Iraqi Forces Retake Center of Ramadi From ISIS
BAGHDAD — Iraqi forces said on Monday they had seized a strategic government complex in the western city of Ramadi from the Islamic State after a fierce weeklong battle to retake it, following a brutal seven-month occupation by the extremist group. “The security forces have entered the governmental buildings and raised the Iraqi flags over them after killing many ISIS militants, and the rest have escaped,” Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool, a spokesman for the Iraqi military, said. Although he at first declared the city “fully liberated,” another military commander, Maj. Gen. Ismail al-Mahlawi, noted that pockets of resistance remained in about 30 percent of the city, particularly in the communities of Sajariya and Sufiya, on the eastern outskirts of the city, and Albu Ghanim, to the north. Islamic State fighters captured those villages in April before advancing on the center of Ramadi. Nonetheless, the seizing of the government complex — the last major redoubt of Islamic State fighters in Ramadi — was a strategic and symbolic victory after days of fighting. The loss of Ramadi, the capital and most populous city of the western Iraqi province of Anbar, would be the most significant in a string of recent defeats for the Islamic State, which has occupied a large stretch of Iraq and Syria since the middle of last year. Fighters from the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, fled the government compound around midday, having been encircled by Iraqi counterterrorism forces and police officers, backed by Sunni tribesmen who oppose the militant group and by American airstrikes. An American military commander had confirmed, earlier Monday, that the Iraqi forces were poised to retake the government complex by day’s end. The commander spoke on the condition of anonymity because the operational details were not yet clear. More:
South Korea and Japan Reach Deal on Wartime ‘Comfort Women’
SEOUL, South Korea — More than 70 years after the end of World War II,South Korea and Japan reached a landmark agreement on Monday to resolve their dispute over Korean women who were forced to serve as sex slaves for Japan’s Imperial Army. The agreement, in which Japan made an apology and promised an $8.3 million payment, was intended to remove one of the most intractable logjams in relations between South Korea and Japan, its former colonial master, both crucial allies to the United States. The so-called comfort women have been the most painful legacy of Japan’s colonial rule of Korea, which lasted from 1910 until Japan’s World War II defeat in 1945. The Japanese and South Korean foreign ministers, announcing the agreement in Seoul, said each side considered it a “final and irrevocable resolution” of the issue. The deal won praise from the governing party of President Park Geun-hyeof South Korea but was immediately criticized as insufficient by some of the surviving former sex slaves as well as opposition politicians in South Korea, where anti-Japanese sentiments run deep. The United States has repeatedly urged Japan and South Korea to resolve the dispute, a stumbling block in American efforts to strengthen a joint front with its Asian allies to better cope with China’s growing assertiveness in the region, as well as North Korea’s attempt to build a nuclear arsenal. “The Japanese government bears a heartfelt responsibility for the comfort women issue, which severely injured the honor and dignity of many women, with the involvement of its military,” the foreign minister of Japan, Fumio Kishida, said on Monday, reading the agreement at a news conference in Seoul. More:
Within a few years, there will be no visible reminder that coal was once dug out of the ground at the Kellingley Colliery. As it has gone with so many other towns in Britain — Creswell in Derbyshire, Rhodesia in Nottinghamshire, Mardy in South Wales — so it will go with Beal, in North Yorkshire, the town where Kellingley was located. Today, these are small towns and villages — some with only one street, one pub, and one shop — but once they were places of international importance, whose coal powered the Industrial Revolution, drove the steam trains on Victorian railways, and fueled the ships that fought World Wars I and II. The coal industry — a business that once defined Britain — ended in any meaningful sense with the closure of Kellingley, the last deep pit mine in the United Kingdom, on Dec. 18, though, realistically, the industry has been on life