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SPLC names human rights activist Margaret Huang as president and CEO

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Internationally renowned human and civil rights leader Margaret Huang has been hired as the new president and chief executive officer of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and SPLC Action Fund. She begins the role on April 20.

Huang, who currently serves as executive director of Amnesty International USA, has devoted her 25-year career to championing the rights of others, working for justice, fighting for human dignity and advocating against discrimination and oppression in the U.S. and around the world.

“I am thrilled to be joining the Southern Poverty Law Center at this moment and with this incredible staff and board as they rethink how to tackle their work fighting for justice and against hate,” Huang said. “Change in the South is coming, and SPLC is eager to work collaboratively with other social justice advocates to ensure that the change improves the lives of all communities.”

Huang is the architect behind Amnesty International USA’s campaigns to protect the human rights of migrants and refugees, torture survivors, gun violence victims, and activists and protestors globally. In this role, she has also worked with members of Congress on critical pieces of legislation; led several human rights missions to the U.S.-México border to hear from asylum-seekers and document abuses; accompanied three transgender youth across the border to seek asylum; and sent and led human rights observer delegations to Baltimore, Ferguson, Missouri and Standing Rock, North Dakota, to monitor and document police responses to protestors.

Members of Congress have called upon Huang for her expertise, inviting her to testify and speak on human rights issues, including human rights abuses in the temporary emergency shelter for unaccompanied children in Homestead, Florida; the draconian U.S. border policies and treatment of asylum-seekers; and the growing oppression of human rights defenders around the globe. She has also advocated before the United Nations human rights mechanisms and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

Huang will replace interim President and CEO Karen Baynes-Dunning, who has led the organization since last April, when former President and CEO Richard Cohen stepped down. Under Baynes-Dunning, the organization began a transformative process in which it is working with staff to reimagine how they combat bigotry and hate.

“This is an exciting time at SPLC and I am thrilled that the Board has chosen Margaret to lead the organization and staff into the future,” said Baynes-Dunning, who will continue her role until Huang joins the organization in April. “She is a visionary, an extraordinary leader and we are proud to have her in the march toward justice.”

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SPLC Board Chairperson Bryan Fair made the announcement via email this morning to the organization’s 350 employees in offices in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana and the District of Columbia. In his email, he said the internal search committee, comprised of staff and board members, sought “a leader with a distinguished social justice record, a proven commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, strong management skills within a large social justice organization, and ingenuity and vision.”

“That led us to Margaret,” Fair said. “In her we have found those characteristics and more. Margaret’s leadership, passion for justice and strong track record of initiating and leading change, strengthening organizations, and innovating amid a rapidly changing legal and political landscape make her the best candidate to lead SPLC’s continued transformation.”

The search committee worked with Koya Leadership Partners to develop the candidate profile and conduct interviews with applicants for the role leading the Montgomery-headquartered organization, which celebrates its 50th anniversary next year.

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“Our work is needed more than ever and we are well positioned to have a tremendous impact on the communities we serve,” said SPLC Action Fund Board Chairperson Alan Howard. “Under Margaret’s leadership, the Center will be able to build on a legacy that has already helped millions of people not only in the South, but across the country, and we are excited to have her lead the team.”

Huang, a Tennessee native, previously served as the executive director of the Rights Working Group, which focused on protecting human rights and civil liberties of communities in the post-September 11 era. She also served as director of the U.S. program at Global Rights, program director of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights, program manager at The Asia Foundation, and committee staff for the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee. She received a Master of International Affairs from Columbia University and a Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University.

Here’s what social justice leaders say:

“I’ve had the pleasure of working with Margaret for over 15 years and she is a tireless advocate on human rights, and brings both deep knowledge and passionate activism to SPLC. She takes the helm at this crucial time as we face renewed hate violence, bigotry, and discrimination around the country, and SPLC’s work is vital. Margaret’s tenacity and ability to navigate tough situations will serve the civil and human rights movement well, and we are fortunate to have her continue in the fight in her new role.” — The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights President and Chief Executive Officer Vanita Gupta

“Margaret Huang is a dynamic human rights leader with a proven track record of achieving results in these challenging times. She has transformed Amnesty International USA through integrated advocacy that combines research, mobilization, and advocacy. The work of the Southern Poverty Law Center has never been more crucial, and under Margaret’s leadership, SPLC’s best days surely are ahead.” — ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero

