Sunshine State News Blogs
With the U.S. continuing to negotiate with Iran on its nuclear program, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., called for tougher sanctions on that nation.
“As we move down the path of diplomacy it is important to remember Iran’s track record and not be fooled by hollow verbal gestures,” Buchanan said. “A nuclear-armed Iran threatens the stability of the Middle East and the world. By no means should the United States accept any deal that leaves the door open to Iran’s continued pursuit of a nuclear weapon. Until then, tougher sanctions are in order.
Buchanan cautioned on the current negotiations. “We need to ensure that this is not just another stalling tactic by a regime suffering from crippling economic sanctions hoping to receive some relief as they strive to build a nuclear weapon,” Buchanan said.
In September, Generation Opportunity launched its ad campaign against the new health care law, urging college students not to sign up for health insurance exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act. The ads feature a "creepy Uncle Sam" who performs pelvic exams on young patients.
"Don't let the government play doctor" flashes across the screen before the commercial ends.
Generation Opportunity's latest step to slam Obamacare happened over the weekend when it held a tailgate with college Republicans from the University of Miami. The organization set up games of cornhole and beer pong, although Generation Opportunity clarified it did not provide the booze.
The group hired hundreds of models with bull horns who walked around with anti-Obamacare petitions, and the same "creepy Uncle Sam" made cameos in various photos of the college tailgate partying.
Republican congressional hopeful David Jolly has been running for Congress less than a week but claimed major momentum on Tuesday. Jolly is seeking the Republican nomination in a special election for the seat left open by the death of U.S. Rep. Bill Young, R-Fla. Jolly served on Young’s staff and has the endorsement of his widow.
On Tuesday, Jolly announced his campaign has brought in more than $100,000 and former Ambassador Mel Sembler, who was the finance chairman for the Republican National Committee (RNC), and businessmen Jim MacDougald and Bill Edwards will be leading his campaign fundraising efforts.
“Less than a week after we officially launched our campaign for Florida’s 13th Congressional District, I am proud to announce that our supporters have already helped us raise more than $100,000,” said Jolly. “Now, with the addition of these three amazing finance co-chairs, we will undoubtedly be able to take our campaign to the next level and to every household in Pinellas County. I want to thank Ambassador Sembler, Bill Edwards and Jim MacDougald for their support and willingness to help our campaign, and I am excited to be a part of the momentum their presence will surely bring.”
The poll found just 35 percent of likely U.S. voters believe the trouble-plagued health care law is good for America, while 55 percent consider it bad for the country.
The same percentage -- 55 percent -- at least somewhat favor repealing the law entirely, while 41 percent are opposed.
Since the roll-out of the law on Oct. 1, websites for the national and state government exchanges to sell health insurance have been plagued by malfunctions and website errors. The law has also come under considerable criticism after news reports continue to suggest millions of Americans may be forced to change their current health insurance policies and pay more for them as a result of the new law.
The survey of 1,000 likely voters was conducted Nov. 9-10. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95 percent level of confidence.
Plans to upgrade the bridge have been in the works for over 20 years, but state transportation engineers have been working with downtown Miami residents and civic leaders to develop the signature bridge since 2009.
The city of Miami sued the Florida Department of Transportation over the bridge earlier this year. The lawsuit alleged that the state secured federal funds to build a 600-foot signature bridge, but when funds were secured, FDOT suddenly announced it was considering a design for the bridge which was different than the one the city and neighborhood groups originally approved.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., penned an op-ed over at the Miami Herald to warn about how con men can exploit President Barack Obama’s federal health-care program to commit fraud. A fierce critic of the program, Rubio has called for its delay to protect Americans’ privacy and to iron out the continued problems plaguing www.healthcare.gov.
We are now entering the seventh week since Obamacare’s exchanges went live, and several big problems remain clear.
• First, the website where people are supposed to buy insurance — or be penalized by the IRS for not doing so — is still plagued by technical problems and security concerns.
• Second, despite hundreds of millions of dollars devoted to a Spanish-language Obamacare propaganda campaign, the Spanish-language Obamacare website hasn’t even been launched yet.
• And, most troubling, is that millions of Americans are now being notified that they will lose the health plans they were happy with, along with the doctors they know and trust — something President Obama promised would never happen under Obamacare, although recent revelations show his administration has known for at least three years this was inevitable.
All this means millions of Americans now have to shop for new health-insurance plans, but the websites they are supposed to buy insurance don’t work. In response, President Obama and his administration have steered people toward a 1-800 help line and in-person enrollment through Obamacare’s network of so-called “navigators.”
