Judge dismisses Greenetrack from bingo suit; grants mediation request for remaining parties

In a Procedural Hearing, held Thursday, October 20, 2022 in Greene County Circuit Court with retired Circuit Judge Arthur Hanes presiding, Greenetrack, Inc. was dismissed as a defendant in a suit filed by Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall in 2017, seeking an injunction blocking the use of electronic bingo machines in Greene County, declaring that they are illegal gambling and a public nuisance.
The suit in Greene County Circuit Court also included the Center for Rural Family Development, Inc. d/b/a Green Charity, Dream Inc. d/b/a Frontier Bingo, Tenntom Community Development d/b/a River’s Edge, Tommy Summerville Police Support League, Inc. d/b/a Palace Bingo, Jonathan Benison, in his official capacity as sheriff of Greene County, Next Level Leaders, Tishabee Community Center Tutorial Program, Woman to Woman, E-911, and Greene County Volunteer Fire Association.
The Circuit Court Judge previously assigned to hear the case dismissed the lawsuit and the Attorney General appealed to the Alabama Supreme Court. The Attorney General’s office has already filed similar Preliminary Injunctions against bingo gaming in Macon and Lowndes Counties.
Earlier this year on May 20, 2022, the Supreme Court reversed the ruling and remanded the case back to the Circuit Court for a determination of whether the operation of electronic bingo constitutes a public nuisance which should be permanently enjoined or prevented. The Court also appointed another Judge to preside over the case.
Greenetrack, Inc. sought dismissal from the suit, arguing that its facility no longer operates bingo in Greene County as of August 28, 2022. Assistant Attorney General John Kachelman stated that the order for Preliminary Injunction included all gaming machines, however, it was clarified by Greenetrack’s legal representative, Attorney Gail Gratton Green, that the suit specifically identified the gaming as bingo machines.
According to Attorney Gratton Green, the case against Greenetrack should be dismissed because all of the electronic bingo machines targeted by the lawsuit have been removed from its business establishment; Woman-To-Woman, E-911, and Greene County Volunteer Association, the Charities authorized to operate electronic bingo pursuant to Amendment 743, were no longer operating electronic bingo at Greenetrack; and Greenetrack did not intend to allow the operation of electronic Bingo at its premises unless there was new legislation authorizing the activity.
On Sunday, October 23, 2022, Judge Hanes issued the following orders dismissing Greenetrack from the lawsuit:
“Upon verified motion and arguments Greenetrack, Inc, and the charities alleged to be operating entities in connection with it including Woman to Woman., E-911, and Greene County Volunteer Fire Assn. are hereby dismissed from this action without prejudice. Pursuant to mandate, all other motions to dismiss are overruled.”
As requested by legal representative for Epic Tech, Judge Hanes also granted a motion for Remediation between all parties remaining in the suit. The Judge’s order is stated below.
“Although similarities exist between this case and cases in other counties, there are arguable differences between them and this case in several respects, including the statutory allowance of bingo in Greene County and the powers and duties of the Sheriff thereunder. The conflict between claimed hyper-technical application of law on one extreme and practical, if not humanitarian, needs and desires of the citizens of Greene County on the other make this case one for honest, good faith, effort on both sides to explore compromise, assessing the risks of continued litigation and the possible undesirable effects which may ensue, even from success in such litigation. Upon further consideration of the arguments and statements made in the hearing October 20 this order is made as to all parties remaining, not just the movant for mediation. It is therefore ORDERED: 1. The parties shall mediate this case as soon as practicable. It is suggested that good faith informal premediation discussions to explore possible avenues of compromise be engaged in prior to said mediation. To that end Mr Dillard is designated as representative of the defendants and Mr Kachelman as representative of the Attorney General. 2. The Hon. Charles Malone of Tuscaloosa is appointed as mediator.”
Attorney William Somerville representing River’s Edge offered the following statement: “The Court’s order issued Sunday acknowledges the “practical” if not humanitarian, needs and desires of the citizens of Greene County” to have charitable bingo in Greene County and requiring the parties to mediate the case with the Honorable Charles Malone as soon as practicable. We are pleased with the Court’s order. We will continue to defend the interests of the people of Greene County in this lawsuit in which the State seeks to shut down all charitable bingo in Greene County – the people who voted for Constitutional Amendment 743, which allows the charitable bingo that the State is attempting to permanently prohibit, and the people and organizations who benefit from the charitable contributions received as a result of the operation of charitable bingo in the County, organizations like the Greene County Hospital and the Greene County Board of Education and people like the hospital’s patients and the students of Greene County.
At the October 20 hearing Judge Hanes indicated that the trial for the remaining Greene County bingo entities is expected to be scheduled for January 2023.

