Newswire- Kenyan reserve deploys an anti-poaching technology arsenal

This is a photo of an African Rhino

Ol Pejeta Game Reserve, in Kenya, has taken the battle against poaching a notch higher and deployed an arsenal of anti-poaching equipments.
The conservation’s ranger uses a 360 ° camera films the area and relays round-the-clock possible intrusions to the reserve headquarters. The camera is part of high-tech equipment launched last month by the conservation as part of the first high-tech laboratory for wildlife, a research center located in the heart of the sanctuary to integrate new technologies into the daily management of animal reserves.
“What’s bothering me with the world of wildlife protection is our slow pace of adopting new technologies and putting in place new ways of doing things – it has to change,” said Richard Vigne, the director general of Ol Pejeta.
Computer engineers at Ol Pejeta test the next generation of animal geo-location chips and develop sensors that will one day provide information on the health status of rangers, river levels etc.
The private reserve on Kenya’s Laikipia plateau is home to the last two northern white rhinos in the world – two females – and the largest population in East Africa of black rhinos, a critically endangered species.
The 360 km2 reserve with 250 rangers responsible for security is battling the high threat of poaching. Last year, three rhinos were killed, their horns sectioned and carried away, in the Meru National Park, on the other side of Mount Kenya.

Newswire- Neo-Nazi who killed Charlottesville protester Heather Heyer sentenced to Life in Prison

By Laurel Wamsley and Bobby Allyn, NPR

This is a photo of a car plowing into pedestrians and vehicles on the mall in Charlottesville during a white supremacist rally. The driver hit the knot of cars and people at high speed, then backed up and fled the scene.

The man who drove his car into a crowd of anti-racist protesters in Charlottesville, Va., killing one person and injuring 35 has been sentenced to spending the rest of his life in prison.
A federal judge issued the sentence of life without the possibility of parole on Friday for self-proclaimed neo-Nazi James Fields Jr., 22, of the Toledo, Ohio, area.
The judge’s punishment, announced in a Charlottesville courtroom, came after numerous survivors delivered emotional testimony about the psychological and physical toll the attack caused.
After the hearing, prosecutors described the 2017 attack as heinous.
“It was cold-blooded. It was motivated by deep-seated racial animus,” Thomas Cullen, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Virginia, told reporters. He said Fields’ lethal car-plowing was calculated, calling it “a hate-inspired act of domestic terrorism.”
“Charlottesville is never going to be the same,” Cullen said. “It will be with this community, and the commonwealth of Virginia, and this country, for a long time.”
Survivors who testified included Rosia Parker, a longtime civil rights activist in Charlottesville. She told the court she watched the attack from just feet away. “You could have done anything else but what you did,” Parker said, according to The Associated Press. “You deserve everything that you get.”
In legal filings presented to the judge on Friday, Fields’ lawyers said while he committed a “terrible crime,” they asked the judge to also consider Fields’ “traumatic childhood and his mental illness,” wrote Fields’ federal public defender, Lisa Lorish.
Federal prosecutors had asked the judge for a life sentence for Fields. A plea deal brokered in March took away the possibility of the death penalty, and federal prosecutors and Fields’ lawyers agreed that federal sentencing guidelines called for a life sentence. As part of the deal, Fields pleaded guilty to 29 of the 30 federal hate crimes he facedand is not eligible for parole.
Prosecutors had said Fields’ crimes were “so horrendous — and the maiming of innocents so severe — that they outweigh any factors the defendant may argue form a basis for leniency,” according to a sentencing document filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Kavanaugh before the Friday hearing.
Last week, Fields’ attorneys asked for something shorter than a life sentence, citing Fields’ age and history of mental illness.
Fields has already been convicted of separate state charges for murdering 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring dozens of other people. The jury in that case recommended a life sentence plus 419 years and $480,000 in fines. Sentencing in that case is set for July 15.
Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, said in Aprilthat she was satisfied with Fields’ federal guilty plea and was not intent on his getting the death penalty. “There’s no point in killing him. It would not bring back Heather,” she told reporters.
Fields was 20 when he drove his Dodge Challengerthrough the night from Ohio to attend Unite the Right, a white nationalist rally, in August 2017. The weekend turned deadly when Fields accelerated his car into the group of protesters. Two Virginia State Police troopers investigating the day’s events also died when the helicopter they were in crashed.
Before he was sentenced on Friday, Fields offered an apology for “the hurt and loss I have caused,” the AP reported.
Lawyers for Fields wrote the court to say that he used Twitter in search of community and “quickly learned that provocative and hateful comments led to more exposure,” leading him to follow white supremacist accounts, including Richard Spencer and Mike Peinovich.
Fields’ lawyers wrote that he found out about the Unite the Right rally through its organizers’ online recruiting campaign.
His attorneys say he had no intent to commit a violent act, instead describing the attack as a “impulsive, angry and aggressive decision.”
President Trump said afterwardthat there was “blame on both sides” for the violence in the college town.

