Connect with us


Roby Says House Acting To Combat Sex Trafficking

Brandon Moseley



By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

On Tuesday, January 27, Congresswoman Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) released a statement to announce that the House has passed Bi-partisan bills to try to deal with America’s “fastest growing” criminal enterprise: human sex trafficking.

US Representative Martha Roby strongly supports the measures and said that legislation is needed to combat the “atrocious” crimes of trafficking and sex slavery.

Congresswoman Roby said, “This problem is growing, and it’s personal. Today the House voted on a series of bills to put a stop to these atrocious crimes and to protect and assist victims. It’s past time to end trafficking.”

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), sex trafficking is the fastest growing profit scheme for organized crime worldwide and each year. More than 300,000 American children are at risk for becoming sex trafficking victims.

The legislation passed by the House this week seeks to fight the problem by enhancing tools for law enforcement at home and abroad, while boosting support for victims’ services and raise awareness of the sometimes-overlooked problem.

The bills include: H.R. 514, the Human Trafficking Prioritization Act, sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-New Jersey), which further prioritizes the State Department’s focus on the human trafficking worldwide; H.R. 515, Megan’s Law to Prevent Demand for Child Sex Trafficking, also sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith which seeks to boost cooperation between the United States and other nations to crack down on known sex offenders and human traffickers; H.R. 357, the Human Trafficking Prevention Act, sponsored by Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-New York), to ensure State Department employees are properly trained to identify and assist sex trafficking victims; H.R. 468, the Enhancing Services for Runaway and Homeless Victims for Youth Trafficking Act, sponsored by Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nevada), which helps at-risk runaway and homeless youth from becoming sex trafficking victims by improved and focused support programs; and H.R. 469, the Strengthening Child Welfare Response to Trafficking Act, sponsored by Rep. Karen Bass (D from California), which improves practices within state child welfare systems to identify and document sex trafficking cases.

The House also passed: H.R. 246, sponsored by Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), making child sex trafficking and child prostitution reportable categories for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children; H.R. 398, the Trafficking Awareness Training for Health Care Act, sponsored by Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-North Carolina), which ensures healthcare workers are properly trained to recognize the hallmark signs of human trafficking, improving their ability to intervene and assist victims;  H.R. 460, the Human Trafficking Detection Act, sponsored by Rep. Mark Walker (R-North Carolina), which provides for the proper training of Department of Homeland Security personnel on how to effectively deter, detect, disrupt, and prevent human trafficking; H.R. 350, the Human Trafficking Prevention, Intervention, and Recovery Act, sponsored by Rep. Kristi Noem (R-South Dakota), which seeks to ensure that myriad existing programs and resources, including grants to states, are being properly updated and utilized to effectively combat sex trafficking; H.R. 159, the Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act, sponsored by Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-Minnesota), which promotes safe harbor laws at the state level to encourage at-risk youth to seek protective services and counseling as victims without fear targeting or prosecution; H.R. 181, the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, sponsored by Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas), which enhances tools for domestic law enforcement and boost support for victims services; H.R. 285, the Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation Act, sponsored by Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Missouri), which cracks down on the commercial exploitation of children and trafficking victims by criminalizing acts of such advertising.


The Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force is holding a summit on Friday to discuss how to fight the growing specter of human trafficking, particularly of women and children, in and through Alabama.  The Task Force announced in a written statement that they will host the Alabama Human Trafficking Summit on Friday, January 30 from 9 AM to 4:45 PM at the First Baptist Church of Montgomery at 305 S Perry St in Montgomery, Alabama.

Federal law enforcement authorities met on Thursday, January 15, to discuss the growing human trafficking problem.  US Attorney George Beck Jr. said in a written statement. “January is Human Trafficking Prevention month, and I am pleased that we can gather together for meaningful discussions and training on this vital subject.  It is critical that citizens and law enforcement be more proactive and take every opportunity to learn how to recognize the signs of a terrible crime that results in the abuse, intimidation, and enslavement of women and children.”

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services human trafficking is recognized as “a modern-day form of slavery” and “is tied with the illegal arms industry as the second largest criminal industry in the world today.” There are two major forms of human trafficking: labor or sex trafficking. Labor trafficking may include forced labor or debt bondage in which the victim continually works to pay off an undefined and seemingly endless debt.

To view Rep. Roby’s video statement:


Featured Columnists

Opinion | It should be clear by now: Kaepernick was right

Josh Moon



A lot of people owe Colin Kaepernick an apology. 

If nothing else, surely the last few weeks of horrible, horrible racial incidents have left even the most adamant Kap haters reconsidering their positions.

Maybe, just maybe, they’re thinking the man has a point: That justice in this country isn’t color blind.

And that the promises of justice and equality, represented by the United States flag and anthem, often fall well short for black men in this country. 

