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AL-01 Candidates Sound-Off on Syria

Lee Hedgepeth

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By Lee Hedgepeth
Alabama Political Reporter

MOBILE— As the resolution for limited military action proposed by President Obama slowly makes its way through Congress, candidates for the 1st Congressional District have been sounding off on what they think is the appropriate role for the US to play in Syria. Alabama Political Reporter contacted all of the candidates for comment, and below are their responses.

The only candidate not to respond was Democrat Lula Albert-Kaigler, who could not be reached.

Bradley Byrne (R): “The President has not convinced me there is a justifiable reason for the United States to get involved in Syria. Before we spend American tax dollars fighting in another country’s civil war across the globe, I’d like to see that money spent here at home on critical projects like additional spans of I-10 across Mobile Bay which solve a major national and local problem.”

Quin Hillyer (R): “The humanitarian crisis in Syria is heart-rending. Unfortunately, if we apply the Reagan/Weinberger Doctrine, we see no clear and obvious objectives or endgames. Unless such objectives become very well defined, I would stay out. Meanwhile, the safety of Israel should be a paramount consideration.”

Wells Griffith (R): “We cannot deny what is happening in Syria is a humanitarian tragedy on a massive scale. Unfortunately, like so many issues, this has turned in to a public affairs exercise for President Obama after showing zero leadership on a destabilizing Middle East.
President Obama owes the American people an explanation about what his intentions are in regards to Syria. The President has failed to lay out a coherent policy in regards to Syria and the Middle East as a whole, and as a result our standing in the region has been weakened. I am thankful that President Obama has respected the Constitution and sought the approval of Congress, but I believe that before any vote can occur we must have a clear assessment of the facts and proposed solutions in the best interests of America.”

“As your representative I will always look out for the safety of our men and women in uniform and base decisions on American interests at home and abroad. While much of the information being reviewed by elected leaders remains classified, I look forward to a transparent and robust debate in the congress before any vote.”

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Chad Fincher (R): “I have very serious reservations and concerns about the United States invading Syria. As a congressman, before I would ever vote to send our men and women into harm’s way there would have to be a clear objective and a concrete exit strategy in place which I believe our President has not yet provided to Congress regarding an invasion into Syria.”

Sharon Powe (R): “Based on the alleged information related to the chemical gas attack of
Syria, I believe that those details are not justification for the US to conduct any type of reprisal attack on the Syrian government at this time. Furthermore, if such reprisal attacks are deemed necessary, those attacks should be authorized by the US Congress and our allies to include
countries in the Arab league. We do not need our intelligence leading us into another ‘weapons of mass destruction’ episode.”

David “Thunder” Thornton (R): “A brief answer to the question of whether we should go into Syria at the present time is ‘No.’ Our nation’s leaders have numerous times, both recently and even farther in the past, formulated plans and carried out intervention due to their poor diplomatic strategy. We seem to be led into these situations by individuals who feel military force is a problem solver and do not know how to deal with long range problems.”

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“There needs to be a diplomatic plan using our nation’s integrity as a strength in negotiations. By repeatedly using military force as a solution undermines our nation’s integrity and reduces the respect we have from the nations of the world. There are times to use military force as a means of last resort but it should not be used where it compounds and does not solve a particular conflict.”

Daniel Dyas (R): Candidate Dyas asked the Alabama Political Reporter that his comments be published only in whole; due to their length, and controversy over their substance, his full statement appears in this article.

Jessica James (R): “No. The U.S. should not intervene in Syria.”

Dean Young (R): “At this moment, from where I’m sitting and what I know, which is very limited, I do not think we should intervene in Syria. Our Constitution gives the power to declare war to the U.S. Congress not Barak Hussein Obama. The U.S. Congress should receive a full briefing on exactly what is happening and why the president thinks we should go to war.”

James Hall (I): “I must preface my answer with a caveat: Currently, I have zero inside information on what could be a positive outcome of intervention in Syria. The only information that I am privy to is what I can glean from news outlets.”

“With that being said, I am not in favor of military action in Syria. The administration is trying to justify a strike by essentially saying that the United States is the world’s police force. I am totally opposed to that premise. I do not see any single positive outcome for us. Nothing that we do in Syria will lead to any advancement on the war on terror, economic benefits, or future political influence in the region. There are many possible negative outcomes which ultimately could result in another global conflict. With the information that I have now, I am opposed to any action in Syria.”

