COVID-19

As of February 23, 2021 at 10:00 AM
(according to Alabama Political Reporter)
Alabama had 488,973 confirmed cases of coronavirus,
(5,806) more than last week with 9,660 deaths (314) more than last week)
Greene County had 867 confirmed cases, (10 more cases than last week), with 32 deaths
Sumter Co. had 982 cases with 31 deaths
Hale Co. had 2,080 cases with 64 deaths

Superintendent Jones lays out conditions for reopening schools

At the Greene County Board of Education’s virtual meeting on February 22, 2021, Superintendent Dr. Corey Jones informed the board that he has created a School Reopening Committee to explore the conditions that will be favorable for face-to face instruction again. Jones stated that there will be no recommendation to the board to reopen schools until all employees have had the opportunity for vaccinations; the county’s COVID positivity rate has declined to a safer rate; a determination is made on the number of students to bring back at a time; and a summer school plan is explored to assist students to remain on grade level.
Superintendent Jones noted that the committee will contact surrounding school districts that are currently providing face-to-face instruction, and what safety protocols are in place – what has worked well for them. “The committee will use this information to strengthen our re-opening plan, ” he said. According to the superintendent, the school facilities are already equipped with plexiglass dividers and hand sanitizers in all classrooms; foggers and other cleaning methods are employed on a regular basis, as well as a process to increase air flow throughout the building.
Board member Veronica Richardson raised the question on a timeline for students receiving COVID vaccines. Dr. Jones agreed to seek information regarding state plans for student vaccinations.
Jones noted that on Saturday, Feb. 20, over 200 citizens were vaccinated at the Greene County Health Department in Eutaw. The next scheduled dates for vaccinations are February 24 and March 3. He said that Greene County had a COVID-19 positivity rate of 11.4% for the previous 14 days. “This is a good sign, if we can just continue on this path,” he stated.
The CSFO Ms. Lavanda Blair presented the snapshot financial report for December. She noted that the system is financially strong, even with the current decrease in property and sales taxes. She provided clarity on the budget adjustments involving carryover funds to the current fiscal year.
The board approved the following recommendations presented by the superintendent.
Personnel: Arnthena Hill, Special Education Consultant, for the remainder of the school year.* Administrative Services: January 2021 Budget Amendment; Payment of all bills, claims and payroll.

Groups rally to oppose Gov. Ivey’s plan to build 3 new private prisons

On Saturday afternoon, February 20, 2021, Alabama Students Against Prisons, The Ordinary Peoples Society and other groups held a rally at the steps of the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery to oppose Governor Ivey’s plans to spend $3 Billion to build three new private prisons in Alabama 100 representatives of the groups met to hear leaders of the organizations, including some previously incarcerated people, speak out against the Governor’s prison plans. All participants were masked and stood in a socially distanced manner.
A spokesperson for the student organization that has challenged the Governor Ivey’s plans, said “This is a ‘back door deal’ with Core Civic that will build 3 private prisons, at a cost of $3 billion dollars, without addressing the underlying problems of the inhumane Alabama prison system.”
She suggested reading the 2019 Report of the U. S. Justice Department on Alabama Prisons because the Governor’s private prison plan does not address the issues in that report. She said it was unclear if the plan would close existing prisons or just provide more overcrowded conditions and provide incentives to incarcerate more people to benefit and support the private prison investors. She also warned that privatizing the prisons would lead to the employees losing their state pensions and other rights.
Quinton Caldwell, a former inmate of the Alabama Prison system said, “We do not need to build more prisons, we need to build job centers, rehabilitation programs for substance abuse and mental health problems. The Alabama prison system is the equivalent of ‘modern day slavery’. Prisoners work ten hours a day with no pay; there is not rehabilitation, health care is a myth. We need to use our votes to elect people who will change and reform the system.
Patrice Britt, the niece of inmate Robert Earl Council, who was beaten by authorities in Donaldson Prison, said her uncle was unfairly treated because he spoke up against prison abuses and supported other prisoner’s complaints. Council is in a prison health facility to recover from his injuries.
Rev. Kenneth Glasgow of Dothan, who heads The Ordinary Peoples Society, an organization working for prisoner’s rights, inside and outside, praised the work of the students in raising the issues of the problems with the Governor’s private prison plan.
Glasgow also announced that the Houston County Grand Jury had dropped the murder charges against him. He said, “ I had to think about this, should I stop fighting so hard against the prison system and I decided that I wasn’t fighting hard enough and I resolved to fight even more and help more incarcerated people get their rights and get released from prison.”
John Zippert from the Save Ourselves Movement for Justice and Democracy greeted the group and said SOS had been coming to the Capitol Steps every other week during the past year, to call for Medicaid Expansion, equitable treatment of Black, Brown and poor people in the coronavirus pandemic and the release of all non-violent prisoners and others at risk for the coronavirus in the prison system.
The rally participants marched around the Capital area and heard from other speakers before ending their protest.

