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Alabama Moms Demand Action says no one should have to live in fear of gun violence

Brandon Moseley

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Tuesday, the Alabama chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a part of Everytown for Gun Safety, said that they are grieving for the families affected by recent incidents of gun violence in Alabama.

This statement followed the shooting deaths of five people in a family in Elkmont. The Limestone County Sheriff has reported that the victims were shot and killed by a 14-year-old family member who is in custody.
This shooting followed several instances of gun violence over the weekend in Alabama. On Friday night, 10 teenagers were injured in a shooting at a football game in Mobile and on Saturday night, seven people were injured in a shooting at a parking lot in Valley.

“We are grieving for the five people whose lives were senselessly cut short in this tragedy, and the family and friends whose lives will be forever changed,” said Dana Ellis, volunteer leader with the Alabama chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. “We’re still reeling from the gun violence that has plagued Alabama and the country in recent weeks. No one should have to live in fear of gun violence, whether they are at home, at a football game or just walking down the street. We need to urge our lawmakers to take action to protect our communities.”

Everytown for Gun Safety claims that this is at least the 213th mass shooting since January 2009, and the 19th mass shooting this year. Everytown defines mass shootings as those in which four or more people are shot and killed, excluding the shooter. An analysis of 173 mass shootings from 2009 to 2017 showed that 59 percent of mass shootings took place in private homes.

There were a total of 17,284 reported murder and non-negligent manslaughter cases in the U.S. in 2017. The murder rate has been steadily dropping for the last twenty years after peaking in the violent 1990s.
Canada has a murder rate of just 2.05 per 100,000 people versus 5 per 100,000 people in the U.S. On the other hand, Mexico, our neighbor to the south, has a murder rate of 15 per 100,000 people: three times the murder rate in the United States.

Everytown is the largest gun violence prevention organization in the country with nearly 6 million supporters and more than 350,000 donors including moms, mayors, survivors and everyday Americans fighting for public safety measures that can help save lives.

Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America is a grassroots movement of Americans fighting for public safety measures that can protect people from gun violence. Moms Demand Action campaigns for new and stronger solutions to lax gun laws.

Americans have a constitutional right to own and possess firearms under the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution.

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A June 2018 report from the Small Arms Survey estimates that American civilians own 393 million guns, both legally and otherwise. Of the worldwide total of 857 million civilian firearms 45.9 percent are owned or possessed by Americans. That is up from just 270 million civilian-owned guns in America in 2007. Then there were only 650 million civilian guns globally with Americans owning just 41/5 percent. Americans are only 4.49 percent of the world’s population; but we have 45.9 percent of the world’s guns and 24.08 percent of the world’s GDP (2017).

On Tuesday conservative pundit Meghan McCain predicted on ‘The View’, “If you’re talking about taking people’s guns from them, there’s going to be a lot of violence.”

Alabama is an open carry state where citizens may wear their guns clearly visible in most public places. Non-felon citizens of sound mind may purchase a concealed carry permits from their county sheriff to carry pistols on their person or in their vehicles.

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Elections

National Right to Life Committee endorses Aderholt

Brandon Moseley

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Wednesday, the campaign to re-elect Congressman Robert Aderholt, (R Haleyville) announced that the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) has endorsed him for re-election to Alabama’s Fourth Congressional District.

“I am truly humbled to have the endorsement of the National Right to Life Committee,” said Congressman Aderholt. “I have, and I always will, fight for those who are the most vulnerable among us. I cannot think of anyone more vulnerable than the unborn. The National Right to Life Committee is committed to this fight, and it is an honor to fight along side them. As I have said before, no argument on the Pro-Choice side can get around one fundamental fact, abortion stops a human heartbeat.”

The NRLC Committee commended Aderholt in its endorsement:

“National Right to Life is pleased to endorse you for re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives,” the Committee wrote. “We strongly commend you for maintaining a perfect 100% pro-life voting record throughout the 116th Congress.”

“You voted in support of the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act,” the endorsement letter continued. “This legislation would require that a baby born alive during an abortion must be afforded the same degree of care that would apply to any other child at the same gestational age. You support the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. This Act would protect unborn children at 20 weeks, a point by which the unborn child is capable of experiencing great pain when being killed by dismemberment or other late abortion methods. You oppose using tax dollars to pay for abortion, and you oppose taxpayer funding of abortion providers.”

“You are a strong advocate for life,” the Committee said of Rep. Aderholt. “This endorsement reflects your commitment to strengthening a culture of life throughout our nation and in the U.S. House. We look forward to continuing our important work with you to protect the most vulnerable members of the human family – unborn children, the medically dependent, and persons with disabilities, whose lives are threatened by abortion or euthanasia.”

“All voters who are concerned with the right to life and with the protection of the most vulnerable members of the human family should vote to return you to the U.S. House, so that you can continue to work to advance vital pro-life public policies,” the endorsement letter concludes.