Newswire- Supreme Court sends mixed Civil Rights signals as America celebrates July 4th

By Hamil R. Harris

Supreme Court

(TriceEdneyWire.com) – On the eve of America’s celebration of its 243rd Independence Day, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down rulings that sent mixed messages to Civil Rights groups at a time when President Trump and Republicans hope to tilt the 2020 presidential elections their way.
In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled that the issue of partisan gerrymandering (drawing district lines in order to achieve political outcomes) does not belong in federal court and should be decided by state legislatures. Conservatives applauded that decision because it comes on the eve of the 2020 Census when state lawmakers configure districts often to benefit whatever party controls their particular state.
While the court rejected challenges to Republican-drawn congressional districts in North Carolina and a Democratic district in Maryland, the decision was still a major blow to critics who have argued for years that partisan manipulation of electoral maps unfairly results in single-party political control. The 5-4 decision fell along traditional conservative-liberal lines. Conservative Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Chief Justice John Roberts voted to keep the redistricting cases out of the federal courts. And liberal justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer voted to maintain federal jurisdiction over the cases.
Speaking for the conservative majority, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that while redistricting plans “are highly partisan by any measure,” the Supreme Court and lower courts are not the venues to settle these disputes. With this decision, Civil Rights groups say the court is giving state houses, mostly controlled by Republicans, more power to tilt things in their ideological direction.
But writing for the four dissenting judges, Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, who was appointed by President Obama, said, “For the first time ever, this court refuses to remedy a constitutional violation because it thinks the task beyond judicial capabilities.”
In the case of Rucho V. Common Cause and Lamone v. Benisek, NAACP President Derrick Johnson, said in a statement, “The Court’s rulings are allowing party politics to determine the outcomes of our elections…Extreme partisan gerrymandering has infected our electoral process for far too long. Exercise of the franchise, which many fought and even died for, must not be reduced to a political charade in which the outcomes are predetermined. In America, voters should choose their representatives instead of representatives choosing their voters.”
Johnson concluded that the high court should have halted what the NAACP and other civil rights advocates consider unconstitutional conduct, but it did not. Therefore, he contends, this is a throwback racism of the past.
“In racially polarized environments like North Carolina where racial block voting is standard, today’s decision will license policymakers to mask racial intent as partisan gerrymandering in order to suppress votes and prevent communities from fully participating in democracy to elect candidates of their choice,” Johnson stated.
The court’s decision basically reverses the outcome of rulings in Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina and Ohio, where lower courts had ordered new maps drawn and it ends proceedings in Wisconsin, where a retrial was supposed to take place later this summer.
Supreme Court decision in Census case more acceptable
On the other hand, the NAACP and members of the Congressional Black Caucus applauded the court ruling in the case of the Department of Commerce v. New York that blocks the Trump Administration’s attempt to insert a citizenship question into the 2020 Census based on the pretext of enforcing the Voting Rights Act (VRA).
“I am very pleased that the Supreme Court ruled today that the Trump Administration may not add the citizenship question to the 2020 Census based on the Administration’s claim that it was trying to protect voting rights,” said Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), referring to the 5-4 decision where Robert’s decided with the most liberal leaning justices on the bench.
Cummings, Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Operations Committee, challenged President Trump’s move from the very beginning after his Secretary of Commerce added the citizenship question to the upcoming 2020 Census form.
“Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross testified before Congress that the Trump Administration was adding the citizenship question to the census ‘solely’ at the request of the Justice Department to help enforce the Voting Rights Act,” Cummings said in a statement. “The Supreme Court has now eviscerated this claim, calling it a ‘pretext,’ ‘contrived,’ and ‘incongruent with what the record reveals.’
Some have suggested that Secretary Ross could go back and offer other reasons for adding the citizenship question. However, any claim now that the Trump Administration had other reasons for adding the citizenship question would directly contradict Secretary Ross’ sworn testimony that helping the Justice Department enforce the Voting Rights Act was the Administration’s sole purpose.
Johnson said that the NAACP also welcomed the court ruling, which he said stopped the Trump administration’s fraudulent efforts to suppress votes in the upcoming Presidential election.
“Through various means, the Trump administration is deliberately seeking to undercount communities of color in the 2020 Census, a ploy designed to increase the political power of Whites at the expense of already underrepresented communities,” Johnson said. “Weakening the political representation of communities of color has been a stain on our democracy since its founding. The Three-Fifths Compromise of the Constitutional Convention in 1787 counted enslaved black people as three-fifths of a person in apportioning congressional districts. Since that time, the Census has severely undercounted the communities of color.”
This week President Trump has planned a huge 4th of July celebration, complete with a military parade and even a jet fly over in Washington DC. But Johnson wrote that President Trump would do better by stopping his effort to take Democracy away from so many vulnerable people whether it is through a census or mass deportations scheduled sometimes after the holiday.
“The citizenship question was not made for the reasons put forth by Secretary Ross,” Johnson said. “Rather, it was a bald-faced effort to benefit one race and one political party at the expense of some of our nation’s most vulnerable communities. This astounding truth can no longer be swept under the rug. It is there for all to see.”