support since 1990. When the workers at Kellingley finished their final shift, surrounded by members of the media, it was with feelings of dejection and anger, but also with a calm resilience. The 450 remaining miners simply bid farewell to their jobs; some exchanged high-fives, others shuffled off to an uncertain future with somber looks on their faces. The men once employed there will have to find alternative employment. The local shops and services that relied on Kellingley’s trade will have to find customers elsewhere. Coal has been mined in Britain since the Roman times. The Romans called it “the best stone in Britain” and carved jewelry out of it, then marveled when that jewelry could be set on fire. They would soon begin mining it for fuel, but only out of small drift mines. It would take the Industrial Revolution to bring on the golden age of coal — and the era of the deep pits that have come to shape the image of British mining we have today. More:
Exclusive: Seized documents reveal Islamic State’s Department of ‘War Spoils’
Islamic State has set up departments to handle “war spoils,” including slaves, and the exploitation of natural resources such as oil, creating the trappings of government that enable it to manage large swaths of Syria and Iraq and other areas. The hierarchical bureaucracy, including petty rivalries between officials, and legal codes in the form of religious fatwas are detailed in a cache of documents seized by U.S. Special Operations Forces in a May raid in Syria that killed top IS financial official Abu Sayyaf. Reuters has reviewed some of the documents. U.S. officials say the documents have helped deepen their understanding of a militant group whose skill in controlling the territory it has seized has surprised many. They provide insight into how a once small insurgent group has developed a complex bureaucracy to manage revenue streams – from pillaged oil to stolen antiquities – and oversee subjugated populations. “This really kind of brings it out. The level of bureaucratization, organization, the diwans, the committees,” Brett McGurk, President Barack Obama’s special envoy for the anti-IS coalition, told Reuters. For example, one diwan, roughly equivalent to a government ministry, handles natural resources, including the exploitation of antiquities from ancient empires. Another processes “war spoils,” including slaves. “Islamic State is invested in the statehood and Caliphate image more so than any other jihadist enterprise. So a formal organization, besides being practical when you control so much contiguous territory and major cities, also reinforces the statehood image,” said Aymenn al-Tamimi, a fellow at the Middle East Forum think tank and an expert on IS’s structure. The documents also show how “meticulous and data-oriented” IS is in managing the oil and gas sector, although it is not a sophisticated operation, said Amos Hochstein, the State Department’s top official for energy affairs. More:
State-Level Brawls Over Medicaid Reflect Divide in G.O.P.
WASHINGTON — John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 3 Republican in the Senate, voted earlier this month to repeal major provisions of the Affordable Care Act and to end its expansion of Medicaid, arguing that the health law was “unpopular and unaffordable.” A week later, his state’s Republican governor, Dennis Daugaard, announced that he wanted to make 55,000 additional South Dakota residents eligible for Medicaid under the law. “I know many South Dakotans are skeptical about expanding Medicaid, and I share some of those sentiments,” Mr. Daugaard said. “It bothers me that some people who can work will become more dependent on government.” “But,” Mr. Daugaard said, “we also have to remember those who would benefit, such as the single mother of three who simply cannot work enough hours to exceed the poverty line for her family.” In state after state, a gulf is opening between Republican governors willing to expand Medicaid coverage through the Affordable Care Act and Republican members of Congress convinced the law is collapsing and determined to help it fail. In recent months, insurers have increased premiums and deductibles for many policies sold online, and a dozen nonprofit insurance co-ops are shutting down, forcing consumers to seek other coverage. But in Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico and Ohio, Republican governors have expanded Medicaid under the health care law or defended past expansions. In South Dakota, Tennessee and Utah, Republican governors are pressing for wider Medicaid coverage. And Republican governors in a few other states, including Alabama, have indicated that they are looking anew at their options after rejecting the idea in the past. That has created tension with Washington that some lawmakers can no longer ignore. More:
The Tax Sleuth Who Took Down a Drug Lord
Gary L. Alford was running on adrenaline when he arrived for work on a Monday in June 2013, at the Drug Enforcement Administration office in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. A tax investigator, he had spent much of the weekend in the living room of his New Jersey townhouse, scrolling through arcane chat rooms and old blog posts, reading on well after his fiancée had gone to sleep. The work had given Mr. Alford what he believed was the answer to a mystery that had confounded investigators for nearly two years: the identity of the mastermind behind the online drug bazaar known as Silk Road — a criminal known only by his screen name, Dread Pirate Roberts. When Mr. Alford showed up for work that Monday, he had a real name and a location. He assumed the news would be greeted with excitement. Instead, he says, he got the brushoff. He recalls asking the prosecutor on the case, out of frustration, “What about what I said is not compelling?” Mr. Alford, a young special agent with the Internal Revenue Service assigned to work with the D.E.A., isn’t the first person to feel unappreciated at the office. In his case, though, the information he had was crucial to solving one of the most vexing criminal cases of the last few years. While Silk Road by mid-2013 had grown into a juggernaut, selling $300,000 in heroin and other illegal goods each day, federal agents hadn’t been able to figure out the most basic detail: the identity of the person running the site. It ultimately took Mr. Alford, 38, more than three months to gather enough evidence to prevail upon his colleagues to take his suspect seriously. After he convinced them, though, the man he identified, Ross W. Ulbricht, was arrested and Silk Road shuttered. The night of the arrest, Mr. Alford got an email from one of the other special agents at the center of the case: “Congrats Gary, you were right,” it said. Mr. Alford’s experience, and the lag between his discovery and Mr. Ulbricht’s arrest, were largely left out of the documents and proceedings that led to Mr. Ulbricht’s conviction and life sentence this year. More:
Families demand Chicago police, mayor explain shooting deaths
The families of two black Chicagoans killed by police accused officers on Sunday of having used excessive force and Mayor Rahm Emanuel of having failed them, piling pressure on a city facing a U.S. federal probe over possible racial bias in policing. Police shot Quintonio LeGrier, 19, a male college student who was visiting his father, and Bettie Jones, a 55-year-old mother of five, on Saturday. Family members said police were called after LeGrier threatened his father with a metal baseball bat. Jones, who lived in a first-floor apartment, was shot through the door, said her cousin Evelyn Glover. Police said LeGrier was being combative. They said Jones was killed by accident and extended condolences. “This needs to stop. No mother should have to bury her child,” Janet Cooksey, LeGrier’s mother, told a news conference in front of the home. She said her son was shot seven times. She previously told reporters her son suffered from mental illness. Several people who spoke wore T-shirts reading, “Rahm Failed Us.” Family members demanded to know why police used lethal force. High-profile killings of black men by police officers since mid-2014 have triggered waves of protest – including in Chicago, the country’s third-largest city – and fueled a civil rights movement under the name Black Lives Matter. After the news conference, about 100 people including neighbors and religious leaders held a vigil in neighborhood streets, with many saying they did not trust the police to be truthful about what happened. “We are under siege here in Chicago,” Ira Acree, pastor of the Greater St. John Bible Church, said at the vigil. “Trigger- happy cops are still engaged in senseless murders of people of color.” A Chicago police video of the fatal shooting of another black teenager sparked protests last month, with activists demanding the resignation of Mayor Emanuel, a former chief of staff to President Barack Obama. A federal investigation is under way over the department’s use of deadly force and officer discipline.
