Newswire: Tommy Tuberville pledged to ‘donate every dime’ to veterans. He hasn’t.

Analysis by Glenn Kessler, The Fact Checker 
The Washington Post
I stand with our veterans and I’m going to donate every dime I make when I’m in Washington, D.C., to the veterans of the state of Alabama. Folks, they deserve it. They deserve it a lot more than most of us.”

— Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), in a Facebook campaign video, March 9, 2020

As senator, Tuberville has made veterans one of his key issues. The former football coach serves on both the Veterans’ Affairs Committee and the Armed Services Committee. He is now in a high-profile battle with the Biden administration over abortion policy affecting veterans. He has stalled the confirmation of more than 250 senior military officers over his objection to a Defense Department policy allowing military personnel and their families to recoup travel expenses incurred while seeking an abortion if they are stationed in a state that bans or restricts the procedure.

Yet there is no evidence that Tuberville has kept a key pledge he made when he ran for Senate three years ago — that he would “donate every dime” he made in Washington to Alabama veterans.

The Facts

A U.S. senator earns $174,000 a year. We’re assuming that Tuberville was proposing to donate only his salary, not the substantial earnings he makes from his investments. (He has an estimated net worth of $20 million.) With Tuberville now having served 2½ years as senator, that would amount to a total of $437,000 in potential donations.

In the past decade, Tuberville has made contributions to veterans via a charitable organization, the Tommy Tuberville Foundation, that he established in 2014 after he was hired as football coach at the University of Cincinnati. His employment contract, which paid him a minimum of $1.6 million a year, stipulated that he donate at least $5,000 a month as a gift to the athletics department. For instance, in 2016 he paid for 150 season tickets for veterans in a section of the stadium dubbed Tubby’s Troops. The transaction was billed to the Tommy Tuberville Foundation, whose primary mission is “assisting our military and veterans.”
The Internal Revenue Service certified the Tommy Tuberville Foundation as a public charity in 2015, making donations to the organization tax-deductible. But a review of IRS filings made by the foundation show that very little has been spent on charitable causes — especially since he became a senator. Tuberville moved the charity to Alabama in 2018 after he left the coaching position in Cincinnati in 2016.

In 2021, the foundation reported it had $74,101 in revenue and spent just 12 percent of that, or $9,000, while $32,000 went to administrative costs (including nearly $12,400 to pay off a truck the charity purchased in 2018 for $27,369). In 2022, the foundation apparently had gross receipts of less than $50,000 and was required to file only a 990-N, known as a postcard, providing even less detail. (The test for filing a postcard considers the average of the past three years.)

The charity also filed a postcard in 2020, and in its 2021 filing it suggested it received no money at all in 2020. The charity generally provides little detail on how money is raised, but its 2018 filing cited fundraising through a golf tournament and speaking engagements. Most of the donations it reported were relatively small — $8,763 in 2015 and $13,245 in 2016 for “veterans home renovations” and $4,536 in 2018 for Flags for Vets. (The foundation filed the wrong form in 2017, so few details are provided, while 2019 and 2020 were also postcard filings.)

Laurie Styron, executive director of Charity Watch, an American Institute of Philanthropy charity watchdog, reviewed the Tommy Tuberville Foundation filings for The Fact Checker. She said that because of the postcard filings there was an “accountability black hole” about the charity that made it difficult “to understand if promises were fulfilled, or monitor a charity’s grants relative to its overhead spending.” The main reason the IRS permits small charities to file such limited data is so they can report they are still operating, she said.

“With respect to the $174k per year specifically, the 2021 990 Schedule A reflects that the charity didn’t report receiving contributions even close to this amount in any of the past 5 years,” Styron said in an email. “In fact, the charity reports receiving only $218k in contributions for the past 5 years combined. If he promised to donate his salary to vets, he certainly isn’t fulfilling this promise by donating to this particular charity.”

The 2021 filing lists Rodney Williams as the foundation chairman. Williams is an Alabama pharmacist who contributed to Tuberville’s campaign. He did not respond to a request for comment. Anna Harris, listed as the registered agent in the charity’s filing with the Alabama secretary of state’s office, said she had not worked for the charity for “a couple of years” and could not answer any questions.

The foundation’s Facebook page features articles on some veterans’ initiatives sponsored by the senator since he took office but does not feature any fundraising activity since a 2019 golf tournament.

