• Education

    Reports: Alabama Higher Ed Relies More on Tuition, Less on State Support

    Revenue at Alabama’s higher education institutions in 2020 was greater than the national per-student average and ranked seventh in the nation, but students’ tuition dollars made up significantly more of that total than the national average.

    About 67% of Alabama’s higher education’s total revenue came from tuition, according to information from the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association. In 2008, the “student share” of total revenue was 41.7%, according to a report from the association.

    “The hard part is 67% of our total revenue is dependent on tuition, which means parents and families have a bigger share of that,” Alabama Commission on Higher Education Executive Director Jim Purcell told commission members at their quarterly board meeting this month.

    “Alabama has a lot of low-income people, but our tuition revenue is twice the national average,” Purcell said. Read more.

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  • Environment

    Environmental Groups Appeal Judge’s Cahaba River Ruling to the Supreme Court

    A lawsuit seeking to compel the Birmingham Water Works Board to permanently protect Cahaba River watershed lands is advancing to the Alabama Supreme Court.

    The Cahaba River Society and Cahaba Riverkeeper are appealing a Jefferson County Circuit Court’s recent decision to throw out the lawsuit against the BWWB they filed in March. In it, they allege the board has failed to comply with a 2001 consent decree ordering it to protect undeveloped land around the Cahaba watershed. Read more.

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  • City of Birmingham

    5 Ways Birmingham Is Celebrating Its 150th Birthday

    Mayor Randall Woodfin and Darlene Negrotto, Vulcan Park and Museum CEO, announced on Monday a series of events to celebrate Birmingham’s 150 anniversary. Read more.

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  • Coronavirus

    Vaccinations Needed to Guard Against Possible Resurgence of COVID, UAB Professor Says

    A professor from the UAB School of Public Health urged people who are on the fence when it comes to getting the COVID-19 vaccine to “jump off (and) give it a try.”

    “We’ve got millions of people that have been vaccinated with very few side effects,” Dr. Suzanne Judd said Thursday during a Zoom question-and-answer session with the media. “The most important thing is this pandemic could turn again in the fall, and you want to be on the side of being vaccinated if that virus starts circulating rapidly again.”

    She said the state may have dodged a bullet in terms of a COVID surge following Memorial Day, but there could be trouble ahead when Labor Day comes around if more people don’t get vaccinated.
    Read more.

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  • Public Safety

    $125,000 Fund Set Up for Rewards in Shootings of Children

    On May 18, Katrina Grady, a nursing assistant for more than 20 years, stopped on the side of Warrior Road to provide aid to what she believed was an injured person in a car. The car was empty, and Grady’s family came under fire.

    Her 8-year-old daughter, Katilynn, was hit by a rifle bullet and injured in the shoulder and head. Grady was told by doctors that it was a miracle she was alive. “The doctors told me that if she had moved her head any other kind of way, it would have been another situation right now,” Grady said.

    Tuesday, Grady stood before a crowd at a press conference arranged by Mayor Randall Woodfin and made an emotional plea for change as her daughter stood off to the side.

    Woodfin announced formation of a $125,000 Gun Violence Against Children Fund, a collaboration with more than 20 churches and organizations to combat gun violence against children in the city. Crime Stoppers will administer the fund to pay $25,000 in reward money for information leading to the arrest of individuals responsible in each of five cases involving children under the age of 10. Arrests already have been made in a sixth case involving another child.

    “Never in a million years would I have expected something like that to happen,” Grady told the crowd. “For six kids to get shot, we’ve got to do better. Somebody knows who (did) this to my child and I want justice. It hurt me more than anything.” Read more.

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  • Alabama Legislature

    Five Things You Need to Know About Alabama’s New Medical Marijuana Law

    Alabama’s new medical marijuana law is more than 100-pages long. We did the hard work and pulled out the highlights that may impact you. Read more.

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  • Race in Alabama

    In The Birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement, What Changed in the Year Since George Floyd’s Murder?

    The death of George Floyd at the hands of law enforcement sparked police reform efforts and organizing all over the country. But in the birthplace of the civil rights movement, there hasn’t been as much action. Read more.