These Will Be Wall Street’s Most In-Demand Jobs Next Year
Job cuts and shrinking bonuses dominated headlines from Wall Street this year, so it’s easy to forget pockets of the industry are booming. Plunging oil prices, the Federal Reserve’s first rate increase since before the financial crisis and the collapse in junk-rated debt are creating opportunities for some bankers and traders, spurring hiring and raises. Analysts, recruiters and executives deem these the best jobs to have in 2016: Oil and Gas Bankers: Investment bankers advised a record $4.2 trillion of announced mergers and acquisitions in 2015, led by blockbuster deals in pharmaceuticals, telecom and technology companies. Which industry is ripe for the next wave of consolidation? Battered by oil’s plunge, energy companies will need to lean on bankers in 2016 to shore up equity or sell themselves to stronger rivals. “When an industry blows up, you usually get a couple of really good years,” said Brian Foran, a partner at Autonomous Research LLP. “It’s similar to banks in 2008 and 2009, when you had some of the biggest acquisitions ever and it was phenomenal for financial institutions bankers.” Restructuring Bankers: Rising defaults, widening spreads on high-yield debt and climbing U.S. interest rates mean restructuring desks have a big year ahead, according to Vincent Hung of Autonomous Research. Those bankers advise debtors or creditors when companies need restructuring through asset-sales or in bankruptcy. Boutiques including Houlihan Lokey Inc. and Lazard Ltd. dominate the field (megabanks are more often conflicted as creditors or underwriters), and the firms could see a 24 percent jump in restructuring revenue next year, Hung said in a Dec. 18 note. More:
Peyton Manning Accused
Peyton Manning, the Denver Broncos quarterback, has fiercely denied claims made in an Al Jazeera documentary that he was supplied with human growth hormone in 2011. Manning told ESPN he is “furious” about the report that names him and several other high-profile athletes linked to performance-enhancing drugs. The Al Jazeera investigation—called “The Dark Side”—is the culmination of months of undercover reporting carried out by British hurdler Liam Collins. Al Jazeera says Collins told pharmacists he interviewed for the piece he was looking to compete in the Olympics in Rio next summer and would do “whatever it takes” to make that happen. The report is scheduled to air Sunday night, but it is already available to watch online. Al Jazeera’s main source in the allegations against Manning is Charlie Sly, who is identified in the documentary as a pharmacist at the Guyer Institute in Indianapolis. Sly initially told Collins—who captured the exchange via hidden camera—that he had sent human growth hormone to Manning’s home address in the name of Manning’s wife, Ashley, in 2011 while the player was in treatment for a neck injury. More:
Republicans split on attacking climate science
The Republican Party is divided over whether to attack the science of climate change when opposing liberal policies. Many of the most vocal Republicans say they have significant problems with the scientific consensus that the Earth is warming and that greenhouse gas emissions from human activity is the main cause. The skeptics include presidential hopefuls Ben Carson and Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) and Capitol Hill chairmen Sen. Jim Inhofe (Okla.) and Rep. Lamar Smith (Texas). But others in the GOP aren’t interested in litigating the science. They say it’s more important — and far easier — to show that Democratic climate proposals would be disastrous to the economy and kill jobs. The split comes as more and more voters, particularly young people and minorities, say in opinion polls that they believe climate change is real and want action to fight it. Democrats have lined up firmly behind that view, with President Obama set to implement carbon dioxide limits for power plants that amount to the most significant action yet by the federal government to fight climate change. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said that since science underpins climate change policies, it’s important to examine it in detail. “We know that there’s an ideological obsession to advance on this global warming agenda,” said Sessions. More:
Trying to get to Dallas for the Cotton Bowl? Better check flight cancellations
If you’re headed to Dallas for the Cotton Bowl, get ready to face cancellations or delays at the airport on Monday. As of 5 p.m. CST on Sunday, 31 percent of flights to Dallas were canceled and 19 percent were delayed. Flights from LA, New Orleans, Gulfport and a dozen locations are already canceled for Monday as the threat of more severe weather looms. You can check cancellations with your airline directly (they should send you an alert) or you can check FlightAware for the latest information. Several people traveling to Dallas on Sunday found their flights diverted or canceled as well. If you’re headed to Dallas after Monday, remember to pack for cold weather. The low is expected to be around 30 degrees and the high in the low 50s.