Newswire- Innocence Project: 2018 was a record year for exonerations

By Frederick H. Lowe, BlackmansStreet

This is a photo of Gregory Counts

Gregory Counts freed after 26 years

The Innocence Project reported in the most recent issue of its magazine that a record nine clients were exonerated and released from prison in 2018 for crimes they didn’t commit.
Maddy deLone, the Innocence Project’s executive director, wrote in Spring 2019 issue of “The Innocence Project in Print” that the nine exonerations were most at one time in Innocence Project’s 26- year history.
Exonerations continued into 2019 with three more men being released from prison for crimes they didn’t commit.

The incarcerations took a problematic toll on the 12 men who were locked behind bars for a total of nearly 300 years. “Time away from their homes, families and loved ones cannot be replaced,” deLone wrote.

Gregory Counts, one of the exonerated said, “I want to jail when I was 19. I did 26 years—over half of my life in jail. I need to see the world.”

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. vacated rape, sodomy and kidnapping charges against Counts after a woman who claimed she was the victim admitted to lying. Semen and other physical evidence eliminated Counts as a suspect.

Malcolm Alexander, another exoneree, said, “freedom is a new life. It’s like being reborn. It’s giving a chance to live a life I had been denied.”
Prison officials locked Alexander behind bars for 38 years for a rape he didn’t commit. A judge sentenced Alexander to life in Angola Prison in Angola, Louisiana, the country’s most-notorious prison and former plantation, when he was 21.
The Innocence Project determined Alexander’s attorney was incompetent.
Genetic testing eventually eliminated him as the rape suspect. He left prison with a smile on his face and his black pet Labrador Retriever named “Innocent.”

In another matter, New York created the first ever state-wide commission to study prosecutorial misconduct, such a failure to disclose or discrimination in jury selection.