“I have had the pleasure of working with Margaret Huang for almost two decades beginning with her extraordinary leadership of the Rights Working Group, which was a coalition of human rights, criminal justice, civil rights and immigrant rights groups seeking to protect the civil liberties and human rights of everyone in America, including immigrants, in the wake of 9/11. Under her leadership, Amnesty USA regained its footing and became an even stronger voice for human rights in the United States, as well as around the world. She has a lifelong commitment to human rights and social justice and is adept at uniting people across very diverse perspectives to work on a shared agenda. She is the rare leader who has both the ability to articulate a compelling vision and the talent to manage complex organizations to achieve their goals. A woman of incredible integrity, wisdom and compassion, she is the right leader to help chart the Southern Poverty Law Center’s next chapter at a most critical moment in America’s journey to fully living up to the most fundamental of its principles.”— Karen Narasaki, human and civil rights leader who served as a commissioner on the United States Commission on Civil Rights

“I have known and worked with Margaret Huang for 10 years and am very excited that the Southern Poverty Law Center has chosen her as their next leader during this moment in history in which the advancement of civil and human rights is under attack. Beyond being an internationally recognized human rights expert, Margaret is an exceptional and well-respected organizational leader. She is a brilliant strategist, a powerful thinker, a skilled team-builder and an Inspirer-in-Chief. I have great confidence that she will bring new vision, energy and vitality to SPLC’s work and mission, grounded in the arc of SPLC’s very best history and bent towards an exciting future vision of justice.” — Center for Constitutional Rights Executive Director Vince Warren

“I have known and worked with Margaret Huang for over 15 years and I can’t think of a stronger leader to take the Southern Poverty Law Center into the future. At a time when the stakes could not be higher, Margaret’s unique combination of moral compass, vision and energy are precisely what is needed.” — National Domestic Workers Alliance Co-Founder and Executive Director Ai-jen Poo  

“Margaret is an extraordinary leader and she is absolutely the right leader at the right time for the Southern Poverty Law Center. Her entire career has been spent fighting discrimination, promoting equality and advocating for the fundamental human rights and dignity of every person. As a woman of color who grew up in the South she has lived experience of discrimination. As a nonprofit leader she has led coalitions, strategized for change, and become a global leader in the fight for fundamental human rights. Most importantly, she garners respect from every individual who works with her, staff, board, volunteers and allies. The Southern Poverty Law Center is lucky to have her lead them into this new era and all those concerned with justice and equality are lucky to have her leading the struggle.” — Student Press Law Center Executive Director Hadar Harris

“SPLC has been one of our closest and most stalwart colleagues in the struggle to secure equality and justice for LGBTQ people. We are thrilled to welcome Margaret Huang in this important new role and excited that a human rights advocate of her stature will be leading SPLC at such a critical time in our nation’s history.  We look forward to continuing our relationship with SPLC and furthering the work of securing justice and dignity for all in the South and beyond.” — National Center for Lesbian Rights Legal Director Shannon Minter

“It’s exciting to see Margaret assume the leadership at SPLC at this moment in history. As we confront the challenges of the climate crisis and growing corporate greed, as well as the threats to our democratic system and processes, we need organizations like SPLC to build collaborative efforts across the south and the nation. Margaret’s commitment to working in partnership and to listening to directly affected communities will facilitate SPLC’s work to drive sustainable change and protect the rights of all communities.” — Wallace Global Fund Executive Director Ellen Dorsey

The Southern Poverty Law Center, based in Alabama with offices in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Washington, D.C., is a nonprofit civil rights organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society. For more information, visit www.splcenter.org.

The Alabama Political Reporter is a daily political news site devoted to Alabama politics. We provide accurate, reliable coverage of policy, elections and government.

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National

23rd Alabama inmate dies with COVID-19

There have been 409 total positive COVID-19 cases among inmates and 392 total among employees as of Sept. 26.

John H. Glenn

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(STOCK PHOTO)

The Alabama Department of Corrections on Friday reported the 23rd COVID-19 death among inmates in the state’s prisons.

Christopher Nalls, a 59-year-old inmate serving a 15-year sentence, died Sept. 10 at a local hospital in Hamilton, Alabama.

Nalls was moved to the local hospital on Aug. 31 to receive treatment for pre-existing health conditions unrelated to COVID-19.

His admission test upon entering the hospital was negative, and after treatment, Nalls was discharged Sept. 4.

Upon return, Nalls’s condition worsened, and he was readmitted Sept. 10. He died later that same day. A postmortem COVID-19 test showed Nalls died with COVID-19.

ADOC did not report any other positive COVID-19 cases among inmates in correctional facilities. But in the same report Friday, ADOC reported six new positive cases among staff, bringing the staff total to 28 active cases.