Then again, if you didn’t understand before now, there’s a good chance that watching ANOTHER black man be choked to death in broad daylight on an American street by a police officer — as three other police officers defended him — then you’re probably not inclined to understand now. 

George Floyd, the man we’ve all now witnessed dying on a Minneapolis street, as he begged a cop to let him breathe, did not deserve to die. Hell, he didn’t even deserve to be handcuffed and tossed down on the street, much less to have a cop put his knee on his throat until he died. 

A store thought Floyd was forging a check. A person at the store called the cops. And a few minutes later Floyd was dead. 

This, in a nutshell, is why Kaepernick began his protest several years ago. Why he sacrificed his NFL career. Why he has endured the death threats and vitriol. 


Because these sorts of awful acts are far too common for black men in America. The prevalence of the cell phone camera has made that abundantly clear over the last several years. 

It’s hard to imagine how many of these incidents were swept under the rug in years past. Especially after the actions of other cops, district attorneys and judges to protect the dirtiest of cops have also been exposed. 

That sad fact was highlighted in the Ahmaud Arbery shooting in Georgia in February. Even with video evidence, it took a new DA and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation becoming involved before the two men who hunted Arbery down were arrested. 

All because one of the men was a retired investigator who worked for the DA’s office. 

Because why mess up the life of a white man simply for shooting one black man who might have done something at some time? 

But the deck stacking won’t stop with the arrest. 

If the murder of Greg Gunn in Montgomery back in 2016 taught us anything, it’s that the entire system is rigged to ensure the bad cops never face full justice for their crimes. 

After Gunn, who was walking home after a poker game in his neighborhood, was murdered steps from his own front porch by a white cop who thought he looked suspicious, the cop was — to the shock of almost everyone — arrested within a week and before a grand jury could rule. 

Other cops — even ones who privately admitted to me that the cop, Aaron Smith, was in the wrong — pitched one hell of a hissy fit when the arrest warrant was issued. They threatened a walk-out. They showed up to sit in the courtroom during one of Smith’s early hearings. The mayor of the city vowed to keep Smith on the payroll. 

And then the real shenanigans started. 

Judges started to bail on the case — eight in all. The Alabama Supreme Court issued an unprecedented ruling that removed a black judge from the case. The appointed judge moved the trial from 70-percent-black Montgomery to 70-percent-white Dale County. 

After all of that, and even with Smith admitting to investigators that he never had probable cause to stop, chase or shoot Gunn, the best prosecutors could do was a manslaughter conviction. 

And in one final slap to the faces of Gunn’s family, Smith was released on bond while he appeals his conviction. He’s out today, having served only a few weeks to this point for a murder committed more than four years ago. 

This is the system that black Americans must traverse in this country. One that leaves black parents rightfully concerned that the men and women all of us white people call for protection might just be the executioners of their children. 

The rights guaranteed to us in the Constitution are not based on skin color. But too often, the protection of those rights by cops, DAs and judges is. 

That’s not right. And all of us should be willing to say so. 

And maybe admit that Kaepernick had a point.

Continue Reading


DOJ defends Alabama absentee voting law

Josh Moon



The U.S. Department of Justice isn’t using its vast powers to ensure the country’s most vulnerable people can exercise their right to vote, but is instead focusing its efforts on defending laws that clearly violate the spirit of the Voting Rights Act, an attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center said Tuesday. 

The comments, from SPLC senior staff attorney Caren Short, came in response to a DOJ filing in a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of several plaintiffs by SPLC, The NAACP Legal Defense Fund and Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program. That lawsuit seeks to implement curbside voting for at-risk citizens during the current pandemic and also to remove requirements for certain voter IDs and that witnesses sign absentee ballot requests. 

The DOJ filed a brief on Tuesday stating that it is the agency’s position that Alabama’s law requiring witnesses for absentee ballots does not violate Section 201 of the Voting Rights Act, because it is not a test or device as referenced in the Act. 

“It is not a literacy test, it is not an educational requirement, and it is not a moral character requirement,” Jay Town, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, said in the brief. “Nor, contrary to Plaintiffs’ position, is it a voucher requirement prohibited by Section 201’s fourth and final provision.”

Plaintiffs in the case have argued that the requirement for a single person with a pre-existing condition could pose a grave risk and reasonably lead to them being unable to safely cast a vote. In fact, they point out in the lawsuit instances in which the DOJ, prior to the Trump administration, also had argued against states requiring witnesses. 

“Our complaint demonstrates how Alabama’s witness requirement violates Section 201 of the Voting Rights Act,” said Deuel Ross, senior counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. “In the past, the DOJ itself has objected to witness requirements, but since February 2017, it has brought zero new voting rights cases.”

The “voucher” requirement was one of many tactics utilized by whites to prevent black citizens from voting. In practice, it required that any black person wishing to vote must first obtain the signature of a white person. 

