Debbie Elliott

After a stint on Capitol Hill, NPR National Correspondent Debbie Elliott is back covering her native South.

From a giant sinkhole swallowing up a bayou community in Louisiana to new state restrictions on abortion providers, Elliott keeps track of the region's news. She also reports on cultural treasures such as an historic church in need of preservation in Helena, Arkansas; the magical House of Dance and Feathers in New Orleans' lower 9th ward; and the hidden-away Coon Dog Cemetery in north Alabama.

She's looking back at the legacy of landmark civil rights events, and following the legal battles between states and the federal government over immigration enforcement, healthcare, and voting rights.

Her coverage of the BP oil spill has focused on the human impact of the spill, the complex litigation to determine responsibility for the disaster, and how the region is recovering. She launched the series, "The Disappearing Coast," which examines the history and culture of south Louisiana, the state's complicated relationship with the oil and gas industry, and the oil spill's lasting impact on a fragile coastline.

Debbie has reported on the new entrepreneurial boom in post-Katrina New Orleans, as well as that city's decades-long struggle with violent crime, and a broken criminal justice system. She's examined the obesity epidemic in Mississippi, and a ground-breaking prisoner meditation program at Alabama's toughest lockup. She's taken NPR listeners on a musical tour of Memphis in a pink Cadillac, and profiled writers and musicians including Aaron Neville, Sandra Boynton, and Trombone Shorty.

Look for Debbie's signature political coverage as well. She's watching vulnerable Congressional seats and tracking southern politicians who have higher political aspirations. She was part of NPR's election team in 2008 and 2112 — reporting live from the floor of the political conventions, following the Presidential campaigns around the country, and giving voice to voters making their choice.

During her tenure in Washington, DC, Debbie covered Congress and hosted NPR's All Things Considered on the weekends. In that role she interviewed a variety of luminaries and world leaders, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. She celebrated the 40th Anniversary of "Alice's Restaurant" with Arlo Guthrie, and mixed it up on the rink with the Baltimore's Charm City Roller Girls. She profiled the late historian John Hope Franklin and the children's book author Eric Carle.

Since joining NPR in 1995, Debbie has covered the re-opening of civil-rights-era murder cases, the legal battle over displaying the Ten Commandments in courthouses, the Elian Gonzales custody dispute from Miami, and a number of major hurricanes, from Andrew to Katrina. Debbie was stationed in Tallahassee, Florida, for election night in 2000, and was one of the first national reporters on the scene for the contentious presidential election contest that followed. She has covered landmark smoker lawsuits, the tobacco settlement with states, the latest trends in youth smoking and electronic cigarettes, and tobacco-control policy and regulation. NPR has sent her to cover a Super Bowl, the Summer Olympics, Bama football fans, and baseball spring training.

Debbie Elliott was born in Atlanta, grew up in the Memphis area, and is a graduate of the University of Alabama College of Communication. She's the former news director of member station WUAL (now Alabama Public Radio).

Mitt Romney picked up some support in Saturday's contests, but there may be trouble lurking for him in the near future as the GOP race moves to the Deep South.

Despite his second-place finish in Kansas, Romney scored victories Saturday in caucuses in Guam, the Northern Marianas and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He also won county conventions in Wyoming.

Tuesday's primaries are in Alabama and Mississippi, and the reddest of states are proving to be a tough sell for the former Massachusetts governor. He's trying his best to connect with the Republican base.

Oil giant BP has agreed to settle thousands of lawsuits stemming from its well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico.

The deal was announced late Friday and prompted a federal judge in New Orleans to postpone a Monday trial, but the proposed settlement solves only one piece of BP's legal exposure from the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history.

Transcript

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It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. Federal courts are nearing final judgment on some of the nation's toughest immigration laws.

Next month, the Supreme Court hears a challenge to the law in Arizona. Laws in two other states are now before a federal appeals court in Atlanta, as NPR's Debbie Elliott reports.

A federal court in New Orleans is preparing for one of the largest and most complex environmental lawsuits ever to come to court. It stems from the worst oil disaster in U.S. history: the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig nearly two years ago and the resulting oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico.

Testimony is scheduled to begin at the end of the month. The case combines more than 500 lawsuits in one proceeding designed to determine who's responsible for what went wrong.

All of the Republican presidential hopefuls take on President Obama in their stump speeches, attacking his health care plan, his jobs record and more.

But the shorthand former House Speaker Newt Gingrich uses, calling the nation's first black president the "food stamp president," is raising questions.

It's a theme Gingrich has used since Iowa, and he returned to it during a forum in Charleston, S.C., over the weekend.

In this election year, an emerging theme coming from voters around the country is frustration with the tone of politics today. NPR's Debbie Elliott set out to revisit Brownstown, Ind., where she first talked with voters during the 1998 congressional elections, another acrimonious time.

Fourteen years ago, Anne Clodfelter was directing the Jackson County Homemakers Extension Chorus as they prepared for an upcoming concert.