Robert B. Aderholt is a member of the powerful House Committee on Appropriations, which has jurisdiction over funding the operation of the federal government. He serves as Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science. Aderholt also serves as a member of the Agriculture and Rural Development Subcommittee and the Defense Subcommittee. Aderholt is an advocate of fiscal responsibility, truth in budgeting and a federal government that operates within its means.

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Aderholt also serves as a commission member of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (commonly known as the Helsinki Commission). The Helsinki Commission is comprised of 56 countries around the world that together monitors human rights in Europe and Central Asia.

Aderholt believes the federal government serves a critical role in assisting state and local projects regarding economic development. He support pro-growth initiatives that create jobs, strong immigration standards, and robust national security.

Prior to his election to Congress, Aderholt served as Assistant Legal Advisor to Governor Fob James (R) as well as Municipal Judge for the city of Haleyville, Alabama. Aderholt has a bachelor’s degree from Birmingham Southern College and a law degree from the Cumberland School of Law at Samford University. He was born on July 22, 1965, and raised in Alabama, Aderholt and his wife, Caroline, have two children.

Congressman Robert Aderholt is seeking his thirteenth term representing Alabama’s Fourth Congressional District.

Aderholt faces a general election challenge from Democratic nominee Rick Neighbors.

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Health

About half of Americans asked say they’d take COVID-19 vaccine

Eddie Burkhalter

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While most Americans believe a vaccine for COVID-19 will be available in 2021, only around half say they’ll get vaccinated according to a recent study. 

A leading infectious disease expert at UAB worries, however, that there’s no guarantee researchers can create a safe, effective vaccine for the virus at all, and that if a vaccine does make it to market, making enough doses to protect those in the U.S., and people worldwide, could take some time, and that without a vigilant public, the virus could infect and kill millions more in the U.S. 

“Seemingly, a large number of our population doesn’t quite comprehend the power of this pandemic,” said Dr. Michael Saag, an infectious disease expert at UAB and prominent HIV/AIDs researcher, speaking to APR on Wednesday. “They certainly have heard enough information about it. They’re aware of it. They just haven’t translated that awareness into the meaning.” 

Saag said the impact of many people in Alabama getting the virus at one time “is where we’re headed, unfortunately.” Saag cited APR’s reporting Tuesday that shows the number of new confirmed cases statewide have been rising since April 30, and show no sign of slowing. 

In a nationwide poll of more than 1,000 Americans conducted May 14-18 and released Wednesday, pollsters found that just 49 percent said they’d get vaccinated, while 20 percent said they would not. The remaining 31 percent said they were unsure. Older Americans were much more likely to say they’d get vaccinated than those under aged 60. 

Saag said he worries that if and when a vaccine is available, many who aren’t taking coronavirus seriously, because it hasn’t yet infected them or someone they know, might be less likely to get vaccinated. 

“Why would I want a vaccine for something that isn’t real, or isn’t a major thing in my life?” Saag said. “And the second thing is, I think appropriately, is that we don’t know if we’re going to have a vaccine, but if we do, what is the safety profile of that vaccine? And that won’t be known until the large scale efficacy studies are done.” 

A majority of those who said they wouldn’t get vaccinated, or 70 percent, said they’d avoid doing so over concerns about side-effects. 

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“That’s a manageable concern, that the details will matter there,” Saag said.

President Donald Trump’s Operation Warp Speed program, announced May 15, aims to supply the U.S. with 300 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine by January 2021, which is quicker than any vaccine has been developed and sent into market. There’s been no details from the White House as to how all those doses, if created, would be given to Americans. 

“President Trump’s vision for a vaccine by January 2021 will be one of the greatest scientific and humanitarian accomplishments in history, and this is the team that can get it done,” said U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar in a statement. 

National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins told the Associated Press last week that at least four or five vaccines being developed look promising, and one or two will be ready for large-scale testing by July.

“I’m not still 100 percent confident we’re going to have a vaccine,” Saag told APR on Wednesday. “I’m pretty sure we’re not going to have it in 2020.” 

Saag said the best we can hope for is that we have data that shows a vaccine for COVID-19 works by the end of 2020. 

“But think about the transition from knowing that something works to getting it scaled up in production, to a level where you have to have 300 million to 600 million vaccines available, just for the United States,” Saag said. “And this is a global pandemic so we’re talking about billions of doses of vaccine. I don’t think we’ve ever done anything like that before.” 

Traditional vaccines, which use either a weakened version of a virus or proteins taken from the virus, require much effort to produce, Saag said, which is why we sometimes see shortages in vaccines for the common flu. 

“But the vaccines that I think are showing promise here are brand new, or brand new approaches to vaccines,” Saag said. 

These new vaccines use messenger RNA (mRNA), which are genetic components of the virus that are then injected into a person and can produce the protective proteins that can create immunity, Saag explained. 

“The bottom line is the mRNA vaccines will be much, much easier to mass produce,” Saag said. “So I think there’s some hope, if we do have something by the end of this year, that we could in the next year ramp it up, with the right kind of commitment and resources, which will be motivated to do.” 