Towns argued in the brief that there were differences between voucher requirements and the witness signatures, including that the witness doesn’t have to be a registered voter and the witness is merely signing that he or she witnessed the absentee voter filling out the ballot.

Continue Reading


Doug Jones calls for investigation of potential price fixing by meatpackers

Brandon Moseley



U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-Alabama) has joined other U.S. Senator in calling for an investigation into potential price fixing by the nation’s four largest meat packers. Many farmers and ranchers claim that what they get paid to produce the beef cattle has no relation to what consumers are getting charged in the stores and that the big four beef packers are pocketing the profits, while farmers suffer and consumers struggle to pay for the meat on the table.

“I am once again calling on the DOJ to investigate potential price-fixing in the meat-packing industry,” Jones said on social media. “In this time of uncertainty, we need to protect our nation’s food producers and make sure we can maintain our food supply.”

In April, Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries Commissioner Rick Pate (R) asked Sens. Jones and Richard Shelby to ask for an investigation.

Ag commissioner concerned about collapsing beef prices

Jones and the other Senators sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr.

“We have heard growing concerns from cattle producers and feeders in our states about troubling practices in the cattle industry that the COVID-19 national emergency has intensified, including allegations of market manipulation and coordinated behavior harmful to competition,” the Senators wrote. “These serious claims have been relayed in a request for further inquiry by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) from eleven state attorneys general this past week, in addition to a number of letters from Senators on the matter. We support these calls to action and request that the DOJ investigate suspected price manipulation and anticompetitive behavior in the highly concentrated cattle industry, in order to identify more clearly the factors contributing to a dire situation for producers.”

Four meat packers: Tyson Foods, Cargill/Excel, JBS Swift, and National Beef process over half of the cattle that are butchered in this country and there are a number of regulatory barriers that make entering the industry both expensive and time consuming.

“The lack of competition in the meatpacking industry has resulted in a vulnerable beef supply chain, which the current national emergency has destabilized further,” the Senators continued. “Recent pricing discrepancies between fed cattle and boxed beef are pushing cattle producers and feeders to the brink, adding to the longstanding concerns stemming from the state of competition among beef packers. Since February, we have seen live cattle prices slump by more than 18 percent, while wholesale beef prices have increased by as much as 115 percent during the same period.”


With warm weather and more people spending much more time at home rather than at restaurants demand for beef and other meat should be at all-time highs. Unfortunately, COVID-19 outbreaks at slaughter plants have meant that less cattle and hogs have been butchered. This has led to a decrease in the prices that farmers and ranchers receive for their animals while the price of boxed beef that the packers sell to the grocery stores has increased substantially.

Most Alabama cattlemen own acreage of grassland and a herd of mature cows. The cows and the bull do what they do naturally and most years each cow has one calf. The cow cares for the calf to weaning at 180 to 290 days (205 is average) and the rancher sells the calves, usually at an Alabama livestock auction. Buyers from the plains states come to purchase the 450 to 650 pound calves which are called “feeder calves.” They go west to be stockered and finished, usually at a feedlot. Finished, also called fat, cattle are then processed. Over 80 percent of the time by one of the big four packers.

Sunday afternoon, the Alabama Political Reporter spoke with Callahan Parrish, a fourth generation Cattle Farmer. Callahan also owns the Cullman Stockyard and is emerging as an Industry Advocate.

“The pandemic has unmasked many fundamental problems associated with the current beef production model,” Parrish said. “Industry infrastructure, competitive market access for our producers and food security issues top this list.”

In 2009 the average retail price of boneless sirloin steak was $5.68 per pound, In 2010 it climbed to $6.07 per pound, 2011 $6.16, 2012 $6.78, 2013 $6.78, 2014 $8.15, 2015 $8.29, 2016 $7.91, 2017 $7.93, 2018 $8.31, and 2019 $8.48.

The cattle market is a much more volatile from week to week; but in 2009 the average liveweight price for a feeder calf was approximately $.94 a pound, 2010 $.99, 2011 $1.30. 2012 $1,44, 2013 $1.51, 2014 $1.66. 2015 $2.20, 2016 $1.55, 2017 $1.32, 2018 $1.38, and 2019 $1.43. In the last 12 months the feeder calf price has traded at a high of $1.49 on October 28 all the way down to a low of $1.08 on March 31 at the height of the COVID-19 panic, the lowest the feeder calf price has been on the exchange since October 2010. Feeder cattle have rebounded somewhat in May and they closed on Tuesday at $1.33. There was a brief two year period from late 2013 to late 2015 where feeder calf prices soared. When prices crashed in the winter of 2015 (and never came back) the retail price of beef stayed high even though ranchers have gotten less than 1.61 per pound in these last five and a half years.