Newswire- WashPost: Democratic candidates rebuke race attacks on Kamala Harris

By Eric Mack , Newsmax

This is a photo of Senator Kamala Harris (D – CA)

Attacks on the race of Sen. Kamala Harris’, D-Calif., suggesting she is not African American, have brought fellow Democratic presidential primary candidates to her defense, The Washington Post reports.
“The attacks against @KamalaHarris are racist and ugly,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., tweeted Saturday. “We all have an obligation to speak out and say so. And it’s within the power and obligation of tech companies to stop these vile lies dead in their tracks.”
Warren was pointing to Internet and social media reports rebuking Sen. Harris because she is not African American because she is the daughter of a Jamaican father and an Indian mother. Warren is one of Harris’ chief presidential primary rivals, but she too has been criticized for her claims of distant Native American heritage.
“This stuff is really vile and everyone should speak out against it,” Sen. Harris spokeswoman Lily Adams tweeted.
Adams tweet linked to The Daily Beast report outlining a rebuke of Sen. Harris as not being an “American black,” a claim that was retweeted –but since deleted – by President Trump’s eldest son Donald Trump Jr., according to The New York Times.
“Donald Trump Jr. is a racist too. Shocker,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., tweeted.
Among the other Democratic primary candidates, rushing to the defense of one of the surging rivals:
· Former Vice President Joe Biden: “The same forces of hatred rooted in ‘birtherism’ that questioned @BarackObama’s American citizenship, and even his racial identity, are now being used against Senator @KamalaHarris. It’s disgusting and we have to call it out when we see it. Racism has no place in America.”
· South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg: “The presidential competitive field is stronger because Kamala Harris has been powerfully voicing her Black American experience. Her first-generation story embodies the American dream. It’s long past time to end these racist, birther-style attacks.”
· Gov. Jay Inslee, D-Wash.: “The coordinated smear campaign on Senator @KamalaHarris is racist and vile. The Trump family is peddling birtherism again and it’s incumbent on all of us to speak out against it.”
· Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.: “These troll-fueled racist attacks on Senator @KamalaHarris are unacceptable. We are better than this (Russia is not) and stand united against this type of vile behavior.”
Sen. Harris directly challenge Dem frontrunner Biden’s social justice record in Thursday night’s debate, which led to a surge of anti-Harris tweets within minutes, according to Caroline Orr, a behavioral scientist who studies disinformation campaigns online.

Newsire: Mandela’s widow, Graca Machel: “Child Hunger Must Be Priority in Africa”

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Photo: Graca Machel

Economic growth in Africa has been impressive, but a sad reality remains: However prosperous, the results have had little impact on child nutrition.
Graca Machel, the widow of former South African President and Freedom Fighter Nelson Mandela, said hunger is the “most acute problem facing Africa’s children.”
“Around 60 million children across the continent suffer from it. Not the mildly uncomfortable hunger that comes from skipping the odd meal, but permanent, relentless malnourishment, stunting and wasting,” said H.E. Machel, a child rights campaigner who chairs the Africa Child Policy Forum’s international board.
[Stunting is the impaired growth and development that children experience from poor nutrition, repeated infection, and inadequate psychosocial stimulation].
As of two years ago, 28 African nations depended on food aid, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations – or FAO.
One of the worst hunger crises of the past 25 years was the famine in East Africa in 2011/12, according to the FAO.
In war-torn Somalia, 260,000 people starved to death, including 133,000 children under the age of five.
Sub-Saharan Africa is also a hotbed of chronic hunger due to extreme poverty, the FAO said.
The organization notes the definition of chronic hunger: people suffer from chronic hunger if their daily energy intake for an extended period of time is below what they would need for a healthy and active life.
The lower limit is an average of 1,800 calories per day.
According to this measure, 226.7 million people are starving in Africa.
The countries most affected by extreme poverty and hunger in Africa are mainly those located south of the Sahara.
One in four people suffers from hunger there – which means that the share of the world’s hungry is highest in sub-Saharan Africa, the FAO said.
In the sub-Saharan region, 40 percent to 50 percent of people live below the poverty line, meaning they have a daily income that is on average below $1.25.
This means that sub-Saharan Africa, along with southern Asia, is one of the poorest regions in the world.
H.E. Machel said it doesn’t have to be this way.
“As African governments decide where to spend their money, they must remember that here is a powerful economic argument for reducing child hunger,” H.E. Machel wrote in an editorial for Financial Times.
“For every dollar invested in reducing stunting, there is a return of about $22 in Chad, $21 in Senegal and $17 in Niger and Uganda,” she said.
The benefits are even higher if the investment is made early in a child’s life, ranging from $85 in Nigeria to $60 in Kenya.
Halving rates of child stunting by 2025 could lead to average annual savings ranging from $3 million in Swaziland to $376 million in Ethiopia, according to FAO.
“Africa’s economic growth over the past two decades has been impressive, but it has had little impact on child hunger,” H.E. Machel said.
“Despite average 2 percent annual Gross Domestic Product growth in Kenya, stunting increased by 2.5 percent. And in Nigeria, 4 percent average annual growth did not lead to any reduction in stunting at all,” she said.
Child hunger is fundamentally a political problem, the offspring of an unholy alliance of political indifference, unaccountable governance and economic mismanagement, H.E. Machel concluded, noting that the continent’s food system is broken.
“Increased food production has not resulted in better diets … supply chains are unfit for serving rapidly expanding urban populations and the rural poor,” H.E. Machel said.
“Agricultural economic growth targets encourage the production of major cereal crops – often for export – instead of more nutritious foods like pulses, fruit and vegetables,” she said.