The Fact Checker contacted nine veterans’ organizations represented on the Alabama State Board of Veterans Affairs. Three state affiliates — Vietnam Veterans of America, Disabled American Veterans and Veterans of Foreign Wars — responded and said they have received no donations from either Tuberville or the Tommy Tuberville Foundation.

We also contacted other veterans’ organizations that the Tommy Tuberville Foundation Facebook page has indicated it has supported in the past. For instance, Still Serving Veterans is a Huntsville charity that helps veterans transition to civilian employment. “Still Serving Veterans received a small donation from the Tommy Tuberville Foundation in 2019 as the nonprofit beneficiary of a golf tournament he hosted, but we have not received any contributions since then,” said Debbie Joyner, chief development officer of the organization. Jamie Popwell, president of Flags for Vets, said the organization has received $500 in 2018, $1,000 in 2019 and $2,500 in 2020, but has not received any donation since then.
Tuberville’s staff indicated that thus far the senator had not lived up to his pledge.
“You are correct that Coach uses the Foundation as the primary vehicle for donating to veterans’ organizations, but it is by no means the only one,” Tuberville communications director Steven Stafford said in an email. “You may have learned by now that there were serious problems with the Foundation for a number of years, and that the Foundation came under audit. My understanding is that during the audit, the Foundation paused most of its activities.”
Noting that he was not speaking for the foundation, Stafford added: “The audit was recently completed successfully, and the Foundation is resolving its longstanding problems, resuming its activities, and Coach is resuming his work with the Foundation to help veterans in need.”
Asked whether Tuberville has failed to donate more than $400,000 to veterans, as promised, and whether he is still committed to do so, Stafford responded: “Coach is in the process of reforming the Foundation. He has already completely replaced the Board of Directors; he is resuming activities with the Foundation, and he will keep his promise to the veterans of Alabama.”

Six years of a senatorial salary would mean Tuberville would be on the hook for more than $1 million in donations.

Newswire: Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson speaks at 60th anniversary Birmingham bombing event

Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson

By: Associated Press


BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Standing at the pulpit of the Birmingham, Alabama, church where four little girls were killed by a Ku Klux Klan bomb in 1963, Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson said the nation must remember and own the uncomfortable moments of its past in order to move forward.

Jackson, the first Black woman to serve on the nation’s highest court, spoke at the 60th anniversary of the Sept. 15, 1963 bombing at 16th Street Baptist Church.
“Today we remember the toll that was paid to secure the blessings of liberty for African Americans and we grieve those four children who were senselessly taken from this earth and their families robbed of their potential,” Jackson said.
She said the country should celebrate the great strides that have been made since 1963 but that there is still work to do. ”The work of our time is maintaining that hard-won freedom and to that we are going to need the truth, the whole truth about our past,” Jackson said.
Jackson said she knows that atrocities “like the one we are memorializing today are difficult to remember and relive” but said it is also “dangerous to forget them.”
“If we are going to continue to move forward as a nation, we cannot allow concerns about discomfort to displace knowledge, truth or history. It is certainly the case that parts of this country’s story can be hard to think about,” Jackson said.
Jackson did not mention any of the efforts in Republican-led states to place parameters on how race is discussed in classrooms. Instead, Jackson, who was born in 1970, gave the example of how her own parents made sure, even at a young age, that she learned about what happened in Birmingham, Selma and other battlegrounds of the Civil Rights Movement.
“Yes, our past is filled with too much violence, too much hatred, too much prejudice, but can we really say that we are not confronting those same evils now? We have to own even the darkest parts of our past, understand them and vow never to repeat them,” Jackson said.
Klansmen had placed a bundle of dynamite outside the church under a set of stairs on that day in 1963. The girls were gathered in a downstairs washroom before Sunday services when the blast exploded at 10:22 am. The explosion killed 11-year-old Denise McNair, and Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Addie Mae Collins, all 14. A fifth little girl, Sarah Collins Rudolph, the sister of Addie Mae, was in the room and was severely injured — losing an eye to the explosion— but survived.
The bombing came during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, eight months after then-Gov. George Wallace pledged, “segregation forever,” and two weeks after the Rev. Martin Luther King’s “ I Have a Dream” speech at the 1963 March for Jobs and Justice in Washington, D. C.