Bingo facilities contribute $485,963.85 for January

On Thursday February 18, 2021, Greene County Sheriff’s Department reported a total distribution of $485,963.85 for the month of January from four licensed bingo gaming operations in the county.  The bingo distributions were contributed by Frontier, River’s Edge, Palace and Bama Bingo. Greenetrack distributed an additional $71,000 separately as reported previously.  
The recipients of the January distributions from bingo gaming include the Greene County Commission, Greene County Sheriff’s Department, the cities of Eutaw, Forkland, Union, Boligee, the Greene County Board of Education and the Greene County Hospital (Health System).
Sub charities include Children’s Policy Council, Guadalupan Multicultural Services, Greene County Golf Course, Branch Heights Housing Authority, Department of Human Resources and the Greene County Library.
Bama Bingo gave a total of $114,994.98 to the following: Greene County Commission, $30,570; Greene County Sheriff’s $33,750; City of Eutaw, $9,250; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $3,875; Greene County Board of Education, $10,500, and the Greene County Health System,  $12,500. Sub Charities, each received $1,133.33.
Frontier (Dream, Inc.) gave a total of $114,990.00 to the following: Greene County Commission, $30,570; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $33,750; City of Eutaw, $9,250; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $3,875; Greene County Board  of Education, $10,500; Greene County Health System, $12,500. Sub Charities each, $1,132.50.
River’s Edge (Next Level Leaders and Tishabee Community Center Tutorial Program) gave a total of $114,994.98 to the following:  Greene County Commission, $30,570; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $33,750; City of Eutaw, $9,250; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee  each, $3,875; Greene County Board of Education, $10,500; Greene County Health System, $12,500. Sub Charities each, $1,333.33.
Palace (TS Police Support League) gave a total of $140,983.89 to the following: Greene County Commission, $37,478.82; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $41,377.50; City of Eutaw, $11,340.50; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $4,750.75; Greene County Board of Education, $12,873 and the Greene County Health System, $15,325; Sub Charities each, 1,389.47.

Newswire: U.S. farmers and allied food justice advocates express solidarity with the historic farmer protests in India

Indian farmers’ protest

87 U.S.-based groups delivered a solidary statement to Indian farmers, calling for action from both U.S. and Indian governments

