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Democratic Debate Recap

Brandon Moseley



By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Thursday, February 11, the only two Democratic Party candidates for President of the United States, participated in a debate that was televised on PBS and CNN in the swing-state of Wisconsin.

US Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) said that, “People are tired of establishment politics, People are tired of establishment economics.”

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) conceded that the economy is rigged. “America can only live up to its potential when we make sure that every American lives up to his or her potential.”

Sen. Sanders said that in the last 30 years there has been a massive redistribution of wealth from the poor and the middle class to the top one percent. Sanders promised that if elected he would make public colleges and universities free to attend and that the US has a moral responsibility to make sure that all of our people have healthcare coverage and proposed a single payer model to do that.

Sec. Clinton warned that, “Bernie’s plan would increase the size of the federal government by over 40 percent.” That is, “A promise that can not be met.”

Sen. Sanders said that Americans pay the most for prescription drugs of anyone in the world. “I have fought my entire life to make sure that Americans have a right to health care. In my view health care for all people is a right and I will fight for universal healthcare.”

Hillary Clinton defended the controversial Obamacare system we have now. She said, “We are at 90 percent coverage.” You need to level with people on what they will have with your plan. Many people will be worse off than they are right now.”


Bernie Sanders said that this is the only major country in the world that does not guarantee health care to all people.” We have to have the courage to take on the drug companies, to takes on the healthcare insurance companies, and to take on the medical device manufacturers.

Sec. Clinton said 170 million Americans get their healthcare through their employers. This is the system that we have inherited since World War II. “My proposals can be vetted.” Clinton said that her plan would only cost $100 billion a year which she will raise by taxing the wealthy and closing loopholes. “I will not throw us further into debt.”

Sen. Sanders asked: “Who denies that we have an infrastructure that is crumbling?” Who denies that real youth African American youth unemployment is 50 percent? Wall Street drove this country into the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression and he would impose a Wall Street speculations tax to make public college and university tuition free.

Sec. Clinton said that we differ on a couple of key points. You have to have some agreement to pass a plan. Senator Sanders plan would require that Governors like Scott Walker (R from Wisconsin) will contribute $23 billion a year. “I am skeptical that your governor will make any kind of commitment like that.”

Bernie Sanders said that, “The world has changed. In many ways a college degree is the equivalent of what a high school diploma was 50 or 60 years ago.” Free tuition should be a right.

Hillary Clinton said, “I have spent my entire adult life working to make sure that women are empowered to make their own choices even if their choice is not to vote for me.” When it comes to the issues that are really on the front lines we still have some barriers to knock down.

Sanders said I have a 100 percent Pro-Choice voting record. Paid family and medical leave should be a right of all working families. For somebody with my background, somebody with my views, somebody with my voting record to win the Presidency would be historic. “I spent my entire life taking on the big moneyed interests.”

Sec. Clinton said that she was proud that she has been endorsed by Planned Parenthood and NARAL. Those endorsements are because I have been a leader on those issues. Clinton warned of a whole national effort to set back women’s rights.

Bernie Sanders said that one out of four Black males born in this country today will go to jail. We have got to demilitarize local police departments so they don’t look like occupying armies. Police forces should look like the communities they serve. We have more people in jail than China does, a communist totalitarian country with four times our population. Sanders vowed to cut the prison population if he is elected.

Hillary Clinton said that there is systemic racism in education and in employment. Young people particularly young Black men are pushed out of school too early. We are seeing the dark side of the remaining systemic racism that we have in our country. We need good models about how to provide employment housing and education. She supported using the Justice Department against local communities like Ferguson.

Bernie Sanders said the economic crisis hit African American and Latino communities the hardest. African Americans lost half of their accumulated wealth, have unbelievable rates of incarceration, and suffer from institutional racism. We have an economy where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Sanders said that his plan to spend billions on public works and infrastructure project will create millions of jobs for low income kids so that they are not hanging out on street corners and will end up in the productive economy where we want them.

Hillary Clinton said, “I am deeply concerned” about what is happening in our communities including in the White Community. There have been increases in alcoholism. Whites are not living as long as their parents. Coal communities have been hit by the changing economy. I am going to do everything that I can to address distressed communities.

Sanders said that there has been a series of disastrous trade policies that have enabled corporate America to shut down American factories and put millions of American people out of work. Those job have gone to China. Adults that used to have a factory job with a pension now are working in McDonalds. That is why there is massive despair. The life expectancies of White working class people from 45 to 54 is actually going down. He wants an economy that takes care of everybody and not just a handful of billionaires who have enormous economic and political power.

Sanders said we have 11 million undocumented people and he favors passing comprehensive immigration reform and President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. “I will use the executive orders of the presidency if Congress does not do the right thing.”

Sec. Clinton also supports the president’s executive orders and believes they are constitutional. “Immigration is keeping economies going in many parts of the country.” She supports comprehensive immigration reform. After the election, “Hopefully some Republicans will come to their senses and realize that we are not going to deport 11 or 12 million people.”