Hundreds of people, Black and white, filled the church Friday for the remembrance. The church bell tolled four times as the names of the girls were read. The crowd also stood to honor Rudolph, the “fifth little girl” in the room that day.
U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell said they were standing on solemn ground where the senseless deaths “awakened a slumbering consciousness of America and galvanized the Civil Rights Movement.”
For many, Jackson’s presence at the church was a poignant moment. Sewell and other speakers on Friday said the lives of the four slain Black girls are in a way intertwined with Jackson’s. They said she is the embodiment of what civil rights foot soldiers in the 1960s dreamed would be possible, and the Voting Rights Act and other gains that followed paved the way for the first Black woman on the Supreme Court.
“It has been 60 years in the making. Dr. Martin Luther King said that these girls would not have died in vain and our speaker, Ketanji Brown Jackson, is the personification of that today. She is that hope,” former U.S. Sen. Doug Jones said.

Newswire : Kamala Harris stands strong against racist attacks, affirms readiness to lead

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

In the face of a sustained Republican campaign to stoke fears among white voters, Vice President Kamala Harris remains resolute, highlighting her trailblazing achievements and defending her legacy against racially charged attacks.
Prominent figures within the Republican Party have continued the GOP’s attempt to cast doubt on President Joe Biden’s ability to complete a potential second term, equating a vote for him with a de facto endorsement of Harris as president. Former South Carolina Governor and GOP Presidential Candidate Nikki Haley asserted, “A vote for Joe Biden is a vote for Kamala Harris,” while Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, positioning himself as a contender for the 2024 presidential race, labeled Harris as “impeachment insurance.”
“They feel the need to attack because they’re scared that we will win based on the merit of the work that Joe Biden and I, and our administration, has done,” Harris responded. She further emphasized the historic barriers she has shattered throughout her career, including being the first woman district attorney in San Francisco and the first Black woman to serve as California’s attorney general.
When questioned about her readiness to assume the highest office, if necessary, Harris affirmed her preparedness while expressing confidence in Biden’s leadership. “Joe Biden is going to be fine. Let me tell you something: I work with Joe Biden every day,” she told CBS News. “The work that our administration has accomplished under Joe Biden’s leadership is transformative.”

Newswire: Coco Gauff, 19, makes history: youngest U.S. Open Champion since Serena Williams in 1999

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire

Coco Gauff has etched her name in tennis history as she clinched the U.S. Open singles title, becoming the youngest player, at 19, since Serena Williams’ historic victory in 1999 when she was just 17 years old. Gauff’s remarkable triumph came after an intense three-set battle against Aryna Sabalenka, with a final score of 2-6, 6-3, 6-2.
Amidst the crowd’s roar and the flashbulbs of countless cameras, Gauff stood on the iconic Arthur Ashe Stadium, her trophy shining brightly, and her victory speech filled with a sense of readiness for the fame that will undoubtedly come her way. “I’m ready,” Gauff proclaimed, her youthful confidence evident. “I embrace it. I know how to keep my peace but also embrace all of this around me.”
As Gauff accepted her winner’s check of $3 million, she took a moment to graciously thank tennis legend Billie Jean King, who stood alongside her on the stage. King is a long time advocate for equal treatment and payment of female athletes in all sports. The gesture highlighted Gauff’s perspective, humor, and charm that has set the stage for American sports’ next global superstar.
“She is so humble,” said Pere Riba, Gauff’s coach, in the post-match interview. “Her work ethic is so strong, so professional, and she has very good manners. Put all of that together, and she will only get better. She can handle it all.”
Gauff has long been earmarked as one of tennis’ next superstars. Her maturity on and off the court, intelligence, and ability to articulate herself have endeared her to the American public and the global tennis community.
Even prominent figures in the political arena couldn’t contain their excitement. President Joe Biden took to X, formerly known as Twitter, to congratulate the young champion. “Congrats to U.S. Open Champion Coco Gauff,” he tweeted. “You electrified Arthur Ashe stadium and the entire nation – the first of more to come and proof that anything is possible if you never give up and always believe. You’ve made America so proud.”
Former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama, who cheered Gauff during her first-round match against Laura Siegmund, also extended congratulations. “We couldn’t be prouder of you on and off the court – and we know the best is yet to come,” Barack Obama wrote. The former First Lady paid tribute to Gauff’s “hard work and grit” and shared a cherished photo of their meeting after that memorable first-round match.

Former President Bill Clinton joined the chorus of praise, describing Gauff’s victory as “incredible” and expressing optimism for the future of American tennis. Serena Williams, whom Gauff credits for inspiring her dreams, shared her excitement on Instagram, writing, “Ahhhhh!!!! Amazing!!!!”
Gauff reflected proudly on her victory. “My dad took me to this tournament, sitting right there, watching Venus and Serena compete, so it’s really incredible to be here on this stage,” she stated.

