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Why Is It Illegal to Feed the Homeless in Some U.S. Cities?

Arnold Abbott is a 90-year old World War II veteran and retired jewelry salesman. He was arrested last year and may face up to 60 days in jail or pay $500 in fines. What was his crime?

illegal to feed the homeless lawMr. Abbott is guilty of feeding the homeless in public parks in Florida. This may sound ridiculous, but Fort Lauderdale, like many other cities, has passed ordinances that criminalize feeding the homeless.

So far, 71 cities across the United States have passed or have attempted to pass such laws and many more are in the process of doing so.

What exactly is a “feeding ban” ordinance? Many of these feeding ban ordinances regulate public property use and will require feeding sites to stay a certain distance away from each other or residential areas. Typically, the ordinances also require a permit for the food sharing or order a complete ban on the act. It’s not uncommon to see the following types of arrests and fines since the passing of these laws:

  • In 2011, 20 activists in Orlando were arrested while they were passing out food for 35 homeless individuals.
  • In 2013, police arrested members of a church group in Raleigh, North Carolina for handing out coffee and sausage biscuits.
  • In 2014, six people where fined $2,000 in Daytona Beach, Florida for feeding the homeless at a park. (The fines were eventually dropped).

Many of these cities stand by their ordinances and claim that the motivations behind these laws are to:

  • Ensure that food safety regulations are being followed
  • Limit the activities that occur after the food is passed out, such as fights, drug use, and general loitering in city parks
  • Stop the “street feeding” that enables and promotes homelessness

Advocates for the homeless, however, view this as a pretext. Instead, many believe that the cities are banning these charitable acts because it makes homelessness more apparent and visible in these cities.

Whatever the reason may be, many people do not agree with the ordinances, nor the enforcement of them. In December of last year, a judge suspended the enforcement of the feeding ban in Fort Lauderdale and ordered mediation to resolve the issue. Mr. Abbott was the challenger of the ordinance and continues to feed the homeless.

Arnold Abbott is a 90-year old World War II veteran and retired jewelry salesman. He was arrested last year and may face up to 60 days in jail or pay $500 in fines. What was his crime?

Mr. Abbott is guilty of feeding the homeless in public parks in Florida. This may sound ridiculous, but Fort Lauderdale, like many other cities, has passed ordinances that criminalize feeding the homeless.

So far, 71 cities across the United States have passed or have attempted to pass such laws and many more are in the process of doing so.

What exactly is a “feeding ban” ordinance? Many of these feeding ban ordinances regulate public property use and will require feeding sites to stay a certain distance away from each other or residential areas. Typically, the ordinances also require a permit for the food sharing or order a complete ban on the act. It’s not uncommon to see the following types of arrests and fines since the passing of these laws:

  • In 2011, 20 activists in Orlando were arrested while they were passing out food for 35 homeless individuals.
  • In 2013, police arrested members of a church group in Raleigh, North Carolina for handing out coffee and sausage biscuits.
  • In 2014, six people where fined $2,000 in Daytona Beach, Florida for feeding the homeless at a park. (The fines were eventually dropped).

Many of these cities stand by their ordinances and claim that the motivations behind these laws are to:

  • Ensure that food safety regulations are being followed
  • Limit the activities that occur after the food is passed out, such as fights, drug use, and general loitering in city parks
  • Stop the “street feeding” that enables and promotes homelessness

Advocates for the homeless, however, view this as a pretext. Instead, many believe that the cities are banning these charitable acts because it makes homelessness more apparent and visible in these cities.

Whatever the reason may be, many people do not agree with the ordinances, nor the enforcement of them. In December of last year, a judge suspended the enforcement of the feeding ban in Fort Lauderdale and ordered mediation to resolve the issue. Mr. Abbott was the challenger of the ordinance and continues to feed the homeless.

Can You Vacation in Cuba?