The South Carolina primary is one week from Saturday. On Friday night, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum hit an upstate barbecue, vying to emerge as the candidate the state's conservative Republicans can rally behind. NPR's Debbie Elliott was there and has this report.

Part of a series

New Orleans has long been known as one of America's hardest luck cities, struggling over the years with poverty, crime, corruption and tragic disaster. But the city's darkest days have sparked a surprising new entrepreneurial spirit.

Residents Billy Bosch and Matt Mouras, for example, are trying to launch a nutritional beverage company and are getting a leg up from Idea Village, a nonprofit that helps nurture the city's entrepreneurs.

Part of a series

With the 2012 presidential election on the horizon, NPR's Debbie Elliott heads to Camden, S.C., to hear from the close-knit Gaither-James family. Like other African-Americans — considered the political base for President Obama — they're concerned about the economy and today's political climate.

A new kind of tabloid is popping up in convenience stores around the country. The papers are nothing more than a compendium of mug shots letting readers keep up with who's been arrested every week.

With titles like Cellmates, Jailbirds, Just Busted, Jail House Rocs and The Slammer, it's clear what you'll find inside.

Part of a monthlong series

In Louisville, Ky., local businessman John Timmons is trying to figure out what's next after selling music for more than a quarter of a century.

Timmons owned ear X-tacy records for 26 years here. The shop closed at the end of October. On a recent visit, dead roses, farewell notes and other mementos are taped to the glass doors. Fans of the shop have also been slipping notes of support under the door.

Part of a monthlong series

Driving into Huntsville, Ala., it's clear what this city is all about: A giant Saturn V rocket looms ahead in the skyline. This is the city that made the Saturn rockets that took the Apollo astronauts to the moon.

Part of a monthlong series

The plan for Norris and Janis Galatas was that they would be settled and comfortable at middle age — paying off their bills and putting away something for the future. But now the wounded warrior and his wife are rethinking the American dream.

Alabama farmers are facing a labor crisis because of the state's new immigration law as both legal and undocumented migrant workers have fled the state since the strict new rules went into effect last month.

So far, piecemeal efforts to match the unemployed or work release inmates to farm jobs are not panning out, and farmers are asking state lawmakers to do something before the spring planting season.

Alabama business owners are furious about the state's new immigration law. They say it is costing them business. Some wonder if the state will ultimately change the law, which is leading legal and illegal immigrants to flee the state.

A federal judge has ruled that Alabama's strict immigration laws will go forward even as appeals are made through the judicial system. Hispanic-owned businesses in the state say their customers have vanished. Among other things, the new law requires police to verify the immigrations status of suspects if there's "reasonable suspicion" they are in the country illegally.

The Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, a pioneer of the civil rights movement, died Wednesday in Birmingham, Ala. Shuttlesworth led Birmingham's battle against segregation — a battle that focused the national spotlight on the violent resistance to equal rights in the South and forced change. He was 89.

As Birmingham goes, so goes the nation. That belief was the driving force behind Shuttlesworth's crusade for equality.

"He was the soul and heart of the Birmingham movement," Georgia Congressman John Lewis said. It was Birmingham, he said, that brought the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Transcript

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It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning, I'm Steve Inskeep.

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How to handle illegal immigration has been a big topic on the presidential campaign trail and a big debate in many states. Alabama has what's considered to be the toughest law against illegal immigration in the country, and much of that law takes effect today. A Birmingham federal judge refused to block some of the most stringent provisions in the state's crackdown.

NPR's Debbie Elliott reports.

In Murfreesboro, Tenn., more than 5,000 people are expected Sunday for the annual Sept. 11 memorial. What started as a small flag ceremony at the Rutherford County's Sheriff's Department 10 years ago is now a major community event. Murfreesboro has been dealing with another legacy of the attacks, which is playing out in a controversy over a mosque.

A Local Response To The Trauma

The dispute over immigration policy is being fought in an Alabama federal court Wednesday.

The state's Republican leaders say they passed the toughest immigration bill in the country to preserve jobs for Alabamians. But critics say the law goes too far, criminalizing all kinds of contact with undocumented residents and putting an extra burden on small business.

Alabama's new immigration law gets its first test in federal court Wednesday.

The Justice Department and civil rights groups are suing to stop what's considered to be the toughest illegal immigration crackdown coming out of the states.

But the law is also being challenged from a Bible Belt institution.

'It Goes Against Tenets Of Our Christian Faith'

At First United Methodist Church in downtown Birmingham, clergy from around the city take turns leading a prayer service called in response to the new immigration law.

Less than two months into her campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, Minnesota Congresswoman Michelle Bachman won Saturday's Iowa straw poll. Bachman won what is considered to be a bellwether event and one measure of a presidential candidate's strength. NPR's Debbie Elliott reports.

The Iowa State Fair opened this week, and it provides the backdrop for two major political events in the state — last night's GOP presidential candidate debate and Saturday's Ames Straw Poll. The fair is an essential destination for the candidates. It's where they get the chance to engage with voters and eat deep-fried novelties on sticks.

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