Newswire: Adidas terminates relationship with Kanye West after pressure to cut ties over antisemitic comments; George Floyd’s relatives plan to sue West for his comments

Compiled from press reports by NNPA and NBCNews

Kanye West

Adidas has cut ties with Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, after facing pressure to end its partnership with the rapper in the wake of his antisemitic comments with backlash mounting against the entertainer and leading to him losing additional business deals. 
“Adidas does not tolerate antisemitism and any other sort of hate speech,” the company said in a statement Tuesday. “Ye’s recent comments and actions have been unacceptable, hateful and dangerous, and they violate the company’s values of diversity and inclusion, mutual respect and fairness.”
The German athletic brand said the decision to terminate its partnership with Ye “immediately” came after a “thorough review.”
Gap, which announced in September it was ending its Yeezy Gap partnership, said in a statement Tuesday: “We are taking immediate steps to remove Yeezy Gap product from our stores and we have shut down YeezyGap.com.” 
“Antisemitism, racism and hate in any form are inexcusable and not tolerated in accordance with our values,” the company said. “On behalf of our customers, employees and shareholders, we are partnering with organizations that combat hate and discrimination.”
Adidas, which began its partnership with Ye in 2013, said it will end production of Yeezy branded products and stop all payments to Ye and his companies. 
The move is anticipated to have a “short-term negative impact of up to 250 million euro,” or about $246 million USD, on the company’s net income in 2022, the company said. 
George Floyd’s family planning suit against West

Calling comments by Kanye West repugnant, the family of George Floyd said they are filing a $250 million lawsuit against the troubled superstar
Filed by Roxie Washington, the mother of Floyd’s daughter, Gianna, the lawsuit also will include West, his business partners, and associates for “harassment,” “misappropriation,” “defamation,” and “infliction of emotional distress.”

The suit comes after West’s controversial “Drink Champs” interview in which he stated that Floyd didn’t die from convicted police officer Derek Chauvin’s knee pressed against his neck for more than 9 minutes. West falsely asserted that Floyd died from fentanyl use and pre-existing medical conditions.

Chauvin, 46, pleaded guilty in federal court earlier this year to charges of depriving Floyd of his constitutional rights. He’s serving 252 months in prison.

In plea documents, Chauvin agreed that the sentencing for his crime should be based on second-degree murder because he acted willfully and in callous and wanton disregard for the consequences of Floyd’s life.
Further, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled Floyd’s death a homicide due to Chauvin kneeling on his neck.

“Kanye’s comments are a repugnant attempt to discount George Floyd’s life and to profit from his inhumane death,” Attorney Pat D. Dixon III said in a statement.
“We will hold Mr. West accountable for his flagrant remarks against Mr. Floyd’s legacy.”

Lee Merritt, the attorney for Floyd’s other family members, also issued a cease-and-desist letter to West for his comments.

While the law renders it virtually impossible to defame a dead individual, Merritt cautioned that the family might sue West for his false statements. “Claiming Floyd died from fentanyl and not the brutality established criminally and civilly undermines and diminishes the Floyd family’s fight,” Merritt said.

Another of Gianna’s attorneys, Kay Harper Williams, also scolded West.
“Free Speech Rights do not include harassment, lies, misrepresentation, and the misappropriation of George Floyd’s legacy,” Williams asserted. “Some words have consequences, and Mr. West will be made to understand.

