Pat Duggins

News Director

Pat Duggins is news director for Alabama Public Radio.  If his name or voice is familiar, it could be his twenty five years covering the U.S. space program, including fourteen years on NPR.  Pat’s NASA experience began with the explosion of Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986, and includes 103 missions.  Many NPR listeners recall Pat’s commentary during Weekend Edition Saturday on February 1, 2003 when Shuttle Columbia broke apart and burned up during re-entry.  His expertise was utilized during three hours of live and unscripted coverage with NPR’s Scott Simon.  Pat later wrote two books about NASA, Final Countdown: NASA and the End of the Space Shuttle Program and Trailblazing Mars, both of which have been released as audio books.  Pat has also lectured about the future of the space program at Harvard, and writes about international space efforts for "Modern Weekly" magazine in Shanghai, China.

Duggins experience goes beyond NASA.  He led the APR news team on a year long investigation of rural health in Alabama, which was recognized with the 50th annual "Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for Radio." The team was honored alongisde The New York Times, the Washington Post, ABC-TV, and PBS FRONTLINE. Duggins and the team also covered the 2011 Alabama Tornado outbreak with dawn to dusk rescue and recovery updates. The news crew also provided national and international coverage for the BBC in London, MSNBC, CBC in Canada, and Australia Broadcasting in Sydney and Melbourne.  His efforts, and those of the APR news team, were recognized with the first two of three National Sigma Delta Chi awards from the Society of Professional Journalists. The Radio Television Digital News Association also honored Pat and the team with a national Edward R. Murrow Award for overall excellence. The Alabama Associated Press also recognized APR as the "Most Outstanding News Organization" in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017. And, Duggins' news series on the long-term impact of the Gulf oil spill won a national PRNDI award for best series from the Public Radio News Directors' Association, and a regional Murrow. His documentary "Civil Rights Radio," on the 1963 "children's march" in Birmingham was honored with the international "Silver Radio Award" from the New York Festivals radio competition, and with a "Gabriel Award" from the Catholic Church. 

Pat’s work isn’t limited to radio, with regular appearances on TV.  He also conducts interview/profile segments for "Alabama, Inc." a new University of Alabama TV series on business on airs statewide on Alabama Public Television. Pat also co-hosted “Your Vote Counts,” a program featuring college-age voters who critiqued the final debate between Robert Bentley and Ron Sparks in the 2011 race for Alabama Governor. 

Since his arrival at APR, Pat and the team have won more than one hundred awards for excellence in journalism. Duggins is also the recipient of a Suncoast Regional Emmy.

Ways to Connect

President Trump and former Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin aren’t the only big names to campaign in Alabama’s upcoming vote for the U.S. Senate. Former Vice President Joe Biden is coming to support Democrat Doug Jones. Mr. Biden will headline a campaign rally in Birmingham on October 3rd. The former Vice President says Jones is a proven leader in which we can place our trust. Jones will face either Strange or Moore in the December twelfth special election for U.S. Senate. The seat previously belonged to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Jones is a lawyer and former U.S.

Former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin will campaign for Roy Moore in Alabama on Thursday. This visit comes one day before President Trump holds a support rally for Moore’s GOP opponent Luther Strange in Huntsville. Palin’s rally will take place in Montgomery after Moore and Strange face off in their first, and only, debate before next Tuesday’s runoff. Former Trump strategist Sebastian Gorka will also appear. Strange and Moore, both Republicans, are vying for Attorney General Jeff Sessions' former U.S. Senate seat.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is launching an advertising push on behalf of Luther Strange in Alabama's heated U.S. Senate runoff. The effort includes TV ads supporting Strange as well as mail fliers featuring an endorsement from Alabama Senator Richard Shelby.

Luther Strange and Roy Moore are exchanging jabs following a cancelled debate ahead of the GOP runoff for Jeff Sessions U.S. Senate seat. The two contenders have tentatively agreed to face off on stage later this month. The two traded accusations after Moore withdrew from a debate hosted by the Alabama Policy Institute, a conservative think tank. Moore claims he withdrew because API's president also serves as treasurer of the PAC backing Strange. The Strange campaign then accused Moore of ducking a debate.

The nonprofit Bipartisan Policy Center is teaming up with four U.S. Senators to unveil a detailed economic initiative for Appalachia. The goal is to help reverse struggles with poverty and isolation in the region. Appalachia spans thirteen states including Alabama, and has more than twenty five million people The senators are Democrats Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Mark Warner of Virginia and Republicans David Perdue of Georgia and Thom Tillis of North Carolina.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, says the White House is approving federal emergency aid for the state of Alabama ahead of the arrival of Irma. These dollars will supplement state, tribal, and local response efforts due to the emergency storm conditions in the area starting from last Friday. Specifically, FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency. Emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance, will be provided at 75 percent federal funding.

