Newswire: Diane Wilson, environment justice activist enters fourth week of hunger strike to stop dredging in Matagorda Bay, Texas

Diane Wilson

By: John Zippert, Co-Publisher, Special to the Greene County Democrat

Diane Wilson, a fourth-generation fisher from Seadrift, Texas enters the fourth week of a hunger strike to protest the dredging of the ship channel in Matagorda Bay, coastal Texas, about one hundred miles south and east of Houston. Wilson, a 72-year-old grandmother, is the San Antonio Bay and Estuarine Water keeper who has been an environmental guardian of the San Antonio, Matagorda and Lavaca Bay areas on the Texas Gulf Coast. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACOE) has reactivated a plan to dredge the ship channel in Matagorda Bay to serve Max Midstream, a pipeline company that plans to build a crude oil export terminal at Port O’Connor at the eastern head of Matagorda Bay. The dredging will involve deepening the 26-mile channel by 8 feet and widening it by 150 feet, which involves dredging 14 million tons of mud from the seafloor. The dredging is complicated because it touches upon an EPA Superfund site, which was polluted with mercury by Alcoa in the past. The original USACOE Environmental Impact Statement, compiled in 2009 for a LNG export terminal project, that was not built, provided for placing the dredged materials to create new wetland marshes, islands and oyster reefs offshore. This is similar to dredging projects in Galveston Bay and other Texas coastal areas. The USACOE revised its plan to allow placing the dredged materials on the western side of the bay, covering a third of the existing oyster reefs, beaches used for recreation and generally impairing commercial and recreational fishing in the Matagorda Bay complex. The USACOE also accelerated the permitting process for the dredging at the request of Max Midstream and Texas politicians supporting export of the state’s fracked petroleum resources. Wilson said, “ I felt I had no choice but to start my hunger strike. I saw no way to stop this fast-tracking of the dredging of my beloved bays in Texas to provide for a crude oil export terminal, that some oil and gas people say is not even needed. I want to alert the community to the dangers of this dredging to health, fishing and recreation. I want the dredging to stop and President Biden to reinstate the ban on exporting oil that Trump lifted.” Wilson says that this is her eighth hunger strike. She participated in a 56-day strike, her longest, in Washington D. C. to try to close the Guantanamo Bay prison. Wilson, was also a plaintiff in a 2019 case against the Formosa Plastic Corporation, for polluting Matagorda Bay with microscopic plastic pellets. This case resulted in a $50 million dollar settlement against Formosa to help restore and improve the environmental quality of Matagorda Bay. The settlement includes $20 million to support the development of a fishing cooperative to revive the traditional economy of the coastal area. “The U. S. Army Corps of Enginers have never been helpful to the environment unless we force them to pay attention to these issues. I am on this hunger strike to stop this harmful dredging of the bay. The state of Texas regularly gives tickets to fishers for harvesting oysters that are smaller than 3 inches but now it is planning to dump mud on and destroy 700 acres of oyster reefs. This expedited plan to dredge the bay will kill our efforts to develop this fishing cooperative,” said Wilson The Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund, based at its Rural Training and Research Center, in Epes, Alabama, has been contracted, as part of the legal settlement, to provide technical assistance in developing the commercial fishing cooperative. Cornelius Blanding, Federation Executive Director said, “We have been working with fishers in the Matagorda Bay area to develop a cooperative. This dredging, without suitable environmental protections, will imperil this important grassroots economic development and revitalization effort. We have reached out to our contacts in the Biden Administration to ask them to stop this dredging until a new EIS is developed and approved. We are especially concerned about the disturbance and dispersal of mercury in the bay as well as the destruction of oyster reefs and shrimp breeding estuaries ” A group of environmental organizations, connected with Earthworks, held a protest rally, together with kayaks in the bay, at the end of the Lavaca Bay Causeway, the site of Diane Wilson’s hunger strike, on Sunday, April 25th. This rally was held to call attention to her hunger strike and urge the USACOE and President Biden’s Administration to stop the dredging and the export of crude oil. Persons interested in supporting Diane Wilson’s hunger strike and campaign to stop the dredging and export of oil may contact her through: http://www.facebook.com/unreasonablewoman or email at wilsonalamobay@aol.com.

