In 2010, the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (CVSSA) became law. The statute required, for the first time, cruise lines to disclose incidents of missing passengers, sexual assaults and other shipboard crimes to the American public.

The legislation was the result of the dedication and hard work of our client and good friend, Laurie Dishman (who traveled to Washington D.C. over 30 times), her Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-CA), as well as other members of Congress, including Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX)(all photographed below).

A special thank you, of course, goes to former President Obama for signing the ground-breaking legislation into law. He warmly greeted Laurie in his office and acknowledged the brave and special person that she is, while demonstrating great generosity of spirit. President Barack Obama

NCL New OrleansI left New Orleans in November 1987 after attending law school at Tulane and  practicing law in the Big Easy for four years.  There were no cruise ships based in or visiting New Orleans back then. The closest thing was the Natchez riverboat which would paddle around the muddy Mississippi for a few hours.

This weekend my partner and I went back to New Orleans for the beginning of Jazz Fest 2016.  I had not been back to New Orleans for over ten years. The city looked more vibrant than I remember. Its seems to have come a long way since the devastation of Katrina back in 2005.  

We had a fantastic time, as you can see here in my photos if you are not a friend of our Facebook page.   

Yes, New Orleans is a cruise port now.  Early this morning, the Carnival Triumph arrived into port as we left the city.  It is a strange phenomenon to see a huge cruise ship sailing on the Mississippi.     

It has been a while since I wrote about my time in New Orleans.  

One of the few articles I wrote about New Orleans was Oysters, Dixie Beer & My New Orleans Saints.

Photo: Jim Walker

 New Orleans - Carnival Cruise

   

Last night I watched Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed in my favorite movie It’s a Wonderful Life. At this point, I think I’ve seen the classic movie at least once a year for the last 50 years. 

I’d like to extend a Merry Christmas and a warm Season’s Greetings from everyone at Cruise Law.

It’s that time of the year to be thankful for your family and friends as we celebrate the Holidays.

Many, many thanks to my friends, foes, clients and family.

Merry Christmas! And don’t forget, Its a Wonderful Life.

Christmas Cruise Law

Photo Credit: Jim Walker

Today we enjoyed a great day in St. Petersburg, Florida at my father-in-law’s house.

The weather was amazing and our extended families congregated and enjoyed our time together.

Our extended family ranges in age from 1 year old to 93 years old. There was lot’s of laughter, hugging and fellowship.

Thanks to all of our clients, friends, and foes.  A Happy Thanksgiving to all. 

 

 

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News sources in Canada are reporting that Royal Caribbean barred a woman from cruising with her family after she admitted that she was pregnant but didn’t have a note from her doctor stating that she was fit to travel. 

Global Toronto states that Michelle Ligori, her husband and their two sons were booked aboard Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas out of Fort Lauderdale.

According to the television station, the following exchange took place between Ms. Ligori and a cruise line representative. 

Oasis of the Seas"The girl at the counter said, ‘Any chance you’re pregnant?’" Ligori said. "And I was taken off guard and said, ‘Yes, I found out a few days before we left,’ and she said, ‘Do you have a note?’ She told us you cannot get on without a note."

The station further states that Ligori was positive on a home pregnancy test but she had not seen her family doctor yet. She and her husband did not want to say anything to family members or their two young sons because the pregnancy was at the very early stages. She was in compliance with the cruise line’s pregnancy restriction which prohibit cruising after 24 weeks of pregnancy.

"We were treated like parasites," Ligori said of Royal Caribbean.

Ms. Ligori scrambled to obtain a doctor’s note but the cruise ship sailed. The couple spent $1,200 for additional hotels, taxi fares and a flight for her family to catch the cruise in the Bahamas two days later.

Royal Caribbean initially refused to compensate her until the media began covering the story. When the case went public, the cruise line contacted the family to offer an apology and refund them for the missed days and their expenses. 

We have written about cruising while pregnant before: Pregnancy & Cruising: What To Expect If You Are Expecting.

 Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Baldwin 040

 

 

Michael Moore tweeted this evening:

"Had a gun-toting Trayvon Martin stalked an unarmed George Zimmerman, and then shot him to death . . .  DO I EVEN NEED TO COMPLETE THIS SENTENCE?"

I am sick of young black men being killed with impunity.

J.W. Milam, Roy Bryant, George Zimmerman – they are all the same.

