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Opinion | Vote yes on Amendment One

Glenn Henry

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Alabamians should follow Governor Kay Ivey, and Senate Pro Tempore Sen. Del Marsh, by voting yes on Ballot Amendment One, for the State Appointed School Board. Let me begin by discussing the magnitude, criticality, and significance, why this education bill must favorably pass.

First, let’s talk about the current world, in which we live, and how blessed that we all are, to live in the greatest nation on the planet. The United States of America. Many people often ask, why are these active duty airmen, and their families so special? An exemplary example, and the correct answer, is when U.S. Air Force airmen, and Space Force military members, raise their hands, and they pledge, to make the ultimate, sacrifice for our country. Not everyone, is willing to give their lives, for our nation.

The reasons they are so special, is because they, have been entrusted with the heaviest burdens, and most critical missions, in the protections and defense of our nation, allies, earth and space. This can’t be done without top education and training, along with trust.

Many of our top adversaries, are North Korea, China and Russia. Some are trying, to gain and surpass our military advantages on earth, and in space.

The best people, best education entities, most effective hardware, and the fastest software systems, have allowed our country, to be number one, on earth and the top leaders in space. By being the most effective Air Force and Space Force through, overwhelming dominance, and unarguable superiority in the air, space and cyberspace. With the ultimate goal to fly, fight, and win.

Our missions are national, international, earth and space, which includes cyberspace, Low Earth Orbit, Geo-Stationary Orbit, Medium Earth Orbit and Highly Elliptical Orbit.

Many of us take for granted, the numerous conveniences that space, provide us daily, such as Global Positioning Systems, Satellite Radio, Banking, Drones, Commerce, America’s Defense, Weather, Mapping, Telecommunications, Environmental Data, Research and National Defense Strategy Policies.

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Our Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett, by becoming the leader of two military services, and in my estimation; unarguably she is, one the most powerful persons, on earth, and in space.

Last week, again Madam Secretary Barrett, mentioned, our Air Force wants top- notch education for military families. Madam Secretary discussed, most assets in space are defenseless. Our Space Force, will surely have to use education, to determine the space weaponry that must be developed and utilized.

Additionally, our leaders have discussed convergence, in which all devices are synchronized, and in real time, while communicating simultaneously, between leadership, command and control, sister services, allies, planes, missiles, smart bombs, ships, tanks; troops on the battle field, special operations and drones.

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Education will be required to ensure slow and buffering equipment are not utilized.

Recently, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein stated, “our great nation, and our allies sleep very comfortable, and very well; because we are awake; and we never sleep. Surely, the most educated, and most-trusted persons, have been placed in these positions, to defend, and protect our country, and our allies, in other nations.

Not long ago, I read some comments, and some statements from Chief of Space Operations, Gen. Jay Raymond concerning leadership, in which he basically, stated to subordinate commanders, “you don’t need my permission to carry out the mission.” Again, education and trust, are required.

Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Hyten, recently discussed, that space devices, must get to the launching pad. His correct point, was some in space production, and manufacturing, may be trying, to develop a perfect device, which is a virtually impossible goal, to reach 0% risk. Education was needed, to decide go, or no- go, range levels; considering the safety of manned vehicles, personnel and occupants, unmanned devices, and safety of the public.

There will always be bugs in software, and hardware systems. How many times have new gadgets, just rolled out, and released, and the devices and equipment, are recalled; updates must be made, due to bad data, new threats and vulnerabilities?

Gen. Goldfein, not long ago, mentioned commerce. For years, the military services have protected the commerce shipping lanes in the ocean. Today, soon there will be, commercial space flights, with paying civilians. Additionally, there are numerous, profit motive companies with satellites in space.

Some satellites may be from allies, adversaries, noncombatants, combatants, commercial companies, NASA, research companies, and non-profit companies.

Think about Artificial Intelligence, in which software may be utilized to make it appear, and look like one device, and it may really be 20 devices with one piece of hardware. It’s software, that can’t be seen nor touched.

Education will be required, when our Air Force, and our Space Force leaders, develop their Space Contingency Plans, while looking at, and considering, how to coexist, in space with the aforementioned satellites, devices, probes, space vehicles, manned and unmanned devices. What are our top leaders, Assumptions, Threats and Contingencies, in LEO, MEO, HEO and GEO?

In Alabama, the economy is awesome, and unemployment is at the lowest levels ever. Top Education is needed for the Space Centers, commercial space entities, automotive manufacturers and Airplane builders.

Education in robotics is needed for manufacturing, building and welding.