Newswire: Justice Dept. opens policing probe over Breonna Taylor Death

Louisville demonstration for Breonna Taylor

By: Michael Balsamo, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department is opening a sweeping probe into policing in Louisville, Kentucky, over the March 2020 death of Breonna Taylor, who was shot to death by police during a raid at her home, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Monday. It’s the second such probe into a law enforcement agency by the Biden administration in a week; Garland also announced an investigation into the tactics of the police in Minneapolis following the death of George Floyd. The attorney general has said there is not yet equal justice under the law and promised to bring a critical eye to racism and legal issues when he took the job. Few such investigations were opened during the Trump administration. The 26-year-old Taylor, an emergency medical technician who had been studying to become a nurse, was roused from sleep by police who came through the door using a battering ram. Her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired once. A no-knock warrant was approved as part of a narcotics investigation. No drugs were found at her home. Investigation looks for ‘pattern or practice’ The investigation announced Monday is into the Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government and the Louisville Metro Police Department. It is known as a “pattern or practice” — examining whether there is a pattern or practice of unconstitutional or unlawful policing — and will be a more sweeping review of the entire police department. Sam Aguiar, an attorney for Breonna Taylor’s family, posted a celebratory message on social media shortly after the announcement. “Boom. Thank you,” he wrote. Aguiar and other attorneys negotiated a $12 million settlement in September with the city of Louisville over Taylor’s death. The investigation will specifically focus on whether the Louisville Metro Police Department engages in a pattern of unreasonable force, including against people engaging in peaceful activities, and will also examine whether the police department conducts unconstitutional stops, searches and seizures and whether the department illegally executes search warrants, Garland said. The probe will also look at the training that officers receive, the system in place to hold officers accountable and “assess whether LMPD engages in discriminatory conduct on the basis of race,” among other things, he said. Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted last week of murder in Floyd’s death, but no one has been charged in Taylor’s, though her case, too, fueled protests against police brutality and systemic racism. “No-knock” warrants debated nationally Her death prompted a national debate about the use of so-called “no knock” search warrants, which allow officers to enter a home without waiting and announcing their presence. The warrants are generally used in drug cases and other sensitive investigations where police believe a suspect might be likely to destroy evidence. But there’s been growing criticism in recent years that the warrants are overused and abused. Prosecutors will speak with community leaders, residents and police officials as part of the Louisville probe and will release a public report, if a pattern or practice of unconstitutional conduct is discovered, Garland said. He noted that the department has implemented some changes after a settlement with Taylor’s family and said the Justice Department’s investigation would take those into account. “It is clear that the public officials in Minneapolis and Louisville, including those in law enforcement, recognize the importance and urgency of our efforts,” Garland said. Louisville hired Atlanta’s former police chief, Erika Shields, in January. She became the fourth person to lead the department since Taylor’s death on March 13, 2020. Longtime chief Steve Conrad was forced out in the summer after officers responding to a shooting during a protest failed to turn on their body cameras. Two interim appointments followed before Shields was given the job. Shields stepped down from the top Atlanta post in June after the death of Rayshard Brooks, a Black man who was shot in the back by police in a restaurant parking lot. Shields remained with the Atlanta department in a lesser role. Kentucky’s lawmakers passed a partial ban on no-knock warrants last month. The measure would only allow no-knock warrants to be issued if there was “clear and convincing evidence” that the “crime alleged is a crime that would qualify a person, if convicted, as a violent offender.” Warrants also would have to be executed between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. Associated Press Writer Dylan Lovan in Louisville contributed to this report. 