ADOC’s Office of Health Services initiated investigations into possible prolonged exposures between positive staff members and inmates or employees.

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There have been 409 total positive COVID-19 cases among inmates and 392 total among employees as of Sept. 26.

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Courts

Sen. Doug Jones won’t support SCOTUS nominee before Nov. 3 election

“Certainly, power grabs are not uncommon in our political system, but few are accompanied by such blatant hypocrisy as we are witnessing now,” Jones said.

Eddie Burkhalter

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Incumbent U.S. Sen. Doug Jones during a livestreamed press briefing. (VIA DOUG JONES CAMPAIGN)

Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, on Friday said he would not support any nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court before the outcome of the Nov. 3 election is determined. 

Speaking during a livestreamed briefing, Jones said that while Republicans appear to have enough votes to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, he will not be a party to denying the people a voice in the process in the election of the next president “in just under 44 days.” 

President Donald Trump said Saturday that he plans to nominate Amy Coney Barrett to replace Ginsburg, who on Friday became the first woman, and first Jewish person, to lie in state at the U.S. Capitol. 

Several Republicans who voiced opposition to President Barack Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court more than 10 months before the 2016 election have reversed course, and now say they support Trump nominating a selection with election day just a little more than a month away. 

“Certainly, power grabs are not uncommon in our political system, but few are accompanied by such blatant hypocrisy as we are witnessing now,” Jones said. “In fact, I believe that the level and intensity of hypocrisy being displayed by Senator McConnell and the president, with regard to the rush to confirm Justice Ginsburg’s successor, is unmatched in the history of our constitutional government.” 

Jones said what McConnell and other Republicans should be focusing on instead is getting another round of much-needed COVID-19 aid to small businesses and people impacted by the pandemic. 

“Rather than pushing this confirmation to the top of the Senate calendar, the majority leader should turn his focus instead to protecting the lives and livelihoods of the American people. We should pass a new bipartisan COVID-19 stimulus package to give Americans and businesses the relief that they desperately need, and that economists say if required to shore up the economy now,” Jones said. 

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Jones expressed concern as well for what medical experts are warning could be a new spike in COVID-19 nationwide. 

“There could be an even greater urgency, if our health care professionals’ warnings come to pass,” Jones said. “And that is as temperature drops and people go indoors that this virus spikes, and we see another surge.” 

Asked why his opponent, Tommy Tuberville, won’t debate Jones, he said, “It’s pretty simple. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”  

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“He has no clue. He is Coach Clueless,” Jones said. 

Jones noted that when asked recently on his thoughts on extending the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of 2020, Tuberville stumbled through an answer that indicated he wasn’t sure what the Voting Rights Act was.

“He had no earthly idea,” Jones said. 

Jones said Tuberville isn’t going to debate him because Tuberville doesn’t want to talk about issues.

“He doesn’t want to talk about a plan. His plan is simply this: Whatever Donald Trump says, I’m good,” Jones said, “and if Donald Trump says or does something that is not good, it’s crickets coming from Coach Tuberville.” 

Jones noted that after multiple news outlets, including Fox News, confirmed reporting that Trump had said disparaging things about veterans who died in combat, Tuberville has not spoken out against Trump’s comments. 

Jennifer Griffin, senior national security correspondent for Fox News, reported that she has spoken to senior U.S. officials who backed up reporting by The Atlantic, and said Trump said of the Vietnam War “anyone who went was a sucker.” 

“He has not said a thing about what was confirmed by Fox News about the president’s comment,” Jones said of Tuberville. “That’s just disgraceful.”

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News

SEC college football season begins

In August, it appeared that there could potentially be no college football season.

Brandon Moseley

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(VIA AUBURN UNIVERSITY ATHLETICS)

The delayed Southeastern Conference college football season is now underway as Auburn on Saturday hosted Kentucky. The University of Alabama will be playing the University of Missouri in Columbia.

Kickoff for the Kentucky vs. Auburn game was at 11 a.m., and the kickoff for the Alabama vs. Missouri game will be at 6 p.m. Auburn defeated Kentucky 29 to 13.

In August, it appeared that there could potentially be no college football season. The Ivy League, the SWAC, the University of Connecticut, the MAC, the Big 10, the PAC 12, and the Mountain West conferences all announced that they would postpone the 2020 football season to spring.

The unlikely prospect of playing two shortened college football seasons in one calendar year seemed to be the best hope of there even being a college football season. But college football is not like other sports and there is no central governing authority. Each conference makes decisions for itself.

