In two days, 215 people died off the coast of Libya

Over the course of two days, more than 200 people drowned after leaving Libya for Europe, according to a report from the United Nations.

On Tuesday, 95 people died while traveling in a wooden boat carrying 100 passengers, the UN said. The boat was found near Libya’s capital, Tripoli, by the Libyan National Guard. The same day, in a different spot off the coast, 70 people drowned in a boat carrying 130 passengers.

The five survivors in the first instance were taken to a hospital by Libyan authorities, and in the second, the 60 survivors were taken back to Libya, although it is unclear if they are being medically treated, according to the UN report.

A day later, the Coast Guard was dispatched to Garabulli, about 40 miles east of Tripoli. Fifty people were found dead, the report said.

“These tragic deaths are a reminder that wars and poverty continue to drive people to take desperate journeys that cost them their life savings, their dignity and ultimately their lives,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.

Deaths like these are not uncommon. The UN reported 90 people emigrating from Libya died in February and the Libyan navy said another 11 died in April.

There are between 700,000 and 1 million migrants in Libya, according to the UN International Organization for Migration. The national population is 6.2 million.

The country, which borders Egypt, is often seen as a destination of opportunity because it has the largest amount of oil reserves in Africa.

However, it has been plagued by violence and poverty in recent years. A Libyan civil war began in 2011 with clashes between the government and rebel forces, and that fueled a second war that is still going on. US sanctions were imposed on the country after an undercover investigation by CNN into its modern-day slave trades.

Migration to Libya, though, has not ebbed. Tripoli’s location at the edge of the Mediterranean makes it a popular checkpoint for those all over the continent trying to escape conflict by fleeing to Europe. More than 60,000 people arrived in Italy from Libya between January and May of 2017, according to the International Organization for Migration.

Follow this story

Emails suggest ‘zero tolerance’ effectively on hold

Though the Trump administration outwardly is maintaining that it is continuing its “zero-tolerance” border policy, email traffic obtained by CNN shows that the policy has effectively been curtailed for now — the latest sign of confusion and disarray over how to implement an executive order designed to halt family separations at the border.

The decision by Customs and Border Protection to put a hold on referring adults caught crossing the border illegally if they arrive with their children comes after President Donald Trump signed an executive order asking his agencies to keep families together at the border — though it did not order a halt to prosecutions.

The suspension of referrals flies in the face of what the Justice Department was telling reporters was operational Thursday, leaving the impression of an administration at odds with itself on a policy that has generated weeks of outrage and emotional reaction even from some of the President’s most loyal supporters.

The move comes as officials have been unable to provide the media with answers as to how Trump’s executive order will be implemented for more than a day, even as thousands of families affected by the initial “zero tolerance” policy remain separated and in some cases split up over thousands of miles.

According to email traffic sent Wednesday night and Thursday morning that was obtained by CNN, Customs and Border Protection has told its field offices to suspend referring any parents who cross the border illegally with their children for prosecution for misdemeanor illegal-entry charges. The move, which could be reversed, effectively neuters “zero tolerance” as long as it is in effect.

The series of emails shows how the President’s order left government agencies scrambling for how to comply — as it was rolled out without any clear guidance on what the practical effect would be.

Border Patrol serves as the clearinghouse for all immigrants caught crossing the border illegally under current policy. Border Patrol has only temporary detention facilities, which are designed to house immigrants while they are either sent for criminal charges, sent into Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facilities, released with court dates and possible monitoring or, in the case of children, handed over to the Health and Human Services Department.

The order even seemed to have come together hastily, with news that it was in the works surprising those on Capitol Hill and even one source in an agency that would carry out the order, who were unsure what it would say.

The guidance to not refer for prosecution still stood as of Thursday afternoon, according to a source familiar with the matter.

That guidance could change at any point — there is no indication in the email of how long the suspension will last, and it could be for only as long as it takes the government to come up with an implementation plan. There also is no indication that those adults won’t be referred for prosecution once a system is in place for that.

The Washington Post first reported that Customs and Border Protection was stopping the referral of the cases for prosecution, citing an official.