Bernie Sanders said, “You judge a nation not by the number of millionaires or billionaires but by how we treat the poorest among us.” Many seniors are trying to get by on $11,000, $12,000 or $13,000 a year. He promised to expand social security by $1300 a year for people making under $15,000 a year now and extend it to disable veterans as well. This would be paid for by lifting the cap on social security taxes, currently at $265,000. A great national like ours should not be in a position where elderly people are cutting their pills in half and not getting enough nutrition.

Hillary Clinton said we both believe there has to be more money going into Social Security. I would expand the existing tax into passive income.

Sanders said he gets most of his contributions from ordinary Americans and that his average contribution is just $27. Half of Mrs. Clinton’s donations on the other hand have come from just two donors: George Soros and Daniel Sussman.

Clinton said, “Sussman and Soros have a Super PAC. They don’t coordinate with me. Their PAC was set up for President Obama. They decided to support me.”

Bernie said “Don’t insult the intelligence of the American people.” Why does Wall Street make huge contributions? Why does the Pharmaceutical industry? Why does the fossil fuel community? They don’t do it out of the goodness of their heart.

Hillary said that despite getting large contributions from Wall Street, President Obama pushed through and passed Dodd-Frank. That was a major accomplishment.

Sanders said, “Dodd-Frank doesn’t go anywhere near far enough.” No Wall Street executive has been prosecuted for the financial collapse. Six financial institutions have access to the equivalent of 58 percent of GDP. If Teddy Roosevelt, that great trust buster, were alive today, he would say break them up.

Hillary Clinton said that Muslims needs to feel welcome and invited in the American community. Donald Trump’s comments were dangerous.

Bernie Sanders said that it is a major responsibility of the President to keep our people safe. “I voted against the war in Iraq because I listened very carefully to what President Bush and Vice President Cheney said would happen and I didn’t believe that.” A powerful nation like the United States working with our allies can overthrow dictators all over the world. “We could take out Assad tomorrow, but what happens on the next day?” Hillary Clinton replaced a dictator in Libya and then that country spiraled out of control. The US has been overthrowing dictators for 50 or 60 years but what about the unintended consequences? Sanders said he will make certain the US does not get involved in perpetual warfare in the Middle East.

The Alabama Presidential Primary is on March 1.



League of Women Voters of Alabama sue over voting amid COVID-19 pandemic

Eddie Burkhalter



The League of Women Voters of Alabama on Thursday filed a lawsuit against Gov. Kay Ivey, Secretary of State John Merrill and several Montgomery County election officials asking the court to expand Alabama’s absentee voting and relax other voting measures amid the COVID-19 outbreak. 

The nonprofit is joined in the suit by 10 plaintiffs who range in age from 60 to 75, many of whom have medical conditions that put them at greater risk for serious complications or death from COVID-19. 

“Voting is a right, not a privilege, and elections must be safe, accessible, and fairly administered,” the League of Women Voters of Alabama said in a press release Thursday. “Alabama’s Constitution specifically requires that the right to vote be protected in times of ‘tumult,’ clearly including the current pandemic.” 

Currently, to vote absentee in Alabama, a person must send a copy of their photo ID and have their ballot signed by a notary or two adults. The lawsuit asks the court to require state officials to use emergency powers to waive the notary or witness requirement, the requirement to supply a copy of a photo ID and to extend no-excuse absentee voting into the fall. 

Among the plaintiffs is Ardis Albany, 73, of Jefferson County who has an artificial aortic valve, according to the lawsuit. 

“Because she fears exposing herself to COVID-19 infection, Ms. Albany has already applied for an absentee ballot for the November 3, 2020, general election,” the complaint states. “Her application checked the box for being out of county on election day, and she is prepared to leave Jefferson County on election day if necessary to vote an absentee ballot.” 

Another plaintiff, 63-year-old Lucinda Livingston of Montgomery County suffers from heart and lung problems and has been sequestered at home since March 17, where she lives with her grandson, who’s under the age of five, according to the complaint. 

“She fears acquiring COVID-19, given her physiological pre-morbidity, and she fears spreading the virus to her grandson at home,” the complaint states. “She has never voted an absentee ballot, but she wishes to do so in the elections held in 2020. She does not have a scanner in her home, cannot make a copy of her photo ID, and has no way safely to get her absentee ballot notarized or signed by two witnesses.” 


In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Gov. Ivey pushed the Republican runoff election back until July 14. Although Merrill has allowed those who may be concerned about voting in person in the runoff to vote absentee by checking a box on the ballot that reads “I have a physical illness or infirmity which prevents my attendance at the polls.”

Merril has not extended that offer for voters in the municipal and presidential elections in November, however. 

Meanwhile, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alabama continue to rise, while testing for the virus has remained relatively flat in recent weeks. 

“We’re extraordinarily concerned about the numbers that we have been seeing,” said Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris, speaking during a press briefing Thursday. 

Harris said the department continues to see community spread of the virus and have identified several hotspots. He’s concerned that the public isn’t taking the virus seriously or following recommendations to wear masks in public and maintain social distancing, he said Thursday. 