The Reynolds Pamphlet, explained: Why Alexander Hamilton printed his sex scandal’s details
Every Sunday, Javier Muñoz takes to Broadway to portray the titular character in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s smash-hit musical Hamilton. But there’s one burning question he still has about his character’s motivations. “Dude,” he told Vulture in November, “WHY the Reynolds Pamphlet? What were you thinking? What were you thinking?” Muñoz is referring, of course, to Alexander Hamilton’s mid-1797 decision to publish an excruciatingly detailed, rambling confession of his extramarital affair with the married Maria Reynolds — a confession that became known as the Reynolds pamphlet, and which may have been the first national sex scandal in U.S. politics. It’s a key turning point in Miranda’s musical. In his telling, this is a disastrous mistake that humiliates Hamilton’s family and ends his political career. “Well, he’s never gon’ be president now,” Hamilton’s political rivals mockingly sing, as they throw copies of the pamphlet in his face. Furthermore, it’s a mistake that seems to be self-inflicted — no one forces him to publish it. So why did he do it? Well, Hamilton’s decision to publish the pamphlet was indeed a bizarre move and probably a mistake. But there are several pieces of historical context left out of the musical that make his decision at least a bit less inexplicable. Here’s what they are (and here are the songs from Hamilton you can play to follow along): In the summer of 1791, Alexander Hamilton — a little less than two years into his tenure as the United States’ first-ever Treasury Secretary — was approached by the 23-year old Maria Reynolds, who asked him for help. According to Hamilton’s later account, she said her husband was treating her “cruelly” and asked him for money. (This is all dramatized pretty faithfully in “Say No to This.”) “There seems little question that she approached Hamilton as part of an extortion racket, delivering an adept performance as a despairing woman” at her husband’s behest, Ron Chernow concludes in his biography Alexander Hamilton. And, in what Chernow calls “one of history’s most mystifying cases of bad judgment,” Hamilton began an affair with her — one he’d continue for about a year. This included several months after Reynolds’s husband James “discovered” the affair and demanded payments from Hamilton for his silence. More:
Meadowlark Lemon, Harlem Globetrotter Who Played Basketball and Pranks With Virtuosity, Dies at 83
Meadowlark Lemon, whose halfcourt hook shots, no-look behind-the-back passes and vivid clowning were marquee features of the feel-good traveling basketball show known as the Harlem Globetrotters for nearly a quarter-century, died on Sunday in Scottsdale, Ariz., where he lived. He was 83. The death was confirmed by his wife, Cynthia Lemon. A gifted athlete with an entertainer’s hunger for the spotlight, Lemon, who dreamed of playing for the Globetrotters as a boy in North Carolina, joined the team in 1954, not long after leaving the Army. Within a few years, he had assumed the central role of showman, taking over from Reece Tatum, whom everyone called Goose, the Trotters’ long-reigning clown prince. Tatum was a superb ballplayer whose on-court gags — or reams, as the players called them — had established the team’s reputation for laugh-inducing wizardry at a championship level. This was a time, however, when the Trotters were known not merely for their comedy routines and basketball legerdemain; they were also a formidable competitive team. Their victory over the Minneapolis Lakers in 1948 was instrumental in integrating the National Basketball Association, and a decade later their owner, Abe Saperstein, signed a 7-footer out of the University of Kansas to a one-year contract before he was eligible for the N.B.A.: Wilt Chamberlain. More:
Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, U.S. Commander in Gulf War, Dies at 78
Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, who commanded the American-led forces that crushed Iraq in the 1991 Persian Gulf war and became the nation’s most acclaimed military hero since the midcentury exploits of Generals Dwight D. Eisenhower and Douglas MacArthur, died on Thursday in Tampa, Fla. He was 78. The general, who retired soon after the gulf war and lived in Tampa, died of complications arising from a recent bout of pneumonia, said his sister Ruth Barenbaum. In 1993, he was found to have prostate cancer, for which he was successfully treated. In Operation Desert Storm, General Schwarzkopf orchestrated one of the most lopsided victories in modern warfare, a six-week blitzkrieg by a broad coalition of forces with overwhelming air superiority that liberated tiny Kuwait from Iraqi occupation, routed Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guard and virtually destroyed Iraq’s infrastructure, all with relatively light allied losses. Winning the lightning war was never in doubt and in no way comparable to the traumas of World War II and the Korean conflict, which made Eisenhower and MacArthur into national heroes and presidential timber. But a divisive Vietnam conflict and the cold war had produced no such heroes, and the little-known General Schwarzkopf was wreathed in laurels as the victor in a popular war against a brutal dictator.
What were Alabama’s top political stories of 2015?
