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Jones co-sponsors bipartisan bill to address Chronic Wasting Disease in deer

Brandon Moseley

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Thursday, U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, joined Senators John Barrasso, R-Wyoming, and Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, to re-introduce bipartisan legislation to increase wildlife managers’ ability to keep wildlife healthy. Whitetail deer hunting is by far the most popular hunting sport in Alabama and CWD presents an existential threat to the state’s deer herd.

The bipartisan bill would authorizes a special resource study to determine how chronic wasting disease (CWD) spreads and could be prevented in deer and elk. CWD can affect both wild and domestic herds of deer and elk. CWD has spread over 26 states and several Canadian provinces. While Alabama is currently CWD negative, the disease has spread from state to state despite the best efforts of wildlife manager. Two deer were confirmed CWD positive in Mississippi just last summer. There is still a lot that is unknown about this disease and state recommendations for preventing the spread of the disease vary.

When completed, the study would give state wildlife agencies and wildlife experts information to conduct targeted research on how the disease is transmitted, determine which areas are most at risk, and develop consistent advice for hunters to prevent further spread.

“The spread of chronic wasting disease among the deer population threatens our local economies and, for many, a way of life that has long valued a tradition of hunting and conservation,” said Senator Jones, who also spoke on the Senate floor about the bill. “As an avid hunter and outdoorsman, I am deeply concerned about the impact of CWD on our wildlife population across the country and on the boost that deer hunting brings to Alabama’s economy. Thankfully, we have not yet seen cases in Alabama, but it has been found in our neighboring states. Our bipartisan legislation would help us better understand this disease and give local wildlife managers better tools to prevent its spread.”

“Wyoming’s deer, elk and moose populations have been negatively impacted by chronic wasting disease for decades,” said Senator Barrasso. “Now, 26 states have detected chronic wasting disease and new cases arise each day. We need to know more about how this disease spreads and which areas are most at risk. Our bill gives wildlife managers the tools they need to research and identify exactly where chronic wasting disease is most prominent and how we can better prevent it. It’s a critical first step to addressing this debilitating disease and keeping our wildlife herds healthy.”

“Transmission of CWD among deer and elk herds is a critical issue, threatening parts of Colorado’s outdoor economy and way of life,” said Senator Bennet. “This bill would provide state wildlife professionals with the information they need to standardize their work, improve CWD management, and prevent further spread across the country.”

“By understanding how chronic wasting disease spreads, we can begin to eradicate it and protect our hunting heritage and economy,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “This bipartisan legislation will bring the Departments of Interior and Agriculture together to ensure healthy wildlife. Sportsmen and women appreciate the leadership of Senators Barrasso, Jones and Bennet to protect the deer herds that are vital to our way of life.”

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The bill is supported by the: Association for Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Muley Fanatics Foundation, Boone and Crockett Club, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, The Wilderness Society, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, the Wild Sheep Foundation, the National Wildlife Federation, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and others.

The Chronic Wasting Disease Transmission in Cervidae Study Act addresses the needs identified by state agencies through the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA). The bill requires the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Interior secretaries to enter into an arrangement with the National Academies of Sciences to review current data and best management practices (BMPs) from federal and state agencies regarding: Pathways and mechanisms for CWD transmission; Areas at risk and geographical patterns of CWD transmission; and Gaps in current scientific knowledge regarding transmission to prioritize research to address gaps.

CWD is a prion disease similar to scrapie in domestic sheep and “mad cow disease” in domestic cattle. Because it is a prion disease, it is very difficult to eradicate once introduced. The shed prions can persist in the soil for decades. The risk to humans is considered slight; but humans are being advised not to eat the brains or spinal materials of deer as a precaution.

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The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has ramped up testing of deer particularly in Northwest counties of Alabama closest to the last CWD positive deer in Mississippi.

The state has banned the importation of deer carcasses from other states unless the meat has been completely deboned. Deer get the disease from exposure to the carcasses and carcass material of other deer or other cervids.

Senator Doug Jones was elected in a special election in 2017 and faces re-election in 2020.

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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Elections

Alabama Forestry Association endorses Tuberville

Brandon Moseley

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Republican U.S. Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville.

The Alabama Forestry Association announced Wednesday that the group is endorsing Republican Senate nominee Tommy Tuberville in the upcoming general election.

“We are proud to endorse Tommy Tuberville in the United States Senate race,” said AFA Executive Vice President Chris Isaacson. “He is a conservative with an impressive list of accomplishments, and we know that he will continue that record in his role as U.S. Senator. Tommy knows that decisions made in Washington impact families and businesses and will be an effective voice for the people of Alabama.”