Are we still stuck in the days of Emmett Till in the Mississippi Delta of 1955?

Photo Credit: Jim Walker – Money Mississippi

Trayvon Martin - Emmett Till

Are there any Rush Limbaugh fans out there?

Today’s blog may be of particular interest to you if you are.

It seems that Rush doesn’t like the criticism voiced against the cruise industry as the Carnival Triumph was towed back to Mobile last week. He does not like the references to the fact that cruise lines are incorporated in foreign countries to avoid taxes, labor laws and safety regulations.

As you can read in the transcript here of his show, he quoted everyone who made a critical comment of Rush Limbaugh Cruise Ship DiatribeCarnival on the CNN broadcasts.  He mocked Erin Burnett, Howard Clark, Donny Deutsch, Martin Savidge. He even quoted me, for goodness sake, when I was on a CNN show as a set-up to his talking points:

JIM WALKER:  "Foreign-incorporated companies that are essentially registering their operations overseas to avoid US taxes."

Rush then launched into a classic diatribe, mocking the criticism of the cruise industry:

RUSH: "Yeah, but look at what they do. "They register these ships outside the US. They don’t pay any US taxes. The cruise ship passengers have no rights. They’re basically slaves — and if there’s sewage on the walls? Big whoop. We’ll tow you in when we get a chance — and after we get you, the bus that we transport you in will break down, and then for all your trouble we’ll give you a refund and a 15% discount on the next cruise of your choice. What a bunch of rotten SOBs!" 

He eventually explained his argument that:  

"Make no mistake. Make no mistake. The whole point of this was to impugn the entire cruise industry and this particular cruise line as having some linkage to Bush." 

Rush then rambled on with his radio broadcast trying to tie in his diatribe about the alleged left-wing conspiracy against cruise lines and George Bush to his rant against women and Hispanics and farm workers and President Obama and Reverend Wright. After a few minutes I had no idea what he was talking about except that he somehow implicated me in some type of conspiracy against George Bush.

I suppose that it’s funny to be accused of being part of such a clandestine plot. I must be a secret agent or master spy or spooky sleuth or member of an illegal coalition against America, according to Rush. I suppose that criticizing a major corporation or participating in anything not officially sanctioned by a corporation is an act of conspiracy, rebellion or Rush Limbaugh Taxestreason.

Why is it that ultra-conservative Republicans love cruise lines which pay no taxes?  Last summer, Newt Gingrich disappeared from his Republican Presidential campaign because he could not resist a luxury cruise aboard a foreign flagged cruise ship in the Mediterranean.

I have never reconciled the maniacal bashing of President Obama for somehow not being "American" enough with the hard core Republican love of the tax-avoiding-foreign-incorporated cruise industry.

At the bottom of Rush’s web page I could not help but notice a banner ad featuring Rush posing for a company that fights paying taxes to the federal government.

Emmett Till Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s holiday is a time to reflect on Reverend King’s legacy and stories of overcoming racial hatred and injustice.

As Dr. King organized and led marches for equal rights in the South, he was fighting prejudice against black Americans which had lasted generations. 

Over the course of the 100 years before Dr. King began his crusade, landmark U.S. Supreme Court cases like the Dred Scott Decision (1857) and Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) had officially designated black men and women as the chattel of white slave owners or, even after slavery long ended, second-class citizens under the "separate but equal" apartheid system which institutionalized racism. In 1954, the Supreme Court over-ruled the "separate but equal" doctrine in the Brown v. Board of Education case, holding that the doctrine was "inherently unequal."  But states like Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Mississippi continued to openly discriminate against blacks in all aspects of education, employment and life.  It was in these states where Dr. King had his work cut out for him.    

Stories of racists murdering African-Americans, including children, in the U.S. in the 1950’s and 1960’s Bryant's Grocery Store - Money Mississippimay seem like ancient history, but many of these events occurred during my childhood. None of the stories should be forgotten.

The death of 14 year old Emmett Till is one story that has haunted me for years. Emmett was an African-American boy from Chicago whose mother, Mamie Till, sent him south for the summer months. Emmett lived with his uncle, Reverend Mose Wright, in a small house outside of the town of Money, Mississippi, a dozen miles or so north of Greenwood.