This is a troubling proposition for the American people who are now being forced into other Obamacare enrollment options that could make them more susceptible to fraud and personal identity theft. As Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius admitted last week, there is no uniform standard of background checks conducted on navigators, and nothing to prevent convicted felons from becoming navigators.
Americans know all too well the high personal and economic costs of fraud in our health care industry. For example, each year in Florida, we see hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars vanish into the hands of Medicare and Medicaid fraudsters, many of whom have found refuge from the American justice system in places like Cuba. And Hispanics in particular should be wary of entrusting just anyone to help them fill out government applications, as so many in our community have been victimized by so-called notarios, who take immigrants’ money and immigration paperwork, and then do nothing for them.
As Obamacare’s website failures push more people toward non-Web enrollment options, the same kind of con artists who have been defrauding Medicare, Medicaid and immigrants will be inclined to do the same through Obamacare’s navigator network.
And as time goes on, we will inevitably see more cases of people fraudulently posing as navigators, collecting personal information and then exploiting innocent victims. And while some states like Florida have taken proactive steps to raise standards for aspiring navigators and toughen consumer protection safeguards, many states have not.
The entire piece can be read here.
The Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) released a Web video on Tuesday morning attacking former Gov. Charlie Crist who entered the 2014 gubernatorial race as a Democrat last week. In the new spot, the RPOF slices a Crist video and injects stats showing how Florida’s economy suffered under his watch.
The video can be seen here.
Brandes' bill would add an extra 5 mph to Florida highways and is being co-sponsored by Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth.
“Seventeen other states already allow speed limits above 70 (mph),” Brandes told Noah Pransky of WTSP/10 News Investigates. “It’s time that Florida review its laws, and we look to see if another 5 miles per hour will help Florida drivers get (to their destinations) a little quicker.”Other states have already raised the speed limits on four-lane highways. Starting July 1, Kansas raised the speed limit on four-lane highways to 75 mph. Louisiana also increased rural interstates to 75 mph.
A bill in Texas awaiting Gov. Rick Perry's signature will change highway speed limits in West Texas to 85 mph.
Florida is the state most at risk of rising sea levels.
Floridians saw this year what happens when an abundance of water falls on the state. In South Florida, flooding and environmental damage littered the east and west coasts. Wildlife drowned in the Everglades conservation areas.
Now, experts say beaches and even the inland Everglades could be lost in less than a century, under 5 feet of water, reports The New York Times.
Ben Strauss, director of the Program on Sea Level Rise at Climate Central, told the Times, “People tend to underestimate the gravity here, I think, because it sounds far off. People are starting to tune in, but it’s not front and center. Miami is a boom town now, but in the future that I’m very confident will come, it will be obvious to everyone that the sea is marching inland and it’s not going to stop.”
The coastal counties of Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe and Palm Beach are teaming up to find ways to save themselves. Last week, the 5th Annual Southeast Florida Regional Climate Leadership Summit took place in Fort Lauderdale to examine the effects of rising seas.
Real estate observers said that while the ocean may be rising, the real estate market hasn’t noticed. But, more than $150 billion worth of property is at risk, as it lies less than 3 feet above Florida’s high tide. Also at stake are the billions being spent by the state to restore the Everglades.
Scientists at the summit also warned that canals will also rise, making inland residents susceptible to similar problems as those on Florida's coasts.
Veterans Day was originally known as Armistice Day to mark the end of World War I on Nov. 11, 1918.
It’s easy to forget American involvement in World War I, though public interest in it is picking up again and August 2014 will mark 100 years since the start of the conflict. The American role in the war simply lacked the drama or the sweeping victories of the Civil War or World War II. To some, American involvement in World War I remains a mistake (Ron Paul and Pat Buchanan come to mind) and an argument can be made that the rise of Soviet Russia and of Nazi Germany would have been far different -- and perhaps would have never taken place -- had America not entered the war in early 1917. The fact that hundreds of thousands of men fought for four years in massive lines of trenches over inches and yards remains almost incomprehensible a century later.
While Florida housed some naval bases in the war, the Great War, as it was called, did not impact the Sunshine State the way that other conflicts -- namely World War II -- did. But reading information on the fallen and going through the 39 rolls of information at the National Archives on the men drafted from Florida holds the human interest -- and then some.
Almost 200 Floridians who lost their lives during World War I are buried in seven American military cemeteries in France. A stunningly high percentage of the young men from Florida who lost their lives were killed in the final weeks of the war in late October and early November 1918. Some of the doughboys from the Sunshine State, buried in France, died in 1919 -- victims of their wounds and the influenza epidemic that swept the world after the war.
