Homeless man sues Burger King for $1 million over 2015 discrimination incident

Emory Ellis, above, got a ride to the police station and more than three months in jail after he was wrongfully accused of using counterfeit cash after he tried to buy breakfast at Burger King using a $10 bill. (AP)
Updated 17 May 2018
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Homeless man sues Burger King for $1 million over 2015 discrimination incident

BOSTON: Emory Ellis, a black homeless man in Boston, was hungry so he went to Burger King one morning in 2015. But instead of breakfast, Ellis got a ride to the police station and more than three months in jail after he was wrongfully accused of using counterfeit cash, he says.
Now Ellis is suing the fast food giant and franchisee for nearly $1 million, saying he was discriminated against because of his appearance. The lawsuit comes on the heels of recent cases of police being called on black people that have sparked uproar and claims of racial profiling.
Ellis’ attorney said the cashier likely wouldn’t have questioned if the money was real if a white man in a suit handed him the same bill. Even if he did, the cashier probably would have apologized and said he couldn’t accept the cash instead of calling police, attorney Justin Drechsler said.
“A person like me would’ve gotten an apology, but a person like Emory somehow finds his way in handcuffs for trying to pay for his breakfast with real money,” said Drechsler, who’s white.
A Burger King Corp. spokesperson said the company does not tolerate discrimination “of any kind,” but cannot comment on the specifics of the case. The company said the franchisee is responsible for employee training and handling legal matters about the location.
Two Guys Foods, Inc., the franchisee, didn’t immediately return a phone message on Wednesday. A number for the cashier, who’s also named in the complaint, couldn’t be found in public records and it wasn’t immediately clear if he has a lawyer.
Ellis’ lawsuit, which was first reported by digital legal news service Law360, was filed this week in Suffolk Superior Court. He’s seeking $950,000.
Ellis was arrested in November 2015 and charged with forgery of a bank note. His arrest triggered a probation violation and he was held without bail until his final probation violation hearing, according to the lawsuit.
He wasn’t released from jail until February 2016, when prosecutors dropped the forgery charge after the Secret Service concluded Ellis’ bill was real, the lawsuit says.
Ellis, 37, never got his money back, the lawsuit says.
“Nobody deserves to be treated the way that Emory was treated,” Drechsler said.
The lawsuit comes weeks after the arrest of two black men at a Philadelphia Starbucks and other cases that have shined a spotlight on minorities’ interactions with law enforcement.
Starbucks says its employees will receive racial-bias training after an employee called police on the black men because they hadn’t bought anything.
And at Yale University earlier this month, a white student called campus police about a black graduate student who had fallen asleep while working on a paper.


Unmapped roads raise risk to Southeast Asian rainforests — study

An aerial photo of a road running through an palm plantation in Dumai, Riau, Sumatra island, Indonesia. (Antara Foto/Rony Muharrman/via REUTERS/File)
Updated 27 May 2018
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Unmapped roads raise risk to Southeast Asian rainforests — study

  • Researcher Alice Hughes found that roads have penetrated areas previously considered untouched and unreachable by vehicles.
  • An average of 75 percent of roads in five countries were missing from OpenStreetMap (OSM), a mapping platform widely used by researchers and academics.

KUALA LUMPUR: Forests in parts of Southeast Asia face greater threats than previously thought because researchers often rely on data that ignores new roads, which are precursors to deforestation and development, a study shows.
The paper, published this month by the journal Biological Conservation, showed that an average of 75 percent of roads in five countries were missing from OpenStreetMap (OSM), a mapping platform widely used by researchers and academics.
“Large-scale forest clearance is preceded by the growth of road networks, which provide a stark warning for the region’s future,” the study said.
Author Alice Hughes, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, studied a total of 277,281 square kilometers by analyzing satellite images and maps showing forest loss and coverage, as well as agriculture concessions.
She found that roads have penetrated areas previously considered untouched and unreachable by vehicles.
“We are deluding ourselves that we still have large tracts of inaccessible, pristine forest, when the reality is highly-fragmented, very accessible forests,” Hughs said on Friday.
Her research examined road networks in parts of Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.
“In some parts of the region, up to 99 percent of roads on those global maps, which are used as the basis for a huge amount of further analysis, are not included,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Deforestation and development of forests in the area studied have occurred at a rapid pace since 2000, said Hughes, while maps used by researchers do not regularly update their road data.
“Most of the time these roads are just providing access to forests and up to 99 percent of deforestation is within 2.5 km of road,” she said. “They are clearly the access method.”
She added that the region urgently needs better protection and enforcement for its remaining forests.
Indonesia, which is the world’s biggest palm oil producer, introduced a forest clearing moratorium in 2011 to help reduce deforestation.
Hughes said the ban should be expanded beyond just land designated as natural, untouched primary forest to include all high biodiversity forests.
Hughes’ research methodology should be used to determine whether the same patterns exist in other parts of the world, said Christopher Martius, team leader for climate change at the Indonesia-based Center for International Forestry Research.
“It is surprising that nobody ever did that before, and it is shocking that the result shows we grossly underestimated the possible threat to tropical forests from road building,” he said by email.