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Byrne Comments on Ukraine Situation

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

According to Ukrainian government officials up to 16,000 Russian Federation soldiers have crossed by land, sea, and air into Ukrainian territory seizing control of the Crimea.  U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne (R) from Montrose has released a written statement on the situation in Ukraine.

Congressman Byrne said: “As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I am deeply concerned about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a sovereign nation whose people have demonstrated a strong desire to align with the West.   The Ukrainian prime minister says his country is on the brink of disaster as Russian military forces rapidly increase their control over the Crimean region. This is a totally unprovoked act of naked aggression, clearly in violation of international law.”

Rep. Byrne said, “It is no coincidence that Russia took this action in the same week that the U.S. Secretary of Defense announced a reduction of U.S. armed forces to the lowest level since before World War II, undercutting the Navy’s plans to build a new fleet by cutting back on the production of the Littoral Combat Ships.   Vladimir Putin, the international bully and Russian dictator, saw this announcement as a sign of our weakened resolve, and decided to take advantage. This could not be a clearer demonstration that when we project weakness on the international stage, the enemies of freedom and international cooperation will act in their own interests, with potentially catastrophic results.”

Rep. Byrne said, “The President of the United States is the Commander in Chief of our armed forces.  I call on him to take decisive action.  So far, the President has projected weakness and timidity by dithering away while Russia asserts its control on the ground. The President must demonstrate strong leadership by rescinding the announcement this week that he will weaken our national defense. We should show our strength as a nation by appropriately investing in our military based on the strategic needs of our combatant commanders and military leaders in the field.”

Ukraine has two major ethnicities: Ukrainian and Russian that speak different languages.  The Ukrainian government had applied to enter into the European Union.  The ethnic Russian minority opposed this move and won recent elections that gave them control of the government.  Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich promptly ended plans to join the EU and instead proposed that the government of Ukraine strengthen its ties to the Russian Federation.

Ethnic Ukrainians objected to this change in policy and took to the streets in the capital city of Kiev in November to demand the ouster of Yanukovich.  Those protests became increasingly violent.  After dozens of people were killed and his chief of staff, Andriy Klyuyev, was wounded by gunfire in an ambush, Yanukovich fled the country for Russia on February 22nd.

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A thousand years ago, Kiev was the capital of feudal Russia.  In the thirteenth century the whole area was conquered by the Mongols.  The Russian principality of Moscow eventually got autonomy and then independence from Mongol domination and began growing.  Since then the Ukraine has changed hands between the Russian Empire, the Mongols/Tartars, and the Islamic Ottoman Empire with periods of Ukrainian independence or autonomy. Eventually the area was absorbed into the Russian Empire.  When the Communist Bolsheviks overthrew the Russian Empire during World War I, Ukraine was forced to become a Republic in the Russian dominated Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR).  When Karl Marx’s failed economic and government theories proved hopelessly inadequate for the real world, the USSR collapsed and Ukraine suddenly became a separate country in the 1990s.

The cash starved Ukrainian government surrendered a vast nuclear arsenal it inherited from the USSR in exchange for promises that the U.S. and Great Britain would protect its borders.  The Ukraine has since radically downsized its military.  Ukraine has an estimated 135,000 troops but they are underpaid, poorly equipped, and poorly trained.  It is not known how many Ukrainian troops are actually loyal to the Ukrainian state.  A Russian admiral today called on two Ukrainian ships to surrender.  As part of the treaty dividing the military assets to the two former Soviet Republics, Russia retained naval bases in the Crimea…..bases that made the Russian occupation of the Crimea relatively easy.  Russia denies that this is an invasion of the Crimea, citing a post-Cold War treaty giving it the right to base up to 25,000 troops in the Crimea.

Since entering office, Russian President Vladimir Putin (a former KGB operative) has sought to revive many of the old Russian Imperial traditions and grow Russia’s sphere of influence.

