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12 posts from October 12, 2012

October 12, 2012

Fidel Castro is dead. On Twitter. Again.

Fidel Castro has died. On Twitter. Again.

It was only a matter of time before the rumors and whispers kicked up again on Twitter, which thrives off rumor and whisper.

Not only is the dictator 86 and in poor health and out of the public eye -- he failed to congratulate strongman-protege Hugo Chavez after his re-election in Venezuela. Not a peep from Castro. Not a Tweet. Yes, Castro's on Twitter, but the 140-character limit doesn't suit the windbag who once gave speeches for hours.

Still, the silence was a deafening vacuum, which Twitter abhors.

"I thought somebody in the Cuban government would at least write up some fake congratulations to Chavez but then again, NO ONE speaks for Fidel," wrote Rob Sequin in a smart Havana Journal post. "That would be a life threatening mistake."

The silence and innuendo shouldn't be a surprise. Cuba is a dictatorship of government-controlled media and lies. It literally shoots (or simply imprisons) the messenger.

“El Comandante is well, following his daily routine, reading, exercising,” Alex Castro said, according to pro-Castro blogger Yohandry Fontana. (What are the chances the government wants to leak this news on the cusp of the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile crisis?)

We've been through this drill before. For decades. But now we have Twitter. It can happen endlessly.

In January and then August, folks were atwitter with Castro's death. But he seemingly remained alive. Perhaps he died earlier but is propped up like a Weekend at Bernie's dictator. Perhaps he's as satanic, as many exiles say, and will therefore live forever.

But now that he gave up ostensible power to his brother and traded in the army fatigues, Castro is more likely these days to be compared to more comical figures, especially South Park's mythical cartoon child, Kenny, who dies every episode.

"Fidel Castro has died more times than South Park Kenny," Tweeted the AP's Terry Spencer. "(Another unfounded rumor today. When he does croak, no one will believe it)."

And that's something you can believe on Twitter when it comes to Fidel.

Here's our latest story

Five governors offer stern warning about Florida's future

GAINESVILLE _ Five of Florida’s living former governors met at the University of Florida  Friday and offered up bi-partisan cautions about the future direction of the state. 

The governors, Reubin Askew, Bob Graham, Bob Martinez, Buddy MacKay and Charlie Crist, lamented the loss of environmental protections, the dismantling of guided growth management, and the recent partisan assault on the Florida Supreme Court.  

Absent from the panel was former Govs. Jeb Bush and Wayne Mixon, who was governor for three days after Graham. The “Conversation with Florida Governors” was sponsored by the UF law school’s Law Review as part of the Allen L. Poucher Legal Education Series.

Askew, a Democrat who as governor from 1971-79 ushered in judicial reform and the non-partisan merit retention elections for the Supreme Court, said he was disappointed that the Republican Party has joined in the push to oppose the three justices up for merit retention. But he also chided critics who claim that the justices should not be judged by their records.

“The Republican Party is, I think, making a serious mistake when it injects a partisan view on what should be a non-partisan system,’’ he said. But, “an election is an election” and “people can’t get told what they can consider.”

Continue reading "Five governors offer stern warning about Florida's future" »

Higher education task force considers big changes, tuition hikes

When Gov. Rick Scott brushed aside intense lobbying from state universities and vetoed a tuition increase earlier this year, he created a blue ribbon panel to identify ways to make the state's higher education system more efficient.

Their answer? Proposals similar to those Scott vetoed, including tuition increases and even higher fees for students with majors that will lead to high-paying jobs.

Under one proposal, released this week by Scott's Blue Ribbon Task Force on Higher Education, university funding would be determined by how well individual schools meet accountability benchmarks, including a measurement of how many graduating students find jobs.

Read more here.

In letter, Florida ethics chairman asks for reform

Florida's ethics panel asks the Legislature for reforms each year, and somehow the recommendations never pass. But there seems to be a renewed hope this year after incoming Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, publicly touted reform.  

Here's a letter from Florida Commission on Ethics Chairman Matt Carlucci on which reforms he'd like to see pass.

The Florida Commission on Ethics has proposed a number of important ethics reforms to the Florida Legislature this year, and I'd like to talk about four which merit special attention. 

Continue reading "In letter, Florida ethics chairman asks for reform " »

Herald/Times poll: Nelson up 47-42 over Mack

Independent voters and party switchers are providing the edge for Democrat Bill Nelson as he maintains his lead over Republican challenger Connie Mack in the U.S. Senate race, according to a new Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald/Tampa Bay Times poll.

Mack narrowed the margin to 47 to 42 percent, three points tighter than it was last month, but the Fort Myers congressman didn’t seem to benefit from the eight-point surge of support for Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney in Florida.

Nelson continues to lead among voters who are not affiliated with any party, getting 51 percent support among independent voters to Mack’s 37 percent.

The Orlando Democrat also enjoys some crossover appeal, with 6 percent of the voters surveyed voting for both Romney and Nelson.

“This isn’t a wave election so you may see some purposeful ticket-splitting because people are a little bit divided in their view over what the parties are offering,’’ said Mason-Dixon pollster Brad Coker.

The telephone survey of 800 registered Florida voters — all likely to vote in the November election — was conducted Oct. 8-10 for the Tampa Bay Times, Miami Herald, El Nuevo Herald, Bay News 9 and Central Florida News 13. The poll, which included respondents using land-lines and cell phones, was conducted by Mason-Dixon, a nonpartisan, Jacksonville-based company. The margin of error is 3.5 percentage points. Story here.

