COVID

As of May 5, 2021 at 10:00 AM (according to Alabama Political Reporter) Alabama had 529,446 confirmed cases of coronavirus, (2,363) more than last week with 10,930 deaths (51) more than last week) Greene County had 923 confirmed cases, (2 more cases than last week), with 34 deaths Sumter Co. had 1,043 cases with 32 deaths Hale Co. had 2,222 cases with 76 deaths Note: Greene County Physicians Clinic has Johnson and Johnson, one dose vaccination for COVID-19; Call for appointments at 205/372-3388, Ext. 142; ages 18 and up.

Newswire: ANC could have done more to stamp out corruption in South Africa says President Ramaphosa

Cyril Ramaphosa

May 3, 2021 (GIN) – In riveting testimony before a South African commission investigating corruption and graft, President Cyril Ramaphosa acknowledged that the ruling ANC party did little to prevent corruption, including by his predecessor Jacob Zuma. “State capture and corruption have taken a great toll on our society and indeed on our economy as well,” Ramaphosa said. “They have eroded the values of our constitution and undermined the rule of law. If allowed to continue they would threaten the achievement of growth, development and transformation of our country.” “The governing party ‘could and should’ have done more to prevent corruption,” he admitted. The South Africa Commission on State Capture is probing allegations of graft during former president Jacob Zuma’s nine years in power, including claims that Zuma allowed businessmen close to him – brothers Atul, Ajay and Rajesh Gupta – to influence policy and win lucrative government contracts. The Guptas have also been accused of influencing the hiring and firing of ministers. Finance minister Nhlanhla Nene had resisted Zuma’s plans for the government to build expensive nuclear plants and was removed in 2015. Zuma and the Guptas have repeatedly denied the allegations against them. According to the current president, it took time for the ANC to recognize high-level corruption during the period, but that he would not try to “make excuses or to defend the indefensible”. He did not mention Zuma by name. In recent months, former president Zuma defied a court order to appear before the commission, prompting its chief investigator to seek a two-year prison sentence for contempt of court. When the country’s top court heard that case last month, Mr. Zuma again refused to appear — a move that many saw as open defiance of the country’s democratic institutions. Atul, Ajay, and Rajesh Gupta arrived from India in the 1990s and set up a small computer business before taking large stakes in uranium, gold, and coal mines. They also set up a luxury game lodge, an engineering company, a newspaper, and a 24-hour TV news station. All three brothers are reported to be billionaires in the country’s rand currency. Atul Gupta was listed by the research company, Who Owns Whom, the richest person of color in South Africa in December 2016 with 10.7 billion rands. Atul arrived in South Africa in 1993, selling shoes and computers from the trunk of his car. Rajesh and Ajay followed their brother, and in 1997 the family, which already had business interests in India, set up Sahara Computers. In 2007, new laws made it essential for big companies to have Black directors — especially if they were bidding for government contracts. Zuma’s son Duduzane began working as a 22-year-old trainee at the Guptas’  Sahara Computers, and he was quickly appointed to the boards of several Gupta companies. One of Zuma’s daughters was a director at Sahara Computers, and one of his wives worked at the Guptas’ JIC Mining Services. The corruption allegations have led to the popular use of the term “state capture” to describe the Guptas’ undue influence of private business interests over government institutions.

Newswire: Environmental activist begins fifth week of hunger strike to stop dredging of Texas coastal bay

Kakays in Matagorda Bay protesting dredging

Diane Wilson, 4th generation fisher from Seadrift, Texas has begun the 29th day of her hunger strike to call attention to the dredging of the Matagorda and Lavaca Bay ship channel which will disrupt plans for a fishing cooperative planned for the Texas coastal area. Wilson hopes to stop the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACOE) from widening and deepening the maritime channel in the bay to accommodate large tankers reaching a proposed crude oil export terminal at Port O’Connor, at the head of the bay. The export terminal is owned by Max Midstream, a pipeline company seeking foreign markets for fracked oil from west Texas. Earthworks and other environmental organizations have been supporting Wilson’s hunger strike and held a recent rally and ‘kayakaton’ in the bay to support and call attention to her efforts. The USACOE conducted an Environmental Impact Statement in 2009, for a LNG project that was never built, with much more rigorous standards for the disposal of the 14 million tons of dredged materials. In the waning days of the Trump Administration, the USACOE pursued an expedited approval process for the crude oil depot. The newly approved disposal plan involves dumping the dredged materials on oyster beds and recreational beaches. The Matagorda and Lavaca Bay Foundations have written Commander Timothy Vail of the USACOE Galveston Office a detailed letter explaining why the Corp’s expedited approval process will do serious harm to the ecology of Matagorda Bay. They are asking for the USACOE to pause the project and conduct a new Environmental Impact Study before allowing the dredging of the ship channel. Diane Wilson points out, “The dredging of this ship channel will also impact an EPA Superfund site, with deposits of mercury from a now closed Alcoa plant. The dredging will stir up the mercury and make it difficult to market or eat fish caught in the bay. This will also hurt our efforts to develop a fishing cooperative in the area.” Diane Wilson urges her supporters to write or call the USACOE in Galveston and Washington, D.C. to stop the Matagorda Bay dredging project.