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Russia presented a letter to the United Nations today from President Yanukovich (who is in Russian custody) asking Russian President Vladimir Putin to send troops to his country to restore order.  The Ukrainian Government insists that it has lawfully removed Yanukovich by a vote of Parliament and he no longer represents Ukraine, but Russia insists that he is still the President and that they are acting to protect the human rights of the Russian minority…..a charge that the acting Ukrainian Government strongly denies.

Interim Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk has accused Moscow of declaring war.  Yatsenyuk said, “Nobody will give Crimea away. … There are no grounds for the use of force against civilians and Ukrainians, and for the entry of the Russian military contingent,” he said. “Russia never had any grounds and never will.”

Congressman Bradley Byrne represents Alabama’s first Congressional District.

 

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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Wife of inmate who died with COVID-19 says she was left in the dark on husband’s condition

“They gave me the runaround. They hung up on me. They left me on hold for long periods of time. They gave me a name of a person to contact within the facility, and I found out later that person no longer works there,” Evans said. 

Eddie Burkhalter

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Two more inmates in Alabama prisons have died after testing positive for COVID-19, according to the Alabama Department of Corrections, bringing the total number of inmate deaths after positive test results to 12. 

Additionally, 32 more inmates and eight prison workers have tested positive for coronavirus, making Monday’s update by the department the largest single day tally of new cases and deaths. 

Lavaris Evans, 31, of Birmingham who was serving at Easterling Correctional Facility died Sunday after testing positive for COVID-19, the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) confirmed for APR on Monday. 

Sharon Evans, his wife, speaking to APR by phone on June 26, which was 16 days before his death, described what she was able to learn about her husband’s condition and of the last time she spoke to him. 

“One of his friends, another inmate, said that he was so unresponsive he couldn’t even walk. He fell out. They allowed him to just lay in bed for four or five days, and no aid rendered,” Evans said. 

Correctional officers placed her husband in a single cell, Evans said, a practice the department has used in the past to isolate a person who is suspected of having coronavirus. 

When his friend went to check on him in that single cell her husband was unable to stand and walk to get his food, Evans said the inmate told her. It was that other inmate that informed Evans of her husband’s conditions after days of her trying unsuccessfully to get some word from prison administrators, she said. 

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APR’s attempts to contact the inmate who knew her husband were unsuccessful. 

“They gave me the runaround. They hung up on me. They left me on hold for long periods of time. They gave me a name of a person to contact within the facility, and I found out later that person no longer works there,” Evans said. 

The last time she spoke to her husband was on June 16, Evans said, and it was clear something was wrong. 

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“He said that he woke up in a sweat. He was very weak, like his body was so heavy and he was short of breath. He couldn’t even make a complete sentence,” Evans said. “He kept trying to say ‘I love you. Just know that I love you.’ and I’m like, ‘no. Stop saying that,’ as if it was going to be his last time speaking with me.” 

Evans said he started coughing and sounded as if he was throwing up, “and then he dropped the phone and that was the last I heard from him. I’m nervous now because I don’t know anything” Evans told a reporter more than two weeks before his death.  

That reporter reached out to an ADOC spokeswoman on June 26 and asked that a prison administrator call Evans to update her on her husband’s whereabouts and condition, and the spokeswoman said that she would make that effort. ADOC does not usually release information on an inmate’s medical condition, citing federal privacy laws.  

A family member of her husband, whom she said she has a strained relationship with, was able to learn from the prison that he was taken to a local hospital some time after she spoke to him, but got no other information, Evans said. 

Evans told APR in a message July 9 that an inmate told her that her husband’s condition was worsening, that he had tested positive for COVID-19, was having heart problems and had pneumonia. 

Lavaris Evans was tested for COVID-19 at Easterling on June 23, seven days after his last conversation with his wife, according to ADOC’S press release Monday. The department said he was tested after he began exhibiting symptoms of coronavirus. 