Newswire: Russian court upholds Brittney Griner conviction

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

Brittney Griner in Russian jail

WNBA Star Brittney Griner will remain in a Russian prison and serve the bulk of her 9-year sentence following the Moscow Regional Court’s decision on Tuesday to uphold her earlier conviction and sentence.
The court slightly reduced the sentence by granting Griner 1.5 days of time served. The Phoenix Mercury all-star has been in custody since Feb. 17.
Tuesday’s outcome only hastened fears that Griner would now be sent to one of Russia’s brutal prison colonies, where abuse and even torture reportedly occurs routinely.
“We are aware of the news out of Russia that Brittney Griner will continue to be wrongfully detained under intolerable circumstances after having to undergo another sham judicial proceeding today,” U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan Sullivan told reporters.
“President Biden has been very clear that Brittney should be released immediately.”
According to CNN, Sullivan stressed that the Biden administration is working to get Griner, and Paul Whelan released.
Sullivan said the administration “remains in contact with representatives of the families. ”Whelan, an ex-Marine, has been detained since 2018.
“In recent weeks, the Biden-Harris Administration has continued to engage with Russia through every available channel and make every effort to bring home Brittney as well as to support and advocate for other Americans detained in Russia, including fellow wrongful detainee Paul Whelan,” Sullivan said.
“The President has demonstrated that he is willing to go to extraordinary lengths and make tough decisions to bring Americans home, as his Administration has done successfully from countries around the world.”
Biden has offered Russian Viktor Bout, a notorious arms dealer, in exchange for Griner and Whelan but thus far hasn’t been able to strike a deal with Moscow.
“We are very disappointed. The verdict contains numerous defects, and we hoped that the court of appeal would take them into consideration,” Griner’s lawyers Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov said in a statement. “We still think the punishment is excessive and contradicts to the existing court practice.”
“Brittney’s biggest fear is that she is not exchanged and will have to serve the whole sentence in Russia. She had hopes for today as each month, each day away from her family and friends matters to her,” her lawyers noted.

Newswire : Hip Hop Icon Coolio Dies at 59


By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

Coolio, whose signature song “Gangsta’s Paradise” played a vital role in securing hip-hop as the popular music of choice, has died at age 59. Born on Aug. 1, 1963, in Compton, Coolio’s real name was Artis Leon Ivey, Jr.
The artist reportedly died on the bathroom floor of a friend’s house. While paramedics suspect Coolio succumbed to cardiac arrest, the medical examiner hasn’t released an official cause of death.
He enjoyed six top Billboard hits, including 1995’s Gangsta’s Paradise, which reached 1 billion streams on Spotify earlier this year. Spending three weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100 and 11 straight weeks on the Hot Rap Songs list, Gangsta’s Paradise earned Coolio a Grammy and a Billboard Music Award.
The hit single earned rankings among Billboard’s 100 Greatest of All Time Hot 100 Songs.
In addition to music, Coolio enjoyed a successful television career. He appeared on shows like “Black Jesus,” “All That,” “The Nanny,” and “Fear Factor.”
“Peaceful Journey, Brother,” Questlove tweeted in tribute following news of Coolio’s death.
“Heartbroken to hear of the passing of the gifted artist Coolio,” actress Michelle Pfeiffer wrote on Instagram while sharing a clip from the famous music video, where she sits across the table from Coolio. “A life cut entirely too short. I remember him being nothing but gracious,” Pfeiffer stated.
Tributes also poured in from stars like Snoop Dogg, who posted a picture of him and Coolio from an earlier music video. MC Hammer called Coolio one of the nicest individuals he’d known while sharing a photo of himself, Snoop, and the late Tupac Shakur.“This is sad news,” Ice Cube shared. “I witnessed firsthand this man’s grind to the top of the industry.”
Los Angeles-based artist Teddi Gold, who worked with Coolio, also mourned the icon. “I have an immense amount of gratitude and love for Coolio,” Gold wrote in a statement. “His musicianship, big heart, sense of humor, and loyalty to his friends and family were the light he shared with the world.”
He continued: “As somebody whose music I grew up listening to, the opportunity Coolio gave me to record and perform with him was a life-changing experience I will carry with me forever. I send every ounce of love I have to his family and friends at this time.”