Money is the tiniest of towns, bordered to the west by the Tallahatchie River and to the east by a railroad track separating the town from endless miles of cotton fields. In the mid 1950’s the town of Money consisted of a large cotton gin, a few tin-roofed buildings, and a church. Bryant’s grocery store was a focal point in the little town. It was frequented by the local residents including the families of black sharecroppers.    

I used to spend parts of my summers in a similar town in Mississippi called Morgan City, which was a dozen or so miles south of Greenwood.  Like Money, Morgan City had a large cotton gin, a church and some stores. It was north of the town of Belzoni (pronounces bell-zone-na) where my great grandfather served as the mayor and ran the Emmett Till post office around 1902. 

During the summer, my grandfather would drive me and sometimes my brother and sister from south Arkansas to Mississippi to visit my Uncle Bob and Aunt Jessie. Other than fishing for brim with a cane pole, there was not much to do except swing from a tire hung from an oak tree and play with my uncle’s coonhounds which lived under the front porch of the family’s wooden farm house. At night, our entertainment consisted of listening to the crickets & cicadas which lived in the cotton fields which surrounded the house, and trying not to sweat in the un-airconditioned old wooden house.

Morgan City, like Money, was a completely segregated society in the 1950’s and 1960’s. I remember the men and women who worked in my uncle’s cotton fields entering my uncle’s house only through the back kitchen door and drinking only out of large Mason jars used for canning vegetables.  

Delta towns like Money and Morgan City were (and remain) part of the most impoverished region in the United States. In 1969 the award winning book Still Hungry in America by Robert Coles (with photographs by Al Clayton) chronicled the poverty crippling the black community in the delta of Mississippi. The book focused on Belzoni. (NPR returned in 2006 to Belzoni in 2006 and found that nothing Roy Bryant - J.W. Milan - Emmett Tillhad changed). This part of the country was the last place where schools in the U.S. were integrated and African-Americans were permitted to vote. As a child I could see that things were not right. But it was only later that as a student of history I fully understood that the Mississippi Delta was the epicenter of the KKK, racial lynchings, and the murder of civil rights activists.

The town of Belzoni was still litigating against black voter registration as late as the the mid 1970’s, some twenty years after one of the first civil rights leaders, Reverend George Lee, was gunned down in the street in front of the Belzoni courthouse. His murderers were never arrested, even though the murder occurred in broad daylight (my photo of the site is here).   

So it was in these dangerous delta days in Mississippi that Emmett Till found himself as a child in the summer of 1955.  On August 28th while his uncle preached at a Wednesday evening Bible study, Emmett and his southern cousins walked into Money and stopped at Bryant’s grocery store. Ignoring his mother’s instructions about the behavior expected of blacks in Mississippi, Emmett bought some candy from the white woman behind the counter. While leaving the store, he said something like ”Bye, Baby.” Other accounts suggest that he may have whistled at her. 

When Roy Bryant, the husband of the woman from the store, returned to Money from his truck driving job, he and his half-brother J.W. Milam, 6′ 2” and weighing 235 lbs, drove over to Uncle Wright’s house armed with pistols. Mamie Till - Emmett TillThey took “the boy” from his uncle and disappeared with Emmett into the night. The two men beat, pistol-whipped and tortured Emmett over the course of several hours. They finally shot him in the head. The men dumped Emmett in the Tallahatchie River with a 75-pound gin fan secured with barbed wire around his neck.

Emmett’s body was found in the river by some boys who were fishing. There was a rush to bury Emmett and hide the spectacle of his tortured body. But his mother, Mamie Till, transported her son’s remains to Chicago. She held an open-casket funeral so the world could see her son’s mutilated, bloated body. 

History shows that instances of racial violence are usually followed by injustice in the legal system. Emmett’s story is no different.  Emmett’s uncle showed the courage to overcome racial slurs and death threats to attend the criminal trial of Bryant and Milam.  He rose during the trial and pointed squarely to Milan as one of the men who took Emmett away. But this was Mississippi in 1955.  The all-white male jury quickly acquitted the two white men of kidnapping and murder of the black boy.  You can read the trial transcript here. After they were acquited, Bryant and Milam were photographed laughing with their wives and, later, smoking a cigar.

Roy Bryant - J.W. Milan - Emmett Till The injustice to Mamie Till and the black community became even more unreal when, a year after the trial, the half-brothers confessed (for money) in Look magazine to the crime and laid out the horrific details, which you can read here.  