“Evans did not suffer from any known preexisting health conditions. He was transferred to a local hospital for additional care on June 25 after his condition began to decline and returned a second positive test result for COVID-19 while at the hospital. Evans remained under the care of the hospital until his passing,” ADOC said in the release. 

ADOC also announced the death of Barry Stewart Foy, 57, who was serving at Staton Correctional Facility, where he was housed in the infirmary because of multiple health problems. 

Foy was tested for COVID-19 on June 11 after being exposed to another inmate in the infirmary who tested positive for coronavirus. He was taken to a local hospital on June 20 where he later died. 

Twenty-six of the 34 new confirmed coronavirus cases among inmates are from St. Clair Correctional Facility, where on Monday a total of 29 inmates and 10 workers have tested positive for the virus. Four more inmates at Easterling prison, and four at Bullock Correctional Facility have also tested positive for COVID-19. 

Five more workers at Kilby Correctional Facility have confirmed cases of the virus, bringing the total among staff there to 25. Two workers at Easterling prison also self-reported positive test results, as did a worker at Bibb Correctional Facility. 

Two workers at the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Woman had previously died after testing positive for COVID-19. 

As the death toll and surging COVID-19 cases among inmates and staff continue, the department recently announced plans to ramp up testing, but for early proponents of expanded testing in state prisons the move comes too late, and a lack of detailed plans is troubling, they say. 

ADOC on July 9 announced plans to start more broadly testing inmates and staff, something advocates for prison reform and for incarcerated people have been calling for for months. 

“The ADOC’s ultimate goal is to, over time, test every inmate across the correctional system for COVID-19,” according to a department press release. 

Inmates are currently tested for coronavirus upon intake, when exhibiting symptoms of the virus and before medical appointments and procedures at local hospitals. Prison workers are asked to self-report positive COVID-19 test results. 

ADOC said in the release last week that the next phase of expanded COVID-19 testing “which will begin in the near future” includes testing those inmates who are “most medically vulnerable,” and the department plans to test all inmates prior to release. 

The department is also “working to develop a comprehensive plan and timeline” to provide staff with free testing “on a yet-to-be determined schedule.” 

“The ADOC’s Office of Health Services (OHS) is working with community partners to develop both fixed and mobile testing sites and provide necessary logistical support,” the department’s press release states. 

Asked Friday why plans for expanded testing of inmates and staff aren’t already finalized and ready to implement, ADOC spokeswoman Samantha Rose in a message Friday said that the department’s Pandemic Continuity of Operations Plan is a “living” plan, and is “regularly updated with new protocols, learnings, and actionable information based on the latest available data.” 

Rose also said that COVID-19 testing capabilities “were extremely limited from March – May. This issue was not specific to Alabama, nor specific to correctional systems.” 

Testing resources have expanded since the start of the pandemic, and so too have ADOC’s testing capabilities,  Rose said. 

“Given the fluid nature of COVID-19 and the now greater availability of testing resources, the expansion of our testing protocols – as indicated in our release – requires strategic implementation in order to achieve success as it relates to further containing the spread of the disease, which is the primary purpose. We fully intend to steward the taxpayer dollars funding this initiative thoughtfully to ensure we deliver appropriate available medical resources to our inmates and staff members,” Rose continued. 

APR asked how long it might take for ADOC to begin the next phase of expanded testing, and Rose responded that the department will provide more information on the expanded testing strategy “and associated timelines related to its incremental implementation, in the near future.” 

As of Monday, 535 of the state’s approximately 21,000 inmates had been tested for COVID-19, according to ADOC. 

Dillon Nettles, a policy analyst at ACLU of Alabama, said in a message to APR on Monday that ADOC’s announcement of expanded testing is only as good as the plan and protocols in place to implement it.

“None have been disclosed or provided in detail. While several other states have forged ahead with mass testing of people in custody and staffers, ADOC seemingly has no plan for how they will execute testing at scale and adequately distance individuals who have been tested from those who have not,’ Nettles said. 