Annual festival features Kids Tent with art workshop; music, crafts and foodways still core of celebration

Author and graphic artist Mynecia (Mya) Steele engages children in art activities at Saturday’s festival.

The 47th annual Black Belt Folk Roots Festival, held Saturday and Sunday, August 27-28, 2022, in Eutaw, featured a Kids Tent providing art activities for children, designed and led by local author and graphic artists Mynecia (Mya) Steele.  The youth enjoyed face painting and creating their own artistic designs.  As producer of the annual festival, the Society of Folk Arts & Culture provided the art materials for the Kids Tent, including prizes and awards.  “The intent of the Kids Tent was to help young people feel they are part of the festival as a community celebration; there is a place for them at the festival,” stated Dr. Carol Zippert, festival coordinator.

    The two-day festival also featured the annual activities of the Ole Timey Blues stage on Saturday with musicians Clarence Davis, Terry “Harmonica” Bean, Lil’ Lee and the Midnight Blues Band and others. The Ole Timey Gospel stage on Sunday brought us Glory 2 Glory, Eddie Mae Brown, Dwayne Charleston and Company and many more. 

    Crafts and traditional foodways satisfied the music loving crowd. There was a noted transition among the craft artists.  Where the festival once attracted many quilters and basket weavers, younger craft artists are joining the festival with handmade jewelry, organic items including soaps, scents and lotions; authored books, paintings and other home decorative items.

    The annual Black Belt Folk Roots Festival continues as our signature community celebration.

Ms. Odessa Rice, local folk artist, looks forward to annual festival celebration

Ms. Odessa Rice of Mantua, AL is a longtime participant in the annual Black Belt Folk Roots Festival, which began in 1975 as part of the Miles College Eutaw Extension Program. Ms. Rice, who is noted as a bearer of the culture and traditions of the West Alabama region, is noted for her basketweaving, quilting and related needle crafts including knitting, crocheting and embroidery.
Ms. Rice has designed baskets, dolls and sundry other items from bullrush grass, corn husks and pine needles. She often dabbles in jewelry making.
She learned quilting at a very young age, mastering the storied designs handed down to her from family members and neighbors. “ We made quilts to keep our families warm during cold winter nights and to also make a room more beautiful,” according to Ms. Odessa Rice. She also noted that quilting, like canning fruits and vegetables, was necessary to care for the family, but these activities were also very important social gatherings. “ We looked forward to getting together with family and neighbors to work with our hands, tell our stories and just laugh and feel good,” stated Ms. Rice.
Ms. Rice, who is very creative in her art, seemingly finds a use for most objects others would throw out or discard. For example, a used-up roll of paper towels presents the opportunity for Ms. Rice to knit a decorative covering for the empty cardboard tube. “I usually throw nothing away. I just find another way to use it,” she said.
Although Ms. Rice is in the decade of her eighties, she is still committed to participating in the 2022 Black Belt Folk Roots Festival scheduled for Saturday, August 27 and Sunday August 28 on the Thomas Gilmore Courthouse Square (old courthouse square) in the center of the City of Eutaw, Greene County, AL.
“I cannot quilt like I used to. It takes steady hands and sharp eyes for those fine stitches, but I am doing the best I can with my baskets and some jewelry to take to the festival. I look forward to our festival every year. It’s just in my heart,” she commented.
The festival is sponsored by the Society of Folk Arts & Culture. For more information contact Carol P. Zippert at 205-372-0525; email – zippert.carol79@gmail.com.

