U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) announced final Senate passage of the Fiscal Year 2019 (FY2019) Defense Appropriations Act. The bill was included in the conference report to accompany H.R. 6157, the minibus appropriations package which also contains the FY2019 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies funding bill.
The package provides $674.4 billion in funding for the Department of Defense, which is an increase of $19.8 billion above the FY2018 enacted level. The House is expected to vote on the legislation next week. If the house passes it, the package will be sent to the President’s desk for his signature.
“This is the most significant step we have taken yet,” said Senator Shelby. “For the first time in a decade, we are sending a Defense spending bill to the President’s desk on time. Returning to regular order has required us all to sacrifice and work together for the good of the process. I want to thank my colleagues – particularly Leaders McConnell and Schumer and Vice Chairman Leahy – for their help in moving the Defense-Labor-HHS conference report before the Senate. This conference report contains critical funding for defense and domestic priorities. It accelerates the rebuilding of America’s military and provides our men and women in uniform with the largest pay increase in nearly a decade. It also increases NIH’s budget by $2 billion and provides critical resources to combat the opioid epidemic.”
The appropriations minibus conference report was approved in the Senate by a vote of 93 to 7.
The Department of Defense portion of the package contains funding for defense priorities throughout the state of Alabama.
“We must approve defense appropriations legislation to fund military readiness, procurement, and testing — all of which are required to keep U.S. military forces the best trained, equipped, prepared, and strongest force in the world,” continued Senator Shelby. “This historic legislation further highlights Alabama’s strong national defense capabilities and provides our state with the opportunity to continue producing essential tools to support our men and women in uniform. I am confident that this legislation will allow our defense programs to remain of the highest caliber.”
The Defense and Labor-HHS-Education bills represent the majority of discretionary federal spending. Neither has been signed into law before the end of the fiscal year in a decade. The measure provides an outline for military leaders to have the resources they need to meet current and future threats to U.S. national security.
The legislation includes items critical for the Wiregrass including: an additional $95 million for future vertical lift research, which will help accelerate development of helicopters flown at Fort Rucker; $10 million to upgrade Navy MH-60 Seahawk helicopters; $1.0 billion for Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missiles; $111 million for Long Range Anti-Ship Missiles (LRASMs) (The measure also encourages the Navy to evaluate the capabilities and costs of a surface-launched LRASM.); $307 million for Joint Air-to-Ground Missiles (JAGMs); $663 million for Joint Air-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSMs), which recently made its debut in strikes on Syria in response to their use of chemical weapons; $484 million for Hellfire missiles, which are made in Troy and used for training at Fort Rucker; $254 million for Javelin missiles for the Army and Marine Corps.
The legislation has provisions impacting North Alabama including: $11.1 billion for investments in researching transformational technologies to address modern and future Army warfighting needs; $10.4 billion for the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), including $1.1 billion to support urgent MDA unfunded priorities and emergent threats; $191 million for Standard Missile Improvements, which are built in Decatur, and supports work done by MDA at Redstone Arsenal and many local companies; $184 million in additional funding to further develop directed energy technology and transition these activities to both offensive and defensive capabilities; $664 million in additional funding to support and accelerate offensive and defensive hypersonics research and prototyping efforts; An additional $15 million to integrate Small Glide Munitions onto on Unmanned Aerial Systems (This highly successful weapon is used by Special Operations Command and built in Huntsville); $306 million in additional funding to expand and accelerate cyber research across the Department of Defense, including $127 million for Army cybersecurity research efforts and $116 million in Missile Defense Agency cybersecurity enhancements. This bill encourages the enhanced use of cyber red teams to address cyber intrusions that threaten our weapons systems, an area of particular excellence for Huntsville.
In space, the defense bill includes” $200 million in additional funding for Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) development efforts to ensure assured access to space. United Launch Alliance (ULA), which builds rockets in Decatur, continues to be seen as the most reliable and capable space launch provider.
The bill even includes Advanced Shipbuilding Capabilities with $15 million to establish North Alabama as a center for classified, high power large-scale electron beam welding. This technology is critical to new Navy Columbia-class submarines and many high-performance aerospace systems such as hypersonic reentry vehicles, scramjet missiles, and rocket and jet engine turbomachinery.
The legislation has provisions impacting Anniston including: $276 million for Hydra rockets, which are built in Anniston and fired from Army and Marine Corps helicopters; Funding for Army Vehicles which are overhauled and maintained at Anniston Army Depot (ANAD): $2.5 billion to continue modernizing M1 Abrams tanks; $393 million for Stryker vehicles, including an additional $94 million to support increased Stryker DVH A1 conversions; An additional $110 million for Paladin Integrated Management artillery vehicles; and $18 million in additional funding for M88A2 Hercules Improved Recovery vehicles.