I returned to Mississippi in 2008 after over 45 years. My mother accompanied me and directed me to many places that I would have forgotten. My great grandfather’s grave site has been vandalized (photo here). The stores in Morgan City and Belzoni which were not abandoned looked old and run down. My uncle’s Bob’s farmhouse was bulldozed after a tornado hit Morgan City in the 1970’s. The huge oak tree where we played as kids was nowhere to be seen. I somehow still looked for Uncle Bob’s coondogs, and the tree-swing where I played with my sister.  

Mom and I drove up to Money to see Bryant’s grocery and pay our respects to Emmett. A train rumbled down the tracks as we headed into town. I thought of Mamie Till kissing her son goodbye before placing him on a train in Chicago for his fateful trip south, 53 years ago.

The cotton gin in Money is closed now. All that’s left is a closed post office and a few houses here and there, and a church.  We drove over to the location where uncle Wright’s house was located, now long gone. We drove across the bridge over the Tallahatchie River (my photo here) and said a prayer for Emmett.  

When I visited Money, there was no reference to Emmett or the civil rights movement that he helped start. I have heard that there is now a historical marker at the site.

Bryant’s grocery is dilapidated (my photo is below). I found it shuttered with plywood, and the roof and windows had fallen in. After taking a series of photos (which you can see here), I was happy to get into the car with my mom and drive past the cotton fields back home.  

Bryant's Grocery - Money Mississippi

Today was a beautiful sunny 75 degree day in Miami.  Usually we spend Thanksgiving with my parents in Arkansas where the leaves have fallen and its colder. 

Last year was my Dad’s last Thanksgiving.  It was strange not seeing him carve the turkey today.

This year we stayed in Miami.  Lots of family members and friends came over.  Kids splashing in the pool is a fun backdrop to turkey day.  We had a blast.

We have a lot to be thankful for, like my great aunt Anita, just 89 years old, and my in-laws Dr. O’Neill and Ms. O’Neill, who are approaching their mid-80’s, and my Mom who is only 79, and is Thanksgiving from the Walker & O'Neill family - Cruise Lawgetting around pretty good now that she lives here in South Florida with us.  The words lively, active, brisk, and vigorous come to mind whenever I see them.  

We are thankful for our children who are healthy.  My oldest son finished his second homemade skateboard and took off this afternoon with me yelling at him to buckle his helmet.  My youngest son trounced me one-on-one in basketball.  When I demanded a re-match, he shut me out in front of the elders who seemed to be cheering for the youngest in the family.  I’m not even going to try and take my older son on.  When did they get taller, faster, and can shoot better than me?

I am thankful for my wife (and law partner).  I’m blessed to be with someone who’s not only a heck of a lot smarter than me but who can cook for 23 without stressing out a bit.  Yes, that’s her, standing where she should be – in the middle.

I am thankful for my co-counsel Jonathan Aronson and his wife Ilene who have been a constant support for our firm, and me personally, day in and day out.

I am thankful for my brother and sister and their families, who couldn’t be with us this year, but are in my thoughts every day. 

We are thankful for our clients who live across the U.S. and all over the world.  We are blessed to have clients from the U.K., Germany, Russia, Croatia, Serbia, India, Honduras, Jamaica, St. Vincent, Trinidad, Bahamas, South Africa and Mexico.  (If I have forgotten someone’s home country please email me and give me a hard time.)

Take a moment on this day of Thanksgiving and be thankful for your family and friends.  Count your blessings. 

Happy Thanksgiving my friends.  

Tonight I watched the news programs about the death of Steve Jobs, the college drop-out turned garage computer creator turned genius behind the Apple iPod, iPhone and iPad products and Pixar studio. 

Jobs had a almost Zen like approach to his iconic products and his life, as revealed during his 2005 commencement speech at Stanford University.

At this time, he had already co-founded Apple and been fired by age 30, re-emerged for the renaissance of Apple’s best days, and batted pancreatic cancer.  

At age 56, he tells the young graduating students some sage advise.  Find what you love in your life and in your career, and "love what you do." 

"Your time is limited."

"Don’t waste it by living someone else’s life."

For those reading this blog, take a minute and reflect on where you are right now.  Do you love your life and your job?   Are you really living your life?  

Or are you wasting your limited time here on planet Earth by listening to the noise created by others?  

 

https://youtube.com/watch?v=Sla1HyvpIdo%3Frel%3D0