In 1962, President Kennedy ordered his press secretary to secure as many Cuban cigars as the secretary could find. The late President of the United States stockpiled 1,200 cigars for his personal use. Upon securing the cigars, President Kennedy signed the Cuban trade embargo, banning the import of any Cuban products.

can you travel to cuba for vacationHalf a century later, President Obama has begun the first steps in normalizing relations with Cuba. Part of the transition is to legalize travel between the United States and Cuba. New policies have been set in place to make that happen. Can Americans legally vacation in Cuba now?

Opening the Island Nation

The focus on the Cuba debate is whether the embargo hurts the Cuban government or the Cuban government. Ignoring the fact that the Castros have been in power since 1959, the debate should shift more towards whether opening Cuba is in America’s best interest. The “education” tours show that there is money to be made by opening further travel to Cuba.

Tourism is obviously the biggest lure. Americans are still not allowed to travel to Cuba for leisure or recreation. However, under the new rules Americans can now travel to Cuba for “educational activities.” Travel companies and tour groups are taking advantage of the change in policy by offering “educational exchange trips” to tourists. The tours comply with the new rules by giving tourists the opportunity to interact with local Cubans, including farmers, doctors, and fishermen, among others. Of course, these tours also take travelers around the island to see more exotic regions.

The United States doesn’t export enough goods these days and Cuba is a fresh market that might actually stir the economy. Cuba is in need of food stuffs and a new market would greatly boost farm productivity. This is a better option than bankruptcy or taxpayer subsidies (although farmers could potentially get subsidies and export food to Cuba).

This doesn’t mean money is more important than democracy, but the embargo hasn’t lead to a Cuban democracy. If Americans can travel and trade freely with Cuba, our merchants and tourists can help the Cuban people more than CIA agents and battleships.

Could Rolling Stone Magazine Be Found Liable for the False Rape Story?

If Sued, Will Rolling Stone Be Found Liable for the False Rape Story?

In November 2014, Rolling Stone magazine published an article titled, “A Rape on Campus,” describing the brutal gang rape of a freshman named Jackie at a Phi Kappa Psi party at the University of Virginia. As a result of the story, Greek activities on the UVA campus were suspended. Multiple protests of Greek life were held on the UVA campus criticizing the initiation and pledging process of its fraternities.

Rolling SInvestigations into the case have found that the Rolling Stone story was, in fact, not truthful. Rolling Stone has since issued an apology for the story, stating that their trust in Jackie was “misplaced.”

In recent months, many have raised the question whether Phi Kappa Psi or any other fraternity with a UVA chapter could sue Rolling Stone for defamation based on the false story.

What’s Required for a Libel Lawsuit against Rolling Stone?

In order to be found liable, it must be proven that Rolling Stone had actual malice. In other words, it must be established that Rolling Stone knew that the story was materially false. Also, it must be found that the story damaged the fraternity chapter and its members.

Damages include material damages such as being displaced for the period that their fraternity house was closed resulting in hotel costs. Fraternity members could also claim damages in less tangible ways such as emotional distress.

As a result of the story, there were multiple protests throughout the campus. Protests were aimed at a “fight against this victim blaming, slut-shaming culture we have that sexualizes women, yet shames them for being sexual,” as stated in the UVA student newspaper The Cavalier Daily. Fraternity members could argue that they were wrongfully demonized as a result of the article.

While the issue of sexual assaults at fraternity parties remain the subject of intense focus, UVA fraternity members could argue that the focus switched to them specifically, as they were named in the article. The University Phi Kappa Psi President said they will consider all options, though they have not come to a decision as to whether or not they will sue.

When it comes to whether the University of Virginia could possibly sue, the answer is clear. Government entities, such as the University of Virginia, cannot sue for defamation, regardless of whether it can be proven that Rolling Stone knew the article was false when it was published.

 

Texas Prison Riot Is a Reminder That Prisoners Have Rights, Too

Around 2,000 inmates took over the Willacy County Correctional Center in Raymondville, Texas a little over a week ago. They caused so much damage to the facility during the riot that 2,800 prisoners must be transferred to another location. The prison was deemed uninhabitable after fires were started and the property was severely damaged.

texas prison riotInhumane Conditions Sparked the Revolt

The correctional center is one of 13 “Criminal Alien Requirement” prisons. These facilities are privately run and consist primarily of illegal immigrant offenders (note: majority non-violent). “CAR” prisons hold over 24,000, and 2,800 are housed at Willacy. Prisoners have to sleep in tent dormitories, and are so tightly packed together that their feet can touch the bunk next to them. The prison has been nicknamed “Tent City” among locals.