Due to our current environment, of multiple apps, and software in our daily uses; many of our public schools don’t have Coding, and Programming in their curriculum.

As a Certified Professional Ethical Hacker. I highly recommend that, all public schools, first begin students, with Programming Logic, and Design Courses. To gain the basic foundations, fundamentals, terms, symbols, methodologies, through scaffolding, starting a baseline, and gaining more information, and knowledge.

In the Programming Logic and Design Courses, students are not learning any particular language at that point.

After completion of the course, students, can begin to learn, the many different coding languages, which are more easily learned, because students know the logic, and they are only swapping out symbols, and characters, based on the language, rules, protocols and agreements. At this point, students can basically do a lot of cut and paste. Anyone who reads well, may perform coding, and programming.

Today, programmers need to learn numerous multiple coding languages, for their professional survival.

The main causes of third-world country poverty, are poor education and lack of education.

Just for our Air Force and our Space Force history buffs. On December 4, 1959, Sam the Space monkey went into space from Wallops Island, VA. Radiobiologist and Physiologist Colonel H.L. “Lou” Bitter went home for lunch and advised his wife Edna, that his team needed a space suit, for the monkey that was heat resistant, with straps, to keep the monkey restrained. Col. Bitter asked his wife, if she had any ideas.

According to the 2017 San Antonio Express article, Edna started eyeballing, her ironing board, and stripped off the silver padded cover, making two pads. After cutting out a small hole, in one panel Mrs. Bitter, fashioned the remaining material of the remaining fabric, to hold the panels.

Within a matter of 30 minutes, Mrs. Bitter had made the first Hoover apron, and monkey space suit prototype. Many of her suit designs followed. Col. Bitter was over the School of Aerospace Medicine at Brooks Air Force Base in San Antonio. The initials of the school form the name SAM.

My wife’s mother, Maria Smith, was best friends with Mrs. Bitter. I met Col. Bitter a few times, and chatted with Mrs. Bitter a lot. Last year, I meet her daughters. The Colonel and Mrs. Bitter, never mentioned their space accomplishments. No one in our families, knew until after they both had deceased.

When we visit San Antonio, there is a nice 90-year old widow, named Mrs. Sissy, and spouse of a retired Air Force General, who still drives her car, and she treats us as though, we are special, by leaving a fruit basket on the front door steps. My lovely wife of 31 years, is also an Air Force veteran. Along with many of my in-laws.

Vote yes for Ballot Amendment 1. Education and trust, are vital for our survival. By the way, I forgot to mention that our Air Force, and our Space Force families, are well educated, fun to be around, and they are very intelligent, and smart. Just like our awesome, Alabama families!


Glenn Henry is retired from the U.S Air Force. He has been a high school teacher and university adjunct professor. He has earned numerous IT Cisco certifications. He is a Certified Professional Ethical Hacker. He lives in Montgomery with his wife Teresa.

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Courts

Lilly Ledbetter speaks about her friendship with Ginsburg

Micah Danney

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Lilly Ledbetter spoke during a virtual campaign event with Sen. Doug Jones on Sept. 21.

When anti-pay-discrimination icon and activist Lilly Ledbetter started receiving mail from late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Ledbetter’s attorney told her to save the envelopes. That’s how unusual it is to get personal mail from a member of the nation’s highest court.

Ledbetter, 82, of Jacksonville, Alabama, shared her memories of her contact with Ginsburg over the last decade during a Facebook live event hosted by Sen. Doug Jones on Monday.

Ginsburg famously read her dissent from the bench, a rare occurrence, in the Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. decision in 2007. The court ruled 5-4 to affirm a lower court’s decision that Ledbetter was not owed damages for pay discrimination because her suit was not filed within 180 days of the setting of the policy that led to her paychecks being less than those of her male colleagues. 

Ledbetter said that Ginsburg “gave me the dignity” of publicly affirming the righteousness of Ledbetter’s case, demonstrating an attention to the details of the suit.

Ginsburg challenged Congress to take action to prevent similar plaintiffs from being denied compensation due to a statute of limitations that can run out before an employee discovers they are being discriminated against. 

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 was passed by Congress with broad bipartisan support and signed into law by President Barack Obama. It resets the statute of limitation’s clock with each paycheck that is reduced by a discriminatory policy.

Ledbetter said that her heart was heavy when she learned of Ginsburg’s death on Friday. The women kept in touch after they met in 2010. That was shortly after the death of Ginsburg’s husband, tax attorney Marty Ginsburg. She spoke about her pain to Ledbetter, whose husband Charles had died two years before.