“The first COVID-19 patient in ADOC custody passed away nearly three months ago and in recent weeks two prison staffers have also died,” Nettles continued. “Mitigating this crisis as it has spread to our prisons is a responsibility that falls squarely upon Commissioner Dunn and ADOC leadership. They have yet to address it with the urgent and life-preserving response it demands.”

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Alabama Department of Corrections investigating inmate death

His exact cause of death is pending an autopsy, but the department said prior to his death he was not showing symptoms of COVID-19.

Eddie Burkhalter

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Joseph Lee Cox died at a local hospital on July 11. (ALABAMA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS)

The Alabama  Department of Corrections is investigating the death of a 44-year-old man who was serving at Limestone Correctional Facility.

Joseph Lee Cox died at a local hospital on July 11, the department confirmed for APR on Monday. No foul play is suspected.

His exact cause of death is pending an autopsy, but the department said prior to his death he was not showing symptoms of COVID-19, was not under quarantine after being exposed to an infected inmate or worker and hadn’t tested positive for the virus himself.

ADOC said more information on his death would be released after the investigation is complete.

At least the 15 state inmate have died so far this year from either homicide, suicide, drug overdoses. That’s more than had died by the same time last year, when there were at least 28 such deaths in state prisons throughout 2019.

The U.S. Justice Department in an April 2019 report found the state’s prisons for men were understaffed, overpopulated and has systemic problems with violence, sexual assaults, drugs and corruption.

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Two more Alabama inmates die after testing positive for COVID-19

The two additional deaths bring the total number of inmate deaths after positive test results to 12. 

Eddie Burkhalter

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Two more inmates in Alabama prisons have died after testing positive for COVID-19, according to the Alabama Department of Corrections, bringing the total number of inmate deaths after positive test results to 12. 

Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) also announced Monday that 32 more inmates and eight prison workers have tested positive for coronavirus, making Monday’s update the largest single day tally of new cases and deaths. 

Lavaris Evans, 31, of Birmingham who was serving at Easterling Correctional Facility died Sunday after testing positive for COVID-19, according to ADOC. He had no other underlying medical conditions, according to the department. 

Barry Stewart Foy, 57, who was serving at Staton Correctional Facility where he was housed in the infirmary because of multiple health problems, also died after testing positive for COVID-19, according to ADOC. 

Foy was tested for coronavirus on June 11 after being exposed to another inmate in the infirmary who tested positive. He was taken to a local hospital on June 20, where he later died. 

Sharon Evans, Lavaris Evans’s wife, speaking to APR by phone on June 26, which was 16 days before his death, described what she was able to learn about her husband’s condition and of the last time she spoke to him. 

“One of his friends, another inmate, said that he was so unresponsive he couldn’t even walk. He fell out. They allowed him to just lay in bed for four or five days, and no aid rendered,” Evans said. 

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Correctional officers placed her husband in a single cell, Evans said, a practice the department has used in the past to isolate a person who is suspected of having coronavirus to quarantine them away from others. 

When his friend went to check on him in that single cell her husband was unable to stand and walk to get his food, Evans said the inmate told her. It was that other inmate that informed Evans of her husband’s conditions after days of her trying unsuccessfully to get some word from prison administrators, she said. 

APR’s attempts to contact the inmate who knew Lavaris were unsuccessful. 

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“They gave me the runaround. They hung up on me. They left me on hold for long periods of time. They gave me a name of a person to contact within the facility, and I found out later that person no longer works there,” Evans said. 

Evans said the last time she spoke to her husband was on June 16, and it was clear something was wrong. 

“He said that he woke up in a sweat. He was very weak, like his body was so heavy and he was short of breath. He couldn’t even make a complete sentence,” Evans said. “He kept trying to say ‘I love you. Just know that I love you.’ and I’m like, ‘no. Stop saying that,’ as if it was going to be his last time speaking with me.” 