Mineapolis—Today, 87 farmer organizations and allied agroecology, farm and food justice groups in the United States delivered a solidarity statement in support of Indian farmers’ historic protests to Samyukt Kisan Morcha, a united front of over 40 Indian farmers unions. In the statement, U.S. groups express respect for the unified struggles of the farmers and farmworkers and urge both U.S. and Indian governments to support independent family farmers and localized food systems to protect food sovereignty and the livelihoods of millions.
India’s farmers have mobilized to create one of the world’s most vibrant protests in history against unjust farm laws that will increase agribusiness’ stranglehold over their food system. They have rallied around a cry for the repeal of three laws — passed without farmers’ knowledge or consultation — that aim to liberalize Indian agriculture and food sectors, not only at the cost of farmers, but also the food security of India’s poor. One key demand of the protesting farmers is for farmers to receive a Minimum Support Price (MSP) for all crops to limit the market power of buyers in highly unequal markets.
The U.S.-based signatories of the solidarity statement recognize the role the U.S. government has played in creating the conditions that led to these repressive laws. The U.S. has been a key opponent of India’s limited use of MSP at the World Trade Organization, arguing that it represents an unfair subsidy. Yet, the U.S. government spends tens of billions of dollars on its agriculture, much of it in programs that directly contribute to low prices and commodity dumping in international markets. Under the Biden administration, the U.S. has a powerful opportunity to shift U.S. trade policy to allow other countries to support fair markets for their farmers and shift its own agricultural policy to ensure parity and environmental and racial justice in the U.S.
The signatories are concerned by several additional factors not included in this statement, such as the unconstitutional ways in which these laws were passed without following proper parliamentary rules and the Indian government’s use of authoritarian tactics to deny farmers’ right to dissent democratically.
The solidarity statement was co-sponsored by members of U.S. farm, food and racial justice organizations, including the National Family Farm Coalition, Rural Coalition, Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, as well as diasporic Indians who continue to work with farmers groups in India.
“Liberalizing markets without taking into account farmers’ political voice and protecting against concentrated buyer power makes a mockery of what markets should stand for; we denounce the three farm bills, the lack of consultation with farmers and their organizations, and stand in solidarity with the brave stance India’s farmers are taking,” says Sophia Murphy, executive director of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP).
“A majority of India’s farmers are hurting, and the draconian steps that the Indian state has taken in response to peaceful farm law protests (demanding assured returns on farm produce) and against those supporting the strike (such as the detention of 21-year-old Disha Ravi, co-founder of Fridays For Future in India) is making the fault lines of Indian democracy visible to the world. India is at a turning point: it can decide to honor the demands of its farmers or continue to stand by Indian billionaires who would benefit from these farm laws,” says Shiney Varghese, senior policy analyst at IATP.
“The Rural Coalition, which has fought for four decades for the civil and human rights for all producers and farmworkers in this nation, sends our strong support and deep respect to the heroic family farmers and farmworkers of India as you stand united together to protect the Minimum Support Price (MSP) and stop government policies that destroy the livelihood and future of family farmers, farmworkers and rural peoples,” says John Zippert, chair of Rural Coalition.
To read the statement and view the full list of signatories, please follow this link: https://bit.ly/3pA3adJ.

Newswire: Congresswoman Beatty Introduces Black History Month resolutions

Congresswoman Joyce Beatty


WASHINGTON, DC — To kickoff Black History Month, U.S. Congresswoman Joyce Beatty (OH-03), Chair of the powerful Congressional Black Caucus, introduced three related pieces of legislation. Collectively, the resolutions formally recognize the important contributions, struggles and sacrifices of Black veterans and servicemembers throughout American history.
“We owe Black veterans and soldiers, past and present, a huge debt of gratitude,” Beatty said. “All of us know that there are countless heroes and sheroes who sacrificed everything to make our Union more perfect for everyone.” She added, “In that spirit, I call on my colleagues, Democrats and Republicans alike, to come together and do the same by officially recognizing that Black history is American history.”
Specifically, Beatty will introduce three resolutions: (1) recognizing the challenges Black veterans faced after their selfless service and emphasizing the need for the VA to continue to work to eliminate racial health and benefit disparities; (2) supporting the goals and ideals of Black History Month, and honoring the outstanding contributions of the 88 Black Medal of Honor recipients; and (3) expressing support for the issuance of a commemorative postage stamp in honor of the Buffalo Soldiers