Newswire: The majority of all U.S. children are those of color

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

In 2019, there were more than 73 million children in the United States – making up 22 percent of the nation’s population. Children of color made up 49.8 percent of all children, and more than half of the 19.6 million children under five in America were individuals of color. The statistics are part of the nonprofit Children’s Defense Fund’s “The State of America’s Children 2021 report.” It dovetails with the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest report that changing the United States’ racial makeup is most visible among children. The Census Bureau found that most children are projected to be of a race other than non-Hispanic white. “These changes mirror a broader transition in the United States to a more pluralistic population,” Census Bureau officials reported. The U. S. Census report this week deals with over population by state and confirmed that Alabama had over % million people and will retain its seven (7) Congressional seats. The Children’s Defense Fund’s comprehensive report also noted that most children under 18 were children of color in 14 states, including Alaska, California, Georgia, Maryland, New York, Texas, and the District of Columbia. In 2019 – the latest statistics available, 36.7 million children were white (50.2 percent); 18.7 million were Hispanic (25.6 percent); 10 million were Black (13.7 percent). Approximately 3.7 million were Asian (5.0 percent), 615,950 were American Indian/Alaska Native (<1 percent), and 147,057 were Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander (<1 percent). Previous estimates suggest that most U.S. children are children of color as of 2020, and the U.S. population will continue to become more racially and ethnically diverse. “The U.S. – and especially our youngest generation – is reaching a critical moment in racial and ethnic diversity,” Dr. Starsky Wilson, president, and CEO of the Children’s Defense Fund, told the Black Press in a live interview. “We need policies and programs that recognize and celebrate this growing diversity.” The State of America’s Children 2021 summarizes the status of America’s children in 12 areas – child population, child poverty, income and wealth inequality, housing and homelessness, child hunger and nutrition, child health, early childhood, education, child welfare, youth justice, gun violence, and immigration. Dr. Wilson remarked that America needs to better look after its children. “Our children have lost the health coverage they need to survive and thrive at an alarming rate,” he stated. Dr. Wilson noted that the Children’s Defense Fund’s new report revealed that an estimated 4.4 million children under age 19 were uninsured—an increase of 320,000 more children without health insurance since 2018. “The rates of uninsured children are especially high among Hispanic children, undocumented children, children living in the South, and children in families with lower incomes,” Dr. Wilson added from the report. Medicaid and CHIP are the foundation of the nation’s health insurance system for children. In 2019, nearly 36 million children under 19 received comprehensive, pediatric-appropriate, and affordable health coverage through Medicaid and CHIP. “While more than 3 million children and youth have contracted the novel coronavirus in the United States, all 73 million are impacted by the sense of uncertainty and disruption of routine it has caused,” Dr. Wilson insisted. “Even the improvements in the second school year of online learning have not resolved concerns of social isolation and the loss of important life milestones, like graduation and the high school prom. This loss of certainty, consistent routine, and the connection is leading to increased levels of depression and despair among our children and youth.” The fight for social justice and criminal justice reform could not be accomplished without considering children, Dr. Wilson insiste“The protracted struggle for democracy led to a change in partisan control of the federal government and a first in executive leadership for women, Black, and South Asian Americans,” Dr. Wilson exclaimed. “But it can’t be that we forget about the future generation, where now children of color make up the majority.”

Commission dismisses Hank Sanders as county attorney after 25+ years of service; hires white Birmingham law firm