Evans said he started coughing and sounded as if he was throwing up “and then he dropped the phone and that was the last I heard from him. I’m nervous now because I don’t know anything,” Evans told a reporter more than two weeks before his death.  

An APR reporter reached out to an ADOC spokeswoman on June 26 and asked that a prison administrator call Evans to update her on her husband’s whereabouts and condition, and the spokeswoman said that she would make that effort. 

Evans said that she never heard from anyone at ADOC, but that another family member of her husband was able to learn from prison staff that he was taken to a local hospital some time after she spoke to him on June 16, but the family member got no other information on his condition. 

Evans told APR in a message July 9 that an inmate told her her husband’s condition was worsening, that he had tested positive for COVID-19, was having heart problems and had pneumonia. 

Lavaris Evans was tested for COVID-19 at Easterling prison on June 23, according to ADOC’S press release Monday. That would have been seven days after his last conversation with his wife. The department said he was tested after he began exhibiting symptoms of coronavirus. 

“Evans did not suffer from any known preexisting health conditions. He was transferred to a local hospital for additional care on June 25 after his condition began to decline and returned a second positive test result for COVID-19 while at the hospital. Evans remained under the care of the hospital until his passing,” ADOC said in the release. 

Twenty-six of the 34 new confirmed coronavirus cases among inmates Monday are at St. Clair Correctional Facility, where on Monday a total of 29 inmates and 10 workers had tested positive for the virus since the pandemic began. Four more inmates at Easterling prison, and four at Bullock Correctional Facility have also tested positive for COVID-19. 

Five more workers at Kilby Correctional Facility have confirmed cases of the virus, bringing the total among staff there to 25. Two workers at Easterling prison also self-reported positive test results, as did a worker at Bibb Correctional Facility. 

Two workers at the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Woman had previously died after testing positive for COVID-19. As of Monday, there have been 100 confirmed COVID-29 cases among inmates in Alabama, and 203 prison workers self-reported positive test results. 

As the death toll and surging COVID-19 cases among inmates and staff continue, the department recently announced plans to ramp up testing, but for early proponents of expanded testing in state prisons the move comes too late, and a lack of detailed plans is troubling, they say. 

ADOC on July 9 announced plans to start more broadly testing inmates and staff. 

“The ADOC’s ultimate goal is to, over time, test every inmate across the correctional system for COVID-19,” according to a department press release. 

Inmates are currently tested for coronavirus upon intake, when exhibiting symptoms of the virus and before medical appointments and procedures at local hospitals. Prison workers are asked to self-report positive COVID-19 test results. 

ADOC said in the release last week that the next phase of expanded COVID-19 testing “which will begin in the near future” includes testing those inmates who are “most medically vulnerable,” and the department plans to test all inmates prior to release. 

The department is also “working to develop a comprehensive plan and timeline” to provide staff with free testing “on a yet-to-be determined schedule.” 

“The ADOC’s Office of Health Services (OHS) is working with community partners to develop both fixed and mobile testing sites and provide necessary logistical support,” the department’s press release states. 

Asked Friday why plans for expanded testing of inmates and tsaf aren’t already finalized and ready to implement, ADOC spokeswoman Samantha Rose in a message Friday said that the department’s Pandemic Continuity of Operations Plan is a “living” plan, and is “regularly updated with new protocols, learnings, and actionable information based on the latest available data.” 

Rose also said that COVID-19 testing capabilities “were extremely limited from March – May. This issue was not specific to Alabama, nor specific to correctional systems.” 

Testing resources have expanded since the start of the pandemic, and so too have ADOC’s testing capabilities,  Rose said. 