Burton Leflore: (D): “The United States should not intervene in Syria at this time. However, Congress should send a clear an unequivocal message to Syria and the world that the United States will get involved if there is further use of chemical warfare.”

Leflore responded in a more in depth fashion on Syria in an Alabama Political Reporter interview, which can be seen here:

Yesterday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed a resolution for the use of limited force in Syria, 10-7. The Senate will soon have a vote on the floor. Debate continues in the House, with classified briefings for members scheduled throughout the next few days. Obama has not ruled out the possibility of a limited military strike even without authorization from Congress.

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Economy

Alabama top in nation for percentage of unemployment claims paid in July

The state issued unemployment compensation payments in 21 days or less for more than 92 percent of claims that month. 

Micah Danney

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(STOCK PHOTO)

The Alabama Department of Labor is touting its status as having the nation’s highest percentage of first payments to people who claimed unemployment in July.

The state issued unemployment compensation payments in 21 days or less for more than 92 percent of claims that month. 

First payments means those made to claimants who were determined eligible for benefits and received a payment. It doesn’t include claimants who have issues that need to be adjudicated.

“Since the pandemic began, the staff at ADOL have been working extremely diligently to process claims and get payments to those who need them the most,” said Alabama Department of Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington. “While this process hasn’t always been smooth, the fact that our agency was able to quickly disperse so many payments is something I’m proud of.”

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Education

Schools won’t be required to report COVID-19 data for state’s K-12 dashboard

Information presented on the dashboard won’t be broken down by individual schools but will instead be displayed for whole systems. And districts won’t be required to report.

Eddie Burkhalter

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Some time later this month state officials hope to roll out a statewide COVID-19 dashboard for K-12 public schools, but some parents worry that because school districts won’t be required to submit positive test results, the dashboard might not be that useful.

The Alabama Department of Education is working with the Alabama Department of Public Health in a joint effort to build the dashboard.

Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris on Tuesday told APR the state hoped to have the dashboard online this week but technical difficulties pushed the expected roll out to later this month.

Harris said the two departments agreed not to make the positive test results that will be shown on the dashboard confirmed or verified by ADPH because doing so would slow down the process of updating the dashboard and wouldn’t give parents a glimpse at what’s happening at their schools at that moment.

“There’s a certain amount of time it takes to investigate a case and confirm it before we get it to our own dashboard,” Harris said.

Harris said the information presented on the dashboard won’t be broken down by individual schools but will instead be displayed for whole school systems, and districts won’t be required to report.

“We’re going to ask schools to self-report it,” Harris said. “They can choose not to, but I think most of them will do that.”

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Jacob Kohute and his wife have two children in Decatur City Schools. Kohute told APR on Tuesday that they are both fortunate to work from home, and decided to keep their children home for virtual learning, as his wife has an underlying medical condition that could cause complications if she were to contract the coronavirus.

“So we’ve been lucky that we’re able to do that,” Kohute said.

School systems statewide have varied approaches to sharing information about COVID-19 among students and staff.

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The Decatur city school system has been sending parents a weekly report that shows the number of cases among students and faculty, and how many students are under quarantine, Kohute said.

“We’ve gone upwards of 300,” Kohute said of the number of quarantined students. “It’s been fluctuating a lot.”

Kohute said in the last update from the schools there were seven new cases among students and a few among staff, which resulted in about 150 people being quarantined, showing that it takes very few cases to have a big impact on those who have come in contact with the infected person.

While Decatur City Schools regularly reports data to parents, many districts statewide do not, and instead only report a confirmed case to parents of children deemed to have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.

Kohute expressed concern that districts won’t be required to report to the state’s dashboard.

“It’s almost useless then, depending upon the leanings of the administration,” Kohute said of the state’s K-12 dashboard.

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News

Alabama Democrats demand Florence mayoral candidates denounce the KKK

The Alabama Democratic Party is demanding that the mayoral candidates in Florence Alabama — Andrew Betterton and incumbent Stephen Holt — denounce white supremacists before their Oct. 6 runoff.

