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Senate candidates respond to mass shootings

Jessa Reid Bolling

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Alabama candidates for the 2020 U.S. Senate election have spoken out on the recent mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, that left 31 people dead and dozens injured. 

Among the candidates for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate who have commented on the shootings are Secretary of State John Merrill, former Chief Justice Roy Moore, U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, businessmen and former televangelist Stanley Adair and John Serbin of Moody.

A need for more faith and protecting traditional family values was the consensus among many of the republican candidates. 

Merrill published an op-ed through Alabama Political Reporter, in which he argued that the United States does not have a gun control problem. Rather, he believes the U.S. has a “spiritual deficit problem.”

Merrill also said that issues like mental health, racism, violent video games and violent television programs also need to be addressed but that faith is needed to help the country “confront evil head-on.” 

“What we need is more prayer that teaches what Matthew 7:12 speaks of when he said, ‘Therefore, however you want people to treat you, so treat them,’” Merrill said in the op-ed. “We need more thoughts that teach our children to respect life and call out bullying, violence and aggression. And we need to renew our faith because more gun laws will not solve a moral problem.”

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Moore issued a response on his Facebook page that mass shootings are “evidence of a moral problem in our Country, not a lack of gun control” and that liberals have prevented the acknowledgment of God in schools, courts and in the public square.

“Without God and recognition of the Christian religion which once formed the basis of our society, we will continue to suffer a national immorality, according to George Washington, the father of our Country, in his Farewell Address,” Moore wrote. 

Byrne called mass shootings “part of the conflict between good and evil.” 

“The hatred we are seeing coincides with the continued breakdown in the values and institutions – like the church – that have always played such an important role in our country,” Byrne said. “We can stop these mass shootings by fixing the breakdown in culture and at the same time protect our Second Amendment rights.”

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Adair echoed the claim that there has been a breakdown of the traditional family in America and that the nation has “turned from God, taken prayer out of Schools and allowed other forms of Ideologies’ to now become commonplace in our society.”

“We once were a God-fearing nation that stood on the founding principles of our forefathers,” Byrne said. “I ask the question where will we be in the next thirty years? Will we still remember the words ‘In God We Trust?’ We must as a nation turn back to God.” 

Tuberville said that guns are not the problem with mass shootings in the U.S. and that he wants to properly enforce gun laws that currently exist.

“We must stand up for the time-honored traditions we hold dear in Alabama, especially the 2nd Amendment,” Tuberville said. “I’m against efforts to take away the right to bear arms from law-abiding citizens.” 

Serbin’s view on the shootings was slightly different from his fellow Republican candidates, saying that he believes the most recent shootings are the result of a copycat effect due the amount of coverage that media outlets do on shootings. 

Serbin also calls for more investment in mental health treatment and that he does not believe that more gun control laws will prevent future shootings, as some of his fellow candidates did. 

“What we should do to stop the spread of the social contagion (that motivates copycat shooters) is to stop giving these shooters constant coverage of their grievances,” Serbin said “We shouldn’t know the shooters’ names. We shouldn’t see their pictures. What we need is to get the media on board with breaking the cycle by not giving these shooters notoriety.” 

U.S. Sen. Doug Jones wrote about the shootings on his Twitter account, saying that the shootings are about “more than guns” and that politicians need to make an effort to combat rhetoric that could fuel these types of attacks. 

“We must come together and reject political rhetoric, or any kind of rhetoric for that matter, that divides us and stokes this kind of hatred,” Jones wrote. “Our leaders need to set a positive example that others can follow. That my friends is something we can do now.”

Republican candidate Arnold Mooney was contacted to participate in this article but did not respond to requests for comment.

 

Jessa Reid Bolling is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter and graduate of The University of Alabama with a B.A. in journalism and political science.

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USDA is seeking rural energy grant applications

The deadlines to apply for grants is Feb. 1, 2021, and March 31, 2021. Applications for loan guarantees are accepted year-round.

Brandon Moseley

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(STOCK PHOTO)

United States Department of Agriculture Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Bette Brand on Wednesday invited applications for loan guarantees and grants for renewable energy systems, and to make energy efficiency improvements, conduct energy audits and provide development assistance.

The funding is being provided through the USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program, which was created under the 2008 Farm Bill and reauthorized under the 2018 Farm Bill. This notice seeks applications for Fiscal Year 2021 funding.

The deadlines to apply for grants is Feb. 1, 2021, and March 31, 2021. Applications for loan guarantees are accepted year-round.

REAP helps agricultural producers and rural small businesses reduce energy costs and consumption by purchasing and installing renewable energy systems and making energy efficiency improvements in their operations.

Eligible systems may derive energy from wind, solar, hydroelectric, ocean, hydrogen, geothermal or renewable biomass (including anaerobic digesters).

USDA encourages applications that will support recommendations made in the Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to help improve life in rural America.

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Applicants are encouraged to consider projects that provide measurable results in helping rural communities build robust and sustainable economies through strategic investments.

Key strategies include achieving e-Connectivity for rural America, developing the rural economy, harnessing technological innovation, supporting a rural workforce and improving quality of life. For additional information, see the notice in the Federal Register.

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National

Trump says that coronavirus vaccine deliveries will begin within two weeks

Trump said that front-line workers, medical personnel and senior citizens would be the vaccine’s first recipients.

Brandon Moseley

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President Donald Trump said Thursday that coronavirus vaccine deliveries will begin as early as next week.

