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Top News Links: Thursday, Feb. 16

Opinion: Now-confirmed Bentley probe taints Strange

Here's what we now know for a fact: The Alabama Attorney General's office has been investigating Gov. Robert Bentley. A special grand jury convened in Montgomery has heard testimony from witnesses, including the governor himself, and for at least some of that testimony, Strange was there with his subordinates, in that room. But when it became clear Jeff Session would soon join the Trump administration, leaving a vacancy in the United States Senate, Strange suddenly got coy, playing games and parsing his words. – AL.com

First SLS launch might have astronauts aboard

Acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot has asked his agency to explore adding astronauts to the first scheduled flight of the Space Launch System. The first launch is now planned for late 2018 or early 2019 when the big new rocket is to send the Orion space capsule on a flight to circle the moon. Lightfoot said putting astronauts on it "would require a different launch date." – AL.com

Alabama company buys Maine power plant

Alabama-based company 42 Railroad Ave has agreed to buy a biomass power plant in Stacyville, Maine from Niagara Worldwide for an unspecified amount. Steven Johnson, the company's CEO, says he plans to rebuild the turbine in an attempt to produce more than 100 tons of activated carbon each day. – AP/Daily Progress

Traditional tax system struggles in new economy

A Department of Revenue presentation before a legislative committee recently highlighted a 50-year decline in sales tax revenue. Whereas sales tax revenue was once twice the size of income tax revenue, income taxes now outpace sales taxes by 50 percent—where the state once captured $2 in sales tax revenue for every $1 of income tax revenue, it now generates $3 of income tax for every $2 of sales tax. – BNA Bloomberg

Did latest ruling finally end water war?

Children born when the water dispute between Georgia, Alabama and Florida broke out in 1990 are all grown up now. Many probably have families of their own. The dispute had Alabama wanting more water from Lake Lanier created by the Buford Dam on the Chattahoochee River to cool its nuclear plant. Further downstream, Florida wanted the “hooch’s” water to feed Apalachicola Bay’s seafood industry worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Georgia needed the water to provide for the ever-thirsty Atlanta metro area. Is the 27-year battle over? – Macon.com

Beaulieu America shutting down part of Bridgeport plant

The partial closing of a fibers plant in Jackson County is underway. Beaulieu America announced last month it will shut down a portion of its operations in Bridgeport, a move that coincides with the long-term shift from carpet to hard surfaces that has accelerated faster than expected. – AL.com

Southern Research wins $49.5M NASA contract

Southern Research has been selected by NASA's Johnson Space Center for work under a specialized engineering, aeronautic, and manufacturing (SEAM) contract to support the Houston center's Flight Operations Directorate, which performs critical functions for the space agency. The SEAM contracts have a combined maximum potential value of $49.5 million over five years. – SpaceRef.com

The high costs of low-quality roads: $1,300 a year

Poor road conditions cost the average Montgomery driver nearly $1,300 a year in extra car costs, crashes and delays, according to a new report. The numbers were compiled by TRIP, a nonprofit industry advocacy group backed by construction organizations and insurance interests, among others. – Montgomery Advertiser

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