After his reelection last year, Gov. Robert Bentley, who had run on a no-new taxes pledge, said Alabama government needed more revenue for critical services and to repay hundreds of millions borrowed to prop up the budget. Bentley’s campaign for tax increases, the resistance from lawmakers and the potential consequences for the state dominated political news in Alabama for much of 2015. In February, the governor announced a $541 million tax increase plan, a bold step he said was needed to fix not only a short-term budget hole but also the perpetual inadequacies in the General Fund. The Republican governor found little support from the GOP majority that controls the Legislature. Lawmakers rejected Bentley’s plan and passed a slashed budget. Bentley, as he had promised, vetoed it. The governor then surprised lawmakers by calling a special session in July, a month earlier than expected. He proposed a smaller tax plan, but it stalled and lawmakers failed to pass a budget at all. During the second special session, the Legislature raised the cigarette tax 25 cents a pack and moved revenue from the education budget to close part of the General Fund shortfall. The governor signed the budget, which reduced General Fund spending 4.5 percent, but spared Medicaid, courts, prisons and mental health from cuts.
No one claimed that was a solution to the General Fund’s inadequacies, however, and lawmakers will confront them again when the Legislature returns on Feb. 2. More:
MONTGOMERY—Alabama code Section 36-25-14 (a) states: “A statement of economic interests shall be completed and filed in accordance with this chapter with the [Ethics] commission…by…(4) Members of the Alabama Ethics Commission.” However, as part of an ongoing search of statements of economic interests filings shows that Ethics Commission Vice-Chair, V. Larkin Martin, has never filed a statement of economic interests. Martin, who took her seat on the Commission in 2014, should have made her 2014 filing over six months ago. Like every other commissioner, Martin received orientation on filing her statement of economic interests as well as receiving several notifications that the filings were due. According to former Commission Director James Sumner (who was responsible for overseeing Martin’s orientation), “It is a general overview of the Commission, its history, the statutes, process, procedures, everything that has to do with the conduction of an investigation, the presentation of a case to the Commission, the finding that the Commission can render. We also go through the fact that the commissioners can render advisory opinions. Then we go through the duties and responsibilities of commissioners, they have to adhere to the law themselves, they have to file statements of economic interests and the only ‘perk’ that they get is $50 per diem [each meeting] so it is not for every day spent on commission work each time they meet which under the current schedule six times per year….And we can reimburse their expenses, mileage, etc.” Despite having received orientation training, and several reminders that her statement of economic interests was past due, Martin has yet to file the appropriate paperwork. Recalling the mechanics of the process, Sumner said, “These people are mainly business people and they are busy, so if you are getting down to the last two or three weeks before the deadline they certainly reminded by the chief of the Administrative Division, or somebody on the staff that ‘your filing is due April 30 be sure not to forget it.’ Reminders would be done…and a follow up after that.”
Martin has not even provided the Commission with a photograph for the Commission website, even though numerous pictures of her can be found from a simple Google image search.
FBI closes investigation into 1964 shooting by Alabama deputy
A single gunshot has haunted Quinnie Donald for more than five decades. The former Alabama sheriff’s deputy shot and killed a black man in 1964 outside a house known for selling illegal booze. If the same events played out today, the death of Frank Andrews might have become a flashpoint in the national debate about police use of force and minority rights. Instead, the white deputy spent 50-plus years second-guessing his actions and waiting to find out whether he would be prosecuted in the shooting, which forced the Andrews family to endure years of pain and left Donald with the sense that something was always hanging over his head, about to drop. That gnawing uncertainty ended only weeks ago, when Donald, 78, learned that the FBI had closed its last investigation into Andrews’ death with a determination that no charges were warranted. He now says the shooting was an accident, but FBI reports show that’s not what he said at the time, and it’s still not clear exactly what happened that night in Lisman, just a few miles from the Mississippi state line in rural Choctaw County. More:
Verizon and Sprint customers: Time is running out to apply for your part of $158 million settlement
If you’re a Verizon or Sprint customer – take note. Time is running out for you to file a claim related to a multi-million settlement the companies announced earlier this year. In May, the telecommunications giants agreed to a $158 settlement related to Federal Communications Commission charges they allowed third parties to charge customers for “premium” texts without their knowledge. The illegal practice is known as “cramming,” and leads to unauthorized charges for customers. According to the FCC, cramming is often associated with ringtones, cell phone wallpaper, or “premium” text messages about sports scores, celebrity gossip, or daily horoscopes that are sent to your phone without your permission. The charges associated with the spamming date back to 2010 until at least 2014. The charges ranged from $0.99 to $14, but the average charge was $9.99 per month. In 2014, AT&T and T-Mobile paid $105 million and $90 million, respectively, to settle similar claims. How to file a claim Verizon and Sprint agreed to refund customers charges related to cramming but you only have until Dec. 31 to file for your claim. Consumers can submit claims through www.sprintrefundpsms.com and www.cfpbsettlementverizon.com. Consumers with questions can call 1-877-389-8787 FREE for the Sprint case, or 1-888-726-7063 FREE for Verizon. You can also visit www.CFPBSettlementVerizon.com or www.SprintRefundPSMS.com for more on your respective refunds.