The Justice Department said in response that “there has been no change to the Department’s zero tolerance policy to prosecute adults who cross our border illegally instead of claiming asylum at any port of entry at the border.”

But because Customs and Border Protection must refer cases to Justice for prosecution, the decision to stop referring parents effectively neuters the zero tolerance policy.

According to the email traffic, Customs and Border Protection originally planned to prosecute one parent if a multi-parent family were caught — then changed the guidance to suspend referrals for any parents with families unless there is concern about the child or serious criminal records for the adults. The guidance still allows for discretion by those in the field.

Asked about the email traffic,, Customs and Border Protection sent the same statement it had issued Thursday morning, which says: “The Border Patrol will continue to refer for prosecution adults who cross the border illegally,” per a spokesman.

Further confusion

In different email traffic obtained by CNN, it is clear that confusion has continued to abound after the executive order.

The order requires families to be held together — meaning they will need to be kept in detention space that is designed for families.

But late Wednesday evening, after the executive order was signed, an ICE official sent a notification that the family detention centers the agency runs would close for three days. Those would be the places families are sent if they are to be detained together, as the order maintains.

The notice said families could not be sent there in the meantime.

By Thursday afternoon, a different ICE official said the residential centers were back open and to spread the word, allowing for families to be transferred again.

Follow this story

SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket lands $130 million military contract

The most powerful rocket in operation just landed another launch contract.

The US Air Force said Thursday that it has picked SpaceX to fly a secretive military satellite atop its Falcon Heavy, the towering machine that took flight for the first time in February.

The satellite, called AFSPC-52, is slated to launch in the summer or fall of 2020, according to a press release.

The Air Force confirmed two proposals were submitted for this award. ULA — a joint venture between legacy firms Boeing and Lockheed Martin — is the only other company eligible to conduct certain military launches that relate to national security.

SpaceX has made no secret of its desire to compete with ULA to land lucrative military launch contracts. The company sued the US government a few years ago for the right to bid for contracts.

SpaceX landed its first military contract in 2016, ending ULA’s decade-long monopoly on military launch contracts.

This is the first classified national security payload, or NSS payload, award for SpaceX’s new Falcon Heavy.

“SpaceX is honored by the Air Force’s selection of Falcon Heavy to launch the competitively-awarded AFSPC-52 mission,” SpaceX President and Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell said in a statement. “SpaceX is pleased to continue offering the American taxpayer the most cost-effective, reliable launch services for vital national security space missions.”

ULA did not respond to a request for comment.

SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket boasts about three times the power of SpaceX’s workhorse Falcon 9 rocket.

Falcon Heavy garnered widespread public attention during its maiden launch in February. CEO Elon Musk decided to use his personal cherry red Tesla roadster as the test payload. The company shared images of the vehicle after the launch, which showed it carrying a mannequin in a spacesuit, as it soared above Earth.

According to SpaceX, the rocket delivered on its mission flawlessly.

Musk said at the time that the Falcon Heavy completed maneuvers in space to prove to the US military that the rocket is up to snuff to launch massive, secretive payloads for the US Air Force.

The Falcon Heavy does not have many missions lined up on its launch schedule. The AFSPC-52 will mark the fifth launch added to the rocket’s manifest, according to SpaceX’s website.

Follow this story

Video captures City Hall arrest that led to activist’s U.S. Supreme Court win

When city activist Fane Lozman addressed the Riviera Beach commission in 2006, a city commissioner stopped him when he brought up corruption in the city, telling him he wasn’t allowed to criticize officials in his comments.

A police officer handcuffed Lozman when he calmly continued his prepared remarks and prosecutors charged him with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.   

“I have a right to make public comments,” Lozman protested.  

Not that day; he was taken to jail. He believed the move was in retaliation for his successful fight to stop the city from selling the public marina where he lived in a floating home to a private developer, which would have displaced him but hundreds of other residents in the process. 

“When I was sitting in that jail cell, I said, ‘This is what America is all about, I’m going to fight this out,’” said Lozman. “I served in the Marines, my grandfather served in World War I, I said we’re gonna fight this out for the First Amendment.” 