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  • Alabama Legislature

    Ivey Vetoes Literacy Act Delay Bill

    MONTGOMERY — Gov. Kay Ivey has vetoed a bill that would have delayed until 2024 a requirement that third-grade students who are not reading proficiently repeat the grade.

    Senate Bill 94, sponsored by Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, would have delayed the holdback provision in the Alabama Literacy Act from spring 2022 to spring 2024.

    Democrats and many Republicans supported the bill arguing that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected students’ education, forcing some out of the classroom, and to test them after next school year under the act would be unfair. Read more.

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  • Birmingham City Council

    Birmingham Seeks Dollars for Its Entertainment Venues

    Birmingham will apply for federal relief for five city-owned concert spaces and museums that lost revenue during the pandemic.

    The Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program, established last year by the Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Nonprofits and Venues Act, offers funding for COVID-impacted entities, public or private, including live venues, movie theaters, museums and live performing arts organizations.

    The city will seek SVOG funding for Boutwell Auditorium, Sloss Historic Landmark Furnace, the Southern Museum of Flight, Birmingham Botanical Gardens and Arlington Historic House. Read more.

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  • Alabama Legislature

    State Lawmakers Expect Multiple Special Sessions

    MONTGOMERY — Alabama lawmakers could be called back to the State House this year for multiple special sessions on various issues, but the likely first topic will be the distribution of billions of dollars in federal COVID-19 relief funds.

    That American Rescue Plan Act money will start flowing to the state as soon as this month, but the state’s share can’t be distributed to agencies or dedicated to specific causes until it goes through an allocation process similar to the annual General Fund budgets. Alabama Daily News previously reported the state, including local governments, will receive more than $4 billion in this round of relief approved in March. Read more.

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  • Birmingham City Council

    Woodfin Promises “Recovery and Restoration” With Proposed FY 2022 Budget

    Looking at Mayor Randall Woodfin’s proposed budget for the 2022 fiscal year, it’d be easy to imagine that COVID-19 — and the havoc it wreaked on Birmingham’s city coffers — had never happened.

    This year’s budget had dropped by nearly $29 million, largely the result of diminished business tax revenues. Woodfin’s proposed FY 2022 budget, by contrast, is the city’s largest to date. At $455.5 million, it’s nearly $3 million more than the pre-pandemic, $452.8 million FY 2020 budget.

    In a call with reporters Monday afternoon, Woodfin said the budget “doesn’t have any pain points,” in contrast to the austerity of the previous year. And though city finance director Lester Smith stopped short of saying the city had made a full financial recovery — revenue from business licenses is down about $5 million from last year — the proposed budget casts a rosy light on the city’s post-COVID future. Read more.

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  • Coronavirus

    As Demand Drops, Health Officials Look for Ways to Encourage Vaccinations

    UPDATED — The decline of COVID-19 vaccinations being administered in many states has caused alarm among medical professionals.

    According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, on April 8, Alabama reached its peak of doses given, at 44,165. That number as of May 10 had dropped to 10,405. The significant drop now has state health departments and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention focusing on how to encourage the next wave of individuals set to get the vaccine.

    Dr. David Hicks, the deputy health officer for the Jefferson County Department of Health, said the lower numbers are a sign the state has gotten most of the high-risk individuals vaccinated, and now it is shifting focus to persuade younger and more reluctant populations to get the shots.

    “I think that initially we had a high demand with limited supply, and I believe the people who were demanding the vaccine were the people who were at a higher risk and those who were really eager to get vaccinated,” he said.

    “I think we’ve done a really great job at this point of vaccinating all those people and we’ve now shifted to trying to target people who haven’t strongly considered getting vaccinated … now it’s the harder part of the population to engage with.”

    Now that the first wave of individuals is fully vaccinated, the next obstacle lies in getting skeptics and those apathetic to the vaccine to want the shots. Read more.

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  • Alabama Legislature

    Lawmakers Want Another Shot at State-Owned Prison Plan

    MONTGOMERY — As the state’s plan to lease new mega-prisons hit another apparent roadblock Monday, more lawmakers appear ready for the state to instead borrow money to construct its own new facilities.