The Mack campaign issued the following statement from campaign manager Jeff Cohen:

Continue reading "Herald/Times poll: Nelson up 47-42 over Mack" »

217,400 Floridians have already voted; Democrats holding their own with absentee ballots

While it's only a fraction of the 12 million or so total registered voters*, the more than 217,000 absentee ballots already cast in Florida this week are a leading indicator of just how tight this presidential race is -- and how nervous Republicans might be.

Normally, Republicans clean the Democrats' clocks when it comes to voting by mail. In 2008, the lead was by double digits.

No more. At least as of now.

Republicans have a 4 percentage point lead over Democrats when it comes to voting their absentee ballots right now (about 96,000 to about 88,000 of the 217,400). If that trend holds, it could prove problematic when early in-person voting starts Oct. 27. Democrats typically dominate early voting, and completely wiped out a major Republican absentee-vote lead in 2008.

About 2 million voters have requested absentee ballots in Florida (42 percent Republican, 39 percent Democrat). So there's a lot more voting to do.

What's not clear, however, is how many of these Democratic absentee voters comprised the 2008 early in-person voters. That is, how many of these voters are voting early by absentee ballot before early voting in person begins? And, when early voting comes along, will Democrats have a small lead there relative to four years ago?

Of course, it's also not clear exactly for whom the ballots were cast (not every Democrat votes Democrat; not every Republican votes Republican).

But the fact that so many Democrats are voting by absentee is a strong sign that their ground game is formidable this election. So is the number of newly registered voters by the Democrats: 322,000. The Republicans signed up just 47,000. The 275,000 voter edge means a lot in a close election.

Bottom line: The Obama campaign has had four years to organize. And it's showing.

Republicans have long been organized in Florida. Their still-impressive absentee-ballot program is a sign of that. Consider: in 2008, when they were outnumbered by 637,000 registered voters, Republicans still won in absentee-ballot voting.

Right now, their candidate is also winning in the polls.

The real October surprise this election was President Obama's bad debate performance, which cost him an inside-the-error margin lead in Florida. He trails Mitt Romney by 7 points in the latest Miami Herald poll of likely voters.

Long-shot idea to have Donald Trump build a film studio in Homestead fizzles

Homestead won’t be home to Trump City Studios after all.

Donald Trump had attached his name to a proposed movie production center on 800-acres abutting the Homestead Air Reserve Base. But Miami-Dade County officials have determined that most of the land is unusable because the county doesn’t own it, the land uses are restricted or because of environmental issues including the presence of an endangered plant and snake, as well as asbestos contamination.

“Based upon the information, the project as proposed would not be something Mr. Trump would be interested in,” said Michael Cohen, Trump’s right-hand man and legal counsel.

The plan for a futuristic movie studio in South Dade was presented by surprise by county Commissioner Joe Martinez in the midst of a hot mayoral election. He lost in August to incumbent Carlos Gimenez.

Martinez insisted the proposal wasn’t timed for maximum political potency. He pitched the idea to Trump over dinner, shortly after the business tycoon bought a golf course in Doral, Martinez said.

Both Cohen and air base officials weren’t happy about the way Martinez pushed the plan.

More from Christina Veiga here.

ARG FL poll: Romney 49- Obama 46

From American Research Group, which conducts so-called "robo-polls." It found President Obama, once ahead of Republican Mitt Romney, falling behind 46-49 percent. A Miami Herald survey yesterday found the same thing, but reported a bigger, 7-point lead for Romney. But The Herald poll and this survey have one striking similarity: Each shows an exact, 8-point shift in Romney's favor and away from Obama since September. As we've said before: It ain't the topline, it's the trend. But now the trend is bad for Obama (although a Marist Poll found the race essentially unchanged).

  Obama Romney Other Undecided

Likely voters 46% 49% 1% 4%

Democrats (40%) 80% 14% 1% 5%
Republicans (37%) 9% 88% - 3%
Independents (23%) 45% 49% 2% 4%

Men (48%) 42% 53% 2% 3%
Women (52%) 49% 46% - 5%

18 to 49 (48%) 50% 45% 1% 4%
50 and older (52%) 42% 54% 1% 3%

White (73%) 39% 56% 1% 4%
African American (9%) 91% 5% - 4%

Sep 20-22 50% 45% 1% 4%

Drunken Secret Service agent busted in Miami after Obama visit

From Jim Defede

MIAMI (CBSMiami) — U.S. Secret Service agent Aaron Francis Engler was found early Friday morning passed out on the sidewalk near the intersection of Brickell Avenue and 7th after President Barack Obama had left South Florida.

According to the arrest report, Miami police officers were in the area on an unrelated call when they noticed Engler passed out. When the officers checked on the man he grew combative and started to fight with officers, according to the police report.

The officers then took Engler to the ground and handcuffed him. Once secured, sources said the officers went through Engler’s pockets and discovered his Secret Service identification.

More here

Sens. Garcia, Dockery and Jones speak up against GOP decision on merit retention

Two outgoing Republican senators and one returning member joined a growing chorus of prominent Floridians Friday and signed a joint statement opposing the Republican Party of Florida's executive board decision to oppose the merit retention of Supreme Court Justices R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince.

"The Justices who are up for merit retention on the November ballot have served ably and honestly in their roles as Supreme Court Justices,'' wrote Sens. Rene Garcia of Miami, Paula Dockery of Lakeland and Dennis Jones of Semnole, in a joint letter. Dockery and Jones are retiring because of term limits this fall. Garcia was elected withouth opposition.

They urged the party "to reconsider this unprecedented insertion of politics into what has been a system that has served Florida and her citizens well."

Here's their letter:

Continue reading "Sens. Garcia, Dockery and Jones speak up against GOP decision on merit retention" »