Newswire: Mass incarceration of women and minorities a new crisis

Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Women inmates in jail
Although the number of people in prisons and jails in America has slightly declined, numbers released on Thursday, April 25, by the Bureau of Justice Statisticsstill show that nearly 1.5 million individuals were in prison by the end of 2017.
The statistics also note that the U.S. continues to lock up more people than any other nation. And, despite a narrowing disparity between incarcerated black and white women, females have emerged as the new face of mass incarceration.
“I don’t think this should be much of a surprise as two of the main for-profit prison companies were founded around the same time,” said Ron Stefanski, whose website prisoninsight.com, works to hold prisons accountable for the treatment of current, former and future inmates.
“When these for-profit companies were created, they found a way to generate revenue off of inmates and this led to a huge influx of prisoners, both male and female,” Stefanski said.
In 2000, black women were incarcerated at six times the rate of white women, but in 2017, black women were imprisoned at less than double the rate of white women, according to the latest information.
The number of white women in prison has increased by more than 40 percent since 2000 while the number of black women incarcerated has fallen by nearly 50 percent.
The most recent report from the Prison Policy Initiative revealed that, looking at the big picture shows that a staggering number of women who are incarcerated are not even convicted with one quarter of the women behind bars having not yet gone to trial.
Sixty-percent of women under the control of local authorities have not been convicted of a crime and adding to the picture of women in local jails, aside from women under local jurisdictions, state and federal agencies pay local jails to house an additional 13,000 women, according to the Prison Policy Initiative.
For example, ICE and the U.S. Marshals, which have fewer dedicated facilities for their detainees, contract with local jails to hold roughly 5,000 women – so the number of women physically held in jails is even higher.
According to the Prison Policy Initiative, avoiding pre-trial incarceration is uniquely challenging for women. The number of un-convicted women stuck in jail is surely not because courts are considering women, who are generally the primary caregivers of children, to be a flight risk, according to the Prison Policy Initiative report.
The far more likely answer is that incarcerated women, who have lower incomes than incarcerated men, have an even harder time affording cash bail. When the typical bail amounts to a full year’s income for women, it’s no wonder that women are stuck in jail awaiting trial, the report’s author said.
Even once convicted, the system funnels women into jails: About a quarter of convicted incarcerated women are held in jails, compared to about 10 percent of all people incarcerated with a conviction.
Also, while stays in jail are generally shorter than in stays in prison, jails make it harder to stay in touch with family than prisons do. Phone calls are more expensive, up to $1.50 per minute, and other forms of communication are more restricted – some jails don’t even allow real letters, limiting mail to postcards.
This is especially troubling given that 80 percent of women in jails are mothers, and most of them are primary caretakers of their children. Thus children are particularly susceptible to the domino effect of burdens placed on incarcerated women, the report’s author said. Black and American Indian women are markedly overrepresented in prisons and jails, according to the report.