Newswire: Georgia Republicans in sweeping new effort to make it harder to vote

By Sam Levine, Guardian UK
Bill that would restrict early voting on Sundays denounced as ‘concerted effort to suppress the votes of Black Georgians’
Georgia Republicans have unveiled sweeping new legislation that would make it dramatically harder to vote in the state, following an election with record turnout and surging participation among Black voters.
The measure is one of the most brazen efforts to make it harder to vote in America in recent years. The bill would block officials from offering early voting on Sundays, a day traditionally used by Black churches to mobilize voters as part of a “souls to the polls” effort. It would place new limits on the use of mail-in ballot dropboxes, restrict who can handle an absentee ballot, and require voters to provide their driver’s license number or a copy of other identification with their application for a mail-in ballot. It would also require voters to provide the same driver’s license information on the mail-in ballot itself or the last four digits of their social security number if they do not have an acceptable ID.
The bill gives voters less time to request and return mail-in ballots, not only moving up the deadline to return an application but also limiting requests to start 78 days ahead of an election instead of the current 180. It requires election officials to reject ballots mistakenly cast in the wrong precinct and bans organizers from offering food or water to voters standing in line to cast a ballot.
“With exacting precision, the bill targets voters of color,” said Nse Ufot, chief of the New Georgia Project, one of the groups that mobilized voters of color in Georgia. “Georgia Republicans saw what happens when Black voters are empowered and show up at the polls, and now they’re launching a concerted effort to suppress the votes and voices of Black Georgians.”
Helen Butler, the executive director of the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, one of the groups that helped mobilize Black voters last year, said there was no justification for the bill. One of the ways Butler’s group helped voters ahead of the election was by assisting them in returning their absentee ballot applications to election officials. The Republican proposal would prohibit that.
“There’s no reason for it other than this ideology and this misinformation that there was fraud. There was no fraud in the election. The governor, everyone said there was no fraud,” she said in an interview.
In a hearing on Thursday, Barry Fleming, the bill’s sponsor, said the changes to early voting were an attempt to create uniformity across the state. He said the effort to shorten the mail-in voting period was an attempt to make it overlap with in-person voting.
The effort to shorten mail-in voting comes after many voters saw severe delays in getting their mail-in ballots because of delays with the United States Postal Service and overwhelmed election offices. About one-third of early votes in the state were from Black voters and Joe Biden overwhelmingly won the mail-in vote in Georgia.
“His newfound problem with early voting is simple: too many Black Georgians used it, and Republicans were humiliated,” said Seth Bringman, a spokesman for Fair Fight action, the civic action group led by Stacey Abrams, the former Democratic gubernatorial candidate.
“Instead of listening to desires of conspiracy theorists and insurrectionists, he should listen to the thousands of early voters in his district from both parties.”
Republicans pledged the changes in Georgia after Joe Biden narrowly carried the state in November and Jon Ossoff and the Rev Raphael Warnock, both Democrats, won stunning upsets over Republican incumbents in November.
State officials, including Republicans, have said repeatedly there was no evidence of fraud in the elections, but Republicans have vowed to impose new restrictions anyway.
A separate bill under consideration in the state senate would eliminate no-excuse absentee voting, something Republicans wrote into law in 2005, allowing people to vote by mail only if they are 75 or older or have an excuse.
Republicans made the bill public a little over an hour before a hearing, giving the public and lawmakers little time to review what was in it. More than two dozen groups wrote to Fleming on Thursday, urging him to pause further consideration of the measure.
“It contains a set of proposals that would have devastating consequences for voting rights in Georgia,” they wrote. “It is absolutely unacceptable that legislators, voting rights advocates, and the people of Georgia have been blindsided by this release.”
The effort in Georgia comes amid a nationwide push, led by Republicans, to enact a wave of new voting restrictions after the 2020 election. There are at least 165 bills pending in 33 states that would make it harder to vote, according to an analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice.
“The right lost! So now they are trying to change the rules and make it harder to vote,” Deborah Scott, the executive director of Georgia Stand-Up, another group that worked to mobilize Black voters, said in an email. “It is a shame that in 2021 Black and brown people in Georgia have to continue to fight for our citizenship rights.