Attorney Mark Parnell
Senator Hank Sanders

At its regular meeting, held Monday, April 12, 2021, the Greene County Commission selected a new attorney to serve as its legal representative. Attorney Mark Parnell, of Parnell and Thompson of Birmingham, was hired on the vote of three commissioners, Chairperson Roshanda Summerville, Commissioners Cory Cockrell and Allen Turner, Jr. At the opening of the commission’s meeting, before the printed agenda was voted on, Commissioner Corey Cockrell stated he had two items to add to the agenda: Building storm shelters with bingo funds; and Hiring an Attorney. The item on hiring an attorney had not been discussed at the previous work session. The agenda was adopted with the additions. Following a lengthly executive session, the commission acted on the original items on the agenda and approved the added item concerning building storm shelters with bingo funds. No additional information was presented regarding the storm shelters. The final item on the agenda related to hiring an attorney. Chairperson Summerville called for a vote on Candidate 1 (the candidate’s name was not stated). Commissioner Cockrell offered a motion to approved Candidate 1; Turner seconded the motion and Summerville voted with Cockrell and Turner. The chair declared that Candidate 1 was selected, then called for a motion to adjourn the meeting. Two other candidates the commission had considered, Attorney Hank Sanders and Attorney Prince Chestnut, were not presented for a vote. Reportedly, the Commission Chairperson selected a committee to interview applicants for the attorney’s position. Seemingly, this committee was composed of Chairperson Summerville, Commissioner Cockrell, and staff Brenda Burke. Burke later acknowledge that the extent of her role was to prepare the advertisements and set up the interviews for Mark Parnell and Prince Chestnut. CFO Macaroy Underwood was invited to sit in when the applicants were interviewed. Senator Hank Sanders stated that he did submit an application but did not receive a notice regarding an interview. According to Sanders, following the commission’s work session on Wednesday, April 7, he was asked to come to the commission’s office to discuss a financial matter with Underwood, Summerville and Cockrell. Sanders said that at the close of that meeting, Commissioner Cockrell asked him to discuss his “strong points.” At no point during the commission’s meeting or immediately following the meeting, did the commission offer any additional information to the public regarding the change in attorneys. When Chairperson Summerville was asked, following Monday’s meeting, who was Candidate 1, she deferred to Ms. Brenda Burke, who responded that she did not know. Burke indicated she had nothing to do with this. Commissioner Turner was asked who was Candidate 1, and he referred this to the Chairperson. Ms. Summerville was cautioned that this was public information and she had an obligation to tell the community who had just been hired as the Commission’s attorney. At that point, Ms. Summerville revealed the name of Attorney Mark Parnell. In separate follow-up discussions with Commissioners Smith, Brown and Turner, all three emphatically stated that they did not know Attorney Parnell, had never met him or spoken with him. Smith and Brown did not vote to hire Parnell, but Turner did. In later attempts to seek further comments from the Commission Chairperson, she only replied with no comment, and with the statement, “You must ask this of the whole commission.” In its September, 14, 2020 meeting, the Greene County Commission, through an added on agenda item, agreed to advertise for an attorney. At that time Commission Chairperson Allen Turner, Jr. stated that the current attorney, Senator Hank Sanders, was serving without a contract. He stated the contract had expired. At that same meeting, Commissioner Lester Brown offered a motion to provide a contract for the attorney and this was adopted. Brown stated at that time that his motion was intended to replace the agenda item to advertise for an attorney. Chairman Turner disagreed. Nothing else was made known about an attorney’s search until the April 12, 2021 commission meeting. At press time, Brenda Burke submitted the following statement: After completing the process, the Greene County Commission hired Parnell and Thompson as legal counsel.  Chairman Summerville stated: “Our decision is in the best interest of Greene County and the residents we serve.  We would like to thank Attorney Sanders for his years of service.” Other Business of the Commission The Commission acted on the following items: Adopted the Division C Regional Hazard Mitigation Plan. *Approved $15,000 for new control panel for jail lights from Capital Improvement. *Ratified $6,412 for new computer for Probate Judge’s Office from Capital Improvement. *Approved Amended lease agreement for the Greene County Sheriff Department. *Adopted the resolution regarding the Citizen Participation Plan (CDBG Grant). Adopted the resolution for Fair Housing (CDBG Grant) *Adopted resolutions regarding Standards of Conduct, Procurement Methods, Minimizing Displacement and Section 504 Transition Plan (CDBG Grant). *Authorize the Engineer to order three dump trucks and bodies, totaling $462,603. *Approved proposal from JM Wood Auction for the sale of existing dump trucks in June with a guarantee net of $457,560 and declare trucks as surplus. *Approved proposal from Jackson Security for camera surveillance equipment in area near old shop at cost of $13,313.75. *Approved proposal from Premier Electric to provide power for surveillance equipment in area near old shop at cost of $2,140. *Approved bid from ST Bunn for resurfacing and striping of CR 133 from 131 to the interstate 20/59 for cost of $268,526. *Approved proposal for Dynamic Civil Solution, Inc. for Hydrologic and Hydraulic Study for Miller Road, for 2020 FEMA Storm Event at cost of $11,250. *Approved proposal for Dynamic Civil Solution, Inc. for Hydrologic and Hydraulic Study for CR 97 for 2020 FEM A Storm Event at cost of $11,250. *Approved Brandy Eubanks as District 3 PARA Board Member. *Approved Gavin Edgars as District 2 E 9-11 Board Member. *Approved financial report and payment of claims as presented by CFO, Mac Underwood. Underwood reported the following claims paid in March 2021: Accounts Payable – $267,120.14; Payroll Transfer – $230.052.50; Fiduciary – $195,910.29 totaling $693,082.93. Electronic claims paid totaled $75,093.69. Underwood reported the following bank totals; Citizen Trust Bank – $4,486,650; Merchant & Farmers Bank – $3,551,307.69; Bond Sinking Funds – $1,085,793; Bank of New York – $715,920.40.