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“So we both shared that, and we shared a tear,” said Ledbetter.

Ginsburg invited her to her Supreme Court chambers to see a framed copy of the act, next to which hung a pen that Obama used to sign it.

Ginsburg later sent Ledbetter a signed copy of a cookbook honoring her husband that was published by the Supreme Court Historical Society. Included with it was a personal note, as was the case with other pieces of correspondence from the justice that Ledbetter received at her home in Alabama. They were often brochures and other written materials that Ginsburg received that featured photos of both women.

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Ledbetter expressed her support for Jones in his race against GOP challenger Tommy Tuberville. The filling of Ginsburg’s seat is a major factor in that, she said.

“I do have to talk from my heart, because I am scared to death for the few years that I have yet to live because this country is not headed in the right direction,” she said.

She noted that Ginsburg was 60 when she was appointed to the court. Ledbetter said that she opposes any nominee who is younger than 55 because they would not have the experience and breadth of legal knowledge required to properly serve on the Supreme Court.

She said that issues like hers have long-term consequences that are made even more evident by the financial strains resulting from the pandemic, as she would have more retirement savings had she been paid what her male colleagues were.

Jones called Ledbetter a friend and hero of his.

“I’ve been saying to folks lately, if those folks at Goodyear had only done the right thing by Lilly Ledbetter and the women that worked there, maybe they’d still be operating in Gadsden these days,” he said.

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Courts

Justice Ginsburg’s death will supercharge a heated 2020 campaign

The passing of one of the court’s most liberal justices so close to the Nov. 3 general election has set off a political firestorm as to what president should pick the next justice — President Donald Trump or Joe Biden, should he defeat Trump in November.

Brandon Moseley

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President Donald Trump, left, and former Vice President Joe Biden, right, are running for president in 2020. (STAFF SGT. TONY HARP/AIR NATIONAL GUARD AND GAGE SKIDMORE/FLIKR)

Just hours after the death of 87-year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Friday, conservatives, including the Alabama-based Foundation for Moral Law, said Ginsburg’s passing is an opportunity to reverse the ideological trend of the nation’s highest court.

The passing of one of the court’s most liberal justices so close to the Nov. 3 general election has set off a political firestorm as to what president should pick the next justice — President Donald Trump or Joe Biden, should he defeat Trump in November.

The controversy over when and how to confirm a new justice will likely supercharge an already heated 2020 election campaign. Trump was at a campaign rally on Friday night when he learned about the justice’s death from reporters.

“Just died? Wow, I did not know that,” Trump said. “She was an amazing woman. Whether you agreed or not she led an amazing life. She was an amazing woman. I am sad to hear that.”

Ginsburg, since her appointment by President Bill Clinton, has been bastion of the court’s more liberal wing. The court was divided with four “liberal” justices led by Ginsburg and four “conservative” justices led by Samuel Alito.

Chief Justice John Roberts, though appointed by President George W. Bush, has been the swing vote on a number of major issues since the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy in 2018. Her death gives Trump the opportunity to appoint her replacement and potentially shape the direction of the court for decades to come.

Conservatives want Trump to select the nominee and the current GOP-controlled Senate to confirm the Trump appointee.

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The Foundation for Moral Law — a conservative legal group founded by former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore — released a statement saying that Ginsburg’s passing is an opportunity to move the court in a more conservative direction.

“For many years United States Supreme Court has been a bastion for liberal anti-God ideology,” Moore said. “The passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg will be an opportunity to reverse this trend. I’m hopeful that President Trump will immediately nominate a true conservative who understands that our rights come from God and no authority in this country can take those rights from us.”

“This is a very critical time for our country and our future and the future of our posterity depends upon our vigilance and direction,” Moore said.

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Judicial Watch, another conservative legal group, echoed Moore’s statement.

“Judicial Watch sends it condolences to the family of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She had a wonderful judicial temperament that will always be remembered,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “President Trump now has a historic opportunity to nominate yet another constitutional conservative who will honor the Constitution and the rule of law across the full spectrum of constitutional issues.”

“And the U.S. Senate should move quickly to work with President Trump to consider and approve a new justice who will faithfully apply the U.S. Constitution,” Fitton said. “There is no reason we cannot have a new justice by Election Day.”

Trump is expected to put forth a nominee to fill Ginsburg’s seat in the coming days, according to ABC News.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, wrote in a statement that, “President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”

But Democratic senators and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, disagree.

