Monday. The attraction is being shuttered a little over a year after celebrating its opening in Mobile. The Mayor's Office says the city has reached a deal to take on the museum's financial woes after attendance figures were far lower than expected. Going forward, GulfQuest will only open on a limited basis, specifically for private and special events like field trips, including those already scheduled. The general public will not be able to purchase a ticket to the museum after Sunday.

No  more "A's," or "F's," for Alabama schools, at least for now. The Alabama Board of Education is postponing plans to assign schools letter grades. Board members tabled a vote on rules pertaining to the proposed new report cards. The vote came after several board members raised skepticism over the plans and suggested additional conversations with lawmakers and new education Superintendent Michael Sentance.  Alabama lawmakers in 2012 approved legislation requiring the development of the A-F report cards. The first report cards were scheduled for December.

Two hundred and seventy-eight new lawyers will join the Alabama Bar Association tomorrow morning. The new attorneys will be sworn in at the Bar’s fall admission ceremony. The Young Lawyer’s Section of the Bar will host the event. The ceremony will be a ceremonial session of the State Supreme Court. Acting Chief Justice Lyn Stewart will administer the oath to the new members. Justin Aday is the Director of Admissions for the Alabama State Bar. He says the ceremony is more sentimental than official.

Moody's Investor Services has raised its outlook on Mobile from negative to stable. It's a move that Mayor Sandy Stimpson says will help ongoing efforts to put the city on a more solid financial footing. Mobile remains at an Aa2 credit rating, but Stimpson says the change in outlook will have real benefits. The Mayor says the city is getting ready to go back into the market to refinance some existing debt and the timing of the Moody report was perfect.

apr

Wildfires are burning across Alabama as drought conditions worsen. Forecasters say there isn't enough rain in the forecast to lessen the threat anytime soon. The Alabama Forestry Commission reported that about 70 blazes burned around 730 acres of land on Sunday alone. The situation is worse in north Alabama, where drought conditions are most severe. The state issued a fire danger warning for 46 of Alabama's 67 counties last week, and officials said it will continue until rain returns to the state.

Alabama’s prison system has been in the news a lot this year, and not for good reasons. Inmate riots, allegations of mismanagement and corruption, and a failed prison building plan in the state legislature have pointed out plenty of problems. The Alabama Public Radio news team has spent the past several months examining what happens as people go into the state’s prison system and what happens when they come out. This week, I examine what the State of Alabama does when people are convicted of crimes they didn’t do. Critics say, not much…

Election ballots in Alabama will be reprinted after the most recent version left out wording of a constitutional amendment. The Montgomery Advertiser reports the Secretary of State's office will reprint close to three million ballots from Alabama's election ballots in November. The original ballot left off language that prevented the legislature from using any money for the upkeep of the park system for other purposes.

The Alabama Supreme Court is upholding the state’s controversial death penalty sentencing structure. This policy was the subject of parts one and three of Alabama Public Radio’s on-going series on justice reform and prison reform. At issue, is a statute that allows Alabama judges to overrule a jury’s recommendation of life in prison in favor of the death penalty. Alabama is the State that does this after Florida’s policy was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court, and Delaware declared its own statute to be unconstitutional.

Alabama’s Court of the Judiciary is still weighing evidence on the fate of suspended Chief Justice Roy Moore. The panel has ten days to make a decision on a request to remove Moore from office. The Judicial Inquiry Commission wants Moore off the bench. The board says Moore urged the state’s county probate judges to defy federal court rulings on gay marriage. Moore calls the charge "ridiculous." He was removed from office in 2003 for disobeying a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state judicial building.

Ninety years after its last use, Alabama’s first capitol building is now open for visitors. The Alabama Historical Commission and The University of Alabama are hosting an “Artifact Day” at Old Cahawba tomorrow. The event will allow the public to work alongside professional researchers to learn more about the site of Alabama’s first state house. Site Director Linda Derry says when the capitol building was uncovered, Alabamians deserved a chance to learn from it.

Movie fans are about to get to see Hollywood’s take on the 2010 Gulf oil spill. The film centers on the rig explosion on the Deep Water Horizon platform. Family members of the eleven workers who were killed in the incident hope the movie will remind people about the human toll of the disaster. Critics believe the environmental damage from spill unjustly overshadowed the workers' deaths. Go to apr.org and you can click on our award winning series oil and water on the long term impact.

Alabama’s embattled Chief Justice Roy Moore will be back in court today-- as a defendant. Moore is facing judicial ethics charges that could result in his removal from the Alabama Supreme Court. State prosecutors say in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide, Moore issued an administrative order telling the state’s probate judges that Alabama’s ban on gay marriage remained in effect. The Southern Poverty Law Center filed the ethics complaints against Moore.

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