Newswire: University of Alabama condemns fans’ use of racist, homophobic slurs in viral video from Texas game

By: Wilton Jackson, Sports Illustrated

Alabama fans were overheard shouting racist and homophobic slurs at three Texas players in a viral video filmed during the Crimson Tide’s 34-24 loss to the Longhorns on Saturday night.

Fans behind the Texas sideline at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala., yelled homophobic and racist language at Longhorns defensive backs Jelani McDonald and X’Avion Brice as well as running back Quintrevion Wisner.
Among the slurs that can be heard on the video are Alabama fans calling the Texas players –“faggots” and advising them “to go back to the projects”.
In the wake of the video’s circulation on social media, Alabama released a statement to The Austin American-Statesman, saying the university does not condone the behavior and that such behavior “will not be tolerated” in its venues.
“We are disgusted by reports of vile language and inappropriate behavior Saturday night,” the statement read, per Danny Davis of The American-Statesman. “It’s not representative of UA and our values. We expect all attendees to act with class and respect towards others. Fans are strongly encouraged to report issues to our security resources on-site. Game day and delayed reports are appropriately addressed, and anyone found to be in violation of our rules and expectations will be promptly removed and may be banned from future events.

Newswire: FDA approves updated COVID-19 vaccines amid rising cases and hospitalizations

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved updated COVID-19 vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech in response to the surge in cases and hospitalizations. Both manufacturers have reported that their vaccines demonstrate effectiveness against the currently dominant EG.5 strain in the United States.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, an independent expert group advising the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), will now assess the safety and efficacy of these updated vaccines and provide recommendations for their deployment. Following approval by the CDC director, the vaccines will be available for administration. The advisory group plans to convene immediately, suggesting that the vaccines may soon be accessible at select pharmacies and healthcare facilities.
Health authorities have emphasized the urgency of vaccination once the shots become available. The new release coincides with a late summer surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations and growing concerns over the potential impact of respiratory viruses, including COVID-19, influenza, and respiratory syncytial virus, in the upcoming fall and winter seasons.
Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, underlined the importance of vaccination in protecting against severe COVID-19 consequences.
“The public can be assured that these updated vaccines have met the agency’s rigorous scientific standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality. We very much encourage those who are eligible to consider getting vaccinated,” Marks stated in a news release.
Dr. Dan Barouch, director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, noted that despite an increase in infection rates and hospitalizations, the rates of severe disease, hospitalizations, and death are still significantly lower than in previous years.
Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer, highlighted the significance of this decision, especially with COVID-19 cases on the rise again. He said that nearly all individuals aged six months or older in the U.S. are eligible for this season’s COVID-19 vaccine, even if they have not been previously vaccinated.
The updated vaccines are approved for individuals 12 and older, with emergency use authorization for those aged six months to 11 years. The bivalent Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines are no longer authorized for use in the United States.
According to the FDA, babies and young children from six months to four years who have not been vaccinated can receive three doses of the updated Pfizer/BioNTech shot or two doses of the updated Moderna booster. Those who have been previously vaccinated will follow specific dosage guidelines. For those five and older, a single dose of the updated vaccines is recommended at least two months after their last COVID-19 shot, irrespective of previous vaccination.
Stéphane Bancel, CEO of Moderna, emphasized the critical role of updated vaccines in protecting the population during the peak respiratory virus season. “COVID-19 remains a leading cause of death in the U.S. and poses a significant threat to vulnerable populations, particularly as we enter peak respiratory virus season,” Bancel stated.
The mRNA vaccines have been adjusted to combat the XBB.1.5 Omicron subvariant of the coronavirus and related strains. The FDA anticipates that COVID-19 vaccine compositions may need annual updates, similar to seasonal influenza vaccines.

Dr. Ugur Sahin, CEO and co-founder of BioNTech, stated, “Our goal is to provide people worldwide with COVID-19 vaccines that are adapted to circulating virus variants or sub-lineages.”

The updated vaccines, administered in a single dose, are expected to be available at no cost to those in need.
Novavax’s updated COVID-19 vaccine has not yet received FDA authorization but is currently under review for individuals aged 12 and older.
Under the Affordable Care Act, most insurance plans cover the total cost of vaccines, eliminating co-pays for insured individuals. The uninsured or underinsured can access the vaccine at no cost through the CDC’s Bridge Access Program, a temporary initiative set to conclude by December 2024.
Officials noted that this is the first instance of vaccines being provided through the commercial market. According to CNN, during a Pfizer investor call in October, officials estimated a potential list price of $110 to $130 per single dose for adults.

