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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).

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

(Laughter). We're joined onstage now by our very own Debbie Elliott, NPR's Southern correspondent...

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, BYLINE: Hello.

SIMON: ...And John Archibald is a columnist here at al.com.

JOHN ARCHIBALD: Hey.

(APPLAUSE)

Eight miles down a dirt road through the swamps of southwest Alabama, Lane Zirlott has 1.8 million oysters in the water at his family's farm in Sandy Bay.

"What we've been doing is trying to redefine what people are thinking of a Southern gulf oyster," Zirlott says.

The Murder Point oyster farm covers about two and half acres in the bay. The name changed from "Myrtle Point" in 1929, after a deadly dispute over oyster territory.

When State Attorney Aramis Ayala, a Democrat, announced in March that she would no longer seek the death penalty in capital cases, Republican Gov. Scott took away more than 20 murder cases in her jurisdiction. Now, Ayala is suing Scott to get them back.

At issue is whether Gov. Rick Scott has the authority to remove cases from a state attorney who refuses to seek capital punishment.

The state Supreme Court is considering where the power resides.

Recovering alcoholics tend to avoid the bar. But when the bar is your office, that's not so easy. New Orleans bluesman Anders Osborne figured out how to get back to work despite the temptations, and now he's trying to help others.

Drugs and alcohol nearly destroyed Osborne's career, and his family. The guitarist and singer-songwriter was showing up for tour dates unable to perform. At his worst, he was spending nights on a park bench.

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Alabama Governor Robert Bentley insisted he was not resigning right up until the moment that he resigned.

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Alabama Governor Robert Bentley has won a delay in impeachment hearings that were due to start next week in the state legislature.

He's been fighting in court to avoid facing embarrassing charges that he misused his office to cover up an alleged affair.

Lawyers for the two-term Republican have won a temporary restraining order delaying impeachment proceedings that were set to begin Monday in the Alabama House Judiciary Committee. A Montgomery circuit judge granted Bentley more time to respond to the allegations.

Death penalty laws are on the books in 31 states, but only five carried out executions last year. Now Arkansas is rushing to execute death row inmates at an unprecedented pace this month, before the state's supply of lethal drugs expires.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott is removing Orlando's chief prosecutor from a number of murder cases in an ongoing dispute over the death penalty.

Through executive order, the Republican governor is reassigning 22 first-degree murder cases from State Attorney Aramis Ayala to a prosecutor who handles a different judicial circuit.

Ayala, a Democrat, is the first black elected prosecutor in Florida, and has said she will not seek the death penalty in Orange and Osceola counties, one of the largest judicial circuits in the state.

On a cold and windy day off the coast of Alabama, a team of researchers from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts gathers, conducting the first test outside a laboratory for a potential new solution to a challenging problem: cleaning oil spills from water.

The invention, the Flame Refluxer, is "very simple," says Ali Rangwala, a professor of fire protection engineering: Imagine a giant Brillo pad of copper wool sandwiched between layers of copper screen, with springy copper coils attached to the top.

In Louisiana, people arrested for serious crimes who can't afford a lawyer often are put on a waiting list for representation. A new lawsuit says the situation is unconstitutional.

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This story is part of Kitchen Table Conversations, a series from NPR's National Desk that examines how Americans from all walks of life are moving forward from the presidential election.

Keitra Bates is standing in front of an empty storefront on Atlanta's Westside. The walls are yellow-painted stucco over cinder blocks, with iron bars on the windows and doors, and a small side yard littered with abandoned tires. A corner store, the Fair Street Superette, is next door.

As the Trump administration moves to step up deportations, immigrant rights groups are organizing a resistance.

"No papers, no fear" is the message at a meeting of the Congress of Day Laborers in New Orleans. A mostly Latino crowd is packed in the sanctuary of a church. They encourage one another to stand up for their rights.

"Fear is our fuel," says speaker Leticia Casildo as the audience cheers.

She says they're fighting for their families.

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At lunch hour, the line stretches out the door at Taqueria del Sol on Atlanta's west side. Inside, the tiny kitchen is a swirl of activity.

"This is my crew," says co-owner and chef Eddie Hernandez. "They're all from Mexico."

The menu is a hybrid of cuisine from his native Monterrey, Mexico, and down-home Southern cooking, like tangy turnip greens seasoned with red chilies and re-fried black-eyed peas.

"The food can get us together," Hernandez says, "and make us think differently about each other."

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In Charleston, S.C., federal court Thursday, a jury got a look inside Emanuel AME Church in the aftermath of last year's mass shooting that left nine black worshippers dead. They were gunned down during Wednesday Bible study as they bowed their heads for the closing prayer. Prosecutors say Dylann Roof, a self-avowed white supremacist, targeted the historic church to start a race war.

Testimony from crime scene investigators involved graphic, bloody photos, including a panoramic view of the church basement.

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The federal hate crimes trial against Dylann Roof began today in South Carolina. He's the man prosecutors say killed nine worshippers at a historic black church last year. They say Roof wanted to start a race war.

A lawsuit on behalf of Alabama's prisoners, claiming they're being denied mental health care, begins in federal court Monday. The class-action suit states that Alabama doesn't provide adequate mental health treatment for those behind bars.

Lawyers for the prisoners argue that the state provides little other than medication, and sometimes inmates are forced to take it against their will. The plaintiffs allege prison conditions are dangerous and discriminatory, which amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, a violation of the Eighth Amendment.

Jeff Sessions of Alabama was the first Republican senator to get behind the-then renegade candidate Trump. Now, he is President-elect Donald Trump's pick for attorney general — and his hard-line stance on immigration and 30-year-old allegations of racism are sure to draw scrutiny in confirmation hearings.

Long before Trump was winning primaries, or picking up political endorsements, he had a conservative ally in the Deep South.

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And now a view from some African-Americans in conservative South Carolina. NPR's Debbie Elliott spoke with voters trying to make sense of the election.

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Former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke drew protesters to a U.S. Senate candidate debate in Louisiana on Wednesday night.

He's in a crowded field to replace retiring Republican Sen. David Vitter and earned enough support in polls to make the cut for this final debate, hosted by Raycom Media at Dillard University, a historically black college in New Orleans.

Dillard officials say they didn't know who would be participating when they agreed to rent the hall.

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Jury selection starts Monday in the case of former North Charleston, S.C., officer Michael Slager. The white ex-cop is accused of murder in the shooting death of Walter Scott, an unarmed black man, last year.

The killing was captured on video.

It started with a traffic stop in April 2015. Slager stopped Scott for a broken brake light on the Mercedes-Benz he was driving.

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