COVID-19

As of April 20, 2021 at 10:00 AM (according to Alabama Political Reporter) Alabama had 523,955 confirmed cases of coronavirus,(3,175) more than last week with 10,798 deaths (70) more than last week) Greene County had 914 confirmed cases, (4 more cases than last week), with 34 deaths Sumter Co. had 1,033 cases with 32 deaths Hale Co. had 2,187 cases with 75 deaths

Note: Greene County Physicians Clinic received Johnson and Johnson, one dose vaccination for COVID-19; vaccination has been paused by CDC; vaccination will be available again when CDC lifts pause. Call for appointments at 205/372-3388, Ext. 142; ages 18 and up.

GCHS graduation scheduled for Friday, May 21 Superintendent reports 53% of student enrollment returns to on-site classes

The Greene County Board of Education held its April 19, 2021 regular meeting face-to face in the Board’s Central Office, the first since November, 2020. All board members were in attendance and observed social distancing and wearing masks. In his report to the board, Superintendent Dr. Corey Jones provided enrollment data of students since the Phase II Hybrid Plan went into effect on April 5, 2021. Eutaw Primary School reported 214 students (64.4 %) returning to on site classes; Robert Brown Middle School reported 184 students (52.8%) returning; and Greene County High School with 133 (42%) returning. “I am pleased that 511 (53.8%) of our students have returned to on site classes. We are continuing to provided our virtual academic program to the those students who have not chosen to return yet,” he said. Dr. Jones noted that he continues to monitor the status of COVID-19 rates in Greene County and surrounding areas. “Greene County had a positivity rate of 4.5% for the previous 14 days, but the risk factor was high, due to nine recent cases,” he stated. According to Jones, since Phase II has been implemented, zero cases have been detected in the schools, however one individual is in quarantine, due to exposure. Jones announced that Greene County High School 2021 graduation is scheduled for Friday, May 21, at 6:00 pm on the athletic field at Robert Brown Middle School, providing weather permits. Students will be allowed four invitations; social distancing and wearing masks and related safety measures will be observed. Regarding his report on facilities, the superintendent reported that water coolers have been installed in all school facilities; hot water will be added, where needed, to the bathrooms at Eutaw Primary and Robert Brown Middle. Phase I of the Bat Removal Project at RMB is completed, with Phase II to include installation of vents. The re-roofing at the central office did not meet the April 15 deadline due to inclement weather. The project is expected to be completed by mid May. The CSFO Lavonda Blair reported that the school system is financially sound, with an excess of $4 million in the combined fund balance. Blair presented the following financial snapshot as of February 28, 2021: General Fund Balance – $980,540.25; Accounts Payable Check Register – $390,509.33; Payroll Register – $811,704.03; and combined Fund Balance at $4,032,471.83. The board took action notifying the CSFO that it intends to continue her contract. The board approved the follow personnel items recommended by the superintendent. * Rescind employment of Vera Richardson, Special Services Bus Aide. * Employment of Stephanie L. Spencer, Special Services Bus Aide. * Catastrophic Leave for Bridgette Ward, from January 1, 2021 thru August 24, 2021. * Resignation of Brianna Bryant, Pre-K Teacher, Eutaw Primary School. * Retirement of Willie Gilmore, Cosmetology Instructor, Career Center, Effective June 1, 2021. The board approved the following administrative items. * Payment of all bills, claims, and payroll. * MariMac Academic Solutions, to perform ACT Testing services to Greene County Schools. * Contractual Agreement between Greene County Board and Denise Horton-Behavioral Aide, Eutaw Primary School. * Contractual Agreement between Greene County Board and Eleanor Smalls, Behavioral Aide, Greene County High School. * Approval of 2021-2022 School Calendar. * Adoption of Math Textbook Series. * Professional Development Agreement between Greene County Board and Kathi Wilson, LLC. for the 2021-2022 School Year. * School Resource Officer Contract for 2020-2021 School Year.

