Friday, Republican First District Congressional candidates Bill Hightower, Chris Pringle, John Castorani, and Jerry Carl issued statements supporting the American airstrike that killed Iranian Lt. General Qasem Soleimani and his entourage on a street in Baghdad.
“The radical mullahs in Iran have been at war with the United States for 40 years and last night, after learning of imminent further attacks and actionable intelligence on the location of the Iranian military leader, President Trump finally said enough was enough,” former State Senator Bill Hightower wrote. “Unlike President Obama who capitulated with the Iran Nuclear Deal that helped fund the escalation of what we see today in the Middle East, President Trump stood up for America and our interests. Soleimani was an active enemy combatant, responsible for the deaths for over 600 American servicemen and women and the wounding of countless more. I applaud President Trump’s decisive action in standing up for America.”
Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl said on social media, “Soleimani was a ruthless terrorist responsible for the deaths of many Americans. I’m thankful for President Trump’s bold stance against the Iranian regime.”
State Representative Chris Pringle wrote: “This is OUR President! This is how America responds to threats against our citizens. When given the opportunity to take out one of the leading actors in the war on terror and protect American lives OUR President did not hesitate. I know President Trump will always stand up to the radical Iran regime. The left should be ashamed of their Anti-American narrative surrounding this story.”
John Castorani defended the attack on Twitter specifically the Washington Post’s use of the word “revered” in describing Soleimani: “Because slaughtering innocent people and the enablement of terrorism within a region and often globally means you’re revered. This is trash – countless American service members killed by Quds forces.”
Castorani insisted that there was actionable intelligence to justify the killing of Soleimani.
Soleimani was the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ elite Quds Force and the highest ranking general in Iran. He has been credited with shaping Iranian foreign policy for years as well as the deaths of hundreds of Americans largely through arming militants with Iranian made shaped improvised explosive devices during the Iraq War. More recently Soleimani was credited with ordering rocket attacks on U.S. military bases on December 27 that killed an American contractor and the storming of the American embassy in Baghdad last week by Shia militants.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force is a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization.
The Pentagon said in a statement late on Thursday. “General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region. General Soleimani and his Quds Force were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more. He had orchestrated attacks on coalition bases in Iraq over the last several months – including the attack on December 27th – culminating in the death and wounding of additional American and Iraqi personnel. General Soleimani also approved the attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad that took place this week.”
Seventeen percent of all deaths of U.S. personnel in Iraq from 2003 to 2011 were orchestrated by Soleimani, according to reports by the U.S. State Department.
Soleimani had just flown in to Baghdad from Damascus, Syria, where he was picked up at the airport by Shia militiamen. As the two vehicles were leaving the Baghdad Airport, a CIA drone fired four missiles at the two vehicles killing Soleimani and his entourage. The general’s body was torn apart by the blast. Iraqi authorities identified Soleimani by the ring on his severed hand. What was left of his body was flown back to Tehran in a cardboard box.
Soleimani was given a state funeral by the Iranian regime. Tens of thousands attended. A stampede at the funeral left a number of mourners dead. Iran has vowed to seek revenge. President Donald J. Trump (R) has threatened to bomb 52 targets in Iran, including Iranian cultural sites, if there is retaliation. The Pentagon has since issued a statement ruling out the threatened bombing of cultural sites.
The Iraqi Parliament has voted for all U.S. forces to leave the country in the wake of the slaying of General Soleimani.
Hightower and Carl are running in the Republican primary in the First Congressional District. Incumbent Bradley Byrne, R-Montrose, is vacating his seat in the House of Representatives to run for the Senate seat currently held by Doug Jones (D).
Wes Lambert is also running in the Republican primary on March 3.
Original reporting by the Daily Mail, New York Times, and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
Jefferson County health officer, UAB head say COVID-19 numbers are improving but flu season is near
Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. Mark Wilson said Friday that the county’s COVID-19 numbers are improving, but with schools reopening and flu season approaching, it’s critical for the public to continue wearing face masks and practicing social distancing.
Wilson and Will Ferniany, the CEO of the UAB Health System, held a press briefing on Friday to discuss the state of coronavirus and what’s being done to mitigate the disease that has killed 1,825 people in Alabama and infected 102,196.
In the last few weeks, the number of new daily COVID-19 cases and the percent of tests that are positive in Jefferson County has begun to decline, Wilson told reporters, but he put that decline into perspective.
“Keep in mind though that this is a slight improvement from being at a pretty bad place with really high numbers, so we still have a long way to go,” Wilson said.
There have been 13,682 confirmed coronavirus cases and 262 deaths in Jefferson County as of Friday, and 939 cases were added within the last week. The county’s seven-day average of new daily cases fell from its peak of 295 on July 18 to 156 on Thursday.
Wilson said there is good evidence that the county’s face covering order is making a difference in the spread of the disease, and that he thanks the public for making that difference, and asked that they keep doing so.
“We have four levels of surge,” Ferniany said, referring to UAB Hospital’s process of temporarily adding hospital bed capacity for COVID-19 patients by removing beds from other areas. “We’re on level two capacity.”
Ferniany said the hospital is running at 90 percent capacity, which he said is a “very full hospital” and that between March and around July 20, the hospital was caring for between 60 and 70 coronavirus patients daily, and reached a peak of 130 patients a little more than a week ago.
