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Shelby returns from trip to Russia

Brandon Moseley

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U.S. Senator Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, returned on Saturday from his recent trip to Russia.

Shelby led a congressional delegation trip to Russia, which included meetings with high-level U.S. government and Russian officials. The eight member, all Republican, congressional delegation was led by Sen. Shelby.

“During a time of heightened tensions between Russia and the United States, I led a congressional delegation, the largest in many years, to Russia to meet with key leaders of the Russian government,” Shelby said. “Our goal was to have a sober assessment of our differences and to put the unvarnished truth on the table. We had candid discussions with the Foreign Minister, members of the Duma, and the Federation Council about a number of issues, including election interference, Crimea, Ukraine, and Syria. We were honest and frank in expressing our concerns and our shared belief that Russia must make changes in its behavior if our relationship is going to thaw.”

“The United States does not want, nor does it need, to resume a Cold War posture with Russia, and our delegation trip was a small step towards trying to ensure that does not happen,” Sen. Shelby continued. “We will always be competitors, but we do not have to be adversaries. Russia can achieve a better relationship with the U.S., but it has to be earned, one step at a time.”

\The group of congressional members also stopped to meet with officials in Finland and Norway.
The eight-member delegation struck a conciliatory tone with government officials over the course of the trip to St. Petersburg and Moscow, leading to criticism by some in Washington.

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“Cannot believe GOP, once the party that stood strong against Soviets & only a decade ago sought to democratize the Middle East, is now surrendering so foolishly to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and the Kremlin’s kleptocracy — only two years after Russia interfered in U.S. election,” tweeted Clint Watts, an information warfare specialist at the Foreign Policy Research Institute.

President Donald J. Trump (R) is preparing to meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The United States imposed sanctions on Russia after Russia seized the Crimea from Ukraine and backed armed ethnic Russian militias that revolted against the pro-Western Ukrainian government. Fighting between Ukraine and the Russian backed militias in Eastern Ukraine has not stopped though the war has been locked in a stalemate for years.

Tensions between the Russian government and the West has grown in recent days. On Sunday, 44 year old British woman Dawn Sturgess died after handling an item contaminated with Novichok, a nerve agent manufactured by the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Sturgess’s boyfriend remains in critical condition. British authorities claim that Novichok was used 12 kilometers away at Salisbury to poison former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in March. British Prime Minister Theresa May says that Sturgess’s death is being investigated as a murder. Russia has denied any involvement.

Richard Shelby is the chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee and its Subcommittee on Defense.

(Original reporting by the Washington Post and The Guardian contributed to this report.)

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Mo Brooks, Gary Palmer Win FreedomFighter Award

Brandon Moseley

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Tuesday, Congressmen Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) and Gary Palmer (R-Hoover) were two of only 31 members of the U.S. House of Representatives awarded the prestigious 2017 FreedomFighter Award by FreedomWorks.

FreedomWorks is a leading conservative organization with more than six million members nationwide.
Only members of Congress who score better than 90 on the FreedomWorks scorecard receive the FreedomFighter Award.

Congressman Brooks’ FreedomWorks score was in the top four percent of all Congressmen in 2017.

Rep. Brooks said, “FreedomWorks is a leading organization in the conservative movement. I thank them for their work keeping members of Congress accountable and scoring key House floor votes which helps the American people better understand the impact of those votes. I was proud to receive the prestigious FreedomWorks 2017 FreedomFighter Award for my voting record in 2017.”

Congressman Palmer said, “I was honored to receive the Freedom Fighter Award this week from FreedomWorks.”

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FreedomWorks President, Adam Brandon, said, “The recipients of the FreedomFighter Award showed a commitment in 2017 to pro-growth economic policies and constitutionally limited government. We’re proud to recognize these senators and representatives. Our work is still cut out for us. Now that we have reduced some regulations and passed a historic tax reform bill, we must continue to pressure Congress to reduce spending to ensure that the prosperity we are seeing now is lasts into the future.”