The latest faux outrage coming from Montgomery revolves around Governor Robert Bentley’s decision to use around $1.5 million in BP settlement money to refurbish the Governor’s Beach Mansion, which is actually the Governor’s second official residence. Built in 1960 by supporters of then-Governor George Wallace, it has served as a retreat and executive meeting place for decades. According to a 1993 report, The Tuscaloosa News called it Alabama’s Camp David, in reference to the US Presidential retreat. According to the report, “Cornelia Wallace used a Boston Whaler to water ski right off the beach. Guy Hunt played horseshoes on a tiny patch of grass there and Albert Brewer was remembered as a “mainstream American” who swam in shorts with a can of beer.” This is a place of historical significance and should not be allowed to deteriorate. Bentley’s Communications Director, Jennifer Ardis, said of the Beach property, “The Governor doesn’t want this property to be an embarrassment any longer,” and an embarrassment it has been. State Auditor, Jim Zeigler, a frequent critic of the Governor wrote, “The governor’s mansion at the Gulf has been a derelict eyesore for years. Now, Gov. Robert Bentley is spending $1.5 million to restore it. The reason? He lost his own personal house at the Gulf in his divorce from 50-year-wife Dianne Bentley.” The self-proclaimed waste cutter has never uttered a word against Speaker Mike Hubbard, who has been charged by the State with 23 felony counts of public corruption. No, he only goes after Governor Bentley. Wonder why that is? While I appreciate Zeigler’s zeal, his consistency seems apparently lacking. Governor Bentley is not renovating the Beach Mansion to have a private oceanfront playground. He is doing what any responsible neighbor should do. The State, like any homeowner, should keep its property in good repair. As a reminded to those who talk about the gospel, but fail to apply it regularly, being a good steward is a hallmark of those who adhere to its teachings. Shamefully, many of those who routinely critique the Governor are loathe to speak a word against Hubbard or other corrupt politico. Little was said when, during the 2013 legislative session, Speaker Mike Hubbard authorized tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars to paint and furnish a “cloakroom” for legislators to “relax in” on the fourth floor of the State House. Or, when Hubbard paid almost $2,600 for some silk plants to adorn the Speaker’s office using State money. And not a peep was heard when Hubbard spent over a million dollars for new vote counting software for the House, or spent $200,000 to renovate a committee room on the second floor of the State House. Again, not a critical word was uttered when Hubbard, a man who has claimed that he is a real Republican, increased spending in the Speaker’s office over his democratic predecessor by 82.6 percent. The shame here is not in spending BP oil spill settlement to repair a State facility, the shame belongs to those who use this as an opportunity for self aggrandizement. The real shock is that other Chief Executives have so long neglected restoring the Gulf Mansion. The Tuscaloosa News also reported, “It was at the 1965 dedication of the home that First Lady Lurleen B. Wallace learned she would be running for governor as her husband’s surrogate…It was a ‘special place’ for Lurleen B. Wallace who spent time there before and during the time she was ill with cancer that claimed her life in 1968.” The Critics are wrong, and the Governor is right. We should preserve this landmark.
Morning Money will return January 4, 2016.
No public schedule
The house will return on January 6, 2016 and the Senate on January 11, 2016