Eutaw City Council works on IRS and water problems

The Eutaw City Council met for its regular meeting on April 13, 2021 and continued to work on correcting problems with the water system, bad debts to IRS and other issues. The Council received a report from Terry Tyson who audited all of the water meters in the city system. He surveyed a total of 1,521 meters in the city on nine different routes. Together with Cory Martin, the City’s Certified Water Operator and other staff they found over 200 that needed corrections or adjustments. They found 6 inactive meters, 68 meters with the wrong address, size or attribution; 21 meters that were misidentified by number related to their account; 88 meters with a “0” reading; 10 old meters that need to be replaced; 18 meters serving duplicate residents; 10 meters needing boxes or lids; and 78 meters that could not be found. Tyson agreed to work with the staff to correct the meters that needed to be fixed and find those that had not been found in the first survey. Tyson assured the City Council that once corrections were made that would account for a significant portion of the water loss now reflected in the system between water pumped and water actually billed by the system. The Internal Revenue Service has a lien against the City for unpaid employee taxes, interest and penalties most of which date back to 2016-2020 before the current administration took office. There are some 941- Quarterly Employee Tax forms in 2020 and first quarter of 2021 which have not been filed properly or on time. There is a total payroll tax assessment of $226,077 from IRS of which more than half are penalties and interest. Mayor Latasha Johnson said she retained CPA Rob Pearson of Tuscaloosa to help update and maintain the payroll and tax records. She also said that she dismissed Kathy Bir, City Clerk because she did not inform the Mayor or Council about the problems with filing the employees tax records and correcting past problems. The Council approved the hiring of Rob Pearson to handle the payroll records and the dismissal of the City Clerk. Mayor Johnson says, “correcting the problems with IRS reporting and payment of taxes, penalties and interest is now her highest priority. We are seeking a meeting with IRS to discuss abating the penalties and interest since these mistakes were made by prior city administrations and the current administration is willing to pay or make payment arrangements for funds owed to IRS, after discussion of abatement.”

In other actions, the Eutaw City Council: • Approved $40,000 for GIS mapping of the city’s underground utilities systems like water, sewer, gas. • Agreed to hold a work session on May 4 to include a workshop on workforce development by Ms. Tammie Holley of AlabamaWorks. • Authorized the Mayor to purchase two new police vehicles. • Approved a Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday. • Approved the City’s mask ordinance until at least its first regular meeting on May 11, 2021. • Approved recommendations of the Zoning Board for variance for two day care centers in Branch Heights. • Approved the city’s portion of the County Hazardous Mitigation Plan. • Approved payment of a $5,094 civic forfeiture claim ordering repayment of funds seized in a police arrest. The funds were not placed in a bank account and cannot be located. The current Chief of Police has initiated an investigation with assistance from the District Attorney into the missing funds. •Approved payment of bills and claims against the city.

