Today's Top Story

Scary thought for candidates: Fundraising gates shut at midnight. Here's what we know posted on 10/31/14

by Mary Ellen Klas | Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau

FL Capitol BldgBoom, clang, lock.

If there had been a sound associated with the end of the campaign finance season it would be that. At midnight Thursday the gates closed on what has been the most expensive political season in Florida history.

Have citizens united to rejoice yet?

They should. Donors can't be haunted by fundraising calls from the candidates and their surrogates any more and, in four days, the public will see the end to the incessant bloodletting of the...

Breaking News

  • Scott, Crist duel over past and future of economy posted on 10/30/14

    by BRANDON LARRABEE | News Service of Florida

    TALLAHASSEE — Long before the flare-up over Charlie Crist’s fan earlier this month, Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s campaign had been dogged by an earlier debate moment —- one from four years ago, when he was asked to elaborate on his promise to create 700,000 jobs in seven years.

    The moderator at the debate used the first question for Scott to point out that economists already expected Florida to add more than 700,000 jobs over the next seven years. After the usual opening greetings, Scott made it clear what his promise meant.

    “So, our plan is seven steps to 700,000 jobs,” Scott said. “And that plan is on top of what normal growth would be.”

    The moderator, Antonio Mora, pushed Scott a bit. Economists expected the state to add about a million jobs, so another 700,000 jobs would mean that Florida would have an additional 1.7 million openings over the next seven years, Mora noted, in a state where 1 million people were unemployed at the time.

    Scott didn’t correct Mora. “We’re going to grow the state,” he responded, then began ticking off the virtues of doing business in Florida.

    Even before this year’s campaign, when Scott’s biggest talking-point is his record of job creation, the exchange with Mora was repeatedly walked back after the governor settled into office. In a statement issued in October 2011, Scott said his promise was “the creation of 700,000 jobs over seven years regardless of what the economy might otherwise gain or lose” — a slight change in phrasing that altered the meaning of the promise.

    » Read more

  • Suit seeks money for drivers across Florida nabbed by red light cameras posted on 10/30/14

    by jane musgrave | palm beach post

    running red lights, a federal lawsuit filed this week seeks to compensate motorists throughout the state who have been stung by the high-tech police force.

    In the lawsuit, Palm Beach Gardens attorney Ted Leopold claims various governments including Palm Beach County, Boynton Beach, West Palm Beach, Juno Beach and Boca Raton, are violating state law by allowing the camera vendor to make the initial determination of whether a motorist ran a red light.

    If it decides a violation occurred, American Traffic Solutions forwards the image to a government-paid traffic enforcement officer. If the officer checks “accept” on the image, the Scottsdale, Arizona-based company sends a $158 traffic citation to the owner of the vehicle.

    State law doesn’t allow a private company to determine whether a someone blew through a red light, Leopold claims. “The statute makes clear that only a (traffic infraction enforcement officer) is to review images or video to determine whether a violation has occurred — there is no carve-out for a vendor to perform a preliminary analysis,” he wrote.

    Charles Territo, a company spokesman, disputed Leopold’s allegations. “ATS does not have the authority to decide whether or not a violation is issued,” he said. “That decision is entirely in the hands of the customer.”

    Leopold’s allegations seem to be buoyed by an Oct. 15 decision by the 4th District Court of Appeal. Ruling on a lawsuit filed by a motorist who got slapped with a red-light camera ticket in Hollywood, the West Palm Beach-based appeals court said a municipality can’t “outsource” the initial review of red-light violations to a private company, like ATS.

    » Read more

  • State grants $750,000 for cybersecurity training posted on 10/30/14

    by howard altman | Tampa Tribune

    Sometimes, there is a silver lining to a perfect storm, and that’s what the creators of a new cybersecurity training program for veterans hope to capture.

    A recent study by IBM showed that the vast majority of cybersecurity breaches have a human element. And there is a large regional population of education-seeking veterans who still have, or can easily regain, their security clearance.

    To help meld the need to stem a growing problem with a potentially large workforce that can help, the state Department of Economic Opportunity has awarded a $750,000 grant to the not-for-profit National Cyber Partnership for Cyber Foundations, a pilot program to prepare Tampa-area veterans and others for high-skill, high-wage jobs in the cyber industry.