Greene County Commission approves implementation of $361,500 grant to Historical Society for repair of the inside of old Courthouse

At its regular monthly meeting on Monday, August 11, 2023, the Greene County Commission agreed to accept a plan for use of a $361,500 grant awarded by the Alabama Historical Commission for repairs to the interior of the historic old Courthouse, on the central square in Eutaw.
The grant was made to the Greene County Historical Society. The Courthouse building and square, apart from some of the buildings, has been leased to the Eutaw Area Chamber for maintenance and improvement. The Courthouse Square is part of the central business and administrative district for the City of Eutaw and Greene County.
The Chamber enlisted the support of the Greene County Historical Society to seek funding to restore the old Courthouse building, which housed offices on its first floor and a courtroom/community meeting room on the second floor. There are photographs in the new William M. Branch Courthouse of historic mass meetings held in the old courthouse when Black officials were elected to county offices in 1969 and 1970.
Lloyd Dawe, President of the Greene County Historical Society, said, “We met all three criteria for this grant, it was a government building built before 1840; it was involved in the civil rights movement of the 1960’s and it was listed on the National Register of Historic places.”
Dawe continued, “We asked for more funding than we received to fully renovate the inside of the old Courthouse. We plan to scrape, sand, and paint the interior, fix and reinforce the ceiling, plaster and stucco the walls, fix the windows and doors, redo the restrooms, and do other things necessary to make the building useable as a welcome center and community center for the county. We will need to raise more funds to complete the work and move from the first floor to rehabilitate the second floor as a community meeting room for the county.”Commissioner Garria Spencer pointed out that although the Commission has accepted the grant, they want to be informed in writing of all steps the Historical Society and Chamber of Commerce take in restoring the old Courthouse. “At our work session before the meeting, we made clear that we expect written reports to the Commission and our Legal Counsel as the work progresses,” said Spencer.
The Commission also granted the Greene County Historical Society permission to inspect the former Miles College Building for possible renovations and restoration work. Lloyd Dawe said, “The Miles College Building was established originally as the Mesopotamia Female Seminary in 1846 and was a post-secondary educational institution for white women, at a time when education and equal rights for women was not an accepted societal standard.”
The Commission owns the Miles College Building but has not used it since the college and other groups using the building moved in the early 2000’s.
The Commission approved a letter of support to ADECA for a grant to the Spectrum Southeast LLC for $7 million of state and federal funds to provide high speed broadband to rural communities in Greene County that currently lack service. Spectrum is the Internet Service Provider (ISP) that has expressed the greatest interest in bringing fiber optic cables for service to Greene County. ADECA is currently working on a plan to provide broadband services to underserved communities across the state, using federal and state funding.

In other actions, the Greene County Commission:
• Approved a $168,786 bid from Central Alabama Asphalt and Construction for road building and improvement projects in the county.
• Approved a revised quote of $63,500 from the original of $55,000 to repair the roof on the William M. Branch Courthouse building.
• Approved a travel request from the Assistant Engineer to attend floodplain training; and the Board of Registrars to attend an October 5th election conference in Tuscaloosa.
• Approved a $62,069, 2023-24 Worker’s Compensation Self-Insurance Fund contract with the State Association of County Commissioners.
•Tabled a proposed Greene County Wastewater Ordinance, pending more information.
• Approved a travel policy which included an option for the traveler to either fly or accept vehicle mileage rates for a trip, based on Federal government reimbursement rates.
Mac Underwood, CFO presented the County financial report for August 2023, showing $8, 123,248 on deposit in Citizens Trust Bank, of which $2,615,487 is unrestricted; $4,038,760 in Merchants and Farmers Bank, of which $2,903,842 is unrestricted. There is also a Bond Sinking Fund of $887,902. A total of $666,206 was spent for claims in August and another $129,845 in electronic payments were made. Most of the departments are on budget as of the end of the month, which is the 11th month of the fiscal year.

Judge holds August 14th pre-trial conference on State of Alabama vs electronic bingo operators; next hearing set for November 2nd

Special to the Democrat by John Zippert, Co-Publisher

Retired Circuit Judge Arthur J. Haynes held a pre-trial conference in the case of the State of Alabama vs. electronic bingo operators and charities in Greene County. The purpose of the hearing was to hear pre-trial motions and concerns from both sides.

