Miami, FL

Miami judge to rule on ADA suit against 'Millionaire'

October 17, 2000
A federal judge said Tuesday he wouldrule shortly on whether the hit television program "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?"discriminates against the hearing impaired and those who can't use touch-tone telephones. 
     The Center for Independent Living in Miami is suing ABC-TV andthe quiz show production company, Valleycrest Productions Ltd., claiming telephone screening for contestants violates the Americans WithDisabilities Act. 
     A million people call the program daily, and 240,000 get through toan automated phone system requiring callers to punch in correct answers within 10 seconds. Qualifiers are then drawn at random for a secondround of questioning. 
     Michael Lanham, lawyer for plaintiffs, says the network and theproduction company have made no provisions for the hearing impaired or those unable to operate touch-tone phones. 

Lawsuit a plea for voting rights -- and hope

October 01, 2000
Thirty-four years ago, a civil rights crusader then known as Joe Waller Jr. ripped a racist mural off a wall at St. Petersburg's City Hall, earning himself a 30-month odyssey through the Florida prison system and a felony record that still bars him from voting.
      Now, as Omali Yeshitela, 58, he's lending his name -- revered in some quarters, reviled in others -- to a lawsuit seeking restored voting rights for Florida felons who have done their time.
      Civil rights law centers in New York and Washington, D.C., and a West Palm Beach attorney have filed a federal class-action lawsuit against Florida on behalf of Yeshitela, seven other named plaintiffs and about 500,000 others -- mostly black men -- whose felony records keep them away from the polls.
      That's one of every seven black men in Florida, one of 14 states with similar bans.

Rights activists evoke echoes of Rodney King case

September 15, 2000
Over and over again the scene replayed on TV screens Wednesday.
      It showed three uniformed Miami-Dade police officers slugging and kicking a black robbery suspect in their custody while cameras rolled.
      The anger and dismay of black organizations and civil rights leaders was immediately heard.
      ``Oh my God, it's Rodney King all over again,'' said Adora ObiNweze, Florida NAACP President. ``This type of behavior is consistent with what is constantly going on in this state, this is history repeating itself.''
      The police department was flooded with angry calls after the tape was aired repeatedly. Miami-Dade officials issued statements of concern over what they had seen.
      Actually, the number of blows nowhere near matched those that rained on Rodney King in Los Angeles nine years ago. Still, the three Miami-Dade police officers caught on camera were put on administrative leave with pay.

Sharpton threatens Burger King with boycott

September 10, 2000
The Rev. Al Sharpton said Sunday he will call for a boycott of Burger King if the world's No. 2 fast-food chain does not discuss its attempt to revoke a black owner's franchises.
      The dispute centers on Detroit restaurant owner La-Van Hawkins, who filed a $500 million lawsuit against Burger King in April. He alleged the restaurant courted him because of his race for a deal to open 225 inner-city restaurants and then used it against him to squelch his dream of owning a large string of Burger Kings in underserved communities.
      Burger King countersued five days later. The restaurant wants Hawkins to return its property and says he owes more than $6.5 million from a loan given in 1998. Hawkins has also been sued by suppliers who say he has not paid his bills.
      Sharpton said Burger King has committed of pattern of racism.

White cops win race discrimination suit

August 08, 2000
Seven white police sergeants in a Miami suburb who sued the Hispanic chief of police for reverse discrimination have been awarded $1.4 million by a federal jury.
     The suit claimed Hialeah Police Chief Rolando Bolanos favored Hispanic officers over whites when staffing prized units such as homicide and narcotics. The officers who sued were assigned to patrol and dispatch duty.
     The officers on Monday were each awarded $200,000 for lost  wages and benefits since 1996. All but one officer waived claims for pain and suffering, and that officer was awarded $10,000. 

HUD cracks down on Florida homesellers

February 16, 2000
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has launched a statewide crackdown in Florida on nonprofit businesses that violate the agency's home-selling rules.
    The move is intended to put a clamp on what has become a common practice in South Florida: the selling of HUD homes to investors by nonprofit groups. Statewide, HUD sold 700 homes to nonprofits last year -- about 15 percent of all the HUD homes sold in the state.
    A Space Coast company has become the first in Florida to feel the sting of the investigation. The Rain Foundation Inc. of Titusville last month was banned from doing business with HUD in the southeastern U.S. and Caribbean for a year, following an investigation last year of how it bought houses and resold them to low-income buyers in Florida.

Florida governor booed on affirmative action

February 04, 2000
Before a sometimes hostile crowd, Gov. Jeb Bush insisted that his plan to end racial preferences and quotas in university admissions and contracts doesn't take away civil rights.
    ``There has been a lot of misunderstanding of this plan,'' he said Thursday after being booed and jeered by some of the 5,000 people who turned out for the public hearing. ``People believe we are taking civil rights away ... There is nothing in the plan that does that.''
    The Republican governor's plan - known as One Florida - guarantees admission to some state universities for the top 20 percent of each Florida high school's graduating class and adds $20 million to the state's financial aid budget. In state contracting, the plan would encourage businesses owned by women and minorities to enter bids.

People with disabilities sue Macy's for access

December 23, 1999
Department store aisles packed with merchandise are supposed to increase sales, but disabled people who say the crowding keeps them from shopping at some Macy's stores have filed a lawsuit. 
     The lawsuit accuses Macy's East, which operates 87 stores in 15 East Coast states, of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. Among other accessibility requirements, the law requires main store aisles to be 36 inches wide. 
     The suit, which seeks class-action status, was filed on behalf of wheelchair users. But anyone who's ever been denied access to a Macy's East store would be covered, said attorney Rosemarie Richard. 

HUD pamphlet a phonetic fumble

November 17, 1999
Federal officials hoping to inform Haitian residents in the Creole language about subsidized housing have delivered a pamphlet written in an imitation Jamaican dialect.
    It's a tough read:
    "Yuh as a rezedent, ave di rights ahn di rispansabilities to elp mek yuh HUD-asisted owzing ah behta owme fi yuh ahn yuh fambily," the pamphlet states.
    What the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development was trying to say was: "You as a resident have the rights and the responsibilities to help make your HUD-assisted housing a better home for you and your family." 

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