Those are the Chicago Mercantile Exchange prices. Most Alabama cattlemen do not get those prices. The big packers are located out west in Texas, Kansas, South Dakota, Nebraska as are most of the feedlots so they tend to buy southern cattle at a discount.

Using last week’s USDA feeder calf market report, Last week in Alabama steers: medium and large frame thick steers weighting 550 to 600 pounds were trading at between $1.20 per pound and $1.37 per pound last week depending on what day and what stockyard. At the same time in Oklahoma the same weight and classification of OK steer calves were trading at $1.4764. Advantage Oklahoma rancher $110.63 per calf. The same week medium and large frame average heifers weighing 550 to 600 pounds were selling for $1.01 to $1.18 per pound in Alabama. In Oklahoma they were trading at $1.248. Advantage Oklahoma rancher. The spread might not be this great every week, but in this example a rancher who sold 100 calves, 50 of them heifers and 50 of them steers would have made $9,953 more if he were the typical Oklahoma rancher versus the typical Alabama rancher. According to the same USDA report, there were some loads of 600 to 700 pound Alabama heifers trading at below $.90 a pound and we are off of the bottoms that farmers and ranchers experienced in March and April, where prices were disastrously low in many instances.

“We are seeing a lot of our local producers hurting right now due to extreme and unprecedented market volatility,” Parrish said.

This is because our cattle are not processed or fed out in Alabama; but instead are bought by order buyers and shipped out west at a profit. Some ranchers speculate that the Big Four packers are cooperating to set the spot or cash market price for cattle as low as they can, while selling beef at an artificially high price to American consumers.

Some cattlemen have asked for the DOJ to investigate. Last year, the producer group R-CALF filed suit against the Big Four packers alleging unfair trade practices. Southern cattle face continued price discrimination versus plains, Midwest, Texas, and western cattle. The Big Four packers process all the cattle out west, mix it with Mexican and Canadian calves, another move some cattlemen suggest is to drive down the spot price, and then ship all of that processed beef back to Alabama and the rest of the country. Some cattlemen have suggested that Alabama needs its own packing plants and feedlots to keep the beef closer to consumers.

“Lack of state infrastructure and increasing import issues are adding insult to this injury,” Parrish said. “Alabama Cattle Farmers, retailers and consumers are feeling the heat. As the temperature continues to rise . . . the conversations are getting louder. Not only are the conversations getting louder . . . they are getting exciting.”

We have spent a lot of time talking about agriculture & the importance of protecting our food supply, but the reality is that the farming industry is being left behind & they stand a lot to lose during this pandemic. We must prioritize our farmers & protect our food supply chain.

(Original writing and research by Montgomery area writer Amy McGhee contributed to this report. McGhee’s parents own and operate an Angus beef cattle farm in Tennessee.)

Continue Reading


Mimi Penhale is running as a Republican in State House District 49

Brandon Moseley



Tuesday, Miriam “Mimi” Penhale announced today that she is seeking the Republican nomination for District 49 of the Alabama House of Representatives.

District 49 is vacant due to former Rep. April Weaver’s leaving to accept a position with the Trump administration. A special primary election scheduled for August 4, 2020, if needed.

“I’m excited for the opportunity to serve House District 49 in Montgomery,” Penhale stated. “In my role as Legislative Director of Shelby County, I’ve spent the last nine years working with Representative April Weaver and Senator Cam Ward, helping local governments, schools, businesses, and the people of our community to navigate the complexities of state government. I have been blessed to get to know and serve the people of this district.”

“I’ve talked to people all over Bibb, Chilton and Shelby counties,” Penhale said. “They want a representative in Montgomery who will promote conservative Republican principles. These hard-working families want better access to healthcare, quality schools for their children, and improved infrastructure to support our growing communities. I’ll fight to make sure we protect the high quality of life we already enjoy across central Alabama, and I’ll work with Legislative leaders to deliver on issues where we fall short.”

Penhale has a bachelor’s degree in Biology, and a Master’s in Public Health from UAB, with a focus on Healthcare Organization and Policy. Penhale serves as the Vice Chair of the Shelby County Chamber of Commerce’s Governmental Affairs Work Group. She is a member of Shelby County’s Women’s Business Council, where she serves as a member of the Outreach Committee.

Penhale is a native of Troy, AL, where she was raised on her family’s bison ranch. She is married to Matt Penhale, of Alabaster. They have two daughters and are members of Kingwood Church.

Rep. Weaver was appointed by President Donald J. Trump (R) as the region IV director of the Department of Health and Human Services.

House District 49 consists of portions of Bibb, Shelby and Chilton Counties.


The special primary election for House District 49 will be held on Tuesday, August 4, 2020. If a runoff election is needed, it will be held on Tuesday, September 1, 2020. The general election will be held on Tuesday, November 3, 2020.

Continue Reading



The V Podcast