    It will be formally introduced at a press conference 2 p.m. Thursday at the Chester H. Ferguson Law Center in Tampa.

    The online training program, which launches in January, dovetails with the undergraduate and graduate Cybersecurity Certificate Programs already in place at Saint Leo University.

    “The demand for trained cybersecurity specialists far exceeds the supply,” said Babir Bal, associate dean of the Donald R. Tapia School of Business at Saint Leo University. “At the same time, many veterans find it challenging to find gainful employment or are underemployed. Saint Leo University plans to provide training opportunities to the veterans in order to obtain gainful employment in this fast-growing and highly sought after skill area.”

    The pilot program will train 40 veterans, said Bal.

    The focus, say organizers, is on cybersecurity.

    » Read more

  • State Attempt to Reopen Medicaid Case Draws Fire posted on 10/30/14

    by News Service of Florida

    With a federal judge possibly close to ruling in the case, plaintiffs' attorneys are objecting to a state attempt to offer new evidence in a lawsuit about whether Florida has adequately provided care to children in the Medicaid program.

    The lawsuit, which has been spearheaded by the Florida Pediatric Society, was filed in 2005. A trial ended in 2012, and federal judge Adalberto Jordan is expected to issue a ruling soon, according to court documents.

    In a strongly worded document filed Tuesday, the plaintiffs' attorneys said the state's attempt to introduce new evidence would be "highly prejudicial" and would cause additional delays.

    "Essentially, defendants (state agencies) are asking for an entirely new trial in the guise of a motion to reopen the record,'' the document said. "The prejudice to plaintiffs, a class of nearly two million Florida children who depend on Medicaid, could not be greater."

    The state Agency for Health Care Administration, the Department of Health and the Department of Children and Families filed motions last week that, in part, asked for the case to be reopened to provide new evidence.

    As an example, AHCA and the DOH pointed to a recently completed shift to a statewide managed-care system in Medicaid. They contend that the shift addressed issues in the case, such as having adequate networks of physicians to care for children.

    » Read more

  • Hospitals Take Leap on Prevention posted on 10/30/14

    by Carol Gentry | Health News Florida

    Nearly half of Florida hospitals have earned an "A" on error prevention in a new report card from a business-backed group concerned about patient safety.

    The ratings from The Leapfrog Group, released today, show Florida fifth among the states on its safety scores (see all state scores). No Florida hospitals flunked, and just three scored a D (see Florida scores).

    The most-improved hospital on the Leapfrog list is Brandon Regional Medical Center, which jumped from a D to an A grade in just six months. The suburban Tampa facility is part of the HCA Healthcare chain, as are three of the four hospitals that jumped from Cs to As over the same time.

    The HCA hospitals that jumped two letter grades to an A were all in Tampa Bay: South Bay Hospital in Sun City Center, Northside Hospital in St. Petersburg, and Doctors Hospital of Sarasota.

    The good news was not entirely a surprise, said Dr. Larry Feinman, chief medical officer for HCA's 16-hospital Western Florida Division.

    "Our company and our division and our facilities have been embarking on significant work with clinical excellence initiatives that really have improved the quality at all our hospitals," he said in an interview. "You're seeing the result of that."

    » Read more

  • Sarasota speaker: There is no campus 'culture of rape' posted on 10/30/14

    by jeremy wallace | Herald-Tribune

    Claims of a large number of rapes and sexual assaults on college campuses are a “lie” and are being overly dramatized by Democrats for votes, a prominent conservative speaker told more than 700 people at a Sarasota rally aimed at getting out the vote in the governor’s race.

    “What nonsense,” Prager said moments after Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal addressed the same group. “There is a culture of rape on campuses run by the feminist left? What do you cite to sell me this nonsense? One in five women are sexually assaulted on campuses. Do you know what sexual assault means? Did you ever look at what counts? An unwanted kiss is considered sexual assault. I’m stunned it’s only 1 in 5. Four out of five women have not gotten an unwanted kiss? My wife gets unwanted kisses every so often.”

    Prager said the left trivializes rape by redefining the terms, while the Republicans treat it as worst thing short of murder.

    “Culture of rape?” Prager said. “No. I’ll tell you why it exists on the campus, and that is: a rape of the culture.”