The State of Alabama has been pushing to close down electronic bingo in Greene County, because they consider the bingo machines to be “nuisance illegal slot-machines” operating in an illegal manner. The State, backed by an Alabama Supreme Court decision that bingo is “a game played on paper cards, with five rows and five columns of letters and numbers”, has closed bingo operations in Macon, Lowndes, and Jefferson counties, which are all jurisdiction controlled by Black voters.

The voters of Greene County, another majority Black County, voted overwhelming in favor of Alabama Constitutional Amendment 743, in 2004,
which allowed for “electronic forms of bingo” to be play under the supervision and regulations of the Sheriff of Greene County. The county and municipal governments, school system, hospital, Sheriff’s office and assorted smaller non-profits and charities benefit from the gaming industry in Greene County, which generates $600,000 a month in fees for these agencies.

The four currently operating electronic Bingo facilities in Greene County – The Palace, River’s Edge, Frontier and Bama Bingo – employ 300 to 500 employees, who will lose their jobs if the State of Alabama succeeds in closing these establishments. The Governor, Attorney General and other officials of the state have offered no potential alternative employment for those who will likely lose their jobs if the State of Alabama wins this lawsuit.

Greenetrack, which previously led and was involved in electronic bingo, has ceased bingo operations, and been dismissed from the case. Greenetrack, now operating as Greene County Entertainment, conducts simulcasting of dog and horse racing at other tracks as well as operating “historic horse racing machines” under its parimutuel wagering license.

Attorney and former Circuit Judge John H. England, Jr., who is one of the attorney’s representing River’s Edge Bingo, said, “There are still many unanswered issues relating to this case, some of which were raised at this hearing. Judge Haynes set another hearing date for November 2, 2023, for questions and issues related to the case. He hoped to set a trial date at that conference, but no date was set at this hearing.”

England indicated that questions were raised about the State of Alabama’s treatment of bingo in Houston County, a primarily white controlled political area as opposed to their treatment of areas like Greene, Lowndes, and Macon counties, which have Black voting majorities. England said, “Many issues were raised about the unequal treatment of Greene and other Black controlled counties, in comparison to Houston County, which also has electronic bingo machines, but was offered a settlement, by the State of Alabama, which the state has not enforced, until the issue was raised in the May 2023 hearing on bingo in Greene County.”

Attorney Gregory Yaghmai, who represented the Bama Bingo establishment at the hearing, reported at the hearing on his visit to Houston County to play the machines.

Yaghmai explained, “The State of Alabama has treated electronic bingo differently in Houston County than they way they are trying to do in Greene County. First, Greene County has a stronger Constitutional Amendment, 743, which recognizes electronic forms of bingo in its wording which Houston and other counties do not have.”

Yaghmai indicated, “That the State of Alabama reached a settlement agreement in 2019, with Houston County, which allowed them to keep operating their electronic bingo machines. No similar settlement has been offered to Greene County. Further, the State of Alabama did not visit Houston County to review and enforce the agreement for four years.”

Yaghmai said, “When I went to Houston County to play the machines recently, I learned the state had visited in June after our May 4th hearing in the Greene County case, to advise Houston County gaming officials how to modify the machines to make them ‘machines of skill’ rather than illegal slot-machines. The machines now have additional buttons to push, which the state says requires skill and the checkout process requires a paper bingo card. These changes were adopted recently after, we raised issues about unequal administration and protection of the laws by the State Attorney General.”

Yaghmai also complained, “All Greene County bingo establishments have been ‘randomly’ audited by the Alabama Department of Revenue after the May 4th court hearing. This is not fair, and the State seems to be using the Revenue Department to enforce the Attorney General’s rules on gambling. The State has not responded to these complaints.”

Attorney Hank Sanders, who represents the Greene County Health System at this hearing said there are still many loose ends in this case and that the earliest a trial could be held is December 2023 or next year.

Sanders said that Judge Haynes denied his motion to intervene in the case but invited him to submit ‘friend of the court briefs and other motions on behalf of his clients. Sanders said, “The State has never answered our motions that closing electronic bingo would violate the Americans with Disabilities Act because blind people cannot play bingo on cards, but they can listen to the electronic bingo machines and know when they are winning.”

Sanders said at the trial, it may come down to the strength of Constitutional Amendment 743 and its provisions allowing “electronic forms of bingo” over the contentions of the State of Alabama that the machines are merely illegal nuisance slot machines.