    Some legislative leaders on Monday said lawmakers are ready to approve a state-owned prison plan. At least one said support would be there as early as next Monday, the Legislature’s final day of the regular session.

    Multiple sources told Alabama Daily News that lawmakers have discussed taking current legislation that is awaiting final passage and substituting it with language initiating a state prison bond process similar to one former Gov. Robert Bentley pursued in 2016 and 2017. Read more.

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  • Race in Alabama

    A Lack of Hate or Lack of Reporting?: Alabama Has Reported Zero Hate Crimes in the Past Two Years

    On April 9, 2020, the Etz Chayim Synagogue in Huntsville was defaced with antisemitic graffiti. The following day, the Chabad of Huntsville was vandalized with similar hate speech. Security footage taken from both scenes indicates the same perpetrator committed both crimes. Given that they took place on the first night of the Jewish holiday Passover, the crimes are thought to be meticulously planned and executed with one purpose: to send a message of hate to the Jewish community.

    Mayor Tommy Battle released a statement to the public saying “the city of Huntsville condemns antisemitism in the strongest possible terms” and emphasized Huntsville as a city of inclusivity and acceptance. “Any offense against one is an offense against all,” Battle said.

    The case has since been handed over to the FBI, and no perpetrator has been caught.

    Despite these attacks against the Jewish community the state of Alabama has reported zero hate crimes to the FBI’s annual Unified Crime Report for the past two years in a row. It is the only state in the country that has reported zero hate crimes. 

    “It is highly implausible that in 2019 or 2018, no hate crimes were committed in Alabama. Of the over 417 law enforcement agencies in the state, only two actually participated in the 2019 reporting process to the FBI, which is deeply troubling and undoubtedly means that many hate crimes have gone unreported,” said Dr. Allison Padilla-Goodman, vice president of the Anti-Defamation League’s Southern Division. Read more.

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  • Economy

    Help Wanted: Restaurant Industry Struggles to Find Workers

    MONTGOMERY — After taking an initial hit at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic last year, Alabama’s economy has largely bounced back. Still, some businesses are having trouble finding enough workers, particularly in the restaurant and hospitality industry.

    A drive down Zelda Road in Montgomery, the Capital City’s midtown eatery hub, shows “help wanted” signs in almost every store.
    Information from the Alabama Department of Labor shows a 52% increase in advertised food prep and serving jobs in the first quarter of this year compared to the same period in 2020. Advertised waitress and waiter positions have increased about 44%. Hotel desk clerk postings have more than doubled.

    Mindy Hanan, president of the Alabama Restaurant and Hospitality Association, said the state’s restaurants and hotels can’t get enough workers.

    “We’re wide open and we need as many employees as we can have,” Hanan said. Read more.

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  • Census

    Alabama Avoids Loss of Congressional Seat with Slight Population Gain

    Alabama avoided the loss of a congressional seat as its population grew from 4.8 million in 2010 to 5.03 million last year, according to figures released Monday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

    State officials had feared Alabama would lose one of its seven seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and one of its nine Electoral College members, based on the 2020 census.

    The census is taken every 10 years, and the 435 seats in the House are apportioned according to the population of the states. The Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama released in analysis in January, predicting Alabama would keep its seven congressional seats and that New York would lose one seat.
    Read more.

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  • Alabama Legislature

    Child Abuse Cost Alabama $3.7 Billion in 2018, New Report Says

    MONTGOMERY — A new report from the Alabama Department of Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention says child maltreatment, abuse and neglect have cost the state around $3.7 billion.

    Various community organizers and state agencies that work to prevent child abuse gathered at the State House on Tuesday to present the report and stress to legislators the importance of investing in the prevention of child maltreatment.

    “You can pay now or you can pay later; you can’t do more with less,” Sallye Longshore, director of the ADCANP, said.
    Read more.

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  • Coronavirus

    Past And Present Collide As Community Health Centers Strive To Close Rural Care Gaps In The Pandemic

    In the 1960s, health care for Black residents in rural Mississippi was practically non-existent. While some hospitals served Black patients, they struggled to stay afloat; most options were segregated. During the height of the civil rights movement, young Black doctors decided to launch a movement of their own.