Newswire Fact Check: The United States is, was, and will always be a racist country Opinion: If racism is not responsible for the continued degradation and positionality of Black and Brown Americans, then what is?

Biden and Harris
Senator Tim Scott

Preston Mitchum, The Grio

If a Black Republican and Black Democrat walked into a bar, one wouldn’t usually expect them to agree on anything let alone that racism, in the United States especially, is a thing of the past. But last week, Sen.Tim Scott (R-SC) and Vice President Kamala Harris reached across the aisle to agree that (white) American people are not racist.  In his rebuttal to President Joe Biden’s address to a joint session of Congress, Scott, the Senate’s only Black Republican, sought to offer an alternative to the Biden agenda while defending the GOP, and the nation at large, against charges of systemic racism. Scott said that “America is not a racist country” and warned that “it’s wrong to try to use our painful past to dishonestly shut down debates in the present.” In her response on ABC News’ Good Morning America on Thursday, Vice President Harris, the first Black and Indian American in this role, agreed with Scott, saying that America is not a “racist country” but the nation must “speak the truth” about its history with racism. She applauded Biden for being courageous enough to speak the truth about this country’s history with racism. For many, Harris’ comments were unsurprising, often aligning with her role as a former prosecutor and policies around policing and law enforcement. However, others were shocked, disappointed even, that the first Black and South Asian vice president — particularly with the onslaught of sexist and racist comments toward her own candidacy — would make such disingenuous and harmful comments about race and racism in America.  If placating centrist white voters forces a Black elected official to lie about the past, present, and likely future of the United States’ racism then we are no better than we were in 2016; and that we’ve learned nothing the past 365 days. Thankfully, I’ve learned to not be shocked about politicians politicking.  Let’s assume that Harris obviously knows that racism is still pervasive in the United States. Let’s also stipulate that she must walk a delicate line of not appearing too Black or be seen as too bold after a previous administration who consistently stoked white supremacist flames the past four years.  But Harris wasn’t the only Democrat to agree with Scott. In an interview that aired on NBC’s Today show, in being pressed on Scott’s comments on race in America, our commander in chief stated, “I don’t think the American people are racist, but I think after 400 years, African Americans have been left in a position where they are so far behind the eight ball in terms of education and health, in terms of opportunity. Biden continued, “I don’t think America is racist, but I think the overhang from all of the Jim Crow and before that, slavery, have had a cost and we have to deal with it.” So, the question becomes: if racism is not responsible for the continued degradation and positionality of Black and Brown Americans, then what is? And if we can acknowledge white supremacist institutions, then, unless the ether, who holds onto it? It is impossible to understand and call attention to the ills of white supremacy and suddenly believe it went away in the 1950s following the end of de jure segregation. George Floyd being killed was not a thing of the past. He was a 46-year-old Black man with limited options of survival before he was eventually killed by former police officer Derek Chauvin for the world to see. Though Chauvin was found guilty of Floyd’s murder after a one-month trial, this doesn’t account for the numerous times that white law enforcement officers were either not indicted or found not guilty in the murders of Black people, including Eric Garner, Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray and Breonna Taylor, and many more named and unnamed. Ma’Khia Bryant being killed was not a thing of the past. She was a 16-year-old Black girl, in state care and custody, who was defending herself before she was eventually killed by Officer Nicholas Reardon of the Columbus Police Department. Immediately after her killing, Bryant was adultified as Black girls so often are in an attempt to justify her murder. That she was a teenager in the middle of an altercation, in which she was presumed to be defending herself and may have even called the cops to seek help, did not matter. Anti-Asian violence is not a thing of the past. An analysis of police department statistics has revealed that the United States experienced a significant hike in anti-Asian hate crimes last year across major cities. The analysis released by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism revealed that while such crimes in 2020 decreased overall by 7% (in large part due to the pandemic and less interaction in public spaces), those targeting Asian people rose by nearly 150 percent. The Georgia Spa Shootings in particular highlighted the intersections of racism and sexism of AAPI women.  COVID-19 is not a thing of the past. Though the COVID-19 continues to be driven down, the infection and death rates continue to disproportionately impact Black people. A global health pandemic coupled with a haphazard healthcare system creates a perfect storm for systemic racism to exact its deadly toll.  According to Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), even with vaccinations rolling out, Black and Latino people have received smaller shares of vaccinations compared to their shares of cases and deaths and compared to their shares of the total population in most states. On the contrary, white people received a higher share of vaccinations compared to their share of cases and deaths and their share of the total population in most states reporting data. .  The hard truth: Black people, regardless of the American political system, cannot be comfortable stifling our voices. We must not be fixated on the “what ifs” of every two or four years, especially if that means acquiescing to people who are ready to reject our experience at a moment’s notice. While there are varying calculations at play, none of them should involve lying about how race and racism — past, present, and likely future — impacts Black Americans.  In “Kamala Harris has to walk a tightrope on race. This time, she slipped,” Global Opinions editor Karen Attiah writes “Whatever the reason for Harris’s circumspection, imagine a different approach. Imagine if Harris felt free to plainly share her own thoughts and experiences about racism in America, particularly in a national moment when racist attacks and police brutality dominate so many news cycles.”    Imagine if we were honest about racism. Imagine if we demand that people bend to our truths. Imagine if people were made to capitulate to us. Imagine.