FreedomWorks Vice President of Legislative Affairs, Jason Pye, said, “The winners of the 2017 FreedomFighter Award deserve applause. These members take tough votes, often going against the leadership of their own party, because they want to do what is right by taxpayers. But consistency is key. America is staring down massive budget deficits as a result of the fiscal profligacy of this Congress. We have to continue working to put our country on a sustainable path, repeal ObamaCare, promote free trade, and continue to rollback the regulatory state.”

“If America is to maintain its place as the greatest country in world history, more members of Congress must fight for the foundational principles that made America great,” Brooks said. “I’m fighting in Congress for those principles, and I’m glad to have a partner as effective as FreedomWorks in the fight.”

Congressman Mo Brooks represents the Fifth Congressional District of Alabama.

Congressman Gary Palmer represents the Sixth Congressional District of Alabama.

Both Brooks and Palmer are members of the House Freedom Caucus.

Both congressmen have Democratic general election opponents.

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House passes Byrne amendment protecting funding for Gulf States

Brandon Moseley

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Thursday, July 19, 2018 the U.S. House of Representatives passed a government funding bill for the Department of Interior and related agencies, which includes an amendment from Congressman Bradley Byrne, R-Montrose, to protect a critical funding source for Gulf Coast states, including Alabama.

“For those that don’t know, GOMESA calls for a revenue sharing agreement between the federal government and four Gulf states – Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama,” Byrne said. “The program is designed to split up revenue from selected oil and gas lease sales in the Outer Continental Shelf of the Gulf of Mexico.”

This year alone, the State of Alabama received $21 million under GOMESA. An additional $2.47 million went to Baldwin County and $2.88 million to Mobile County.

“The unique thing about GOMESA is it ensures appropriate funding for the coastal areas that provide the workforce, assume the environmental risk, build much of the infrastructure, and support the offshore oil and gas industry,” Byrne said. “It only makes sense that the coastal areas should receive an adequate share of the revenue.”

“Previously, there have been administrative efforts to direct the money away from the Gulf states and instead devote the resources to national projects,” Byrne continued. “While I appreciate the Trump Administration not including any such proposal in this year’s budget, I still believe it is important for Congress to send a clear, bipartisan message that we do not support moving GOMESA funds away from the Gulf Coast.”

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The Trump Administration’s fiscal year 2019 budget proposal maintained the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA) funding. GOMESA was passed by Congress in 2006. It set up revenue sharing for Gulf States for income generated by oil and gas leasing in certain offshore areas of the Gulf of Mexico. As a result, Gulf states whose coastal environments are impacted by oil and gas infrastructure such as pipelines and navigation canals receive a fraction of the total federal revenue to help offset some of those impacts.
The amendment was adopted by a unanimous voice vote. The bill passed by a vote of 217 to 199.

The legislation now goes on to the Senate for its consideration.

Congressman Bradley Byrne represents Alabama’s First Congressional District.

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Jones testifies before International Trade Commission on negative impact of newsprint tariffs

Brandon Moseley

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Tuesday, U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-Alabama) testified at a hearing held by the United States International Trade Commission (USITC) on the negative impacts recently imposed newsprint tariffs have had on Alabama’s newspapers.

Jones has advocated to stop to these tariffs, which are already hurting newspapers. In April, Jones wrote a letter to U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross calling for an end to the newsprint tariff. He has cosponsored bipartisan legislation to suspend the tariffs while the Commerce Department examines the impacts of the tariffs on the printing and publishing industry.

“This issue first came to my attention back in March, when Bo Bolton, publisher of the Monroe Journal in Monroeville, Alabama—home of Harper Lee—traveled all the way to Washington D.C. to meet with me and my team,” Sen. Jones testified. “Bo’s message was urgent and clear: newly implemented tariffs by the Department of Commerce threatened the livelihood of his small-town newspaper, and thousands of other small, community papers that serve as the lifeblood of their communities throughout this country.”

“I have had a regular stream of publishers visit with me sharing the exact same message, asking for any relief possible before they would have to start cutting their services and laying off what few staff they might have,” Jones continued. “The sources for domestically produced newsprint are quite scarce, requiring newspapers around the country to purchase their newsprint from Canadian suppliers. In other words, the domestic jobs that would be protected by these tariffs is relatively minuscule compared to the number of jobs in the United States that these tariffs threaten. But one domestic producer, NORPAC, which is owned by a New York hedge fund, filed a complaint with the Department of Commerce alleging Canadian newspaper suppliers were being subsidized by their government and thus able to sell below market value. As I understand is common practice, the Commerce Department levied preliminary tariffs of 6.53 percent in January. That jumped to an average of 22 percent in March, when the Canadian producer was found to be [selling] below the market price.”