Court strikes down Alabama Legislature’s congressional map in scathing opinion

Evan Milligan, lead plaintiff in Allen vs Milligan redistricting case, speaks in front of U. S. Supreme Court at rally, when case was heard and decided 5 to 4 in favor of Black voting rights in Alabama.

By: Zach Schonfeld, The Hill, with some additional materials from other sources

A three-judge panel struck down Alabama’s new congressional map Tuesday, finding the GOP-led state fell short of complying with the Supreme Court’s recent directive.
The ruling paves the way for a court-appointed official to instead draw the lines for the 2024 election cycle.
“And we are struck by the extraordinary circumstance we face,” the federal judges wrote in a 196-page opinion.
“We are not aware of any other case in which a state legislature — faced with a federal court order declaring that its electoral plan unlawfully dilutes minority votes and requiring a plan that provides an additional opportunity district — responded with a plan that the state concedes does not provide that district,” they continued.
The ruling orders a court-appointed special master to submit three new maps by Sept. 25 that fix the dilution of Black voters in the state. It could provide a boost to Democrats as they attempt to retake the U. S. House of Representatives in 2024.There are similar redistricting cases, under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act in Louisiana, Florida, Georgia ,North Carolina, Arkansas and other states.
Alabama had submitted the new map after the Supreme Court in June blocked the state’s previous iteration in a 5-4 decision for likely violating the Voting Rights Act. Alabama’s map included one majority-Black district out of the state’s seven total districts, despite 27 percent of the state’s population being Black.
The Supreme Court’s decision affirmed a lower ruling that mandated the state draw new lines that “will need to include two districts in which Black voters either comprise a voting-age majority or something quite close to it.”
But the Republican-led legislature then refused to draw a second majority-Black district.
It instead maintained Alabama’s one majority-Black district — which is represented by the state’s lone congressional Democrat, Congresswoman Terri Sewell, — and only increased the percentage of Black voters in the 2nd Congressional District from 30 percent to 40 percent. The Legislature’s plan reduced the Black voting age population in Sewell’s district from 56% to 50.5%
“We discern no basis in federal law to accept a map the State admits falls short of this required remedy,” the judges wrote. 
The panel comprised one Clinton appointee, Circuit Judge Stanley Marcus, and two Trump appointees, District Judge Anna Manasco and District Judge Terry Moorer.
State officials previously indicated the boundaries need to be finalized by about Oct. 1, so it can be in place for next year’s primary. 
After the court-appointed official submits its three maps, the state or other parties will have three days to object. A hearing would then be held Oct. 3, if necessary.
“[W]e have no reason to believe that allowing the Legislature still another opportunity to draw yet another map will yield a map that includes an additional opportunity district,” the judges wrote. “Moreover, counsel for the State has informed the Court that, even if the Court were to grant the Legislature yet another opportunity to draw a map, it would be practically impossible for the Legislature to reconvene and do so in advance of the 2024 election cycle.
One group of plaintiffs — individual voters and voting rights advocates — in a joint statement said Alabama “openly admits its intention” to defy the Supreme Court and the law.
“Sixty years ago, former Governor George Wallace stood in the schoolhouse door to stop Black people from desegregating the University of Alabama,” they said. “He moved only when the federal government forced him to do so. History is repeating itself and the district court’s decision confirms that Alabama is again on the losing side. We demand that Alabama again move out of the way and obey our laws — we demand our voting rights.”

The Hill has reached out to Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall’s (R) office for comment. Knowledgeable observers of Alabama politics feel that Marshall plans to try to get the case before the Supreme Court again ,in an effort to reverse their 5 to 4 decision in favor of more and fairer representation for Black voters in the state.
Evan Milligan, the lead plaintiff in Allen v. Milligan and executive director of Alabama Forward, stated that the fight was not over to ensure fair voting maps.

“We’re thankful that the federal court heard our argument,” Milligan said. “We are thankful to the many people who also heard our argument and showed their support by filling the federal courtroom and even the overflow room a few weeks ago. Prior to that hearing, we had hoped our state legislature and governor would have heard us as well. Had they listened to the Supreme Court, we could have saved our state some money and avoided this Groundhogs’s Day loop that some in our state want us to remain trapped within. Nevertheless, we know that fair maps provide a way out of this trap. And we will do every decent thing in our power to ensure that our state produces district maps that comply with the Voting Rights Act our elders fought and died to realize for us. Amen and onward.”

