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Former Jail Guard States He Forged Records In Sandra Bland's Death

Bland's family lawyer revealed that Rafael Zuniga, a former Waller County jail guard, confessed to not checking on Bland an hour before her passing.

A new development has occurred in the 2015 death of Sandra Bland. According to The Chicago Tribune, Bland's family lawyer, Cannon Lambert, revealed that Rafael Zuniga, a former Waller County jail guard, confessed to not checking on Bland an hour before her passing. In addition, he admitted to falsifying the records that stated he did check on the 28-year-old, but instead lied under oath during the court proceedings.

"Numerous depositions have been taken in the case involving dozens of hours of testimony," said Waller County's attorney Larry Simmons in an interview with the Houston Chronicle. "It is a gross miscarriage of justice and a misrepresentation for any party to cherry-pick or mischaracterize a small portion of that testimony, and take it out of context."

Bland's death was ruled as a suicide, but the string of events that occurred from her arrest to being put in the Texas jail cell are still unclear. State trooper Brian Encinia pulled over Bland for a minor traffic violation after she reportedly failed to switch on her turning signal, but his interaction with her became heightened and decided to arrest Bland. The entire occurrence was recorded on his patrol car's dashcam.

Bland's mother later filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the county, but the grand jury failed to indict the officer, and had knowledge of the falsified documents. The medical examiner deemed Bland's death a suicide.

According to the New York Daily News, Officer Encinia will potentially face a misdemeanor perjury charge.

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A volunteer distributes food at CAMBA's Beyond Hunger Emergency Food Pantry on February 18, 2014 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The non-profit agency assists low-income residents and those affected by food stamp cuts. Currently the food pantry sees up to 4,500 individuals per month with the numbers rising. As Congress prepares to cut billions of dollars more from the food stamp program, food pantries around the country are preparing for an influx of those needing their assistance.
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SNAP Changes Place Nearly 700,000 People At Risk Of Losing Food Stamps

In a report by USA TODAY, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) assisted over 40 million Americans in 2017. Two years later, the program faces changes that may result in the loss of food stamps for 688,000 people. According to NBC News, the Trump administration will revamp the mandate that recipients work a certain amount of hours to be eligible for food assistance.

Those within the age range of 18 to 49 and have no children or are able-bodied were previously mandated to work no less than 20 hours a week in order to qualify. Now, as states were once allowed to excuse this requirement due to increased unemployment rates in certain states, the Trump administration will no longer allow states to practice this method. NPR notes Americans within that age range tallied at four million in 2016. The new mandate will only allow states to waiver a recipient's unemployment situation if that state's unemployment rate is six percent.

"We're taking action to reform our SNAP program in order to restore the dignity of work to a sizable segment of our population and be respectful of the taxpayers who fund the program," Sonny Perdue, Agriculture Secretary, said. "Americans are generous people who believe it is their responsibility to help their fellow citizens when they encounter a difficult stretch. That's the commitment behind SNAP, but, like other welfare programs, it was never intended to be a way of life."

Analysts state the government could save close to $5 billion through this new legislation. Out of the 2.9 million adults that fall into this category that utilize SNAP, 2.1 million are unemployed.

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Cory Booker Outlines $100 Billion Plan To Support HBCUs

In an effort to continue the support of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), revealed a plan to do just that. According to The Hill, Booker shared on Tuesday (Dec. 3) a $100 billion investment agenda that'll focus its funds on the education departments in the form of grants, revamp infrastructure, and stand at the forefront of pushing policies that'll combat climate change.

"I am here today because of the power of these institutions to uplift and bring about opportunity to Black Americans," Booker said. "As president, I will redouble our efforts to support and invest in HBCUs across the country—my mother and father wouldn't have it any other way." His parents attended Fisk University and North Carolina Central University (NCCU).

Part of the proposal also aims to bolster HBCUs' Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) programs and support the Debt-Free College Act. The legislation has the potential to allow students at HBCUs, MSIs (minority-serving institutions), or public colleges to receive a higher education debt-free through public funding.

Another point of the plan aims to "provide $30 billion in grants to upgrade infrastructure, including facilities and technology, at HBCUs and MSIs to ensure all students have access to a world-class education in world-class facilities."

Read more of the plan's points here.

As the son of two proud HBCU grads (@FISK1866 and @NCCU!), I'm proud to announce that today my campaign is proposing the boldest-ever plan to invest in HBCUs: https://t.co/j7kpKmGRjV

— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) December 3, 2019

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Texas Appeals Court Grants Stay Of Execution For Rodney Reed Stay

A Texas Criminal Appeals Court granted Rodney Reed a stay of execution on Friday (Nov. 15). The decision came hours after the state’s parole board recommended that Reed’s lethal injection be delayed by 120-days.

Reed was scheduled to be lethally injected on Nov. 20. Although the court decision means that he no longer has an execution date, the parole board failed to approve a request to commute Reed's sentence to life in prison, the Washington Post reports.

The 51-year-old Texas native has spent that last two decades on death row for the1996 rape and murder of Stacey Stites. Reed has filed numerous appeals over the years but his story only recently went viral catching the attention of lawmakers and celebrities including Rihanna, Oprah, Beyonce, T.I., Kim Kardashian West, the latter of whom was visiting with Reed when his execution was delayed.

Reed, who has long maintained his innocence, says Stite's was killed by her fiance, Jimmy Fennell. Fennell’s lawyer Robert Phillips “laughed off” Reed’s allegations, according to numerous reports.

Fennell served 10 years in prison for the attempted kidnapping and rape of another woman while working as a police officer in 2007. He was briefly suspected in Stite’s murder. Authorities turned their attention to Reed after his DNA was found inside Stites, from what he contends was a consensual relationship. Reed, who is black, believes that race played a part in the case because Stites was a white woman. He was convicted by an all-white jury.

Reed’s legal team has also provided evidence to prove his innocence, including new witnesses.

"We’re happy that we’re going to have an opportunity to present the compelling evidence that Rodney Reed didn’t commit the crime," Bryce Benjet of the Innocence Project, who took on Reed’s case, told The Texas Tribune. "The Court of Criminal Appeals recognized the substance of this case and the need for a special hearing where all the evidence can be considered."

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