    “Mississippi was third-world and was so bad and so separated. The community health center movement was the conduit for physicians all over this country who believed that all people have a right to health care,” said Dr. Robert Smith.

    In 1965, Smith co-founded the Delta Health Center, the country’s first rural community health center, in Mound Bayou, a small town tucked away into the heart of the Mississippi Delta. The center became a national model and is now one of nearly 1,400 across the country. They are a key resource across Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama, where about 2 in 5 Americans live in rural areas.

    These rural health care providers remain under-resourced and the COVID-19 pandemic has only magnified existing challenges, like lack of broadband access and limited public transportation. For much of the vaccine rollout, those barriers have made it difficult for providers, like community health centers, to get shots in the arms of their patients.

    As vaccine demand slows and coronavirus infection rates start to increase, state and federal officials are turning to these health centers to fulfill the mission of making the vaccine available to all Americans. In April, the Biden administration invested $6 billion in community health centers as part of a plan to increase access and awareness in the hardest-hit communities.
    Read more.

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  • Economy

    City Leaders Watch Business Licenses for COVID-19 Impact

    In a March presentation on how the city of Birmingham’s finances are faring one year into the pandemic, city finance director Lester Smith said business license filings were down about 500 in the first 2.5 months of the year compared to the same time last year.

    “My concern is that differentiation between those numbers may be lost businesses, but we don’t know that yet, so we have to continue to monitor it,” Smith said late last month.

    Municipal business licenses are usually due early each year and have been an anticipated gauge of the true economic impact of COVID-19.

    “The overall concern is that in the municipalities that have seen a downturn in license renewals, is that you have lost some jobs and loss of business investment in your community,” Alabama League of Municipalities Executive Director Greg Cochran told Alabama Daily News. “Ensuring that businesses stayed healthy during the pandemic and stayed afloat financially was a difficult tight rope for a lot of them to maneuver down.” Read more.

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  • Economy

    Big Union Loss at Amazon Warehouse Casts Shadow Over Labor Movement

    After a nearly two-month-long union election, Amazon warehouse worker Carla Johnson is ready to move on.

    “I’m glad it’s over,” Johnson said. “Now I can stop getting the emails, the phone calls, you know, from the union reps.”

    Results from last week showed Amazon workers in Bessemer voted more than 2-to-1 against joining a union. Johnson voted to keep the union out because she trusts Amazon – the company treated her well during her recent battle with brain cancer. She also doesn’t believe the union could deliver on promises to raise pay and improve work conditions.

    She hopes her co-workers can leave the idea of unionizing behind, but she doubts they will. And she’s right.

    “We’re not running away with our tails behind us because there was no victory,” said Amazon warehouse worker Jennifer Bates at a rally on Sunday at the union’s Birmingham headquarters. “There was illegal things taking place and fear tactics that was done to people who didn’t have any idea about what a union could do for them.” Read more.

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  • Birmingham City Council

    Redevelopment of Southtown as Mixed-Use Property to Begin in June

    The Birmingham City Council voted Tuesday to rezone the Southtown Court housing project, making way for a mixed-use redevelopment of the property.

    Now designated a “mixed-use downtown” district, the property, near St. Vincent’s Birmingham, will be transformed into a development that includes multi-family residential, hotel, office, retail/dining, medical office, parking garage and open space uses. Developers intend to turn the property into a “pedestrian-friendly corridor,” including pocket parks, green spaces and bike lanes.

    Plans to redevelop the property, near where a 455-unit housing project now stands have existed in some form since at least 2008. Read more.

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  • Coronavirus

    Extra Unemployment Benefits Ended Saturday

    As of Saturday, Alabama’s unemployed workers will no longer receive extra federally funded benefits put in place to help people during the COVID-19 pandemic. Gov. Kay Ivey last month announced she was withdrawing the state from those programs effective June 19. Read more about her reasons and the effects on the unemployed in BirminghamWatch’s original reporting.
    Governor Shuts Down Extra Help for the Unemployed, Says Workers Needed to Invigorate the Economy

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  • 2022 Elections

    Blalock to Challenge Rafferty for Birmingham House Seat

    Brit Blalock, a community organizer and Orange Beach native, has announced that she will challenge state Rep. Neil Rafferty, D-Birmingham, for the Democratic nomination for House District 54. But the leader of House Democrats says they’ll firmly back the incumbent.