Anneshia Hardy, executive director of Alabama Values, also commented stating, “The court’s decision to strike down the state’s unfair and discriminatory congressional map for the second time underscores the urgency and necessity for organizers, advocates, and community members to continue to demand fair and equitable representation. While we share in the collective relief and hope that springs from this ruling, our focus remains on the journey ahead. The fight for fair representation is far from over, and Alabama Values remains diligent in ensuring that the redrawing process is transparent, inclusive, and truly reflective of our state’s diverse population. We deeply appreciate the ongoing support and engagement from Alabamians across the state, and we will continue to champion the cause for fair maps. This isn’t just about lines on a map; it’s about the rights, voices, and futures of Alabamians”

Newswire: Victims of deadly building fire in Johannesburg, S. A., died behind locked gates

South African search for family members after fire

Sept. 4, 2023 (GIN) – After one of the worst residential fires in South Africa’s history, little remains of the overcrowded building in Johannesburg that sheltered some 200 Africans. Some called it a death trap and a disaster waiting to happen.
The fire that began shortly after 1 a.m. on Thursday, Aug. 31, trapped residents in the darkness, unable to pry open the locked security gates on each floor. A sealed gate on the ground floor prevented at least some of the victims from escaping and there were no proper fire escapes.
While the city-owned building at 80 Albert St. housed some 200 families, there was no formal electric service. People relied on small fires for cooking, heat and light and sometimes on dangerous electrical hookups.
The building had effectively been abandoned by authorities, said media reports, and had become home to poor people desperately seeking some form of accommodation in the rundown Johannesburg central business district. Some 76 apartment dwellers died in the predawn blaze, including 12 children, authorities said.
Homeless South Africans, poor foreign migrants and others who found themselves marginalized in a city often referred to as Africa’s richest but with deep social problems, inhabited the downtown building.
Senior city officials conceded they had been aware of problems at the building since at least 2019.
“This has been a long time coming and it will keep happening until the city wakes up. It’s devastating,” said Angela Rivers, general manager of the Johannesburg Property Owners and Managers Association. Rivers said that numerous government departments were aware of the appalling conditions of “hijacked” (taken over) buildings across the city center, but “they don’t take it seriously.”
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa visiting the scene of the fire, put himself among the poor of downtown Johannesburg, and tried to reassure them.
“We are a caring government,” he said. “It may fall short, but the determination to care for the people of South Africa is a priority.”
But some found the promises coming from the government of the ruling African National Congress party which led South Africa out of apartheid and has been in power since the first democratic elections in 1994, wearing thin.
Around 1.2 million people in the province don’t have housing, officials said, with much of the crisis playing out in Johannesburg.
A statement from the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) that appeared in X/Twitter linked the fire to the “direct outcome of years of permitting dilapidated structures to exist within Johannesburg, devoid of adequate upkeep or any form of vigilant oversight.
“The problem of hijacked and dilapidated buildings requires the provision of temporary housing for residents in such structures, as government seeks to find and establish permanent low-cost housing alternatives.”
The police have opened a criminal case, although it was unclear who might face any charges over the deaths as no official authority ran the building. 
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa blamed the tragedy in part by “criminal elements” who had taken over the building and charged people to live there.
But the focus on the issue only after so many people were killed angered some in the city.
“We have seen the president calling this incident tragic,” said Herman Mashaba, a former mayor of Johannesburg and now the leader of an opposition political party. “What do you mean tragic? You’ve been aware of this. We have seen the decay of this city over 25 years. It’s not something that just happened overnight.”
The building was one of 57 hijacked buildings that the Johannesburg Property Owners and Managers Association had identified and repeatedly lobbied the City to act on.
City activist Maurice Smithers called the 5 story brick property on Albert Street an iconic building with history going back to the apartheid era.
“It was the Albert Street Pass Office which determined which black South Africans could live and work in Joburg. Its transformation from a place of oppression and despair to one of hope when it was turned into a women’s shelter and clinic was a significant symbolic moment.
“So, the failure by the City to maintain the building as a heritage site and to support the NGO which was there (Usindiso Ministries, which ran the shelter) is equal to its failure to ensure the building complied with all relevant laws and by-laws,” said Smithers. “[It has] instead effectively turned a blind eye to its hijacking and deterioration into a place of death.”
Urgent humanitarian aid is desperately needed. Organizations such as Gift of the Givers, the Salvation Army and the Hope SA Foundation are waiting for the go-ahead from the City of Johannesburg.