“The whole world is suffering, and we are rounding the curve,” Trump said. “And the vaccines are being delivered next week or the week after.”

Trump made the announcement during a special Thanksgiving holiday message to U.S. troops overseas via teleconference. Trump said that front-line workers, medical personnel and senior citizens would be the vaccine’s first recipients. He also argued that his election opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, should not be given credit for the vaccines, which were developed during the Trump administration.

Trump referred to the vaccines, which were developed and tested in less than ten months as a “medical miracle.”

Regulators at the FDA will review Pfizer’s request for an emergency use authorization for its vaccine developed with BioNTech during a meeting on Dec. 10. The director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research says a decision is expected within weeks, possibly days after that key meeting.

The latest trial data for Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine showed that it was 90 percent effective.

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The CDC plans to vote next week on where the distribution of approved vaccines will begin and who will be allowed to get the first vaccines when they become available.

Dr. Celene Gounder, a member of Biden’s COVID Advisory Board, warned against rushing a vaccine to market.

“The single biggest risk of rushing an approval would be Americans’ distrust the vaccine,” Grounder said. “It’s essential people feel confident this is a safe and effective vaccine.”

Moderna said that its vaccine is 94.5 percent effective in preventing COVID-19.

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AstraZeneca says its preliminary results showed its vaccine ranged from 62 percent to 90 percent effective depending on the dosage amount given to participants. AstraZeneca is having to launch a second round of global trials to clear up the discrepancies.

Many Americans appear to have ignored CDC warnings to scale back Thanksgiving holiday plans. More than six million Americans flew over the holiday week, raising fears by public health officials that the surge in coronavirus cases we are experiencing now will be followed by a bigger surge in the next three weeks.

As of press time, there have been 62 million diagnosed cases of coronavirus cases in the world, including nearly 13.5 million in the United States, but many cases are mild and go undiagnosed.

A CDC researcher estimates that the real number of infections in the U.S. has topped 53 million since February. More than 1.4 million people have died around the world since the virus first appeared in China late last year. The death toll includes 271,029 Americans and 3,572 Alabamians.

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Health

Vaccines should protect against mutated strains of coronavirus

Public health experts say it will be some time before vaccines are available to the wider public.

Eddie Burkhalter

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Multiple vaccines for COVID-19 are in clinical trials, and one has already applied for emergency use authorization, but how good will those vaccines be against a mutating coronavirus? A UAB doctor says they’ll do just fine. 

Dr. Rachael Lee, UAB’s hospital epidemiologist, told reporters earlier this week that there have been small genetic mutations in COVID-19. What researchers are seeing in the virus here is slightly different than what’s seen in the virus in China, she said. 

“But luckily the way that these vaccines have been created, specifically the mRNA vaccines, is an area that is the same for all of these viruses,” Lee said, referring to the new type of vaccine known as mRNA, which uses genetic material, rather than a weakened or inactive germ, to trigger an immune response. 

The U.S. Food And Drug Administration is to review the drug company Pfizer’s vaccine on Dec. 10. Pfizer’s vaccine is an mRNA vaccine, as is a vaccine produced by the drug maker Moderna, which is expected to also soon apply for emergency use approval. 

“I think that is incredibly good news, that even though we may see some slight mutations,  we should have a vaccine that should cover all of those different mutations,” Lee said. 

Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Wisconsin-Madison found in a recent study, published in the journal Science, that COVID-19 has mutated in ways that make it spread much more easily, but the mutation may also make it more susceptible to vaccines. 

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In a separate study, researchers with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation found that while most vaccines were modeled after an earlier strain of COVID-19, they found no evidence that the vaccines wouldn’t provide the same immunity response for the new, more dominant strain. 

“This brings the world one step closer to a safe and effective vaccine to protect people and save lives,” said CSIRO chief executive Dr. Larry Marshall, according to Science Daily

While it may not be long before vaccines begin to be shipped to states, public health experts warn it will be some time before vaccines are available to the wider public. Scarce supplies at first will be allocated for those at greatest risk, including health care workers who are regularly exposed to coronavirus patients, and the elderly and ill. 

Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris, speaking to APR last week, urged the public to continue wearing masks and practicing social distancing for many more months, as the department works to make the vaccines more widely available.

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“Just because the first shots are rolling out doesn’t mean it’s time to stop doing everything we’ve been trying to get people to do for months. It’s not going to be widely available for a little while,” Harris said.

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National

UAB cancels third game

The only remaining game on UAB’s schedule is a game at Rice on Dec. 12.

Brandon Moseley

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The UAB Department of Athletics on Thursday announced that it is canceling its final home game of the season. UAB was scheduled to play Southern Mississippi on Friday at Legion Field, but the game was canceled due to continuing problems with COVID-19.

UAB has said that it will “continue to work with Conference USA on the remaining regular-season schedule.”

The only remaining game on UAB’s schedule is a game at Rice on Dec. 12.

UAB currently has a record of just four wins and three losses.

A win at Rice would guarantee the Blazers a winning season, but in this COVID altered season, a four and three or four and four record is probably good enough to be bowl eligible.

Southern Miss has had a dreadful season. They are two and seven and have two remaining games, against UTEP and Florida Atlantic. Both of those games were postponed from earlier in the season.

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Unless the season is extended a week to the 19th, there is no way for UAB and Southern Miss to make up the canceled game.

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