Newswire : 69% of Alabama voters support Medicaid expansion, new poll finds

By Chris Sanders, Alabama Arise

Sixty-nine percent of Alabamians, including 64% of Republican voters, support expanding Medicaid when told about arguments for and against the idea, according to a poll released last week.
The poll, conducted for Cover Alabama in January by Cygnal, shows support for Medicaid expansion across all demographics, including age, gender, income, education and geography. Alabama Arise is a founding member of Cover Alabama.
The poll also reveals the popularity of various funding sources for Alabama’s required 10% match for Medicaid expansion. Respondents expressed the most support for legalizing a state lottery and using part of the revenue to expand Medicaid. Proposed funding sources that won an overall majority or plurality of support were:
• Legalizing a state lottery.
• Increasing the state tobacco tax.
• Legalizing and taxing medical marijuana.
• Eliminating the federal income tax deduction for state income taxes.
Growing support and growing opportunities to expand coverage
Participants responded strongly when informed that more than 5,000 veterans (and 8,000 of their family members) do not have health coverage in Alabama. A full 70% of respondents were more likely to support expanding Medicaid when presented with that information. Respondents also were more likely to support expansion when informed that Alabama taxpayers have paid $4 billion in federal taxes since 2014 to help support Medicaid expansion in other states.
Both Republican and Democratic respondents were more likely to support Medicaid expansion with increased financial support from the federal government. The Amertican Rescue Plan, President Biden’s $1.9 trillion plan to respond to the coronavirus, currently being debated in Congress, would offer a dramatic increase in federal incentives for states like Alabama to expand Medicaid. If enacted, the legislation would provide an additional $940 million in federal money to Alabama over two years if the state expanded Medicaid. Medicaid expansion would benefit more than 340,000 Alabamians who are uninsured or struggling to afford coverage.
The overwhelming polling support reflects an ever-growing group of individuals, organizations and businesses that support expanding Medicaid in Alabama. This group includes the Alabama Hospital Association, the Alabama Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Alabama Department of Health’s Maternal Mortality Review Committee, the Medical Association of the State of Alabama and 100 nonprofits, faith-based groups and medical advocacy organizations in Alabama.

Greenetrack establishes scholarships for Black Belt students at Alabama A&M

Shown L to R: AAMU Alumni – Dr. Charlayne Riley, Greene County Schools Federal Programs Coordinator; Cortnei Cook, Greene County Juvenile Officer; Beverly Gordon, Executive Assistant to Greenetrack CEO and Compliance Director; Dr. Archie Tucker, AAMU Vice President for Marketing and Advancement; Ms. LaToya Pelt; Ms. Tameka King and Mr. Luther Winn, Greenetrack CEO.

At a recent press conference Greenetrack, Inc. President & CEO Mr. Luther Winn announced that Greenetrack is establishing student scholarships at Alabama A&M University Foundation in Normal, AL. According to Winn, the purpose of this scholarship initiative is to assist students from Western Alabama to attain a degree and hopefully return and help improve the quality of life in the region.
The scholarship program is being established with an initial contribution of $10,000. “The scholarship program will be generously funded by Greenetrack,” Winn stated. Dr. Archie Tucker, II, Vice President for Marketing, Communication and Advancement at Alabama A&M University, received the initial $10,000 from Greenetrack. Dr. Tucker stated that Alabama A&M University appreciated the tremendous contribution made by Greenetrack, Inc. “ The scholarship funds will be used to help further the education of students from the Black Belt area,” Tucker stated.
According to Winn, this scholarship initiative will focus on assisting those students who need financial aid to remain at A&M University or to return to complete their studies and graduate.
Winn noted that students seeking a scholarship must be from one of the following counties: Greene, Sumter, Hale, Perry, Bibb, Pickens, Choctaw, Marengo, Dallas and Wilcox Counties. The scholarships will be managed through the Alabama A&M University. To apply for a scholarship, students must complete an application through the Alabama A&M University Foundation.
Greenetrack, Inc. had previously committed $250,000 to Alabama A&M for student scholarships, when the bingo establishment was raided by Governor Bob Riley’s Task Force in June 2010. Winn stated that Greenetrack had contributed the initial $50,000 toward this scholarship commitment to A&M, when the raid occurred. “Once the Task Force confiscated our bingo machines, we were not in a position to continue our intended investment,” he noted.

A Taste of a Winter Wonderland


In spite of the very cold temperatures, Eutaw residents witnessed a Taste of a Winter Wonderland on Tuesday, Feb. 16, with snow blanketing grounds, lasting into late afternoon and the downtown fountain on the old courthouse square displaying its frozen ice cycles. Many in vehicles drove by slowly, soaking in this wondrous view; others approached the frozen fountain for a closer view and perhaps to confirm the magical sight.