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197 posts from November 2007

November 28, 2007

Judge Thomas orders sex offender to be freed

Judge Brad Thomas, whose views on criminal justice were well known during his time as a top aide to former Gov. Jeb Bush, has written a ruling for the First District Court of Appeal that orders the state to free a 30-year-old sex offender convicted of failing to register with the state within 48 hours of moving to a new address.

In the opinion Thomas wrote on behalf of himself and two other judges, he concludes that there was no evidence that justified Levi Griffin being sentenced to 21 months in prison. Griffin, who spent nearly three years in prison for an earlier sex offense, said he could not comply with the 48-hour rule because Hurricane Katrina led to the closing of the driver's license office in Alachua County where he lived. While the order takes 15 days to become final, it orders that Griffin be immediately released from the Columbia County prison where he is being held. More here.

So how did they select the the vlogs?

For the last several weeks, CNN producers sorted through 4,927 questions -- previewing more than 3,000 -- and narrowed them down to several dozen by Wednesday, said CNN Political Director Sam Feist.

The main criteria: the questions must be "important in the Republican primary," and illuminate differences between the candidates, Feist said.

"We want to have a really diverse mix of questions. We want to have some straight forward questions about policy differences from the candidates and also want to have a personal story when it makes sense."

Republican candidates were reluctant to participate in a similar debate, concerned that the tone of the questions made light of the office. So producers agreed that the chosen questions would have the appropriate tone.

CNN producers selected questions from vloggers who offer geographic diversity, different diverse and ages, Feist said.

"We will go into the debate with a lot more questions than we ever expect to use," he said. "A question that might make sense before the debate starts, might not make sense after the debate starts."

Host Anderson Cooper will carry a set a cards listing the questions and he and the producers will decide which video to queue up as the debate proceeds. "These debates take on a life of their own," he said.

Crist defends early primary; delegates are 'fine'

Florida's lost delegates are no problem because "what really matters is the people on Jan. 20,'' Gov. Charlie Crist said in answer to a question from CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

"Our great legislature made the right decision,'' noting the the early date brought CNN and its massive entourage and satellite trucks to his hometown. Then, he urged Blitzer to consult with his mother, who lives in Hallandale Beach, about the mood of Floridians. "But I think it's important to monitor this. Things change very quicly in the Sunshine State. We are a swing state -- that makes us very important and we're a mega state. And now we have an opportunity to weigh in very early in this process.''

From Papillion, Nebraska to the world

Imagine this: You're a high school teacher in Papillion, Nebraska, population 18,000, who wants to fire up a bunch of teenagers about the 2008 presidential race. You mention the word "YouTube" -- the video sharing web site that draws young people in droves -- and the eyes of your American government students light up.

So here's what you give for homework: Make YouTube videos with questions for the presidential candidates to submit to the upcoming Republican debate.

And then, after YouTube founder Steve Grove takes note of your students' 38 video submissions, you find yourself invited to fly from frigid Papillion to sunny St. Petersburg, where you'll get to sit in the second row during the debate behind the Romneys and in front of the Huckabees.

That's what happened to Ray Keller.

"It's getting a new generation interested in politics,'' said Keller, who heads back home to Nebraska tomorrow to help coach the girls' varsity basketball game. Regardless of whether CNN picks one of his student's videos to air during the debate, Keller said, "It's been very rewarding."

Here's a sample:

Diaz-Balart and Ros-Lehtinen: "Nice try Mitt, but we heart McCain"

Mitt Romney, who told the Tampa Tribune editorial board that when it comes to Cubans arriving in the U.S., "the more, the merrier," also says he relies on advice in all matters Cuban from folks like Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart.

UPDATE: The Romney campaign takes issue with the Trib article, saying Romney didn't say that the pair have advised him, but that "as president" he'd consult with them.

(Observers suggested that after the former Mass. guv mistakenly associated Fidel Castro's trademark speech-ending slogan -- Patria o muerte, venceremos! -- with a free Cuba -- he needed some Cuban-American advisors.)

But Diaz-Balart and Ros-Lehtinen, along with a third Miami Republican, Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, are staunch backers of Romney rival, Sen. John McCain.

"We haven't been advising him on Cuba," Thomas Bean, Mario Diaz-Balart's chief of staff said of Romney. "We're loyal with McCain."

Romney also noted he got advice from former Florida GOP chief Al Cardenas, who is enthusiastically backing his bid. And Ros-Lehtinen said she talks often with Cardenas.

"I talk to Al and Al probably transfers the conversation to Mitt," Ros-Lehtinen said. "When I run into Giuliani backers, I do the same thing. Maybe they transmit messages to the candidates, maybe not. But I talk to anyone and everyone about the need for Cuba to be free."