The legislation also has provisions impacting Mobile’s shipbuilding industry including: Two additional Littoral Combat Ships (LCS); One additional Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF) ship; An additional $700 million in Advance Procurement for LPD and LHA amphibious ships.
U.S. Senator Richard Shelby is the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense. Shelby has served the people of Alabama in the U.S. Senate since 1986.
Byrne: People of Alabama “do not want the coronavirus brought here”
Sunday, Senate candidate Congressman Bradley Byrne, R-Montrose, expressed his opposition to a federal government plant to relocated coronavirus infected people in Anniston.
“The people of Alabama DO NOT want the coronavirus brought here,” Congressman Byrne said. “I’m fighting to bring this to a full stop. Leave these people in the place they came to, don’t spread them around the US, and keep them OUT of Alabama. The risk is much too high.”
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) also expressed concerns about the federal plan to relocate coronavirus exposed passengers to Anniston. Coronavirus infected persons could be in Alabama as early as Wednesday.
“Late Friday night, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) informed me about their proposal to transport Americans who have tested positive with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) from the Diamond Princess cruise ship to a FEMA Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP) in Anniston,” Ivey said. “Sensing the urgency, I quickly informed the offices of Senators Richard Shelby and Doug Jones and Congressman Mike Rogers, as well as Dr. Scott Harris with the Alabama Department of Public Health.”
“On Saturday, it appears that a press release from HHS was inadvertently, and perhaps prematurely, sent notifying the State of Alabama that these individuals were scheduled to begin transporting to Alabama as early as Wednesday,” Ivey continued.
“Obviously concerned, there were a number of conversations between HHS, the White House, my staff and me, as well as two rounds of conference calls including the senior staff of the Congressional Delegation to try to clarify HHS’ intent and reasoning for selecting Alabama,” Ivey continued. “On one of the calls, they informed us that the CDP in Anniston is only being considered as a “back-up” plan, in case they run out of alternative locations. They assured us on both calls that no decision had been made to send anyone to Anniston.”
“I made it abundantly clear that while the State of Alabama wants to work closely with the Trump Administration to assist fellow Americans who may have tested positive for the Coronavirus, there were some grave concerns about why the site in Anniston was chosen and how, logistically, this would play out in the event this back-up site were to be eventually activated,” Ivey said in a statement to the media. “First and foremost, my priority is to protect the people of Alabama. While locating these folks in Alabama is currently a backup plan, this is a serious issue and we need to be fully aware of the facts regarding the potential of housing them in Anniston.
“I am grateful to Senator Shelby and his team for coordinating today’s effort to send officials from HHS to Alabama to provide further clarity to this situation,” Ivey said. “I also appreciate Congressman Rogers for speaking with the President and informing him of the concern of the people of Alabama. Through these coordinated efforts, we will begin a process that will be transparent, and hopefully find a solution of which we are united and comfortable with.”
Congressman Rogers expressed his concerns about the coronavirus infected persons being housed in the Third Congressional District.
“Earlier this evening, I spoke with President Trump,” Rogers said in a statement on Saturday. He agreed with me that the decision by the Department of Health and Human Services to house those Americans exposed to Coronavirus at the Center for Domestic Preparedness in Anniston is the wrong decision. President Trump had no advanced notice and these individuals were brought to the continental United States without his consent. I will continue to work with President Trump and HHS to find the best facilities that meet the needs for those Americans that have been exposed to this dangerous virus. The CDP is not that place.”
Byrne shared Rogers comments and added, “We’ve been tracking the issue and I’m glad to stand with Rep. Rogers and President Trump as we work to stop this ill advised plan.”
Coronaviruses are extremely common throughout the animal kingdom and are one of the causes of the “common cold.” This is novel (new) strain of the virus, that appears to have come from bats. Researchers are calling this disease COVID-19, short for “coronavirus disease 2019.”
As of Sunday morning, there have been 78,966 diagnosed cases of COVID-19. 53,079 of these are still active. 23,418 people have recovered from their illness and been discharged. 2,469 have died. Most of these are in China, where the plague originated; but at this point the disease has spread to 32 countries.
Rogers opposes housing persons infected with coronavirus in Anniston
Saturday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that the Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP) would be used as a quarantine center for some Americans exposed to Coronavirus (COVID-19). Congressman Mike Rogers, R-Saks, announced that he thinks this is the wrong decision and he is opposed to housing the coronavirus patients in Anniston.
“Earlier this evening, I spoke with President Trump. He agreed with me that the decision by the Department of Health and Human Services to house those Americans exposed to Coronavirus at the Center for Domestic Preparedness in Anniston is the wrong decision,” Rogers said in a statement. President Trump had no advanced notice and these individuals were brought to the continental United States without his consent. I will continue to work with President Trump and HHS to find the best facilities that meet the needs for those Americans that have been exposed to this dangerous virus. The CDP is not that place,” Rogers said.