    Blalock said in a campaign ad that her experience fighting for progressive causes makes her the right voice to represent the Birmingham district.

    “When I saw my LGBTQ community’s isolation, I built organizations to foster belonging,” Blalock said. “When reproductive freedom was threatened, I created a coalition to fight back. When I heard the cries for racial justice fall on deaf ears, I took to the streets. When I found out that women only hold 15% of our legislative seats, I rolled up my sleeves to help women candidates win.

    The race pits Blalock, who identifies as non-binary, against Rafferty, the only openly gay member in the Legislature. Read more.

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  • Public Safety

    Bang, Bang. You’re Closed: Birmingham threatens to close clubs with violent episodes.

    The city of Birmingham is going to make a greater effort to close clubs and venues where gun violence takes place, Mayor Randall Woodfin said Tuesday.

    “I want to give public notice to any club owner,” Woodfin said in a press conference after Tuesday’s City Council meeting. “You are responsible for protecting your patrons, and if you do not do so, we will move to shut you down.”

    The announcement follows an early morning drive-by shooting at Club Euphoria in west Birmingham that left 21-year-old Lykeria Taylor dead and another male injured. Read more.

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  • Alabama Legislature

    ‘Retain Alabama’ Effort Looks to Keep Bachelor’s Degree Recipients in State

    Knowing that nearly half of Alabama’s public university bachelor’s degree earners are working in other states five years after they graduate, state leaders are funding more efforts to keep that talent pool at home.

    In the 2022 state education budget, lawmakers allocated $800,000 for a new “Retain Alabama” initiative to introduce college students to opportunities for them in the Yellowhammer state.

    “Our state has been a low-growth state and we have to do all we can to retain that knowledge capital that we’re losing every year when they leave,” said Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, chairman of the Senate education budget committee. Read more.

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  • Alabama Board of Education

    Alabama GOP Policymakers Seek to Keep Critical Race Theory Out of Classrooms

    Alabama GOP leaders are following a national trend to block the teaching in public schools of what they call divisive concepts related to race.

    The Alabama State Board of Education on Thursday discussed proposed resolutions against instruction of “critical race theory,” and at least one state lawmaker wants to see a prohibition made into law.

    One of the resolutions given to the board originated with the help of Gov. Kay Ivey’s office, state Superintendent Eric Mackey said.

    A spokeswoman for Ivey, who is the head of the state school board, told Alabama Daily News that critical race theory is not in Alabama’s current curriculum.
    Read more.

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  • Birmingham City Council

    Birmingham Council OKs Law to Allow Museum to Return Native American Art

    The Birmingham Museum of Art will soon return several works of art to two Native American tribes that have requested them back. An ordinance passed Tuesday by the Birmingham City Council has cleared the way for the return of several items to the Tlingit and Haida tribes of Alaska. Read more.

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  • Coronavirus

    Why Alabama’s Declining Vaccination Rate Could Spell an ‘Uncomfortable Summer’

    Close to 70% of Alabamians are still not fully vaccinated against COVID-19, but many people have stopped wearing masks and returned to normal activities. Read more.

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  • 2022 Elections

    “No Step Too High for a High-Stepper”: Gov. Kay Ivey Says She’s Running for Another Term

    For those who wondered whether the oldest sitting governor in the United States would seek four more years in office, Kay Ivey has provided her answer.

    Ivey announced Wednesday that she will seek a second full term in the 2022 gubernatorial election.

    In a video announcement, Ivey touted the accomplishments of her administration since 2017, with a handful of her famous homespun expressions thrown in for good measure, including one of her most famous lines, “There’s no step too high for a high-stepper.”

    In scenes filled with sweeping vistas and familiar Alabama sights that are staples of many a campaign ad, she described Alabama as a place “where a red dirt road can take you anywhere, and the sky is never the limit.” Read more.