$940 million incentives in American Rescue Plan SOS holds rally to encourage Governor Ivey to Expand Medicaid, since financial incentives are available

The Save Ourselves Movement for Justice and Democracy (SOS) held a rally and press conference on Tuesday, April 20, 2021 at the State Capitol to urge Governor Ivey to approve Medicaid Expansion because there are new financial incentives available in the American Rescue Act, passed by Congress and signed by President Biden. These incentives will provide $700 to $940 million in additional Medicaid reimbursement, over two years, to the State of Alabama for its current Medicaid participants if it Expands Medicaid to the working poor, who have incomes up to 138% of poverty. This would cover 300,000 or more Alabamians who are not covered now by health insurance coverage. The incentives raise the reimbursement level on all existing Medicaid recipients from 78% to 82% of allowable costs. This 5% increase translates into the millions of new revenues for the state based on calculations by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington, D. C. think-tank. “Governor Ivey has a second chance to cover the cost of initiating Medicaid Expansion for Alabama citizens, because of the incentives in the American Rescue Act. These incentives were provided to encourage states that had not adopted Medicaid Expansion in 2014, another opportunity to avail themselves of this health care benefit, especially in view of the health challenges of the coronavirus pandemic,” said Johnny Ford, former Mayor of Tuskegee and Co-Chair of the SOS Health Committee. Martha Morgan of the SOS Steering Committee said, “ It is a shame that Federal taxpayers in Alabama have been sending millions of their tax dollars to subsidize Medicaid coverage for working poor people in other states – when we have so many people in Alabama who need this same coverage. Governor Ivey, please act now to Expand Medicaid!” John Zippert, SOS Health Committee Co-Chair, explained “ Seven years ago, Alabama could have expanded Medicaid at no cost for three years, Governor Bentley did not take advantage of the offer then. Now Alabama has a second chance to get incentives for expanding Medicaid. We urge Governor Ivey to take advantage of this new opportunity. The Federal government is paying Alabama to get all of its citizens covered for healthcare. Now is the time for Alabama to Expand Medicaid.” Zack Carter, SOS Steering Committee member said, “ We cannot understand why Gov. Ivey will not accept this program to save Alabama lives. A Kaiser Health study showed that before the pandemic, three people in Alabama were dying every two days, 700 a year, because we did not expand Medicaid coverage. This is the same Governor that is using state funds to pay for state tropers to lead strike-breakers into the Brookwood coal mines, in yellow school buses. She has funds to break a strike but not to Expand Medicaid!” At the close of the rally, Johnny Ford warned, “ Gov. Ivey we will be back with hundreds of people, every week, to push you to Expand Medicaid!” WSFA-TV in Montgomery in its report on the SOS rally said they contacted the Governor’s office for a comment and her staff said they were still studying the American Rescue Plan to see what benefits it contains to assist the state in dealing with the pandemic. For more information on how you can join with SOS in the fight for Medicaid Expansion, contact Shelley Fearson at 334-262-0932 or visit the SOS website.

Newswire: St. Vincent, neighboring Caribbean islands grapple with aftermath of volcano eruption

Volcano eruption on St. Vincent

By Anoa Changa, Newsone

St. Vincent and other parts of the Caribbean remain covered in ash from the La Soufriere volcano. Bracing for more explosions, St. Vincent evacuated about 16,000 people from the surrounding communities. La Soufriere’s latest eruption comes almost 42 years after the last major eruption in 1979. Authorities canceled flights as a safety precaution. Nearby Barbados, St. Lucia, and Grenada prepared for light ashfall, according to the Associated Press.  Heavy ashfall rained down on parts of St. Vincent, with a strong sulfur smell making its way through nearby communities. No casualties were reported as of Saturday afternoon.  Ash from La Soufriere caused air quality issues in nearby areas. In an interview with a local station, prime minister Ralph Gonsalves said people had trouble breathing. Officials were working to figure out how to remove the ash. “Agriculture will be badly affected, and we may have some loss of animals, and we will have to do repairs to houses, but if we have life and we have strength, we will build it back better, stronger, together,” Gonsalves said. He estimated it could take as long as four months to complete the cleanup. La Soufriere sits in the northern section of St. Vincent. St. Vincent is a part of a chain of islands, including the Grenadines. Grenada, Antigua, Barbados, and St. Lucia agreed to accept refugees. St. Vincent has asked other countries to accept people without passports who need shelter. Over 2,000 people are currently in 62 government shelters.  “This is an emergency, and everybody understands that,” said Gonsalves.  Cruise ships arrived Friday to assist with the evacuation effort.  The Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises released a joint statement Thursday explaining the coordinated effort with St. Vincent authorities. “Royal Caribbean International’s Serenade of the Seas and Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Reflection are on their way to the island nation and are expected to arrive later this evening to assist with evacuation efforts,” read the statement. The cruise lines assured they would take precautions “to protect the health and safety of the crew and passengers who board our ships.” With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, St. Vincent authorities recommended those entering shelters be vaccinated. St. Vincent and the Grenadines received 24,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines earlier in the week as a part of a global relief effort. Reports indicate ash from the first explosion reached 32,000 feet. In a Friday interview with the Associated Press, Erouscilla Joseph, the University of the West Indies Seismic Research Center director, said more explosions could occur. Joseph said it was difficult to predict the size of subsequent explosions. A majority of the 19 volcanoes in the eastern Caribbean are on 11 islands. There are also two underwater volcanoes near Grenada including one that has been active in recent years.

