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Top News Links: Friday, Dec. 19

Cuba may be Alabama’s next hot market

Selling chickens to Cuba is complicated. "If the Cubans want to buy chickens in the United States, before they load it on a ship, they have to pay a bank outside the country," said Jimmy Lyons, director of the Alabama State Port Authority. "Those funds have to be sent to a bank in the United States. Only then can the chickens be loaded on a ship." But President Obama's announcement Wednesday that the United States would take steps toward normalizing relations with Cuba could change things. – Montgomery Advertiser

Company picked for managed care effort

A new company affiliated with Huntsville Hospital Health System has been selected to manage the care of nearly 200,000 Medicaid patients in north and west-central Alabama. State Medicaid officials on Thursday tapped Alabama Community Care as the regional care organization for Medicaid patients in 23 counties stretching from Sand Mountain to Tuscaloosa. – AL.com

NextStorm advances in Launchpad

NextStorm, the brainchild of University of Alabama in Huntsville atmospheric science professor John Mecikalski, has advanced to the second round of the Alabama Launchpad competition in Birmingham. The high-tech Huntsville startup focuses on short-term weather prediction through satellite data algorithms. – AL.com

Cook helps fund state’s gay rights initiative

Tim Cook has pledged to help fund a gay rights initiative in his native Alabama and two other states. Although the exact amount has not been disclosed, organisers said the donation was “substantial”. The Apple CEO came out in October in a magazine column, writing that he considers being gay “among the greatest gifts God has given me.” – The Independent

Vestavia Hills fitness center opens doors

As Jan. 1 approaches, Life Time Fitness of Vestavia Hills says enough with the failed resolutions, and is inviting everyone to make their health a priority in 2015 by opening its doors to the first-ever Commitment Day Festival – four days of complimentary fun and activities. The Festival is open to the public, including non-members who register online for the guest list anytime through Jan. 4. – BusinessWire

No-confidence resolution moves forward

Faculty members at the University of Alabama at Birmingham have drafted a no-confidence resolution against the president following his decision to kill the school's football program despite it finishing with its best record in years. – AP/Tuscaloosa News

Is ‘Selma’ the year’s best picture?

“Selma” is the year’s best film because it is great filmmaking — powerful, moving, inspiring. Director Ava DuVernay makes history live and breathe and vibrate. But it is also more than just a dramatization, or a relic; as its strangely timely release suggests, none of this is as historical as we’d like to think. This is a 50-year-old story. Except it isn’t. – FlavorWire

Cruises to Cuba from Mobile?

Alabama's tourism chief contends politics and logistics make a strong business case for establishing a Mobile to Havana, Cuba, cruise itinerary, but an industry expert argues those same logistics actually undermine the Port City's chances. Alabama Tourism Department Director Lee Sentell told AL.com that Mobile sits in a "very strategic position" to offer cruises to Cuba in terms of both proximity and politics. – AL.com

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