“One hundred years ago the nonpartisan League of Women Voters was founded to protect and preserve the right to vote and the integrity of the electoral process,” said Barbara Caddell, President of the League of Women Voters of Alabama, in a statement. “The unexpected risks posed by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 (COVID19) challenge our election system to the utmost.  Today, we ask that Alabama’s courts use Alabama’s laws to make it safe and possible for all citizens to vote.”

The League of Woman Voters of Alabama’s lawsuit is similar to a suit by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program which asks the court to require state officials to implement curbside voting for at-risk citizens during the coronavirus pandemic and to remove requirements for certain voter IDs and witnesses requirements.

The U.S. Department of Justice on Tuesday filed a brief in that suit that states the department doesn’t believe Alabama’s law that requires witnesses for absentee ballots violates the Voting Rights Act.

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Two patients at Mary Starke Harper Geriatric Psychiatric Center die from COVID-19

Eddie Burkhalter



Two patients at the state’s Mary Starke Harper Geriatric Psychiatric Center have died from COVID-19, the Alabama Department of Mental Health confirmed to APR on Thursday. 

There remained 17 active coronavirus cases among patients at the state-run facility, said ADMH spokeswoman Malissa Valdes-Hubert in a message Thursday. 

One patient at the facility has recovered from the virus, Valdes-Hubert said. Two nurses at the facility have also tested positive for the virus, Valdes-Hubert said on May 15. 

There were no confirmed cases at ADMH’s two other facilities in Tuscaloosa, Bryce Hospital and the Taylor Hardin Secure Medical Facility as of Thursday, Valdes-Hubert said.

Among the preventative measures being taken at the Mary Starke Harper facility are staff temperature checks and screening for other symptoms, and workers are required to wear FDA approved masks, Valdes-Hubert previously said.

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Inmate at Elmore prison dies after attack from another inmate

Eddie Burkhalter



A man serving at the Elmore Correctional Facility died Wednesday after being assaulted by another inmate, the Alabama Department of Corrections confirmed Thursday. 

Jamaal King, 33, died Tuesday from injuries he received after an attack from another inmate, ADOC spokeswoman Samantha Banks wrote in a message to APR.  

“The ADOC condemns all violence in its facilities, and the fatal actions taken against King by another inmate are being thoroughly investigated,” Banks said in the message. 

King was serving a 22-year sentence after being convicted of murder, according to ADOC. His exact cause of death is pending an autopsy.


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Alabama includes antibody test results in total test counts

Chip Brownlee



The Alabama Department of Public Health is combining some antibody test results with diagnostic test results in its total tested count on the state’s public coronavirus dashboard, potentially complicating the picture of the virus’s spread.

Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said Thursday that some antibody test results have been included in the state’s “total tested” count on its public dashboard, but that the state is working to separate the two categories of tests.

“I think the total number does include some antibody tests, although I’ve asked our staff to sort of ferret those out and start reporting those separately,” Harris said.

Diagnostic PCR tests, which are the vast majority of tests performed currently, check for a current infection, while antibody tests, which use blood and are sometimes called serologic tests, check for a past infection.

The acknowledgment that Alabama has combined the two types of tests on its public dashboard comes after several states faced a backlash from public health experts who say the two types of tests should not be combined.

Combining the two types of tests muddies the picture and could mislead the public and policymakers about where and when the virus spread. Depending on how many antibody tests have been included, it may also falsely inflate the total tested count.

Several other states — including Texas, Virginia and Vermont — said they also recognized the issue and have been working to fix them. The CDC also came under fire for combining the two types of tests in its public reporting of testing numbers.

Harris said he was not sure how many antibody tests have been included in the total tested category, but that the state is working to separate the tests into two different counts.


“I’m not sure what that number is but we’re going to start reporting that separately just to make that clear to the public,” Harris said.

The state health officer also said the state does not use antibody test results to calculate the percent of tests that are positive, an important metric used to determine if the state is doing enough testing and if increased cases are the result of increased testing or community transmission.

“When we look at the percent of positive tests, those are not including antibody tests at all. We’re only looking at people who were tested with a PCR (diagnostic) test to see if they were actively infected,” Harris said during a live-streamed town hall with U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell Thursday. “And so that percent positive rate, which is the one we’re monitoring the most, is the one that does not include the antibody tests.”

On Wednesday, the CDC urged caution when seeking antibody tests because the tests could be wrong up to half of the time.

The CDC also warned that antibody tests are not accurate enough to use to make public policy decisions or personal safety decisions, despite calls from some policymakers who say the tests can be used to give people an all-clear to return to normal life.

Experts warn that getting a positive antibody test should not be taken as a license to think you are now immune from the virus. There is limited evidence about how long immunity lasts, and the test could be a false positive.

“Serologic testing (antibody testing) should not be used to determine immune status in individuals until the presence, durability, and duration of immunity is established,” the CDC said.

The CDC also cautioned against using antibody tests to make decisions about returning to work or school.

“Serologic test results should not be used to make decisions about grouping persons residing in or being admitted to congregate settings, such as schools, dormitories, or correctional facilities,” the CDC said. “Serologic test results should not be used to make decisions about returning persons to the workplace.”

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