Lozman sued the city for wrongful arrest and, even though the charges were dropped and there was evidence the city had been planning to retaliated against him with intimidation tactics,the lawsuit was thrown out because a judge ruled there was probable cause for the arrest and under federal law that protected the city from liability.  

Riviera beach on this particular case spent $1.25 million to fight the case, but Lozman and his attorney Kerri Barsh took it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. This week the high court ruled in Lozman’s favor. 

“Chief Justice [John] Roberts said I wasn’t doing anything wrong, I was speaking in a calm voice, you can’t do that,” said Lozman. 

Making it more amazing, it’s the second time the Supreme Court ruled in Lozman’s favor against the city. The first came in 2013 after the city seized his floating home and ultimately destroyed it. Barsh said Lozman may be the only person to win twice at the Supreme Court in modern history. 

“To go back twice and get victory is like icing on the cake,” said Barsh. “It doesn’t get any better.”  

Both said it’s a victory not just for Lozman but for the First Amendment. Now the case goes back to the federal appellate court and Lozman said he now hopes for a settlement with the city once and for all. 

“It’s been a ten year battle … and to finally get to the promised land it’s amazing,” he said. 

Follow this story

Leave it to Layron: Here is how to deal with unresponsive landlords

The Leave it to Layron team has received phone calls, emails, some viewers have even stopped Layron out in public with the same problem: an unresponsive landlord.

Legal experts, like Jeffery Hearne said Florida is not a tenant-friendly state, but tenants still have rights.  Hearne leads the Tenants’ Rights Clinic at the University of Miami School of Law, and he’s litigation director with Legal Services of Greater Miami, Inc

“I think a lot of landlords are able to take advantage of tenants because tenants don’t know what their rights are,” he said. 

Click here to read about Tenants’ Rights/Responsibilities >

We took a common question to Hearne:  What should tenants do if their landlords won’t make a major repair? Your landlord won’t make repairs?

“You can either withhold your rent, or terminate your lease and move out,” said Hearne.

He said you must send your landlord a letter, explaining what the problems are and notifying him that you will be withholding the rent. The landlord has seven days to fix the issues once they’ve received the notice.

But Hearne warned tenants who put their landlords on notice and withhold rent cannot use that money anything else.

“You must save your rent because if the landlord then files an eviction, you have to deposit that rent into the court,” he said. “If you don’t, you lose [your case] automatically.” 

earne said the rent must be paid to the court in order to defend your case.

Hearne also warned Florida has no “repair and deduct” statute.  

“The tenant can’t say, ‘I’m just going to fix it myself, and take it out of my rent’.”

But, if the tenant and landlord reach a “repair and deduct agreement”, there should be no issues, as long as you get the agreement in writing, or document it somehow.

The LITL team also asked Hearne about security deposits.    

He said, many times, tenants think they’re entitled to get their security deposits back the day they move out.  “Unfortunately, that’s not the way the law is written,” Hearne said.

Read about security deposits, here >

Landlords have 15 days to return your deposit.  If they plan to keep a portion of your deposit, or make a claim, they have 30 days and have to notify you in writing so that you have a chance to respond.    
  
“If you do get any papers from a landlord, it’s very important that a tenant pays attention to them because that may be the beginning of the court process and it can move very quickly.”

Hearne said Florida law is clear about retaliation.  A landlord can only remove a tenant under circumstances, and legally exercising your rights is not one of them.

Read about landlord retaliation, and when a landlord can get possession of your unit, here >
 

A standard rule of thumb is to thoroughly review your lease.
  
“If there’s anything you don’t understand, ask questions and talk to your landlord about whether you can negotiate it,” said Hearne.

And should issues arise, Hearne suggested communicating before escalating.

“Some landlords are very flexible and understanding,” he said. “Others aren’t, but I think keeping those open lines of communication is important.”  

Documentation is also very important: take photos, videos, get witness statements. Sometimes, you may also need to seek out legal help, or representation.

Legal Services of Greater Miami, Inc. has more information here >
 

Follow this story