Newswire: Vice President Harris addresses NAACP Convention; urges Black voter participation

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

Vice President Kamala Harris appeared at the NAACP convention in Atlantic City on Monday, July 18, declaring that freedom, liberty, and democracy are on the ballot in the upcoming midterm elections.
She implored the large gathering at the Atlantic City Convention Center to make sure that all voices are heard. “We’re not going to be able to get these days back, so each one of these days we must, with a sense of urgency, ensure that the American people know their voice and their vote matters,” Harris declared.
“It is their voice. The right to vote is something that the leaders of this organization and its founders knew to be at the core of all of the other rights and freedoms to which we are entitled,” she further implored.
“So, we know what we need to do. And, in particular, to protect the freedom to vote and a women’s right to make decisions about her own body, we need people who will defend our rights up and down the ballot, from district attorneys to state attorneys general, from local sheriffs to governors.”
The vice president received several standing ovations as she spoke of the need to vote. The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), a trade association representing 235 African American-owned newspapers and media companies, has teamed with the Transformative Justice Coalition in an effort to register 10 million more Black voters ahead of the midterm and 2024 general elections.
As Harris arrived in Atlantic City, Mayor Marty Small greeted her as she descended from Air Force Two. NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson spoke to the vice president and railed against politicians and the U.S. Supreme Court for “the erosion of constitutional freedom, including the right of a woman over her own body.”
Harris also decried the sharp increase in mass shootings and gun violence in the United States.“There is no reason for weapons of war on the streets of America,” she asserted.
With West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin repeatedly stopping the Biden-Harris administration agenda, Harris called on voters to participate in the U.S. Senate election.
“We will not, and the president has been clear, we will not let the filibuster stand in our way of our most essential rights and freedoms,” Harris declared.
“I visited Buffalo, New York, to attend the funeral of an 86-year-old grandmother who went to the grocery store after, as she often did, spending the day with her husband who was in a nursing home – Mrs. Whitfield.”
Harris continued: “I went to Highland Park, Illinois, where there were strollers and lawn chairs scattered up and down a street where there was supposed to be a parade for July 4th. There – as in Uvalde, Texas; as in Greenwood, Indiana, just last night; and in so many communities across our nation – scenes of ordinary life have been turned into war zones by horrific acts of gun violence.
“Mass shootings have made America a nation in mourning. And it’s not only the mass shootings. We see it in our communities every day, and it is no less tragic or outrageous. Think about it: Black people are 13 percent of America’s population but make up 62 percent of gun homicide victims.
“This issue of the need for reasonable gun safety laws is a real issue when we are talking about the civil right, the right that all communities should have, to live in a place that is safe without weapons of war running those streets.”
She concluded that the number of guns manufactured in the country tripled over the last 20 years. “Today we have more guns in our nation than people,” Harris said.
“Earlier this month, the president signed the first federal gun safety law in nearly 30 years. And it was an important and necessary step. But we need to do more. We must repeal the liability shield that protects gun manufacturers. And we must renew the assault weapons ban.”

Newswire: Nelson Mandela International Day – July 18 –is marked around the world

July 18, 2022 (GIN) Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, an iconic figure who fought South Africa’s apartheid regime, was a human rights lawyer, a prisoner of conscience and an international peacemaker. And he was the first democratically elected president of a free South Africa.
  In light of these accomplishments, the United Nations General Assembly designated July 18, his birthday, as Nelson Mandela International Day. It celebrates the idea that each individual has the power to transform the world and the ability to make an impact. In honor of his 67 years of public service, the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the U.N. ask that you spend 67 minutes of your time, on his birthday, helping others.
 In South Africa, celebrations start early at Mvezo, Madiba’s birthplace. Chief Zwelivelile ‘Mandla’ Mandela, Nelson Mandela’s grandson, addressed the community: “Madiba was outspoken in human rights, justice and peace. We continue to utilize his legacy as a voice for many oppressed nations around the world.” He mentioned consultations about the “last colony in Africa – Western Sahara”, as well as the case of the Palestinians, Kashmir, Yemen, Syria, and Ukraine.
 This year the focus is on food security and fighting global warming. Hundreds of trees will be planted  to bring this vision to life. “We’re here to reverse whatever global warming is bringing to Mother Earth,” said one local gardener.
 At the United Nations, Prince Harry, accompanied by his wife Meghan, has been chosen to give  the keynote address on ‘memories and legacy’ of the African leader.  According to a post by the Nelson Mandela Foundation on Twitter, he will also be asking for more peacekeeping troops for South Africa.
 The annual Nelson Mandela lecture held in South Africa will be delivered by Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley in November.
And in Chicago, Nando’s Peri Peri, a South African style restaurant, will honor the memory of former president and anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela with a day of giving on Mandela Day,
All Nando’s restaurants will be serving their signature meal of a quarter of a  flame-grilled chicken with chips (fries) for free between 3-6pm on July 18. Guests are encouraged to donate schools supplies like pens, erasers and composition books to help children in underserved communities.
Nando’s restaurants will also donate 67 meals to local charities, as acknowledgement of Mandela’s 67 years of battling for social justice.