The city of Greenville, south of Montgomery, is buying its local hospital from a Tennessee company. Tennessee based Quorum Health says it signed a definitive agreement to sell the seventy two bed L.V. Stabler Memorial Hospital to a city health care authority. No price was disclosed. The sale is supposed to be finished before year's end. The company, spun off by Community Health Systems, has heavy debt and is losing money. The Alabama Public Radio news team has spent the year investigating rural health in the state.

The Alabama Department of Insurance is hitting Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama with an eight million dollar penalty. The insurer is being fined for charging rates higher or lower than those approved by the state. The unauthorized rates were imposed between 2005 and 2013 and resulted in thirty three million dollars in over charges and one hundred and seven million in undercharges. Al.com reports the charges occurred in about 1,400 plans issued to small group employers and some insurance plans for former employees.

The National Weather Service put counties on the eastern side of Alabama under a tropical storm warning ahead of Irma. Communities in east Alabama, including Huntsville and Guntersville, could see tropical storm force winds with gusts up to seventy miles per hour. Governor Kay Ivey activated the Alabama National Guard and Alabama’s Emergency Response Center ahead of the storm. Georgia spent the day under a Hurricane warning after State troopers turned Interstate 16 into a one-way escape route for a few hours Saturday as evacuees packed cars and fled the Georgia coast ahead Irma.

All year long, the Alabama Public Radio news team has been investigating rural healthcare in the state. Studies often list Alabama as having the worst infant mortality rate in the nation. One factor is the lack of maternity units in rural hospitals in Alabama. This can lead to premature births or delayed care, which are often blamed for early infant death. APR’s Pat Duggins has more on a hospital business model that could help, but possible changes to the Affordable Care Act might make matters worse…

UAB Campus
UAB

Researchers at UAB are seeking approval from the Food and Drug Administration regarding a new potential treatment for cancer.

Scientists say they’ve developed a way to genetically modify a cancer fighting immune system cell so that it survives chemotherapy. Project Director Dr. Lawrence Lamb says the so called Gamma Delta T-cells recognize cancer cells because of signals of stress the infected cells give off in the patient.

Huntsville may benefit from the White House directive to revamp the nation’s intercontinental ballistic missile arsenal. The Air Force says it has awarded contracts to Boeing and Northrop Grumman for work that could lead to replacement of the nation's intercontinental ballistic missiles. Chicago-based Boeing has built long-range missiles for the Defense Department since Minuteman I in the 1960s. It’s missile-replacement effort will be done in Huntsville, Alabama as well as Utah, Ohio; and other locations. The contracts are part of a planned overhaul of the U.S.

Alabamians from the Tennessee Valley to the coast are getting ready to view Monday’s solar eclipse. The prime spot to see the sun completely blotted out by the Moon is north and east of Alabama along a line extending from Nashville, Tennessee to Columbia, South Carolina. But Alabama is expected to get about a ninety five percent eclipse over much of the state. Stores in northern Alabama are selling thousands of protective glasses to view the sun, and the University of Alabama in Huntsville has an eclipse-watching party.

The Southern Poverty Law Center is clashing with Secretary of State John Merrill over Alabama voters listed as “inactive.” The civil rights organization is asking the state to restore hundreds of thousands of people to active voter status ahead of a U.S. Senate runoff election in September and the General Election in December. The SPLC says there was widespread confusion in Election Day last Tuesday. The group believes large numbers of people were incorrectly moved to inactive voting status during an update of rolls.

APR

Advocates working to fix problems with rural health care say Alabama is ground zero nationally. Studies say Alabama has the highest infant mortality rate in the U.S. The state also leads the nation for diabetes. Alabama is also home to Gadsden which had the lowest life expectancy in the nation in 2016. Despite all this, rural hospitals in the state receive among the lowest reimbursements nationally from Medicare. That’s blamed for eighty percent of Alabama’s hospitals that are operating in the red.

President Trump is making his feelings known on Alabama’s Republican primary for the U.S. Senate. The Commander-in-chief is endorsing Luther Strange ahead of next week’s contentious GOP election. Trump’s support came in the form of a Tweet. Strange is in a tight race with former state chief justice Roy Moore and Congressman Mo Brooks, a member of the House Freedom Caucus. Republican contenders have openly tried to woo Trump voters in the state where he continues to enjoy heavy popularity. Civil Rights icon and Congressman John Lewis is endorsing Doug Jones in the Democratic primary race.

NASA is gathering stakeholders in the International Space Station to look at the future of the orbiting complex, and potential changes could impact the city of Huntsville.

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville controls science work that’s done aboard the football field-sized space station. That could soon mean working for or with private industry on the complex.

Alabama will be part of a new U.S. Justice Department initiative aimed at crimes related to opioid addiction. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is dispatching twelve federal prosecutors to focus on health care fraud and opioid scams. The northern district of Alabama will get one of the prosecutors as well as states like Florida, Tennessee, Nevada, Kentucky, and Maryland. Today’s DOJ announcement was a reversal of Obama-era policies that may send more people to prison and for much longer terms. Sessions is making aggressive prosecutions of drug crimes a top priority.