Even the ones who survived the war were not always lucky. During the Great Depression, hundreds of former doughboys would head to veteran camps throughout the state, looking for work. In the hurricane that swept through Key West in 1935, an estimated 250 veterans of the war lost their lives.
Like the war they fought in, America’s veterans of World War I have often been overlooked and the last one passed away in February, 2011. While it may be easy to forget the war, we should never forget the Americans whose lives were forever impacted -- and far too many ended -- by it. “Time will not dim the glory of their deeds,” noted Gen. John J. Pershing of America’s dead from the war. It hasn't.
Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey is riding high after his big re-election win last week and a poll released Monday shows he would be a formidable presidential candidate for Republicans come 2016.
Rasmussen Reports released a poll of likely voters on Monday which shows 43 percent backing former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, with Christie right on her heels with 41 percent.
Despite some conservative discontent with Christie, the New Jersey governor gets the support of 73 percent of Republicans while Clinton can count on the backing of 77 percent of Democrats. Christie holds a solid lead with voters outside the two major parties, taking 42 percent of them, while 33 percent back Clinton.
The poll of 1,000 likely voters was taken from Nov. 7-8 and had a margin of error of +/- 3 percent.
"Today, we honor all veterans for their sacrifice, their sense of duty and their service. And yesterday, we celebrated the Marine Corps’ 238th birthday. It truly has been a wonderful weekend in Pinellas County with our men and women in uniform," said Sink.
"But, for me, it’s also the first year my husband Bill is not here. Many of you know that Bill was a Marine, and each year on the Marine Corps' birthday, he would call his buddies to wish them a happy birthday. That’s why today I’m taking the time, as I know you are, to remember those who sacrificed their lives in service, but also to honor those still serving.
"Veterans’ families know the self-sacrifice their loved ones make every day, but we also witness the bond among our military men and women that truly makes them heroes.
"But, honor and reflection are not enough. We owe so much to our veterans. We must strive to better provide the services they need upon their return home.
"So, as we gather with our loved ones today, let us remember and honor their service and courage.
"To all veterans today we say: Thank you."
Allen West, the outspoken former representative of Florida’s CD 22, has penned a new book that will hit shelves in April 2014.
In "Guardian of the Republic: An American Ronin's Journey to Faith, Family and Freedom," the conservative Republican recounts the experiences that made him who he is today: his upbringing in Atlanta, his time as the third-generation in his family to serve the country in the military and later his public service in the U.S. House of Representatives.
In reviewing the book, Fox News' Monica Crowley writes, "'Guardian of the Republic' is not simply the title of this powerful book. It's what the founders demanded of each of us: to be sentinels for freedom. Allen West is such a soldier. From the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan to the combat of Capitol Hill and beyond, he has fought tirelessly and fearlessly for the American idea. This is a passionate clarion call to restore that idea -- 'the last best hope of earth,' in the words of Lincoln -- before it's too late."
West, who lives in Palm Beach Gardens, outlines what he believes the country needs: "a principled, informed conservative who understands where we came from, who can trace the philosophical roots of our faith and freedom, and who has a plan to get America back on track."
While many political observers will be quick to hand the newly-patented Florida Democrat Charlie Crist a lion's share of the youth vote in his bid for his second go at the Florida governor’s mansion, one university student is saying: Not so fast.
Rebecca McLaughlin writes in the University of Central Florida’s student newspaper, “There are many different reasons why politics are corrupt, and Crist is one of them. In my opinion, someone who is elected to office needs to be connected to the people in order to properly understand them and their needs.
"He has already displayed that he does not stick to his principles and beliefs, which is just proof that he has been stuck in the world of corruption that modern-day politics is.”
McLaughlin, instead, says the people of Florida deserve “real people” in office, not “career politicians.”
Read more from McLaughlin in Sunday's interesting opinion piece in the "Central Florida Future."
"Today, Americans in every corner of our country are united in honoring the achievements and sacrifices of our nation’s veterans," said Tant. "For 237 years, those who have worn our nation’s uniform have defended our freedoms with heroism, and they and their families have carried that heavy burden without complaint. Let us recommit ourselves today to always fight for our veterans, just as hard as they have always fought for us."
While the Venezuelan government released Miami Herald reporter Jim Wyss over the weekend, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., ripped the leadership of that South American nation. Rubio urged the Organization of American States (OAS) to investigate Venezuela’s treatment of the media.
“The Venezuelan government is a chronic violator of press freedom that must be held accountable. Jim Wyss is now safely home in the United States, but he should never have been detained in the first place,” Rubio said. “Venezuela has routinely violated the Inter-American Democratic Charter to which it is a signatory, and the OAS has a responsibility to hold them accountable for it. The OAS should begin an official investigation into Jim Wyss’s case, and make clear to all journalists in Venezuela and across the Western Hemisphere that any government that impedes their work will have to answer for it.