“Given the fluid nature of COVID-19 and the now greater availability of testing resources, the expansion of our testing protocols – as indicated in our release – requires strategic implementation in order to achieve success as it relates to further containing the spread of the disease, which is the primary purpose. We fully intend to steward the taxpayer dollars funding this initiative thoughtfully to ensure we deliver appropriate available medical resources to our inmates and staff members,” Rose continued. 

APR asked how long it might take for ADOC to begin the next phase of expanded testing, and Rose responded that the department will provide more information on the expanded testing strategy “and associated timelines related to its incremental implementation, in the near future.” 

As of Monday, 535 of the state’s approximately 21,000 inmates had been tested for COVID-19, according to ADOC. 

Dillon Nettles, a policy analyst at ACLU of Alabama, said in a message to APR on Monday that ADOC’s announcement of expanded testing is only as good as the plan and protocols in place to implement it.

“None have been disclosed or provided in detail. While several other states have forged ahead with mass testing of people in custody and staffers, ADOC seemingly has no plan for how they will execute testing at scale and adequately distance individuals who have been tested from those who have not,’ Nettles said. 

“The first COVID-19 patient in ADOC custody passed away nearly three months ago and in recent weeks two prison staffers have also died,” Nettles continued. “Mitigating this crisis as it has spread to our prisons is a responsibility that falls squarely upon Commissioner Dunn and ADOC leadership. They have yet to address it with the urgent and life-preserving response it demands.”

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COVID-19 hospitalizations in Alabama continue surge

On Monday, 1,335 patients with COVID-19 were being cared for in hospitals statewide, the most to date.

Eddie Burkhalter

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Data from the Alabama Department of Public Health shows hospitalizations have increased since July 1. (APR GRAPHIC)

Alabama on Monday saw the highest number yet of COVID-19 patients in hospitals since the start of the pandemic, and the second-highest single-day increase in coronavirus cases on record. 

On Monday, 1,335 patients with COVID-19 were being cared for in hospitals statewide. That was 172 more COVID-19 patients than were hospitalized the previous day — and the largest single-day increase in hospitalization numbers reported by the Alabama Department of Public Health.

The last record number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Alabama was on Friday, when 1,201 people were being treated statewide. The increase Monday is also 134 more patients than were being care for on Friday.

Friday was the sixth straight day of record-breaking COVID-19 hospitalizations in Alabama. Friday also saw the second-highest number of deaths in a single day in the state, when ADPH confirmed 35 new deaths as a result of COVID-19, nearly breaking the previous record of 37 set on May 12.

On Monday, the state also added 1,860 to Alabama’s total case count, bringing the cumulative total now to 54,768 confirmed cases. That’s the second-highest single-day increase in cases since the start of the pandemic. With 25,783 people presumed to have recovered from the virus, and at least 1,096 dead, more than half of the state’s cases, or 27,889, are presumed to be active.

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Testing has ticked up slightly in the last few weeks — Alabama’s seven-day average of tests conducted was 9,176 on Monday, 93 more than the previous high set on July 5 — but the percentage of tests that are positive continues to increase as well, a sign that new cases aren’t just due to more testing. 

The seven-day average positivity rate Monday was 16.18 percent, which was almost 30 percent higher than it was a week ago. Taking into account the Alabama Department of Public Health’s incomplete testing data on July 9 and in early April, which threw off the positivity rate, Monday’s seven-day average was the highest on record for Alabama. 

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Public health officials say that the percent of tests that are positive should be at or below 5 percent or there’s not enough testing being done and cases are going undetected. 

Madison County continues to see a surge in new cases. The county added 267 new coronavirus cases on Monday, and over the last week added 1,044 new cases, which was 70 percent more than were added the week before. Madison County’s positivity rate this week has been roughly 16 percent. 

Jefferson County followed closely behind Madison County, adding 266 new cases Monday and 1,602 cases within the last week, which was a 30 percent increase from the week before. 

In Mobile County, there were 157 new cases Monday.

Mobile County’s weekly total of new cases for the last week was 23 percent higher than the previous week. 

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