The conditions at Willacy are inhuman. The inmates are forced to not only live in tight quarters, but are subject to disgusting conditions. There has been raw sewage from overflowed toilets, an infestation of spiders, and a huge lack of medical attention paid to inmates. For example, if an inmate has a toothache, the only solution is an extraction. One inmate had hepatitis C and reported it, but two years later still did not receive treatment. Reports of guard-on-inmate sexual violence has been reported, as well as the use of excessive solitary confinement. Inmates have been thrown into solitary confinement for simply asking for food. After reading this, can anyone blame the inmates for feeling the need to revolt?

Prisoners’ Rights

Prisoners do not have the same constitutional rights as free citizens, but they are protected by the Constitution’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. Inmates also have the right to due process, right to administrative appeals, and a right of access to the parole process. They are also protected against discrimination under The Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

Federal prison officials have full discretion to control prisoners and the conditions of their confinement. State prisoners have zero rights to specific classifications under state law. Instead, the Federal Bureau of Prisons has the power to make all decisions regarding inmates and terms of their confinement.

Prisoners are turned into numbers instead of people when they enter the criminal justice system. Too many are subject to horrific conditions that no human should have to endure.

Marijuana Wars with Maraschino Cherries and D.C.’s Mayor

Washington D.C.’s decriminalization of marijuana went into effect last week, drawing the wrath of prominent Congress members. Rep. Jason Chaffetz reportedly said D.C.’s Mayor could “go to prison for this.” Federal law enforcement’s war against marijuana has been continuous since Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act in 1970. However, that war has often shattered lives, as Arthur Mondella’s tragic story reveals.

Maraschino CherriesWhile the District of Columbia was preparing to decriminalize marijuana, local police and federal agents were conducting a raid on Maraschino Cherries Factory in Brooklyn. Law enforcement claimed to have a warrant to search the factory for violations of environmental laws, but the raid’s true purpose was to search for marijuana. The factory owner, Arthur Mondella, had inherited the business from his father and grandfather. Initially Mondella cooperated with the police. Authorities eventually discovered a secret room concealed by a fake wall. Mondella immediately went to the bathroom.

His sister, obviously concerned, followed. Mondella asked her to “take care of my kids” and then Mondella shot himself. After Mondella’s suicide, police entered the hidden basement. Law enforcement found a 2,500 square foot marijuana farm underneath the cherry factory.

Maraschino Cherries Kingpin vs. Washington, D.C.’s Mayor

Although I drew comparisons between D.C. and Mondella, there are enormous differences. In D.C., the voters had approved a measure decriminalizing marijuana. If D.C. were a state rather than a federal district, Congress would not be as hostile. Mondella, on the other hand, was a private actor growing marijuana in knowing violation of the law. Mondella wasn’t trying to change the law, which would be legal; he was violating the law for, possibly, his own profit.

News coverage of the cherry factory conflict with each other. Most stories quote an unknown police officer claiming Mondella wouldn’t have done any jail time. However, some stories claim the officer wouldn’t have done time for spilling cherry syrup in the water while other stories quote the officer saying Mondella wouldn’t have done jail time for marijuana.

Although Mondella wouldn’t have gone to jail for cherry syrup, the idea that Mondella wouldn’t have gone to jail over marijuana is laughable. Mondella was concealing what looked like a multi-million dollar farm on his property. Federal prosecutors would have indicted Mondella as a drug kingpin and there is no doubt that Mondella would have served significant time. If Congress is threatening to lock up the mayor of D.C. for enforcing an initiative to decriminalize marijuana, imagine what the Justice Department would do to a man caught running an entire drug operation in his factory.

States across the country might be decriminalizing marijuana, but there’s no doubt that some federal actors still want to win the war on marijuana.