Newswire: Harriet Tubman’s lost family home found in Maryland

Harriet Tubman

 

By: DeMicia Inman, The Grio

Maryland state officials announced the landmark discovery of Harriet Tubman‘s family home, found by archaeologists working on land owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In a press release, the State Highway Administration (SHA) conducted research that led to discovering the historic homesite once owned by the father of famed abolitionist and Underground Railroad conductor Harriet Tubman, born Araminta Ross. The home belonged to her father, Ben Ross, and is believed to be where she spent her childhood and teenage years. “This discovery adds another puzzle piece to the story of Harriet Tubman, the state of Maryland, and our nation,” said Lieutenant Governor Boyd K. Rutherford.  “It is important that we continue to uncover parts of our history that we can learn from, especially when they can be lost to time and other forces. I hope that this latest success story can inspire similar efforts and help strengthen our partnerships in the future.” Descendants of Tubman were also present at the reveal. According to the press release, Tina Wyatt, Harriet Tubman’s great-great-great-grandniece and Ben Ross’ great-great-great-great-granddaughter expressed excitement for the historic find.  “Discovering the location of patriarch Ben Ross Sr.’s home and artifacts he used has humanized a man responsible for giving us a woman of epic proportions, Harriet Ross Tubman,” Wyatt said.  “This brings enlightenment, revealing how he lived his daily life making it a real-life connection to and for me, a great-great-great-great-granddaughter. The world benefits also from the study of these artifacts concerning objects used by the enslaved; are they common to this plantation, to his position, or to this region? It gives us so much more to explore, explain and exhibit.” Archeologist Julie Schablitsky shared with the Washington Post how the discovery of a coin dating to the 1800s was vital in locating the homesite and other artifacts. “A lot of us think we know everything … about Harriet Tubman. This discovery tells us that we don’t and that we have the opportunity to … understand her not just as an older woman who brought people to freedom, but … what her younger years were like,” Schablitsky shared with the Post. She added, “It’s not just one artifact that tells us we have something. It’s the assemblage. It’s the multiple pieces.” According to the release, the newly-uncovered home site of Ben Ross will be highlighted on the historic Thompson Farm where he and his family were enslaved. The property was acquired in 2020 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) as an addition to Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Dorchester County, Maryland. “When we protect vulnerable habitats, we help preserve the stories of those who came before us, like Harriet Tubman’s father, Ben Ross,” said USFWS Chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System Cynthia Martinez.  “Acquiring Peter’s Neck last year was a critical addition to Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, as the area is predicted to naturally convert to marsh by 2100 because of sea-level rise. We look forward to working with our partners to create more opportunities to connect people to nature and strengthen the bond between the land and community.” In January, theGrio reported the President Joe Biden administration wants to ‘speed up’ effort to place Harriet Tubman on the $20 note.  U.S. Congresswoman Joyce Beatty has been working tirelessly for Tubman’s image to be placed on the $20 note. Now that Biden is in office, Beatty is hoping to speed up the process of the “Woman on the Twenty Act of 2021” bill and replace Andrew Jackson’s image with a portrait of the late abolitionist