“I am honored to have the endorsement of the Alabama Forestry Association,” Tuberville said. “The AFA is an excellent organization that stands for pro-business policies. Protecting Alabama industry is a key to our state’s success.”

Tuberville recently won the Republican nomination after a primary season that was extended because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Tuberville is a native of Arkansas and a graduate of Southern Arkansas University. He held a number of assistant coaching positions, including defensive coordinator at Texas A&M and the University of Miami where he won a national championship.

Tuberville has been a head coach at Mississippi, Auburn, Texas Tech and Cincinnati. In his nine years at Auburn University, the team appeared in eight consecutive bowl games. His 2004 team won the SEC Championship and the Sugar Bowl.

Tuberville coached that team to a perfect 13 to 0 season.

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Tuberville has been married to his wife Suzanne since 1991. They have two sons and live in Auburn.

Tuberville is challenging incumbent Democratic Sen. Doug Jones in the Nov. 3 general election.

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Public asked to help find missing mother of three en route to Alabama

Brandon Moseley

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Marilane Carter is a 36-year-old white female. She was driving a 2011 dark grey GMC Acadia with a Kansas tag: 194LFY.

Marilane Carter, age 36, left Kansas City, Kansas, late Saturday night Aug. 1 heading to Birmingham seeking help for her mental health. She was seeking help possibly at Grandview or UAB.

Her last known phone contact was near Memphis, Tennessee, around Sunday, Aug. 2 at 8 p.m. near I-55.

According to the family, there has been no contact and no vehicle sighting since that time. Her phone is dead and there have been no credit card charges on her account.

“We are concerned for her safety,” the family said in a statement.

Marilane is married to Adam Carter, and together they have three young children.

The family is asking the public to keep an eye out for Marilane, and keep her and her family in your prayers.

Carter is 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighs 130 pounds. She has long brown hair, green eyes and was last seen wearing a green T-shirt and black yoga pants.

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“The biggest thing: pray that God orchestrates this in such a way that brings Marilane to safety — as well as glory to Him,” the family wrote. “We covet your prayers and help to find Marilane. #findmarilane.”

Marilane is a 36-year-old white female. She was driving a 2011 dark grey GMC Acadia with a Kansas tag: 194LFY. She has family in Kansas City, Birmingham and Fairhope. If found or you have any information, call 911 and ask for the police.

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Elections

Jones campaign says Tuberville is not taking the pandemic seriously

Brandon Moseley

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Incumbent Sen. Doug Jones, left, and Republican challenger Tommy Tubberville, right.

Incumbent Democratic Sen. Doug Jones’ re-election campaign released a statement critical of Republican Senate nominee Tommy Tuberville, suggesting that he is not taking the COVID-19 pandemic seriously enough.

“The Washington Post reported today that the stock market plummeted after jobless claims climbed last week by 1.4 million and the economy shrank by 9.5 percent — the biggest decline in most of our lifetimes,” the Jones campaign wrote. “While economists are worried about the permanent damage COVID-19 will do to the economy, and public health experts are pleading for people to abide by state and local mask orders, Tommy Tuberville ‘snickers’ in response to questions about flouting public health orders while in DC to raise campaign cash. The people of Alabama need to know that Tuberville is not taking the pandemic seriously, raising serious questions about how he would handle this crisis if elected.”

The Washington Post reported that “Tuberville is fundraising and holding ­in-person meetings in Washington this week, defying orders from D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) that visitors from Alabama and other coronavirus hot spots quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.”

“Tuberville spent at least some of his time at the Trump International Hotel, according to a photo posted to Facebook by Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) showing the two men in the hotel lobby on Tuesday night,” the media reports stated. “Neither man was masked.”

Tuberville told AL.com that he has been called “everything in the world” so the last week is nothing new.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday the former Auburn coach broke Washington D.C. policy requiring “non-essential” visitors from states with high coronavirus case counts to self-quarantine for 14 days when he attended fundraising meetings in the city this week. In addition, a photo of Tuberville with Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Arkansas, at the Trump International Hotel in Washington showed neither man wearing a face covering.

Tuberville addressed the controversy in comments to the Alabama Republican Executive Committee on Saturday. Tuberville said that he followed all the rules and wore his mask everywhere he went. When he was at events he would take his mask off to dine and people would come over to his table to shake his hand and get their picture taken. The press has seized on those moments to attack him, he claimed.

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The COVID-19 global pandemic has killed 707,158 people worldwide including 160,833 Americans since it first was discovered in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China in late 2019. Absent an effective treatment or a vaccine, social distancing and masks are the only tools that we have to slow the spread of the virus.

The Tuberville-Jones race for U.S. Senate is going to have an important role in whether or not Republicans are able to hold on to their narrow Senate majority.