The Atlantic Coast Conference and SEC both met and each decided that they would play this fall — regardless of if any of the other conferences were playing. The Big 12 eventually joined the SEC and ACC.

The SEC will play a 10-game, conference-only season that ends with an SEC Championship game on Dec. 19. Both Alabama and Auburn will have fans in the stands, but both schools are limiting capacity — at least for their home openers. Attendees must wear masks or cloth face coverings and social distancing rules will apply.

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Many states, including Alabama, are playing high school football, and the NFL is in its third week of play. Last week, the Big 12 reversed their earlier decision to sit out this fall and announced an 8-week, conference-only season starting in October. On Thursday, the PAC 12 voted to play a seven-game, conference-only season starting in November, followed by a Dec. 19 championship game. The Mountain West has also voted to play a fall season and the Mid-American Conference is voting, and the colleges are expected to green light an abbreviated fall season.

President Donald Trump had strenuously urged colleges to play this football season.

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UAB, South Alabama and Troy University have already begun their Conference USA and Sunbelt Conference football seasons. UAB defeated South Alabama 42 to 10 on Thursday night.

While few young people have actually died from COVID-19, some university presidents in the Big 10 expressed concerns about the long-term health effects on COVID-19 on survivors, including incidents of heart inflammation.

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Congress

Republicans blast Jones for refusal to even consider Trump nominee

Brandon Moseley

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Republicans criticized U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, on Friday for saying that he would not vote to confirm any nominee by President Donald Trump before the Nov. 3 election.

Alabama Republican Party chair Terry Lathan called Jones’s announcement “disgraceful.”

“It’s disgraceful that Senator Jones is dismissing his duties when he announced he would not support the confirmation of any Supreme Court justice nominee put forth by President Trump prior to the November election,” Lathan said in a statement. “The Constitution of our country clearly states that the President ‘shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint…judges of the Supreme Court…’”

“At the very least, Senator Jones owes Alabamians the simple courtesy of meeting with the nominee regardless of what he already plans to do,” Lathan continued. “It’s time for him to do his job, at least until November 3rd.”

“The people of our great state have spoken,” Lathan concluded. “The majority support President Trump and his policies which includes the conservative judges he has nominated for the federal bench. However, Doug Jones continues to ignore the wishes of the majority of his constituents and falls in line with his liberal party bosses, Hollywood supporters and New York fundraisers. On Election Day, Alabamians will give their advice and consent to remove Doug Jones from office. Tommy Tuberville will represent the majority’s values when he is elected as our next U.S. Senator.”

On Friday, Jones was asked if he would even meet with the nominee. His response was, “I don’t think my vote’s going to count, so I doubt they’ll even want to.”

“The President’s nominee hasn’t even been announced but anti-Trump Democrat Doug Jones has already made up his mind against the person,” said NRSC spokesperson Paige Lindgren. “Refusing to take part in a consequential Supreme Court confirmation process is the latest example that Jones has one foot out the door. He’s clearly no longer focused on representing the people of Alabama.”

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Former State Rep. Perry Hooper Jr., a Trump supporter, said that Jones votes against “everything that the people of Alabama believe in.”

“Doug Jones has consistently voted against the President and everything the good people of Alabama believe in.” Hooper said. “Jones is against the 2nd Amendment, he is for government funded abortions and he is a globalist. Alabama needs to send a strong pro-life, pro-business, pro-Trump and pro-American to Washington DC. And that man is Coach Tommy Tuberville.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, has vowed to bring the president’s pick to the floor of the Senate for a vote.

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“Thank God for Senator Mitch McConnell,” Hooper said. “Senator McConnell has 51 votes to confirm the President’s nominee to the US Supreme Court.”

Conservatives are hopeful that a more conservative court will vote to overturn Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court precedent that prevents state governments from banning abortions.

“Senator Doug Jones betrayed Alabamians when he voted against Justice Kavanaugh and has betrayed them again today, before President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee has even been named,” SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said in a statement. “During his short time in office, Jones has proven to be an extremist, repeatedly siding against constituents and voting with the most radical members of his party – like Kamala Harris – in favor of abortion on demand through birth, paid for by taxpayers. Asked about his stance on limiting late-term abortions more than halfway through pregnancy, Senator Jones laughed and called the issue ‘stupid.’ Jones is unfit to represent the pro-life, pro-Trump state of Alabama and will be held accountable at the ballot box.”

Many media sources are reporting that Trump will appoint Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the vacancy on the court left by the death of Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

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