“Today we’re at 97 patients in-house, and roughly 40 percent are in the ICU,” Ferniany said.
Ferniany said the hospital’s ability to care for COVID-19 patients is now limited by the numbers of nurses and other staff, and that UAB is “down several hundred nurses” and burnout from long periods of caring for coronavirus patients is common.
Both Ferniany and Wilson said they’re very concerned about the upcoming flu season and the impact it could have on hospital capacity, as physicians continue to care for COVID-19 patients.
“The 2018-2019 flu season was the worst flu season we have seen in 40 years, and we actually asked the governor back then to declare a state of emergency because our hospitals were full then with influenza,” Wilson said.
Wilson urged the public to get their annual flu shots once available on Sept. 1 to help prevent additional strain on hospitals statewide. Public health officials worry that the combination of flu and COVID-19 could be difficult to handle — both on a system-wide level and the level of an individual person.
“We have no reason to think that somebody can’t get the flu and COVID-19 at the same time, which could be a deadly combination,” Wilson said.
Wilson said while he isn’t certain what Gov. Kay Ivey may decide about the statewide mask order, but “in Jefferson County, it’s very likely I’m going to be pushing to continue face coverings through the flu season,” Wilson said.
Wilson in July advised school superintendents in Jefferson County that middle and high school students should attend school virtually only for the first nine weeks, a stronger recommendation than most superintendents elsewhere have received.
Wilson told reporters Friday that his recommendation for virtual-only classes to start was done to keep kids, teachers, staff and families safe.
“We’re probably going to have some cases. It’s inevitable, but what we want to do is everything we can as kids go back to school to reduce the spread within school so that schools can stay open.”
There are also preliminary plans for a new testing site for children as schools reopen, Wilson said, but those plans continue to be developed.
Ferniany said UAB Hospital on Thursday got initial approval from the hospital’s board to expand COVID-19 testing capacity.
“Our goal is to try to expand it significantly by the end of December. We probably can’t get it up faster than that, but this pandemic is not going away by the end of December so I think we will have a significant increase in our ability to have rapid tests in place by the end of this year,” Ferniany said.
Seventeenth Alabama inmate dies after testing positive for COVID-19
William Edward King, 65, is the 17th Alabama inmate to die after testing positive for COVID-19.
King tested positive for COVID-19 on June 1 at a local hospital, where he was being treated for an end-stage preexisting medical condition, the Alabama Department of Corrections announced on Thursday.
King’s condition improved, and he was released, but his health worsened, and he was returned to the hospital on July 26. He was discharged from the hospital on Aug. 11 and was taken to a hospice care area inside the Kilby Correctional Facility, where he died later that day.
Six more inmates and another staff member have also tested positive for COVID-19, ADOC said Thursday.
There have been 296 confirmed coronavirus cases among inmates and 340 self-reported cases among prison staff. Two prison workers at the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women have died after testing positive for COVID-19.
Ivey urges Alabamians to complete census or risk losing federal funding, seat in Congress
Gov. Kay Ivey urged all Alabama residents to complete the 2020 census before the Sept. 30 deadline in a 30-second video released on Friday.
In the video, Ivey said, “Complete your 2020 Census today. We only have until Sept. 30th. Without you, Alabama stands to lose billions in funding, a seat in Congress and economic development opportunities.
“It only takes minutes to complete. Go to my2020census.gov or participate by phone or mail. Be counted – if not for you, for those in Alabama who depend on you for a brighter tomorrow.”
Jones says Mitch McConnell failed country by adjourning without COVID-19 aid
Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, on Friday expressed his concern over the Senate majority leader adjourning the Senate without passing another round of COVID-19 relief aid.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, adjourned the Senate until Sept. 8 without passage of relief aid that Jones said is critical for struggling citizens and businesses.
“Mitch McConnell’s decision to adjourn the Senate without any further efforts to fulfill the Senate’s obligation to the American public during a healthcare and economic crisis demonstrates an unconscionable failure of leadership. Congress acted swiftly in March as the pandemic took hold and every American who put their lives on hold and stayed home for weeks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 did so out of a patriotic duty and a belief that it would give our government leaders time to implement a plan to get this virus under control.
“Now, it’s been five months and not only do we still have no national strategy, our nation is facing some of the highest rates of coronavirus spread in the world, over 167,000 Americans dead, unprecedented housing and eviction crises on the horizon, and we are slowly coming out of the worst economy since the Great Depression and the highest level of unemployment ever recorded.
“The House of Representatives passed a relief bill on May 15th – three months ago – because it was clear even then that this virus would be with us longer than we had hoped and that more support to American businesses and American citizens would be needed to save lives and save livelihoods. Sadly, however, instead of using this legislation as a framework for a bipartisan relief package, Mitch McConnell buried it in his office and sat on his hands, letting vital programs expire without even participating in efforts to reach agreement.
“His decision to send the Senate home for the next three weeks is an insult to every sacrifice made, every job lost, every small business that has had to close its doors, every person who had to say their final goodbye to a loved one over Facetime, and every graduation or wedding or birth celebrated over Zoom instead of in person. The American people have done their duty, and today Mitch McConnell has thrown in the towel and given up on doing his.”