The coronavirus is normally just the common cold. We have all had it multiple time. The novel (new) strain of the coronavirus appeared in Wuhan City, Hubei Province China in December. The new strain of the virus has been named SARS-Cov-2 and the disease the coronavirus disease 2019, which is being abbreviated as COVID-19
A percentage of people get the virus and show no symptoms. They feel nothing. Are they shedding the virus is a question researchers are still trying to understand. Most of the people who get the Novel strain of the coronavirus wake up with a fever and have flu-like symptoms. A not so small percentage have severe symptoms. Healthcare workers in Wuhan were particularly hit hard.
Efforts by the Chinese to contain this in Hubei Province failed and the disease has now spread to Beijing, Hong Kong, and 32 countries including the United States.
On January 30, 2020, the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee of the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern.” On January 31, 2020, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar II declared a public health emergency (PHE) for the United States to aid the nation’s healthcare community in responding to COVID-19.
According to the CDC, Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can infect people and then spread between people such as with MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV, and now with this new virus (named SARS-CoV-2).
The SARS-CoV-2 virus is a beta-coronavirus, like MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV. All three of these viruses have their origins in bats. The sequences from U.S. patients are similar to the one that China initially posted, suggesting a likely single, recent emergence of this virus from an animal reservoir.
While it likely began at a large live animal market in China and spread animal to person, person-to-person spread began both in China and beyond, including in the United States.
Both MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV have been known to cause severe illness in people. The complete clinical picture with regard to COVID-19 is not fully understood. The CDC and world health authorities have an ongoing investigations to learn more. The CDC says that this is a rapidly evolving situation and information will be updated as it becomes available. More cases are likely to be identified in the coming days, including more cases in the United States. It’s also likely that person-to-person spread will continue to occur, including in the United States.
The CDC is shipping test kits for the virus to laboratories CDC has designated as qualified, including U.S. state and local public health laboratories, Department of Defense (DOD) laboratories and select international laboratories. The test kits are bolstering global laboratory capacity for detecting SARS-CoV-2. The federal government is working closely with state, local, tribal, and territorial partners, as well as public health partners, to respond to this public health threat.
On January 21, the CDC activated its Emergency Operations Center to better provide ongoing support to the COVID-19 response. February 2, 2020, at 5:00 pm, the U.S. government suspended entry of foreign nationals who have been in China within the past 14 days.
U.S. citizens, residents, and their immediate family members who have been in Hubei province and other parts of mainland China are allowed to enter the United States, but they are subject to health monitoring and possible quarantine for up to 14 days.
The CDC has issued the following travel guidance related to COVID-19:
China — Level 3, Avoid Nonessential Travel — last updated February 22;
Japan — Level 2, Practice Enhanced Precautions — last updated February 22;
South Korea — Level 2, Practice Enhanced Precautions — issued February 22;
Hong Kong — Level 1, Practice Usual Precautions — issued February 19.
The CDC also recommends that all travelers reconsider cruise ship voyages into or within Asia at this time.
The CDC has deployed multidisciplinary teams to support state health departments with clinical management, contact tracing, and communications.
The CDC has worked with the Department of State, supporting the safe return of Americans who have been stranded as a result of the ongoing outbreaks of COVID-19 and related travel restrictions. CDC has worked to assess the health of passengers as they return to the United States and provided continued daily monitoring of people who are quarantined.
The CDC has been uploading the entire genome of the viruses from reported cases in the United States to GenBank as sequencing was completed. The CDC has grown the COVID-19 virus in cell culture, which is necessary for further studies, including for additional genetic characterization. The cell-grown virus was sent to NIH’s BEI Resources Repository for use by the broad scientific community.
According to the CDC, while the immediate risk of this new virus to the American public is believed to be low at this time, everyone can do their part to help us respond to this emerging public health threat: It’s currently flu and respiratory disease season and CDC recommends getting a flu vaccine, taking everyday preventive actions to help stop the spread of germs, and taking flu antivirals if prescribed. If you are a healthcare provider, be on the look-out for people who recently traveled from China and have fever and respiratory symptoms. If you are a healthcare provider caring for a COVID-19 patient or a public health responder, please take care of yourself and follow recommended infection control procedures. If you have been in China or have been exposed to someone sick with COVID-19 in the last 14 days, you will face some limitations on your movement and activity. Please follow instructions during this time. Your cooperation is integral to the ongoing public health response to try to slow spread of this virus. If you develop COVID-19 symptoms, contact your healthcare provider, and tell them about your symptoms and your travel or exposure to a COVID-19 patient. For people who are ill with COVID-19, please follow CDC guidance on how to reduce the risk of spreading your illness to others.