“At the end of the day, Venezuela’s inept leaders are responsible for the country’s rotten economy, rampant corruption and its dubious distinction as one of the murder capitals of the Americas,” Rubio added. “Journalists simply inform the world about what’s going on, and we should demand that they be able to work freely and safely everywhere.”
While reports are flying that Tim Tebow could be headed to the broadcasting booth if a National Football League (NFL) team doesn’t sign him, a Jacksonville city councilman is pushing the Jaguars to sign the Gator legend.
At a meeting last week, Councilman Don Redman suggested to a Jaguars official that the team sign Tebow. Redman told the Jacksonville Business Journal that he told owner Shad Khan the same thing. Besides his time with the University of Florida, Tebow has roots on the First Coast and played for Nease High School.
In the meantime, Tebow celebrated the opening of his first PDQ restaurant in Jacksonville earlier this month. The Jaguars won their first game of the season on Sunday though QB Chad Henne didn’t exactly impress with no touchdowns and two picks.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. It’s also beginning to look a lot like 2016.
Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., will be in Iowa on Monday to screen “The Christmas Candle.” Since his bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, Santorum took over EchoLight Studios to promote family and Christian entertainment.
Santorum has opened the door to another presidential bid in 2016 and Iowa, which he won by the skin of his teeth last year, will be crucial if he is to win the Republican nomination. The movie will be shown in West Des Moines on Monday night.
Running in the special election for the congressional seat formerly held by his old boss, David Jolly, a former aide to the late U.S. Rep. Bill Young, R-Fla., won the support of former Mayor Rick Baker of St. Petersburg on Sunday. Baker had been mentioned as a possible candidate for the Republican nomination.
“It is a tremendous honor to have the support and endorsement of a leader who transformed St. Petersburg by creating a seamless city where everyone has truly pulled together,” said Jolly. “I am humbled to have the backing of a man who has solidified his own legacy of public service and who is so highly-known and respected for his commitment to improving the lives, education and community infrastructure for so many here in Pinellas County. Rick Baker had the vision, skills and character to make things work; now that is a lesson Washington could learn from.”
“We need a leader who will be a strong voice for our community and a strong leader in Washington to help turn back the tide of irresponsible federal spending and debt,” insisted Baker. “David Jolly knows Pinellas and has worked to support Congressman Young’s many efforts – from industry to tourism to the support of our veterans. David won’t need a guidebook to know where to start and what to do.”
Officials say it's possible over 10,000 people may have been killed.
“The devastation in the Philippines following the impact of Typhoon Haiyan is horrifying and heartbreaking," said Scott. "We grieve with those who have lost loved ones and pray for those who are still missing. We know that helping those who are hurt and saving anyone still trapped in debris remains the top priority for responders on the ground. We encourage Floridians who want to help in the response and recovery efforts to donate to the Red Cross by visiting RedCross.org. ”
Goddard has also worked as a fundraiser for U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown. He joins Michael Hoffman, former FDP deputy finance director overseeing South Florida, who will serve as Crist's deputy finance director.
Rich had been the only Democratic nominee to be in the gubernatorial race for quite some time until former governor Charlie Crist announced his candidacy earlier this week. Rich's ad is composed by quotes only from women, which seems to suggest the former state senator is targeting the female population as part of her campaign.
Check out the video here:
An agricultural company owned by the Mormon Church agreed Thursday to purchase 382,834 acres of timberland in the Florida Panhandle.
The St. Joe Co. announced Thursday it will sell the land to AgReserves Inc., a taxpaying company owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for $565 million.
The transaction is expected to close by April 1.
Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam said the sale is a boon for Florida because it is "a long-term investment in the state's timber and cattle industries."
The church has owned 290,000 acres of land in Central Florida since the early 1950s.
"This transaction between two of Florida's largest and most-committed land stewards is a meaningful reminder of the economic and ecological value of agriculture in our state," said Putnam. "For decades, the St. Joe Co. has played an important role in conserving the landscape of Florida’s Panhandle, and AgReserves Inc. will build on that commitment while continuing to support the local economy."
Gov. Rick Scott issued the following statement Friday regarding Veterans Day:
“This weekend, Ann and I join all Americans as we express our appreciation for the brave men and women who served our great nation," said the governor. "The bravery and sacrifice of our veterans has preserved and protected the American dream for generations.”