John H. Glenn

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A Confederate statue in Florence, Alabama, has been the source of months of protest and contestation of whether it should be removed. (VIA THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS)

The Alabama Democratic Party is demanding that the mayoral candidates in Florence Alabama — Andrew Betterton and incumbent Stephen Holt — denounce white supremacists before their Oct. 6 runoff after months of tumult and protest in the city over what to do with a Confederate monument.

“Mayor Steve Holt has stated that he supports ‘differing viewpoints’ among the protests surrounding the Confederate monument in downtown Florence,” the party said. “One of those ‘differing viewpoints’ is literally the Ku Klux Klan. Amid violent threats to peaceful protestors, Mayor Holt still refused to denounce these ‘differing viewpoints’ from the KKK.”

The Democratic Party’s comments come after Holt, in July, said he would not condone “unlawful actions” and would support the Florence Police Department should they disperse demonstrations that “turn unlawful.” In the same message, Holt said, “First Amendment Rights apply to everyone. … We support the freedom of speech and the expression of differing viewpoints.”

The Alabama Democrats, in a press release Wednesday, also demanded that Holt agree to remove the confederate monument at the front of the Lauderdale County courthouse.

“If the mayor refuses to condemn the KKK and white supremacy, the statue on Court Street isn’t the only monument to white supremacy that needs to be removed, the Confederate relic serving as Florence’s mayor needs to be removed as well,” the party said.

This comes nearly four months after Holt recommend the statue be moved to Soldier’s Rest at the Florence City Cemetery.

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On July 7, the Florence City Council unanimously agreed to move the statue, but deadlocked on whether it was the responsibility of the county (the statue is on county property) or the city (to whom the statue was originally donated).

Eventually the Florence City Council asked the county commission for a resolution to allow them to move it off county property. The county commission then cited the 2017 Alabama Memorial Preservation Act, which requires state permission before removing historic monuments, many of them Confederate monuments.

Earlier this month, a group of Florence residents filed a lawsuit against the mayor, the Florence City Council and the Alabama division president of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, Suzanna E. Rawlins.

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The three residents asked the court to “to protect and preserve” the confederate statue at the county courthouse. The Lauderdale County Republican Executive Committee came out in support of that lawsuit.

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Courts

Vestavia doctor sentenced to 30 years for producing child porn

A federal judge sentenced Ronald Tai Young Moon Jr. of Vestavia Hills, 56, to 30 years in prison.

Brandon Moseley

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(STOCK PHOTO)

A federal judge sentenced a former Vestavia Hills doctor to 30 years in prison for producing and possessing child pornography, U.S. Attorney Prim Escalona and FBI Special Agent in Charge Johnnie Sharp Jr. announced Thursday.

U.S. District Judge Annemarie Axon sentenced Ronald Tai Young Moon Jr. of Vestavia Hills, 56, to 30 years in federal prison.

“Unfortunately, this sentence will not undo the harm suffered by Moon’s victims,” Escalona said. “However, understanding that the consequences of this conduct is severe might discourage other sexual predators from victimizing innocent children in this district.”

Moon worked as a doctor at the Industrial Athlete clinic in Birmingham until his license was revoked earlier this year. Moon went to trial in February. After four days of testimony, a jury convicted Moon of possessing, producing and attempting to produce child pornography.

“I am proud of the effort put forth by my agents in order to ensure this defendant was brought to justice and will no longer be able to harm children,” Sharp said. “Moon serving the next 30 years in federal prison ensures there is one less predator victimizing the most innocent and vulnerable members of our community.”

Federal prosecutors presented evidence at trial proving that between the mid-1990s and 2012, Moon secretly recorded neighbors and guests in his own home including girls as young as 12 years old.

Some of those individuals were filmed naked, dressing and undressing. The footage was located on VHS videotapes found in the defendant’s locked private office with other pornographic VHS tapes, steps away from a TV and VCR set that was working and plugged in.

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Evidence of multiple hidden-camera devices was also found in the defendant’s office.

Moon will also serve five years of supervised release after he gets out and, by law, will also be required to register as a sex offender.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Ward and First Assistant U.S. Attorney Lloyd Peeples III prosecuted the case.

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The United States attorney’s office also thanked members of the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General for assisting in the investigation.

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