by Michael C. Bender | Bloomberg
Amid all the talk about these midterms being “the nothing election,” there is one election that can well and truly be said to be about nothing. The Florida governor's race is almost completely free of substance except that manufactured by consultants to be shoveled out over the airwaves.
Instead, it has produced all the usual political virtues: ambition, vanity, money, shamelessness, the drive to claw your opponent's eyes out. Yes, the Florida governor's race has earned its distinctions.
The ridiculousness took shape again on Wednesday on a South Florida stage shared by Republican Governor Rick Scott and his Democratic opponent, former Governor Charlie Crist.
In a debate airing live in each of the state's 10 media markets, Scott initially refused to emerge from backstage, leaving moderator Eliott Rodriguez to explain to viewers that the governor believed Crist was cheating by placing a fan next to his podium. A fan.
Crist, of course, pled ignorance, saying he knew of no ban — that he could recall, anyhow — on any kind of apparatus that would waft cool air on himself. After several awkward minutes, Scott finally appeared, saying he was waiting on Crist. “Well, I waited until we figured out if he was going to show up,” Scott said, throwing up his hands. “He said he wasn't going to come to the debate. So why come out until he's ready?”
Rodriguez, a news anchor for CBS4-TV Miami, summed it up for the audience. “Ladies and gentlemen, that has to be the most unique beginning to any debate not only in Florida, but I think anywhere in the country.”
The political attacks that followed, however, were anything but unique, and served only to remind voters of why the race is among the tightest in the country, and also may be the worst.
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Officials from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will hold a conference call today on Ebola preparedness and training with Florida hospitals.
Gov. Rick Scott said Saturday that the call scheduled Monday afternoon will provide guidance for proper use of personal protective equipment, safe handling of medical waste and effective clinical strategies within hospitals.
Late Friday, the CDC approved a request from state health officials to redirect $7 million from federal grants to buy full body suits for health care workers who may have contact with any potential victims of the virus.
Scott, who is in a tight race for re-election against former Gov. Charlie Crist, has been critical of the CDC's response and has repeatedly stressed measures he's taking to prevent a possible crisis in Florida.
by TC Palm
Did the sugar industry help the re-election campaign of state Sen. Joe Negron? Did All Aboard Florida campaign for state Sen. Thad Altman, who says he opposes the passenger trains? And did officials of a rock mining company try to oust Martin County Commissioner Sarah Heard for questioning its proposed development?
Indirectly, yes, and not necessarily with the approval or even knowledge of the candidates or their challengers.
Outside political spending groups channeled special interest money into campaign propaganda — mostly attacks — in Treasure Coast primary races for state and local offices.
With the Nov. 4 general election less than a month away, voters are likely to see more political rhetoric — online, on TV and in their mailboxes — paid for by Florida-based groups with inconspicuous names such as Truth Matters, Working Together for Florida and Florida Federation for Children.
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by BRANDON LARRABEE | News Service of Florida
An ill wind blew across Florida politics this week. And much of it was generated by an electric fan.
Former Gov. Charlie Crist's quest to keep cool at the second debate between himself and Gov. Rick Scott kicked up as much dust as a fan turned to its highest speed. Scott's team argued that Crist had blown past the rules of the debate, while Crist's campaign said the incumbent was simply trying to distract attention from his own huffing and puffing.
It was the kind of fantastically weird Florida story that spins out of control. From the evening newscasts to the "Daily Show" and beyond, national figures ventilated their opinions about the latest weird political event in the Sunshine State. Some of those presentations breezed by the nuance to focus on the easy storyline: A fan had stopped a debate in Florida, if only for a few moments.
It would be wrong to blow off the other stories that took place this week. Both the University of Florida and Florida State University are closer to finishing the process of selecting their next presidents. And the Florida Supreme Court ruled on a case that had the potential to turn iPhones into trackers for law enforcement.
But the reports about Fangate whirred along.
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by carol marbin miller | miami herald
In Lake County, a disfigured 2-month-old whose mother did not want him is left alone in a motel room for 90 minutes, and is later found smothered. His family had been the subject of 38 prior investigations by the state’s child welfare agency.
“It is a general consensus,” a report said, “that [the mother] was involved in the death of her child.”
In Santa Rosa County, child welfare authorities allow a “chronic and severe” drug addict to bring her newborn home, though her two older children had been removed from her care for their safety. Eighteen days later, the mother takes an unprescribed Lortab painkiller and places her baby next to her in bed. The child is found dead.