Romney told the Tampa newspaper he believes "as many Cubans as want to come here should come in," - a stance the newspaper said stands "in sharp contrast" to his calls to otherwise tighten the U.S. border.

Like the three Miami Republicans, McCain supported an overhaul of federal immigration laws which would have included a path to legalization for some undocumented immigrants. Romney was critical of the legislation, earning a rebuke from Republican Florida Sen. Mel Martinez, who has yet to endorse any of the prez candidates.

New salvo fired on global warming

The war over the cost of climate changes begins. Environmental Defense released its report today chock full of dread and gloom. Here's more.

Jennings gives up the ghost in the machine, sort of

Democrat Christine Jennings - who lost a congressional race by fewer than 400 votes - has dropped her state lawsuit against what she says were faulty voting machines in Sarasota County, but says in court filings that a congressional investigation will give her the same result.

Jennings, who lost to Republican Rep. Vern Buchanan and is challenging him for re-election, said in court papers filed in Tallahassee that the congressional probe into the voting machines "has achieved the objectives of her lawsuit" and she now "may voluntarily dismiss it."

But Florida Republican party chair Jim Greer declared victory, suggesting Jennings' prolonged battle to figure out what happened to more than 18,000 missing votes harmed her candidacy.

"While Christine Jennings finally did the right thing by giving up her frivolous lawsuit, it comes a year too late," said Greer, who sent reporters a copy of the dismissal.

Jennings has said the suit isn't about her but about what happened to the voting machines. The machines showed that more than 18,000 voters in Sarasota County cast no vote in the congressional race. Buchanan's camp has pointed to state audits that suggested there was no problem with the machines.

Investigators with the Government Accountability Office are in Sarasota this week, examining the machines. The whole matter is likely to go back before a congressional task force early next year.

UPDATE: Jennings campaign sent out a press release saying that she had "achieved the goal of having Sarasota County's voting machines independently tested. Because we accomplished this important step for reliable elections, there was no reason to continue litigation within the Florida courts."

One track wants to join with anti-gambling House speaker

Gulfstream Park on Wednesday filed a motion with the Florida Supreme Court asking that it be allowed to join the lawsuit between House Speaker Marco Rubio and Gov. Charlie Crist over the 25-year compact that Crist negotiated with the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Rubio has argued that Crist has overstepped his authority by letting the Seminoles have types of gambling not now authorized by Florida law.

Gulfstream argues the compact will hurt the Broward County parimutuel and threatens tax money it now turns over to the state: "This economic impact, these jobs and the consequential tax revenues are all jeopardized by the Governor's actions in executing this compact," states the motion.

Gulfstream has handed out more than $140,000 in campaign contributions this year, more of half went to the Republican Party of Florida, although they have contributed this year to the campaigns of Rep. David Rivera and Rep. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, two of Rubio's allies. They also gave $25,000 to a CCE run by Sen. Mike Haridopolos.

Welcome to the Ron Paul debate

So says the banner drivers can't miss on their way from the Tampa International Airport to the CNN/YouTube Republican presidential debate in St. Petersburg, where the questions tonight will come from videos posted by ordinary people on-line instead of professional moderators.

The banner's claim may refer to the Texas congressman's astonishing success at capitalizing on the on-line community that nurtures the YouTube video sharing web site. He raised a record-setting $4.2 million on-line in a single day, his campaign's channel on YouTube surpassed 5 million views, and his web site claims the most traffic of any campaign.

But the, ahem, seven other candidates who are here may disagree with the banner's suggestion that the nationally televised debate belongs to Paul, whose on-line success has yet to bubble up in off-line polls. Or as  Adam Kovacevich, a spokesman for power-to-the-people YouTube owner Google, said: "The debate doesn't belong to any of the candidates. It belongs to YouTube users."

Florida GOP'ers, not so rigid on abortion, gay marriage?

On the eve of the Republican debate in St. Pete, a new poll of likely Republican primary voters in Florida provides a hint of why former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani is leading in Florida, despite opponents' assertions that he backs gay marriage and abortion rights.

The poll shows that 77 percent of likely primary voters are opposed to gay marriage and that more than 60 percent don't believe abortion should be legal.

But asked about their stances on abortion and gay marriage, just 21 percent of respondents said they would never vote for a candidate who disagreed with them. Fifty percent said the issues are "important," but that "in the right circumstances" they'd vote for a candidate who disagreed with them. And a quarter of respondents said the issues wouldn't affect how they'd vote.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll of 1,099 adults in Florida was conducted by telephone by Opinion Research Corp. on Nov. 26-26. It included 300 voters who said they're likely to vote in the GOP prez primary.