Incarcerated women are 53 percent White, 29 percent Black, 14 percent Hispanic, 2.5 percent American Indian and Alaskan Native, 0.9 percent Asian, and 0.4 percent Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander.
“While we are a long way away from having data on intersectional impacts of sexuality and race or ethnicity on women’s likelihood of incarceration, it is clear that Black and lesbian or bisexual women are disproportionately subject to incarceration,” Prison Policy Initiative Author Aleks Kajstura said.

Newswire : On Earth Day, Africa braces for severe drought

Africa is experiencing severe drought

Apr. 22, 2019 (GIN) – Water has no enemy.

That’s the theme of a popular song by famed Nigerian singer and activist Fela Anikulapo Kuti who reminds us just how vital water is. If you’re going to wash, he sings, it’s water you’re going to use. If you want to cook soup, cool off in hot weather, give to your children – “na water you go use.”

But what happens when Water has too many friends? What happens to the water? What happens to the friends? What happens when Water makes them enemies of one another? As citizens around the world marked Earth Day, Kole Omotoso, opinion writer for The Guardian, wondered about water.

In a recent dispute, he recalled, fast friends became bitter enemies when Ethiopia announced it was building a dam on the Blue Nile which supplies 85 percent of the waters of the Nile River, the “father of African rivers” and a critical water source for Egypt.

Ethiopia’s proposed “Project X” – renamed the Grand Renaissance Dam – is a massive hydroelectric power station with one of the world’s largest dams. That angers Egypt, which relies heavily on the Nile. Its waters run to the fields and fill Egypt’s reservoirs. They have demanded that Ethiopia cease construction. Some neighbors even discussed methods to sabotage it.

The dam is projected to be operational by December 2020.

As Egypt and Ethiopia settle their differences, red flags are going up in Uganda, Zimbabwe and other parts of the center and south where rains have been delayed and drought has stretched beyond March.

Ugandan Agriculture Minister Christopher Kibanzanga has warned of impending famine in most parts of the country, cautioning traders to start food rationing. In Zimbabwe, water levels in national dams have fallen to 69 percent.

Drought is also predicted for Kenya, Somalia and Somaliland.

Meanwhile, Mozambique may be getting some relief with a loan offer from the International Monetary Fund of $118.2 million for reconstruction needs after Cyclone Idai which caused significant loss of life and infrastructure damage.

In a tweet to mark Earth Day, UN chief Antynio Guterres said it was vital “every day” to “commit to taking better care of our planet. Please do everything in your power to tackle climate change – the defining issue of our time”, he said.

Newswire: Homeless persons cannot be punished for sleeping in absence of alternatives, 9th Circuit decision establishes

National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, NNPA Newswire Contributor

Homeless person sleeping on a city bench

People experiencing unsheltered homelessness in the west coast states of the Ninth Circuit can sleep more safely, without facing criminal punishment for simply trying to survive on the streets. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected an en banc petition by the city of Boise in Martin v. Boise (formerly Bell v. Boise), leaving in place its September 2018 ruling that homeless persons cannot be punished for sleeping outside on public property in the absence of adequate alternatives.

In so holding, the court of appeals permitted the homeless individuals who have received criminal citations under Boise’s policy to proceed with their constitutional claims against the City. The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, which filed the case in 2009 with co-counsel Idaho Legal Aid Services and Latham & Watkins LLP, hails this decision as being essential to encouraging cities to propose constructive alternatives to homelessness.

“Criminally punishing homeless people for sleeping on the street when they have nowhere else to go is inhumane, and we applaud the Court for ruling that it is also unconstitutional,” said Maria Foscarinis, executive director at the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty. “It’s time for Boise to stop trying to hide its homelessness problem with unconstitutional ordinances, and start proposing real solutions.”
The case challenges Boise’s enforcement of its Camping and Disorderly Conduct Ordinances against persons experiencing homelessness who need to sleep in public in the absence of adequate housing or shelter. Last September, a panel of the Ninth Circuit agreed with the central premise in the suit, holding that “as long as there is no option of sleeping indoors, the government cannot criminalize indigent, homeless people for sleeping outdoors, on public property, on the false premise they had a choice in the matter.”