“The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice,” Schumer wrote on social media Friday, parroting a similar quote McConnell used in 2016 when he refused to give then-President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, hearings and a vote for confirmation to the court. “Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”

Republicans in the Senate blocked Obama from selecting Justice Antonin Scalia’s replacement. Scalia was the most conservative jurist on the court.

Ginsburg was a staunch supporter of abortion rights and voter protections, and she played a major role in upholding Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision protecting abortion rights. She also voted in favor of same-sex marriage and to uphold the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.

Most political observers expect Trump to appoint a woman to fill Ginsburg’s spot. Political insiders have suggested that Trump believes that appointing a woman to the court could help him with woman, a key swing demographic that will likely decide the next election.

Will the Senate confirm Trump’s appointment before the election or wait until after the public votes? If Republicans lose control of the Senate, could a lame duck GOP majority select the direction of the court on their way out?

Alabama Sen. Doug Jones has been widely criticized for his vote against the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh. If the vote comes before the Nov. 3 election, Jones’s decision on whether to confirm Trump’s appointee will be heavily scrutinized.

The questions about the Supreme Court is likely to only further inflame passions on both sides this election cycle.

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Elections

Prisoners quarantined at formerly closed prison kept in unconstitutional conditions, groups say

Conditions are so bad that inmates have been forced to urinate and defacate on themselves because restrooms are not accessible, the complaint alleges.

Eddie Burkhalter

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The male intake area at an ADOC facility. (VIA ADOC)

The Alabama Department of Corrections is violating the constitutional rights of inmates being quarantined in deplorable conditions in the previously decommissioned Draper prison, several civil rights groups wrote in a letter to the state’s prison commissioner.

The ACLU of Alabama, the Southern Center for Human Rights, Alabama Appleseed and other groups in a letter to Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn on Thursday detail those conditions, which include no indoor toilets or running water, repeated power outages, deprivation of regular showers and the requirement of incarcerated men to urinate in “styrofoam cups and plastic water” bottles.

“These conditions fail to meet the most basic constitutional standards and present a substantial risk of serious harm to people already suffering from a potentially fatal disease,” the letter reads. “We therefore request that you immediately cease using Draper to house and/or quarantine COVID-19 patients, and instead house them in medically appropriate settings in accordance with Eighth Amendment standards.”

The groups note that Draper was closed after the U.S. Department of Justice, during its investigation of violence in Alabama prisons, noted Draper as exceptionally “dangerous and unsanitary” with “open sewage” near the entrance, rat and maggot infestations and “standing sewage water on the floors.”

In October 2017, the Justice Department informed ADOC of the department’s shock at the state of the facility and a month later ADOC’s engineer concluded that Draper was “no longer suitable to house inmates, or to be used as a correctional facility,” the letter states.

ADOC reopened a portion of Draper earlier this year to house incoming inmates from county jails being quarantined amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but the civil rights groups note in the letter that ADOC failed to indicate plans to also use a classroom without bathrooms, running water or adequate medical care at Draper to house COVID-19 patients from other state prisons.

The groups allege in the letter that approximately 15 cots are located in the approximately 500 square feet former classroom, where at any given time between 5 and 15 inmates are being kept. The only restroom facilities the men can use are portable bathrooms outside, and the men have to “bang on the classroom windows to get officers’ attention.”

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“Though officers sometimes escort the men when asked, they decline at other times and fail to maintain a schedule; thus, the men do not have access to bathroom facilities when needed,” the letter reads, adding that the men aren’t allowed to use the outdoor restrooms between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

“We have further reason to believe that one man was permitted to use the bathroom only three times during a 13-day quarantine. Another man was not taken to the bathroom until his third day at Draper, while another was forced to urinate on himself on multiple occasions after being denied bathroom access,” according to the letter. “One man suffering from diarrhea was forced to wait hours to use the restroom to defecate. Many others could only relieve themselves into styrofoam cups, plastic bottles, portable urinal containers, or trash cans.”

“They had to hold onto urine-filled bottles for hours at a time until they were allowed to leave the classroom to empty them. It is also our understanding that some men held in these conditions did not receive bottles at all; correctional officers simply told these men that they were ‘out of luck,’” the letter continues.

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The letter also details instances of alleged inadequate medical care, including a man who was sent to a local hospital with heart attack symptoms after not receiving his heart medication for several days.

The groups are also unaware of any Inmates leaving Draper who were tested for COVID-19 before being returned to Elmore and Staton prisons, the letter also states.

“We also have reason to believe that many of the symptomatic men at Staton and Elmore have not reported their symptoms to prison staff for fear of being held at Draper in the deplorable conditions described above,” the letter continues.