    Prager’s comments come just a month after a California college rescinded an invitation for conservative columnist George Will to speak after he wrote a piece during the summer also questioning the veracity of sexual assault reports on college campuses.

    » Read more

  • Forecast Shows Unexpected Growth In Orange Crops Despite Flat Overall Citrus Yield posted on 10/29/14

    by DONALD DEBEVOISE | WFSU

    Experts predict a spike in the price of Florida’s citrus this upcoming harvest season, meaning slightly more revenue for the state’s farmers. But an unexpected increase in orange production could keep retail prices low.

    Citrus greening is a bacterial disease that’s cut Florida’s citrus crops in half since it first struck the state’s trees in 2005. The lower supply has helped farmers fetch higher prices per orange. But, former University of Florida professor of agricultural economics Tom Spreen says farmers are still having a hard time breaking even.

    “So, really, in spite of the fact that prices are – we’re probably going to be close to a record if not at a record level for grower prices this year – there will not be a huge amount of profit being made because so much money is being spent trying to combat the disease,” Spreen says.

    But a bit of relief could come in this upcoming harvest, with the most recent projection showing a slightly higher orange output. That means retail prices on orange products could stabilize, even though wholesale prices might be higher. Florida Department of Citrus economist Marisa Zansler says the increased production is unexpected after several seasons of decline. She adds scientific advances in the fight against citrus greening disease, and a government replanting program, give hope for a revitalization of the industry.

    » Read more

  • Verizon Launches Tech News Blog... That Bans Any Articles About Net Neutrality Or Government Surveillance posted on 10/29/14

    by Mike Mansick | Tech Dirt

    Patrick O'Neil, over at The Daily Dot, has a scoop about Verizon getting directly into our game: tech blogging. It's launched a brand new tech news website, called SugarString, which apparently is supposed to compete with other tech news sites. Now, I know that some are immediately skeptical just based on the fact that Verizon is launching a news site -- but I don't find that alone particularly troubling. In fact, I think many companies should be producing good, relevant content, because good content is good advertising. Hell, a decade ago, I was very involved with a great news site that Nokia put together called TheFeature, which involved a really spectacular group of writers covering news and commentary about the coming mobile world (sadly, TheFeature was basically wiped off the internet, though the archives can still be found). But, at least there, we had free reign to write about anything we thought was interesting at all. There was no pressure or influence from Nokia at all -- at least none that I ever felt. And, honestly, I think more companies should be engaging with people with good content.

    But, of course, this is Verizon, so its good intent is undermined by something silly. And, in this case, the something silly is that anyone writing for SugarString has to agree not to write about net neutrality or government surveillance, two of the biggest, most important tech topics these days. From our standpoint, I guess that takes away "competition" (though, amusingly, it does appear like at least one story on the site is a warmed over version of something that we wrote a week ago, but made more clickbaity with a "list") on two of the main stories we cover, but it really does raise questions about why anyone would ever trust the site in the first place, when, from the very outset, Verizon has made it clear that its editorial control will be focused on staying away from any stories that Verizon doesn't like.

    » Read more

  • The nightmare scenario: A race for Florida governor too close to call posted on 10/29/14

    by Steve Bousquet | Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau

    TALLAHASSEE

    It’s the nightmare scenario nobody wants to discuss: an election night result for Florida governor that’s so close it demands a recount.

    “Oh, no, the R-word,” said Pasco County Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley. “It’s going to be a close one. We’re ready.”

    It’s Florida. Anything can happen.

    With polls showing Gov. Rick Scott and Charlie Crist in a virtual deadlock, both sides are making plans in case of a stalemate next week. Republicans and Democrats would mobilize armies of lawyers in a frantic search for ballots, triggering memories of the agonizing and chaotic five-week Florida recount that followed the 2000 presidential election.

    “Expect the unexpected,” said Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Kathy Dent.

    Florida now has nearly 12 million voters, and a 50 percent turnout would mean about six million votes.

    A machine recount of all votes cast is required when the margin between two candidates is half of a percentage point or less. That equates to 30,000 votes with a turnout of six million.

    Four years ago, Scott defeated Democrat Alex Sink by 61,550 votes out of 5.4 million cast or 1.2 percent. That was so close that the winner wasn’t known until the next morning, but it wasn’t close enough for a recount

    » Read more

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