Newswire: Brittney Griner pleads guilty to drug charge in Russian court

By Stacy M. Brown,NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

WNBA Superstar Brittney Griner told a Russian court Thursday that she didn’t intend to commit a crime, but in her rush to pack her luggage, she accidentally carried a small amount of cannabis oil.
The Phoenix Mercury standout then pleaded guilty to drug smuggling, which could land her as much as ten years in prison. She has been detained since February, and officials scheduled a July 14 court appearance for the now-convicted basketball player.
U.S. officials didn’t immediately comment. Recently, there’s been a growing call for her release. Many observers have opined that Russia is using the 31-year-old as a political pawn.
It’s believed Russian President Vladimir Putin would free Griner if the United States did likewise for convicted arms dealer Victor Bout.
It’s unknown whether Griner’s guilty plea is part of an overall strategy to bring her home, with the thought of not dragging out the court case and lessening the spotlight.
On July 4, President Joe Biden received a letter from Griner pleading for his help getting her home. A day later, Cherelle Griner, the WNBA player’s wife, went on national television to express frustration that she hadn’t been in touch with the White House about Brittney.
On July 6, Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris spoke with Cherelle Griner via telephone and reassured her that the administration is continuing to work to bring her loved one home.
“While I will remain concerned and outspoken until she is back home, I am hopeful in knowing that the President read my wife’s letter and took the time to respond,” Cherelle Griner said. “I know BG will be able to find comfort in knowing she has not been forgotten.” Biden shared with Cherelle Griner a letter he planned to send to Brittney.

Newswire: 17 receive Presidential Medal of Freedom at White House ceremony

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

Fred Gray, Tuskegee Civil Rights attorney receives medal
Diane Nash, founder of SNNC receives medal

A reporter reported about Covid kept actor Denzel Washington from attending the Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony at the White House on Thursday, but 16 others, including Olympic Champion Simone Biles, U.S. soccer player Megan Rapinoe, and Khazir Khan, joined President Joe Biden to accept their respective honors.
Washington, Khan, Rapinoe, and Sandra Lindsay, the Black nurse from New York who received the first shot of COVID vaccine and served on the front lines of the pandemic, each received the medals – the country’s highest civilian honor.
“The Fourth of July week reminds us of what brought us together long ago and still binds us – binds us at our best, what we strive for,” Biden remarked during the ceremony.
“We the people, doing what we can to ensure that the idea of America, the cause of freedom, shines like the sun to light up the future of the world,” Biden stated.
McCain, who served alongside Biden in the U.S. House and Senate, received his award posthumously, as did Apple Founder Steve Jobs and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.
Other medal recipients were former Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., an advocate of campaign finance reform and marriage equality; Sister Simone Campbell, an advocate for progressive issues; Julieta García, the first Hispanic woman to serve as President of a U.S. college; Fred Gray, one of the first Black members of the Alabama Legislature since Reconstruction and attorney for Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks; the Rev. Alexander Karloutsos, former vicar-general of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
Diane Nash, a founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee who worked with Martin Luther King Jr.; Wilma Vaught, an Air Force brigadier general and one of the most decorated women in the history of the U.S. military; and Raúl Yzaguirre, a civil rights advocate who was the CEO and President of the National Council of La Raza for 30 years.

The White House said the President presents medals to individuals who have had significant cultural impacts or made significant contributions to the country or the world.