Preston Mitchum is an attorney, activist, and advocate living in Washington, DC

Newswire: Saturday May 8 – National John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Action Day Join ‘Votercade’ from Selma to Montgomery

Poster for John Lewis Voting Rights Day

The Transformative Justice Coalition, joined by hundreds of state and local organizations is sponsoring the National John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Action Day on Saturday, May 8, 2021. The focus of the activities on May 8 is to demand preservation and expansion of voting rights by highlighting the need for Congress to pass national legislation in view of the over 300 voter suppression bills being considered in over 40 state legislatures. The legislation that is being supported includes:

• HR1/S1 – For the People Act • HR4 – the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act

• HR51 – Washington D. C. Admissions Act (DC Statehood)

• Addressing the Filibuster The May 8th actions seek to ignite public support for restoring the effectiveness of the Voting Rights Act and address one of the greatest obstacles to the passage of civil and voting rights – and one of the last vestiges of slavery – the filibuster!

The coalition is sponsoring more than 100 “Votercades in cities around the country on Saturday afternoon, together with national broadcast of the events on Facebook and other media. In Alabama, the May 8th events are focused on a ‘votercade’ from Selma to Montgomery, retracing the steps of the original 1965 Voting Rights March. Cars will line up at the Brown’s Chapel AME Church in Selma at 11:00 AM and the ride will begin at 1:00 PM after a press conference. The day’s program will end in Montgomery at Celebration Village, King’s Canvas, 1413 Oak Street, Montgomery, AL, where there will be additional speakers, dinner and a fresh food giveaway. For more information, go to the Transformative Justice Coalition website or to the Selma-to-Montgomery Votercade Facebook page.

Greene County Schools use funds resulting from COVID-19 to improve academic program, staff development, facilities upgrade

To support schools and districts in addressing the impact of COVID-19, Congress has provided financial support through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund. Funds are allocated to each state in the same proportion as their Title I, Part A grants. In March 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act included $13 billion in ESSER funds. In December 2020, an additional $54 billion for ESSER II was allocated through the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act. The American Rescue Plan (ARP) authorized another $122 billion for ESSER III (also called “ARP ESSER”) in March 2021.  With the CARES ACT of March 2020, Alabama was allocated $217 M for its K-12 schools, administered through ESSER 1. The Greene County School System received approximately $864,000. ESSER I provided resources for additional student services in curriculum and instruction; staff development and professional services; Special Education Services; PPE supplies and safety and sanitation of facilities in preparation for students to return to on site classes; technology including learning aids for students’ virtual classes; transportation; health services which included equipping nurses stations; other sundry services for the system. These funds must be spent by 2022. Following the CRRSA Act signed December, 2020, Alabama received $899 M for ESSER II. Greene County School System has been allocated approximately $3.3 M in ESSER II funds. According to Superintendent Dr. Corey Jones, the system is in the process of completing its ESSER II plan, which must be submitted to the State Board of Education by June, 2021. Dr. Jones noted that 50% of these funds can be allocated to upgrading facilities, with the remaining supporting curriculum and learning loss with enhanced summer school programs; technology expansion and upgrade across the system; staff development; continued safety measures in facilities; supplies, etc. These funds must be spent by 2023. In the recently passed American Rescue Plan of March 2021, Alabama is likely to receive $2 B to distribute through the ESSER 3 fund. Although the specific guidelines have not been released, more than 80% of these funds will be used to address unfinished learning and supporting the school system’s return to in-person learning. The ARP specifically states that the public school system must spend 20% of ESSER funds to directly address student learning loss. Districts have the flexibility to use the ESSER funds on any “activity authorized by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.” As a condition for receiving ESSER funds, state education agencies must continue to financially support K-12 public schools (maintenance of effort) at the same level or greater in fiscal 2022 and 2023 as they did on the average of fiscal 2017-2019. Similarly, state agencies and local districts may not reduce funding on a per-pupil basis (maintenance of equity). As the Legislature prepares to pass a state education budget, it cannot reduce funding to local school districts or the state risks losing ESSER funds. This is not expected to be an issue, with both Gov. Kay Ivey and the Legislature supporting increases in state funding.