Tuberville is an Arkansas native. He is best known for his tenure as Auburn University’s head football coach, which includes an undefeated and untied team that won the SEC Championship and the Sugar Bowl. He also coached at Texas Tech, Cincinnati and Mississippi.

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The general election is Nov. 3. Tuberville has been endorsed by President Donald Trump.

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Attorneys ask court to intervene over numerous Alabama inmate suicides

Eddie Burkhalter

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Charles Braggs died by suicide in an Alabama prison after being kept in solitary confinement for more than two years. His suicide and a rash of others in Alabama prisons prompted attorneys for the plaintiffs in a case against the Alabama Department of Corrections to ask the court Wednesday to intervene. 

Braggs, 28, died at St. Clair Correctional Facility on July 17 after having been housed in segregation for 796 days, according to the court filing by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program and attorneys with Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz.

“Mr. Braggs was the seventh person — and the sixth Black person — to die by suicide in ADOC custody since this Court issued its Remedial Opinion and Judgment on Immediate Relief for Suicide Prevention (the ‘Suicide Prevention Opinion’) in May 2019, in which the Court found ‘substantial and pervasive deficiencies’ in ADOC’s suicide prevention program,” attorneys wrote to the court. 

Bragg’s suicide was the fifth in Alabama prisons in the last four months, the plaintiffs’ attorneys wrote in the fling, in which they call for “swift implementation and robust monitoring of the Parties’ various remedial agreements” and for the state to address the use of segregation and “segregation-like” cells, which disproportionately hold Black people.

Alabama prisons kept 1,001 people locked alone in segregation on July 28, according to the court filing. 

“Of those 1,001, ADOC’s public database lists 705 people as Black and 273 white—that is, approximately 70 percent of the people in segregation are Black,” the filing states, going on to note that Black people make up approximately 52 percent of Alabama’s inmate population and about 27 percent of the population of the state. 

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson in his May 4, 2019 opinion wrote that ADOC argues the department cannot prevent all suicides in prisons.

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“It is true that, as in the free world, not all suicides can be prevented. But this reality in no way excuses ADOC’s substantial and pervasive suicide-prevention inadequacies. Unless and until ADOC lives up to its Eighth Amendment obligations, avoidable tragedies will continue,” the judge wrote.

That 2019 opinion came after the plaintiffs’ attorneys asked the court for immediate suicide-prevention relief following 15 inmate suicides over 15 months. Thompson agreed in his opinion to make permanent most of the provisions of a previous agreement between the plaintiffs and ADOC.

Thompson’s separate judgment, filed the same day as his opinion, establishes minimum guidelines for how the state assesses and treats incarcerated people who may be at risk of suicide.

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Among the prison suicides noted in the court filing was Marco Tolbert, 32, who was diagnosed with Schizophrenia and prescribed anti-psychotic and anti-depressant medication, but on June 20, 2019, three months before his death, his mental health code — used by ADOC to determine care — was reduced, some of his medication was discontinued and he was moved out of Donaldson prison’s residential treatment unit and into the general population and “was not provided any follow-up mental health care,” according to the filing.

He died by suicide on Sept. 26, 2019, according to court records. 

Marquell Underwood, 22, was placed into segregation at Easterling Correctional Facility on Feb. 23 and died by suicide that same day, according to court records. 

“Mr. Underwood previously reported a history of Bipolar Disorder, was referred to mental health nine times in relation to segregation placements, self-referred once to mental health, and was placed on acute suicide watch twice during the six months before his death,” the plaintiffs’ attorneys wrote to the court. “Despite all of this, he was never placed on the mental health caseload, never received a psychiatric evaluation, and never received any mental health treatment.”

Laramie Avery, 32, died by suicide in his segregation cell at Bullock prison on April 14 and was placed in segregation for “disciplinary” reasons after being stabbed at least eight times in the head and chest, according to the filing. 

“Mr. Avery was referred for a mental health evaluation three days before his suicide, but there is no evidence that the evaluation ever occurred. He was not on the mental health caseload,” the court filing states. 

The plaintiffs’ attorneys also note the death of Darnell McMillian on June 22 at Donaldson prison. McMillian died while on suicide watch and after having been placed into a cell with another inmate also on suicide watch. 

“After an altercation between Mr. McMillian and his cellmate, correctional officers allegedly deployed pepper spray, which caused Mr. McMillian to become unconscious and may have led to his death. It is unclear what policies ADOC has instituted, if any, to ensure the safety of those on suicide watch who are double-celled,” attorneys wrote to the court. 

An ADOC worker told APR in July that correctional officers used an excessive amount of pepper spray in the cell where McMillian and another inmate were housed. The cause of his death is pending an autopsy.

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