Without a vaccine, the picture becomes much more dire, he explained. To get the epidemic under control we’ll need at least 70 percent of the population to have immunity, Saag said. 

“That’s the so-called herd immunity that you hear so much about,” he said. “For us to get to that point without a vaccine is going to take a lot of pain.” 

Deaths in the U.S. from COVID-19 were approaching 100,000 on Wednesday, and the number of confirmed infections were at 1.6 million. 

For the U.S. to get to 70 percent immunity around 210 million people would have to have been infected with COVID-19, Saag said. 

“And when you translate that into deaths, even if the death rate is 1 percent, we’re dealing with over 2 million people who will have died,” Saag said. 

Saag said what’s important for the public to understand is that “this epidemic does not go away unless we get enough people immune. Unless and until we get herd immunity.” 

An effective oral antiviral drug, if researchers can produce one, could be used very early in the course of a COVID-19 infection, Saag said, which could have an impact on outcomes for COVID-19 patients. 

“That would abort the progression to more severe disease,” Saag said of an oral antiviral drug. 

The giant pharmaceutical company Merck and Miami-based Ridgeback Biotherapeutics on Tuesday announced the two companies had entered into an agreement to develop the antiviral drug EIDD-2801, which is in early clinical development to treat COVID-19 patients, according to Businesswire

“I think that that would be the other solution, if we don’t get a vaccine, and I think it’s, I don’t know, a 50 percent chance we’ll get one that works and is safe,” Saag said. 

Vaccines are hard to develop, Saag said, adding that for 35 years researchers have been trying to develop a vaccine for HIV. 

“Respiratory Syncytial Virus, which is the number one cause of childhood breathing trouble, we’ve tried for 20 years. We’re close on that one but we haven’t got it yet,” Saag said. 

“I think this particular virus has a profile that gives me some hope, unlike HIV, which is much more difficult, but I think while we’re waiting for a vaccine the development of effective antiviral therapy may be our bridge,” Saag said. “Without either of those, frankly, we’re in for a long haul with this virus. I’m talking, potentially years of dealing with this virus.” 

UAB continues to study and treat some COVID-19 patients with the antiviral drug Remdesivir, the only such antiviral drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on an emergency basis to treat coronavirus patients. Physicians at UAB have said patients have been administered the drug intravenously improve 31 percent faster, but there are limitations with the drug’s use. 

Dr. Racheal Lee, a UAB Hospital epidemiologist, in a press briefing on Wednesday said Remdesivir can’t be given to patients who have liver problems and may be less effective for patients who are so sick that they require a ventilator. 

“I think we still are waiting to tease out some of these side effects from the medicine, but overall, it appears to be fairly well tolerated, at least based on the initial trial,” Lee said. 

“So I’m very hopeful about all the work that has been done on vaccine research,” Lee said, but she warned that there are other complications. 

“It will be very difficult though, in terms of getting everybody in the world vaccinated in a particular time frame and also to manufacture those vaccines,” Lee said. “So I think that we as Americans need to be prepared, that we may see another way of infections in the fall, and potentially be prepared that we may have to shelter in place again, if that’s necessary.” 

As researchers work to find a vaccine and additional treatments for COVID-19, Saag said it’s up to the public to act in a way that keeps themselves and others safe. 

Gov. Kay Ivey’s decision last week to loosen more restrictions on state businesses and public social life has prompted concern from health experts worried that more confirmed cases and deaths could be the result. 

“So this increase that we’re seeing is concerning to me,” said Lee, speaking of the state’s rising new confirmed cases over the past week. “And part of that may be due to relaxing some restrictions. Part of it may be not wearing masks in public or having larger events, which is what we would be concerned about on Memorial Day weekend.” 

We could go back to a more restrictive “stay-at-home” order, Sagg said, and that would likely work, but said we’ve got to find other ways forward. 

“Two simple things. One. Avoid any large crowd of more than 10 people, and two. Always wear a mask when you’re around anybody else,” Saag said. 

Despite much disagreement in the public sphere, cloth masks do work very well to slow the spread of coronavirus, Saag said. Up to 90 percent of the virus’s transmission happens through the aerosol route when someone infected breaths, speaks, sings or shouts, he said. 

Saag said people are correct when they question whether a cloth mask that doesn’t fit tightly would protect them from contracting the virus, but said “the answer is, partially” and that wearing a mask can slow the spread in another, important way. 

“It will help a little bit, but the reason to wear it is in case I have the infection and don’t know it, and I’m spreading the virus unwittingly, and that protects the people around me,” Saag said. 

Lee said what she and many others want to do is be able to send their kids to school safely and go to work safely, but asked what that might look like. 

“Does that mean masks? Yes. Does that mean continuing social distancing? Yes. So all of those things have to be part of our planning for the future,” Lee said.

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

Josh Moon

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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. 

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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.

 

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Elections

DOJ defends Alabama absentee voting law

Josh Moon

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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.

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