And in Polk County, a mother leaves two toddlers alone in a “kiddie pool” — and returns to find her 1-year-old daughter face-down in the water. Her 2-year-old son later discloses he pushed his sister down while she was crying. He now suffers nightmares.
The children, who all perished last year, are tragically bound by more than death: Even as the Florida Department of Children & Families has promised greater openness, the three fatalities, and dozens of others like them, have never been counted among the state’s victims of fatal abuse or neglect.
No state can protect every child who is born to troubled, violent or drug-addicted parents, and even youngsters for whom child protection administrators make all the right choices can sometimes fall victim to unforeseen circumstances. To ensure that state social service agencies learn from mistakes, the federal government requires that states count and investigate all child fatalities that result from abuse or neglect.
Regulators don’t, however, strenuously oversee how the counting and investigating occurs.
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by Sascha Cordner | WFSU
For several weeks, a group of Florida foster youth has been working at one of the state’s largest state agencies as part of a new legislative pilot program. The goal is to help these young adults aging out of the foster system get on the path to future employment.
Back in 2005, Brian Williams went into the foster care system when he was a teenager. He later left when he was 18. The 22-year-old says overall, it wasn’t bad, but it was a big learning experience.
“After I aged out and I moved out on my own, been on my own ever since,” said Williams. “I always had my own place, I had some jobs in and out. Did school, and I didn’t graduate high school until after I aged out. And, then I went to Lively Technical, got two trades from there for electronic technology and computer technology. Then, I went to TCC to major in criminal justice.”
He says he’s faced several obstacles while in foster care. And, he says the one that comes to mind the most is not having that peer mentor.
“Not having that leadership, I want to say or not having that one person there that you could relate to,” added Williams. “You know, by us being younger, we want someone who’s around our age or who’s not too far who’s basically a role model. And, I guess we didn’t have that. So, it’s just hard to relate to a lot of the older people.”
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by Maryann Batlle | Naples Daily News
Is the world ready for two Floridas?
Walter Harris, vice mayor of South Miami, thinks so. He led commissioners in his town to pass a resolution that calls everyone from Orange County on down to secede from “North Florida” and become — if Puerto Rico does not beat them to it — South Florida, the 51st state.
And yes, South Florida would include Collier and Lee counties.
Harris, an environmentalist inspired by Scotland’s recent independence vote, said Tallahassee’s unresponsiveness to rising sea levels that threaten low-lying, coastal cities such as South Miami and Naples means it’s high time to break up.
“If ever there were a situation that warranted the separation of North and South Florida, this is it,” Harris said. “We need to have the hand on our pulse.”
The state’s politics are just “pathetic,” Harris said.
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by Lynn Hatter | WFSU
Florida State University is more than 60 percent to its goal of raising a billion dollars by the year 2018.
The effort started under former President Eric Barron and to date, FSU has raised $610 million. FSU Vice President of Advancement Tom Jennings says that was done over the past few years amid the Great Recession.
“We raised that $610 million under the context of the first few years when the economy and stock markets were struggling and they’ve come back, which has helped us," Jennings says. "We’ve also done it without a state matching gift program which was a part of the last two campaigns and provided about 15 percent of the dollars raised.”
FSU officials say they’re using the money to recruit new faculty and expand student services. The final fundraising push comes as FSU remains under scrutiny for the way its handled sexual assault allegations against its star football quarterback.
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by gina jordan | WUSF
A 10th grader born in Haiti struggles to read in his class at Godby High School in Tallahassee. The student is more comfortable with Haitian Creole than English. Teacher Althea Valle has students of various nationalities trying to master the language.
“It’s a challenge,” Valle says. “There’s a lot of gesturing, and you know sometimes I feel like I’m onstage and sometimes I have to be onstage to make myself understood.”
Valle is the ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) coordinator for Leon County schools. Her developmental language class is offered as an elective for students who want the extra help, like Anas Al-Humiari from Yemen. His native language is Arabic, and he’s been studying English for 5 years.
“First of all, the words are the main things that get me down and the time, me trying to understand the sentence and what is the article or text actually means,” Al-Humiari says, trying to find the right words.
The Florida Legislature passed a law last spring that says the standardized test scores of English-language learners, known as ELLs, will count toward a school’s overall grade after two years of instruction. But federal law requires the test scores to count after just one year.
Imagine sitting in a math or science class trying to learn the lesson, but not understanding English. That’s the situation for many of Florida’s ELLs. Valle says most of them need three to five years of language instruction before they can be proficient on standardized assessments.
“After two years, it’s difficult to say that students will actually achieve this level,” Valle says. “So after one year, we can say they definitely won’t achieve this level.”
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