Following that ruling, the city of Boise petitioned the Ninth Circuit to rehear the case en banc. Today, the court rejected that request, thereby affirming that within the western states that make up the Ninth Circuit, “the Eighth Amendment preclude[s] the enforcement of a statute prohibiting sleeping outside against homeless individuals with no access to alternative shelter.”

“This week, the court says that people experiencing homelessness cannot be punished for sleeping or sheltering on the streets in the absence of alternatives,” said Eric Tars, Legal Director at the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty. “But our hope is that tomorrow, cities will begin to create those alternatives—getting homeless people into housing is a win-win approach, benefitting both the individuals helped and the communities that no longer have to deal with the negative impacts of people living in public spaces, at lower cost than cycling people through the criminal justice system.”
The case gained national attention in 2015 when the United States Department of Justice filed a Statement of Interest brief in the case, arguing that making it a crime for people who are homeless to sleep in public places unconstitutionally punishes them for being homeless.

“The outcome of Court’s decision will support cities who are addressing real solutions to the complex issues faced by homeless individuals and families rather than just create more barriers and fill more jails with persons who only needed a place to sleep for the night,” said Howard Belodoff, of Idaho Legal Aid Services, Inc. “Boise can be one of those cities—it has the resources, it just needs to apply them correctly.”
Judge Berzon, in her opinion, notes that the decision, while important, is unlikely to impose dire consequences on cities. “The distressing homelessness problem…has grown into a crisis for many reasons, among them the cost of housing, the drying up of affordable care for people with mental illness, and the failure to provide adequate treatment for drug addiction. The crisis continued to burgeon while ordinances forbidding sleeping in public were on the books and sometimes enforced.”
“We are pleased that the Ninth Circuit held that the Constitution ‘prohibits the imposition of criminal penalties for sitting, sleeping, or lying outside on public property for homeless individuals who cannot obtain shelter,’” said Michael Bern, lead pro bono counsel from Latham & Watkins, who argued the case before the Ninth Circuit. “As the Department of Justice recognized earlier in this case, ‘[c]riminalizing public sleeping in cities with insufficient housing and support for homeless individuals does not improve public safety outcomes or reduce the factors that contribute to homelessness.’ With today’s decision, we hope that cities can redirect their efforts to identifying meaningful and constitutional solutions to the problem of homelessness.”
This case is part of a nationwide movement against the criminalization of homelessness, spearheaded by the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty and more than 850 groups and individuals who have endorsed the Housing Not Handcuffs Campaign.

Newswire : Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law sues White House Office of Management and Budget for Payday Lending Documents Records

Washington, D.C. – This week, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against the White House Office of Management and Budget. The lawsuit seeks the release of public records related to OMB Director Mick Mulvaney’s ties to the payday lending industry after his office failed to respond to a Freedom of Information Act request made several months ago.
“Director Mulvaney’s decision to roll back consumer protections for low-income borrowers in America is a prime example of regressive policies that harm consumers across the country, particularly African Americans and other communities of color,” stated Kristen Clarke, President and Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Clarke continued: “We know that Mr. Mulvaney previously accepted large campaign contributions from key points of contact in the payday lending industry as a member of Congress, and the American people deserve to know if their influence had anything to do with his decision to undermine anti-discrimination enforcement or roll back regulations preventing predatory lending.
The law requires the White House to disclose any records relating to Mulvaney’s communications with industry lobbyists. Through our litigation we are fighting to promote transparency during an era in which CFPB, OMB, and other agencies have increasingly concealed information to keep the public in the dark.”
After taking over the CFPB last year, while also keeping his role at OMB, Mulvaney immediately moved to roll back rules protecting low-income payday loan borrowers. The CFPB had enacted these new rules after years of careful study of the predatory harms of payday lending, including how such loans are targeted to communities of color. The Lawyers’ Committee filed this FOIA request with OMB to determine whether Mulvaney improperly used his White House office to discuss his regulatory actions with industry representatives.