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  • Coronavirus

    Alabama’s COVID Case Numbers Still on Downtrend, but Deaths Increase Slightly

    New COVID-19 cases in Alabama continue the slow decline that has prevailed over two months’ time, though deaths attributed to the virus have ramped upward slightly in the past week.

    In BirminghamWatch’s periodic analysis of COVID data, the 7-day moving average of new cases reported by the Alabama Department of Public Health is now at 277.14 per day, the lowest level for that average since May 19 of last year.

    The COVID death toll rate has slipped upward, however, as 93 fatalities were reported in the past seven days, resulting in a 7-day moving average of 13.29. Read more.

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  • Congress

    ‘Earmarks’ Are Back, but Not All Alabama Lawmakers Are Participating

    It has a new name and many new requirements, but the process known as earmarking, or designating federal funds for distribution at the request of members of Congress, is now officially back on Capitol Hill.

    This spring, the House Appropriations Committee invited all House members to submit proposals for “Community Project Funding,” a new term for the age-old practice of earmarking that has been banned by rule for the past ten years. In a new effort at ensuring transparency, those proposed projects have been published member by member.

    Alabama’s House delegation was split on the prospect of placing community projects in the budget. Reps. Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville, Mike Rogers, R-Saks, Jerry Carl, R-Mobile and Terri Sewell, D-Selma each submitted multiple projects for consideration, while Reps. Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, Gary Palmer, R-Birmingham, and Barry Moore, R-Enterprise, did not. Read more.

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  • Health Care

    Low Likelihood of Matched Bone Marrow Donors Among African Americans

    Finding a 100% bone marrow match is a challenge for most people with cancer, but it’s even more difficult if you’re Black.

    Be The Match, the largest and most diverse marrow registry in the world, only carries 4% of their registry from African Americans. Research showed bone marrow matches are best among people of the same race and ethnicity.

    This makes Black people far less likely to find a bone marrow match when searching for a cure for blood cancer.

    Stephanie Jackson, an account manager with Be The Match, said African-Americans have an especially hard time matching with donors compared to whites.

    “If you are Caucasian, and you do not have a match in your family, you have a 77% chance of finding a match,” Jackson said.

    But for African Americans, that drops to 23%, because only a tiny fraction of registered donors are African American, Jackson said.
    Read more.

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  • Coronavirus

    COVID Hospitalizations Among Elderly Now Fewer Than Young Adults

    For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, more patients hospitalized in April were aged 16 to 34 than were 75 and older.

    That’s not because the number of infected young adults has risen, according to Dr. Suzanne Judd, a professor with the School of Public Health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Instead, infections among the elderly have plummeted as a result of vaccinations, while infections among young adults have stayed level.

    “That’s an indication that the vaccine is working and doing what it’s supposed to do,” Judd said in a media conference Wednesday. “Since January, when we really started ramping up vaccinations, there have been just huge decreases (in infections) in those populations that are getting vaccinated at high levels.” Read more.

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  • Alabama Legislature

    Ivey Signs Medical Marijuana Bill Into Law

    Alabama will now allow medical marijuana usage for patients with specific conditions.

    Gov. Kay Ivey on Monday signed Senate Bill 46, which outlines the usage of medical marijuana along with its regulation and distribution.

    “This is certainly a sensitive and emotional issue and something that is continually being studied. … I am interested in the potential good medical cannabis can have for those with chronic illnesses or what it can do to improve the quality of life of those in their final days.” Ivey Signs Medical Marijuana Bill Into Law

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  • City of Birmingham

    Local, Federal Officials Launch Partnership to Reduce Gun Violence in Birmingham

    Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin launched a collaborative effort with federal and local law enforcement agencies to put an end to the city’s growing gun violence problem. The partnership, announced Friday, imposes stiff penalties for people who have unauthorized guns. Officials called on the community to help make the city safer by providing information on people who may be involved in criminal activity. Read more.

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  • City of Birmingham

    Birmingham Sets Up Civilian Board to Review Police Misconduct

    Mayor Randall Woodfin announced Monday morning the creation of a Civilian Review Board to investigate claims of misconduct by the Birmingham Police Department. The five-member board will have the authority to investigate citizen complaints and will have some subpoena powers to aid those investigations, Woodfin said. Read more.

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