Bingo facilities contribute $485,958.87 for the month of March

On Wednesday, April 21, 2021, Greene County Sheriff’s Department reported a total distribution of $485,958.87 for the month of February 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. The recipients of the February 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 $114,990.90 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 $1,132.50. 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.N. finds France culpable for deadly attack on wedding party in Mali

Protest against France in Mali

Apr.19, 2021 (GIN) – Major combat operations by French troops in Mali have drawn fire from local officials who accuse the French military of killing civilians including at a recent wedding. Nineteen wedding guests and three armed men died in the strike in the village of Bounti, central Mali.    Now, a scathing report by the U.N.’s mission in Mali, known as MINUSMA, concurs with Malian authorities and upholds the claim that the victims were protected under international law. The French defense ministry rejects the report’s findings.   Those killed at the party were civilian males aged 15 to 20, and they were hunting birds with one gun among them, local officials said..   “I know all these young people. Some are from my family,” Mohamed Assaleh Ahmad, mayor of the nearby village of Talataye, told Reuters by telephone. “We have seen these airstrikes in the past here. We have never said anything, but this time, it’s 100% an error.”   The newly released report by the U.N. raises the stakes for France whose military footprint has grown to 5,100 from 3,000 since the start of their anti-terror operations in Mali.  At the same time, opposition among Malians is growing against the former colonial power.   Anti-French demonstrations have been taking place since 2013 on a regular basis, according to the French newsmagazine “Liberation” in an article titled “A Rejection of Colonialism.”    Yvan Guichaoua, a Sahel expert at the University of Kent’s Brussels School of International Studies said of the French: “(They) want to stay influential in their former colonies and have leadership in this sort of global division of labor” by major powers. “But the longer you stay, the greater the chance that you become part of the problem,” he warned in an interview with the Associated Press. According to Africa specialist Marc-Antoine Perouse de Montclos, French authorities have ignored local realities, like inter-communal vengeance and armies operating brutally with impunity to promote the narrative of jihadis with direct links to Iraq and Syria. As a result, a future French exit strategy may be as elusive as victory. French Defense Minister Florence Parly insists that the military strike on Jan. 3 was legit and rejects the U.N. probe’s methodology, calling the investigation based on unreliable sources. Some 7,000 people have died in what has been called France’s “forever war”, according to data by the Armed Conflict and Location Event Data Project. w/pix of Mali protest against French

Newswire: SPLC condemns the observance of Confederate Memorial Day, as a holiday on April 26

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The following statement was issued by SPLC Chief of Staff Lecia Brooks: “Since Reconstruction, Confederate symbols have been used by white supremacists as tools of racial terror. The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Sons of Confederate Veterans erected hundreds of memorials to the Confederacy across the United States as part of an organized propaganda campaign, created to instill fear and ensure the ongoing oppression of formerly enslaved people. “This is the heritage they continue to champion. One that not only is reflected in monuments, but also in school names, parks, municipalities, military bases, roadways, prisons, and flags, all ‘honoring’ a history of brutality and racial subjugation. Sadly, many southern states protect and defend this legacy by establishing laws that protect these symbols of hate and white supremacy. “This includes the official celebration of Confederate Memorial Day on April 26th by several Southern states including Alabama. State and county offices in Alabama were closed on Monday, April 26th, surprising many residents who tried to secure state government services and found locked doors at their local courthouse. “But there is hope. Many Americans are taking action to challenge oppression and counter false narratives, and Black people are often leading the way. Communities are coming together to create more inclusive public spaces that reflect liberation, not oppression. “In 2020, 170 Confederate symbols were removed from the U.S. landscape. And this year, 31 Confederate memorials have been removed or are pending removal. “And yet, there is much work to be done. Thousands of these symbols still litter our public spaces as reminders of white supremacy and anti-Black racism. We recognize that removing these symbols is only the first step. We must work for racial justice and an honest reckoning with our country’s past and present. That cannot be accomplished by removing a memorial or renaming a school, but it is a necessary step.”

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.