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Top News Links: Monday, Dec. 28

Governor visits storm-stricken Birmingham

Gov. Robert Bentley toured tornado-ravaged sections of southwest Birmingham Sunday, visiting with tornado victims and conferring with public officials. The governor stopped briefly at the Powderly branch of the Birmingham Public Library before moving on to the Hillman Station neighborhood, where the tornado that hit Christmas night smashed homes, cars and businesses. – Alabama News Center

UA’s finest minds offer prognostications

For the 35th year, faculty at the University of Alabama offer educated guesses for the upcoming year ranging from politics to restaurant trends. In the latest installment, the prognosticators offer predictions for the 2016 general election, coal-fired power, Medicaid in Alabama and the future of aerial delivery drones. – Tuscaloosa News

Campaign funds the key to gracious living

Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, spent $4,064 catering an event at the Yale Club, a members-only restaurant in New York City. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Mobile, dropped $4,777 on an event at The Monocle, a well-known power lunching location in the nation’s capital. And Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Birmingham, paid for meals in Paris, France, apparently during a stay at the Marriott Rive Gauche. All of it was paid for with campaign money. – Anniston Star

Bronner hands out $370,000 in bonuses

Alabama's state pension fund is paying a total of $370,000 in incentive bonuses to 14 employees. The bonuses were approved this month by board directors for the 2015 fiscal year and range from $3,371 to $51,199. The head of the Retirement Systems of Alabama, David Bronner said the bonuses will help him keep strong employees in a competitive profession. – Montgomery Advertiser

Austal wins $52 million Navy design contract

The U.S. Navy awarded Austal USA in Mobile nearly $52 million last week toward design services for upgrades to the littoral combat ship program and preliminary design for its future frigate program. The support contract complements the Australian shipbuilder’s 10-ship, $3.5 billion LCS contract with the Navy and is expected to increase to more than $198 million over three years if options are exercised. – Alabama News Center

Cleveland mining company sells Oak Grove

A Cleveland mining company has closed its remaining coal business with the sale of two coal mines in Alabama and West Virginia. Cliffs Natural Resources announced the sale Tuesday of Pinnacle Mine in West Virginia and Oak Grove Mine in Alabama to Seneca Coal Resources. Cliffs says the sale was valued at $268 million based on Seneca Coal assuming all liabilities of the business. – AP/Wetzel Chronicle

Alabama’s 2015 home improvement bill: $2B

Alabama homeowners spent over an estimated $2 billion on home improvements during 2015, according to a recent report. The National Association of Home Builders released its home remodeling estimates by ZIP code last week. While none of Alabama’s major metro areas were featured in the top cities for home improvement spending, state residents did spend a fair chunk on remodeling throughout the year. – Alabama News Center

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