St Lucie County commissioners voted 4-1 Thursday night to opt out of the Seven50 regional plan. They join Indian River and a number of municipalities in the northern reaches of the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council area in rejecting the seven Florida counties that would embrace a regional rather than local concept of planning the area's future.
Guest speaker Rosa Korie, who had traveled to St. Lucie from Bay County, Calif., spoke to the Property Rights Coalition and the county commissioners. Her presentation laid out regionalism as a concept conceived to replace local authority. She is author of the book, "Behind the Green Mask."
Seven50 is described on its website as a "blueprint for growing a more prosperous, more desirable Southeast Florida during the next 50 years."
With the U.N. expected to vote on which countries should be on its Human Rights Council on Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., weighed in on Friday, arguing violators of human rights -- including Russia, China and Cuba -- should be excluded. Rubio sits on the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee.
“No one can honestly say that countries that actively oppress their people or look the other way when fundamental freedoms are assaulted should sit in judgment of others’ human rights records,” Rubio said on Friday. "Holding a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council should be an honor reserved only for countries that truly strive to uphold the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.
“China, Cuba, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam are all countries that physically abuse and incarcerate people for exercising their God-given rights, institutionalize the second-class treatment of women and ethnic minorities, silence independent journalists, and look the other way as human trafficking and religious freedom violations destroy their people’s dignity," Rubio added. "They have no place on the U.N. Human Rights Council.
“I urge the administration to not only oppose their election, but also hope our representative speaks forcefully against their candidacies and appeals to other General Assembly members to align with the aspirations of all people who are being denied fundamental rights and freedoms,” Rubio said. “The fact that such blatant violators of basic human rights can run for this council is yet another clear sign that the U.N. reform legislation I introduced earlier this year deserves Congress’s consideration and approval. It is unconscionable that American taxpayer dollars continue to be devoted to a U.N. Human Rights Council that runs so counter to America’s interests in promoting freedom around the world.”
U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., issued the following statement to commemorate Veterans Day:
“America is the land of the free and home of the brave. Men and women in our armed forces have been paying a high price for this freedom and on this Veterans Day – as with every other day of the year -- we remember their courage and sacrifice with the deepest gratitude.
“As the son of a World War II Navy veteran, and a brother of three veterans, I have both a personal and policy attachment to America's servicemen and women. I will continue to fight for our veterans and do all that I can to ensure that they receive the benefits that they deserve.”
At the Mayport Naval Station on the First Coast on Friday, U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., honored 33 veterans in a ceremony.
“Jacksonville’s Week of Valor is a fitting time to honor all our veterans, including 33 servicemen and women from Northeast Florida communities who received the 4th Congressional District Special Recognition Certificate,” said Crenshaw. “The United States Postal Service also gave special tribute to regional Purple Heart recipients. In all, let us never forget that our nation’s greatness is drawn from the blood and sacrifices of honorable and courageous men and women. I thank each of our honorees for standing in the face of incredible danger and hardship and give them my deep appreciation.”
The nation honors Veterans Day on Monday. This year, Veterans Day falls on the 95th anniversary of the end of World War I.
Florida's fourth- and eighth-graders did better this year, better than counterparts two years ago on math and reading according to national test results released by the National Assessment of Educational Progress on Thursday.
The NAEP results showed a higher percentage of students scoring at or above the "basic level" this year, increased from 2011 for Florida's fourth-graders in reading and eighth-graders in both math and reading. In math, fourth-graders remained where they were two years ago.
Florida's average fourth-grade reading score stayed well above the national average, as it has for the last decade.
When it came to Florida's reading and math tests, however, Florida students mostly were just at or just below the national average, and often far below top-performing states such as Minnesota and Massachusetts. Massachusetts has been lauded by many in the state as an example of progress and achievement and is often considered the "model state" for education improvement.
The NAEP exams are given to a sampling of students in a few grades in all 50 states, with students selected to represent their state's demographics. Students test success is reported in four categories: "below basic," "basic," "proficient" and "advanced." In 2013, Florida had fewer students in the lowest category on most of the tests than in 2011, the last time the NAEP exam was administered.
"We should be looking toward proficient and advanced," said director of accountability for the Florida Department of Education Jane Fletcher. "I think the fact that we have more kids at or above basic is a significant change."
The Labor Department said Friday that the unemployment rate went up to 7.3 percent from 7.2 percent, likely as a result of furloughed federal workers being counted as unemployed. About 800,000 government workers were furloughed for all or part of the shutdown, which lasted from Oct. 1 through Oct. 16.
Employers added 60,000 more jobs in the previous two months than earlier estimated, and Friday's figures show that hiring has picked up in the fall. Employers added an average of 202,000 jobs from August through October, a number much higher than 146,000 from May through July.