Alabama U.S. Senator Luther Strange is far outspending his challengers in the Republican primary to fill  Jeff Sessions' old Senate seat. Session left Congress' upper chamber to be U.S. Attorney General. Fundraising reports show Strange raised nearly $3 million dollars so far in the Senate race. Strange has also benefited from high-dollar spending on his behalf by a super political action committee with ties to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The money has allowed Strange to dominate airwaves in the GOP battle to replace Sessions.

Descendants of African-American men in the infamous Tuskegee Syphilis study want what’s left in a $9 million dollar legal settlement. The group sent a letter to U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson asking him to withhold a decision on the money until they have time to hire a lawyer and file documents in the long-running, class-action lawsuit over the study. Supporters of the Tuskegee descendants say the money could help fund college scholarships the group provides, and members would like to develop a memorial garden dedicated to the men.

The city of Huntsville is rolling out the red carpet for what it hopes will be a new employer. The city council unanimously approved a two-part deal to bring the Blue Origin rocket engine factory to town. If built, the facility could bring with it four hundred high paying positions. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns Blue Origin. His two hundred million dollar factory could reduce America’s reliance on Russian rocket engines to blast cargo into space. Rocket builder United Launch Alliance would have to ink a deal with Blue Origin for the Huntsville factory to become a reality.

A lot of outdoor activities are scheduled for Independence Day today. The temperatures are also creeping into the nineties with lots of humidity. So, health officials say it’s important to be aware of the risk of heat illness. One of the most common conditions is heat exhaustion. That’s when you get overheated and lose electrolytes through sweating. If it goes untreated, heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke, which can be fatal. Dr. Ed Geno teaches family medicine at the University of Alabama. He says people need to know what to look out when it comes to heat stroke…

A new survey shows optimism is high among Alabama business leaders. The latest Alabama Business Confidence Index shows level of sixty one point six percent. That's well above the five-year average for the third straight quarter. The report is compiled from a survey on expectations for the coming quarter. Those numbers are compared to the current quarter. The index looks at industry sales, profits, hiring, capital expenditures, plus expectations for Alabama’s economy and the nation’s. The survey is conducted by the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Alabama.

If your Fourth of July plans include a visit to Orange Beach, it’ll cost less to get there. The company that operates the Beach Express Toll bridge is lowering its prices for the summer. Toll rates for visitors to Orange Beach are dropping by seventy five cents. The toll is going from three dollars and fifty cents to two dollars and seventy five cents until after Labor Day. Orange Beach residents will see their tolls drop by a twenty five cents, down from a dollar twenty five to just a dollar. The drop is meant to help ease congestion on Alabama highway fifty nine.

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill says his office will not share voter data with a Presidential commission on elections integrity. Both Republican and Democratic States are refusing to comply with the request for voter names, social security information, and voting history. The Commission grew out of questions from the Trump administration after the GOP candidate won the White House, while losing the popular vote to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. According to a Washington Post analysis, Alabama joins one third of U.S.

Thousands of Alabamians may see a difference in their credit scores starting today. Not because their finances have changed--but, rather how their scores are added up. The three major credit reporting companies, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion will change which records they use. These companies will now only use public records with someone’s name, address, social security number, and date of birth. That means tax liens and civil judgments may be deleted since many of these legal actions lack all this information.

APR news director Pat Duggins represented the news team at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. as APR was presented with its 3rd national Sigma Delta Chi award from the Society of Professional Journalists. This prestigious honor is for APR's documentary "...and justice for all." Click on the "Youtube" link at the bottom of this page.

Today is the deadline for business owners in fifteen Alabama counties to get drought relief from Washington.

The U.S. Small Business Administration is taking applications for loans of up to two million dollars at four percent interest. The money would go to business owners who can prove they lost income because of the extreme drought conditions last year.

SBA spokesman Jay McKenna says these loans aren’t for ranchers or farmers, who can get help from other federal agencies.

One of two groups that sued over Alabama's legislative districts says it accepts the state's new map, although the other group opposes the new districts. The Alabama Democratic Conference notified a three-judge panel this week that the map approved by Alabama legislators complies with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling. The Democratic group and the Legislative Black Caucus had filed a lawsuit that brought a redistricting order. They argue African-American voters were "stacked and packed" into minority districts to limit their ability to influence elections elsewhere.

Former Alabama Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb is running for governor in 2018. Cobb made the announcement Wednesday morning. She told The Associated Press in an interview that "it's time to have a governor who cares more about people than party." She says people in the state have a yearning for courageous leadership and "it's time for honesty in every branch of our government." Cobb, who resigned from the Supreme Court in 2011, was one of the last Democrats to win statewide election in Alabama.

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