“Here’s what I just don’t understand: why would this Administration levy these outrageous tariffs when our own newspaper publishers, logging industry, and paper suppliers do not support the decision?” Jones continued. It seems to me that the only thing being protected by this tariff is a small portion of a Wall Street hedge fund’s portfolio. It certainly isn’t protecting the 600,000 printing and publishing jobs across the country, including jobs at every newspaper in the state of Alabama.”

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“The Decatur Daily is facing an increase of $450,000 over their 2017 costs, and they’ve eliminated 11 full-time positions already,” Jones said. “Aside from payroll, newsprint is their single largest expense. You’ll hear that refrain from many small papers. Samuel Martin, publisher of the Birmingham Times in Birmingham, Alabama, wrote to me saying that they are, “hanging on by our fingertips already to survive and things like these tariffs will be the difference on surviving for so many.””

Most newspapers and journals are in the process of migrating to the internet. The Alabama Political Reporter does not have an old fashioned print version so uses no newsprint whatsoever.

“While some big-named media outlets have found their footing in the digital age, that’s not the case for everyone,” Jones said. “For many in small towns in Alabama and across the country, folks still like to get their news from actual newspapers. They still like to read a paper front to back. Hold it in hand. They cut the coupons. They read the local events calendar. They learn about what their local officials are doing or, in some cases, not doing. Frankly, there are still far too many places where Americans still struggle to get access to broadband. These folks don’t have the option to go online to get their news. The digital model just doesn’t work there, at least not yet.”

“These small newspapers cover local news that wouldn’t make it into larger regional papers if they were to shut their doors. Local businesses lose perhaps their only outlet in which to reach their customers,” Sen. Jones testified. “The biggest losers in this fight ultimately will be the residents that rely on local newspapers to stay informed. So when I say that these papers are the lifeblood of communities, it is not an exaggeration. It’s a fact. That’s why I have been so deeply concerned about this tariff. If it’s not rolled back, it will present and existential threat to local newspapers that are already strapped. “

“It is why I left duties on Capitol Hill this afternoon to come here today to urge you to reconsider this tariff,” Jones said. “Instead, consider the significant impact it has already had on these small American businesses. I hope you take to heart the urgent calls you are hearing today and make the right decision to eliminate these tariffs and to protect this industry and valuable the service that it provides to all of us.”

Forbes Media Chairman Steve Forbes wrote in The Wall Street Journal that “Since March a tariff of up to 30 percent on Canadian uncoated paper has raised the price of newsprint, making it difficult for cash-strapped newspapers to circulate their work. As if limiting economic freedom weren’t enough, the administration is also undermining Americans’ freedom of expression with this needless tax on journalism.”

North Pacific Paper Company plans to hire 50 new full- and part-time employees, the company announced May 2. The company, owned by the New York hedge fund One Rock Capital Partners, also announced the limited restart of operations for one of its paper machines, idled this past year.

The Longview, Washington-based company attributed the moves to “the U.S. uncoated groundwood papers industry starting to see a level playing field against unfairly traded imports.”

On May 2 North Pacific Paper Company (Norpac) which filed the trade complaint last fall has hired 50 more employees and is reopening a third machine at their Longview, Washington facility which they had shut down last year.

“After years of unfair, demoralizing market conditions and the associated difficult decisions that were required to survive, we have worked with our employees to test and create a system that can respond rapidly to the dynamic needs of the customers we serve. As more clarity regarding the impacts of competing on a level playing field become clear we will further improve our organizational capability,” said CEO Craig Anneberg in a news release.

Doug Jones was elected to the Senate in a special election on December 12.

(Original reporting by newsandtech.com contributed to this report.)

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Shelby returns from trip to Russia

by Brandon Moseley Read Time: 3 min
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