As of Sunday morning, there have been 78,966 cases of COVID-19. 53,079 of these are active. 23,418 people have recovered from their illness and been discharged. 2,469 have died. The number of deaths have doubled since February 12.
It affects the elderly worse than younger people. For 80+ years old the mortality rate is 14.8 percent, for 70-79 year old the mortality is 8 percent, for 60-69 years old 3.6 percent, for 50-59 years old 1.3 percent for 40-49 years old 0.4 percent, 30-39 years old 0.2 percent, 29 years old 0.2 percent, 10-19 years old 0.2 percent, and 0-9 years old there have not yet been any fatalities. The mortality rate for males is 2.8 percent. For females it is 1.7 percent.
Pre-existing conditions greatly increases the fatality rate. For those with cardiovascular disease the death rate is 10.5 percent, diabetes 7.3 percent, chronic respiratory disease 6.3 percent, hypertension 6.0 percent, cancer and 5.6 percent; though it has a death rate of .9 percent for those with no pre-existing conditions.
On Thursday, it was announced that educators have begun working on plans to use online education over the internet if American schools have to be closed in the event that COVID-19 becomes a pandemic in the United States forcing schools to close.
To this point there have been only 35 COVID-19 cases in the United States and no deaths.
Rogers serves as Ranking Member on the Committee on Homeland Security and a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee.
Sanders wins Nevada
Saturday, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) appears to have followed his victory in the New Hampshire primary with a victory in the Nevada caucuses.
“First we won the popular vote in Iowa. Then we won the New Hampshire primary. And now we have won the Nevada caucus,” Sen. Sanders said. “Let me first thank the people of Nevada for their support. We put together a multi-racial, multi-generational coalition across the state that will win not only in Nevada, but all across this country. No other campaign has a grassroots movement like we do, which is a large reason why we’re gonna win this election.”
The Alabama primary is just one week away on Super Tuesday.
“We are going to win across the country because the American people are sick and tired of a corrupt administration that is undermining American democracy.” Sanders continued. “They are sick and tired of a government based on greed and lies. It is time for an administration which is based on the principles of economic justice, social justice, racial justice, and environmental justice.”
Sanders received 47.1 percent of the vote. Former Vice President Joe Biden received 21 percent of the vote. South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg received just 13.7 percent of the vote. U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) continued to underperform with just 9.6 percent of the vote. Billionaire Tom Steyer of California received just 4.7 percent of the vote. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minnesota) failed to gain any momentum off of her strong third place finish in New Hampshire and received just 3.9 percent of the vote.
Sanders is clearly the frontrunner going into the South Carolina primary. The self -proclaimed socialist has won 34 delegates to this point. Buttigieg is in second with 23, and Biden and Warren are tied with eight. Klobuchar has seven delegates.
New York City Mayor billionaire Michael Bloomberg have foregone the early primaries. He participated in his first debate and according to most observers did not fare well. Moderate Democrats have expressed concern that the party may suffer in November if the socialist label is attached to its nominee. Republicans are taking enjoyment from the Democrats’ strife.
“Michael Bloomberg maybe a Billionaire but when questioned by his fellow Socialist Democrats, he looked like a Deer in headlights!” Trump national finance committee chair Perry Hooper Jr. said. “Mini Mike was clear the Debate looser. It is very apparent that the National Democrat party today are controlled by the Left and they are very comfortable with Socialist Democrat, Bernie Sanders. But I think the real Looser is the Democrat Party! The Winner is and will continue to be heavy weight Champion, President Donald J. Trump.”
It takes 1,994 delegates to win the nomination. The next contest is the South Carolina Primary
The Alabama Democratic primary is March 3.
Alabama Democratic Women to host first Women in Blue Day on March 10
On March 10, the Alabama Democratic Women (ADW) organization will host their first annual Women in Blue Day, a day where state chapters of the National Federation of Democratic Women meet at their state capitols to speak with their legislators about issues that are of particular relevance to women and families.
Attendees will gather at the Alabama State House at the Tunnels (11 S Union Street, Montgomery, AL 36130) and all attendees are encouraged to wear blue attire in a symbol of solidarity. Check-in/registration will begin at 9:45 AM.
The day will include a briefing with Democratic representatives, a Capitol tour, brunch, observance of the legislative meeting, and a State Party update at the Alabama Democratic Party headquarters from Alabama Democratic Party Chair, Rep. Chris England.
ADW is a nonprofit political organization dedicated to supporting the Democratic Party and Democratic Women in Alabama, according to their website. The mission of ADW is to “unite Democratic women across the state of Alabama to ensure that we have a seat at the table and that our voices are heard.”
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