APR has learned from several sources in recent weeks, who asked not to be identified because they have loved ones in Alabama prisons and are fearful of retributions for speaking out, that many inmates who have symptoms of COVID-19 aren’t reporting those symptoms to prison staff for fear of being quarantined. Those family members are concerned that the disease is spreading much more broadly in Alabama prisons than is known as a result, putting their loved ones at greater risk of contracting the deadly disease.

Many of the concerns expressed in the letter were first reported by AL.com reported on Sept. 13, which found that access to medical care in Draper is limited and the conditions unsanitary.

In a response to AL.com’s questions for that article, an ADOC spokeswoman wrote that inmates at Draper have access to “medical and mental health care, telephones, law library, mail services, and showers.”

“Please remember — Inmates remanded to our custody have been convicted of a crime and handed a sentence to serve time as determined by a court. The unfortunate reality is that he or she, as a result of the crime committed and subsequent conviction, loses his or her freedoms,” ADOC said in the responses.

“This response is unacceptable as a matter of principle, and inadequate as a matter of law,” the letter from the civil rights group states.

“As ADOC knows, the fact of a criminal conviction does not strip incarcerated people of their rights under the Eighth Amendment, nor does it relieve ADOC of its constitutional obligations to the people in its custody, which are to provide them with ‘humane conditions of confinement,’ ‘adequate food, clothing, shelter, and medical care,’ and ‘reasonable safety,’” the letter continues.

On Sept. 16, ADOC reported that there have been 403 confirmed COVID-19 cases among inmates, 21 deaths of inmates after testing positive for COVID-19, and 375 cases among prison staff. Two prison workers have died from COVID-19, ADOC previously said.

As of Sept. 14, there had been 1,954 inmate tests for coronavirus, out of the approximately 22,000 state inmates, according to ADOC.

ADOC on Sept. 16 said that on Thursday the department was to begin rolling out a plan to provide free COVID-19 tests to ADOC staff and contracted healthcare staff using fixed and mobile testing sites.

“In addition, we will test all inmates in facilities that house large numbers of inmates with high risk factors as an enhancement to our current testing protocols,” ADOC said in a press release.

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Elections

Alabama Democrats: Tuberville doesn’t have a plan or experience

Brandon Moseley

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U.S. Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville (VIA TUBERVILlE CAMPAIGN)

The Alabama Democratic Party on Wednesday released a statement slamming Republican Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville for not commenting on Hurricane Sally.

Tuberville is challenging U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, in the Nov. 3 general election.

“Tommy Tuberville said he didn’t have a clue how to address the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, so it isn’t surprising that he hasn’t offered a single word for the Gulf Coast in the face of a life-threatening storm,” said Wade Perry, the executive director of the Alabama Democratic Party. “He doesn’t have a plan or the experience to tackle an actual crisis. Unlike our own U.S. Senator Doug Jones.”

The Jones campaign has seized on the “Tommy Tuberville does not have a clue” narrative, trying to make the argument that Tuberville, a career football coach who has never held a public office before, lacks the experience necessary to represent the people of Alabama in the U.S. Senate.

Jones used that line several times at a Labor Day appearance in Leeds.

“Senator Jones was on the ground in Lee County after devastating tornadoes and worked across party lines to secure emergency relief for farmers and families in the Wiregrass,” Perry said. “He will always be there to help Alabamians navigate a crisis and save lives— he always has, and always will.”

The Tuberville campaign disputed the ADP narrative.

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Hurricane Sally devastated Dauphin Island in Mobile County as well as Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, and Fort Morgan in coastal Baldwin County when it came ashore as a category two hurricane with 105 miles per hour winds.

Sally then inundated South Alabama, West Florida and Georgia with heavy rain, leading to localized flooding. Several roads were closed on Thursday across South Alabama due to flooding including in Troy, Andalusia and Opp.

Almost 200,000 Alabama homes lost power due to the storm. Alabama Power crews are still working to restore power to customers who lost power.

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Jones defeated former Chief Justice Roy Moore in a 2017 special election. This was the only time that a Democratic candidate had won any statewide race in Alabama since 2008.

Jones and his allies led an effort to topple the then-existing leadership of the Alabama Democratic Party in 2019. The new chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party, State Rep. Christopher England, D-Tuscaloosa, is trying to make the case that times have changed and the state has two viable political parties.

Republicans are targeting Jones, a Democratic senator representing a very red state. Democrats are hopeful that they can hold Jones’ seat and take control of the U.S. Senate.

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