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6 posts from December 21, 2012

December 21, 2012

Jon Hammar, jailed ex-Marine from Miami, released from Mexican prison

Jon Hammar, the former Marine from Palmetto Bay who had been detained at a Mexican prison since August, has been freed.

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the family's congresswoman, relayed the news late Friday night. Hammar's mother, Olivia, also issued a statement to the press about her son's release.

"The only expression that captures how we feel today is that 'our cup runneth over,'" the family said. It thanked Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Sens. Bill Nelson (a Democrat) and Marco Rubio (a Republican), and Rep. Mike Thompson, a California Democrat, for assisting in Hammar's case. Thompson represents the California district where Hammar, who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, spent some time in a residential facility for veterans, being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder.

In her own statement, Ros-Lehtinen, a Miami Republican, thanked "the American people" and her congressional colleagues for pushing for Hammar's release. "I am overcome with joy knowing that Jon will be spending Christmas with his parents, family and friends," she said.

Read their full statements after the jump.

Continue reading "Jon Hammar, jailed ex-Marine from Miami, released from Mexican prison" »

FL Dem chair donnybrook update: Tant didn't purge voters, Clendenin took sugar cash (so what?)

Looks like we've got a liberal blog war over the race for Florida Democratic Party chair, pitting Allison Tant vs. Alan Clendenin.

Tant was hit first, by The Political Hurricane blog, which backs Clendenin. It noted that Tant once lobbied in 2000 for Choice Point, the parent company of DBT, which was hired by then-Secretary of State Katherine Harris to purge voter rolls of suspected felons. Many Democrats and minorities who were lawful voters got purged as well.

When the story came out, Tant said she had nothing to do with the felon purge issue. And now a former partner, Martha Barnett, backs her up. Barnett said the two and others worked at the Holland & Knight law firm, which was hired to represent a host of clients. ChoicePoint bought a company they were already representing, Barnett said, and Tant's involvement with the company concerned identity-theft issues.

"Holland & Knight, nor Allison Tant who was an employee of the firm at the time, was not involved in any way in the Florida Secretary of State voter purge issue you referenced in your article," Barnett said in an email.

The Progressive Dems United blog (which looks like it's written by an anonymous political consultant) fired back today against Clendenin for heading up a 2010 political committee called Committee for a Better Tampa. It took $10,000 from a committee linked to U.S. Sugar, a boogeyman to some liberals/environmentalists.

But U.S. Sugar gives to almost everyone. For instance, the Democratic Party has taken in at least $755,105 from U.S. Sugar and a subsidiary since the 1990s. Add in other sugar growers, and the party has taken in at least $841,000 (and probably far more if all the subsidiaries are included). Big sugar also helped Rod Smith wage a failed campaign for governor in 2006. He's now the Democratic Party chair.

The vote for party chair is Jan. 26. For both Clendenin and Tant, that day can't come soon enough.


Gov. Scott pleads with Obama to help avoid ports strike

 Earlier this week, the National Retail Federation asked President Barack Obama to step in and help avoid a workers strike that could shut down ports along the East Coast, including Tampa, Jacksonville, Miami and Port Everglades. Now, Gov. Rick Scott is chiming in with his own letter to the president asking for action to prevent unions representing port workers from imposing a lockout on Dec. 29.

"As governor of Florida, I am deeply concerned about the economic well-being of my state," Scott wrote. "The predicted effects of a strike on the state of Florida would be devastating."

Scott writes that cargo-related activities in Florida's ports generate 550,000 jobs either directly or indirectly and contribute $66 billion to the economy. He said a strike could affect the supply chain nationwide and even could impede military operations.

The governor suggests that Obama use the powers vested under the Taft-Harley Act of 1947 to address the dispute. In 2002, President George W. Bush invoked the law, which restricts the power of labor unions, to end a strike that shuttered 29 West Coast ports for 11 days.

Here is a link to the letter: Download Scott to Obama on ports

Gov. Rick Scott trumpets latest unemployment numbers

Gov. Rick Scott is clearly proud of the state's latest unemployment numbers, which are at the lowest point since November 2008. The state unemployment rate in November 2012 dipped to a seasonally adjusted 8.1 percent, a 0.4 percentage point drop from the month before and two 2 percentage points than a year prior.

In addition to putting out a customary news release announcing the newest stats, Scott's office also sent several additional releases with regional highlights, as well as a link to an Associated Press article.

For example, the release for the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metro area said this region led the state in job growth over the year. In the Miami-Miami Beach-Kendall metro area, the governor's office said the 4.4 percentage point drop in unemployment from December 2010 to November 2012 was the largest in the state.

Scott also has a half-dozen interviews on his schedule today, presumably to tout the latest signs of Florida's recovering economy.

Here is an excerpt of the AP's coverage:

Continue reading "Gov. Rick Scott trumpets latest unemployment numbers" »

Fasano asks Scott to put resource officers in schools

State Rep. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, is urging Gov. Rick Scott to provide funding for school resource officers his budget in light of the Connecticut school massacre a week ago. 

Scott will release his proposed budget in the New Year and, in an interview on NewsMax on Thursday, he said he is open to allowing teachers to carry weapons.  Download Fasano letter on resource officers

"Although there are no guarantees, it is quite possible that the mere presence of a law enforcement officer on campus may be enough of a deterrent to curb or totally prevent school-based violence,'' Fasano wrote. "While this no doubt will be an expensive proposition, no price tag can be placed on the lives of the precious children our public schools are entrusted with each and every day of the school year."

Fasano's request comes after a parade of similar requests from across the state. David Golt, chief of Broward School's Special Investigative Unit, has called for funding for more resource officers. 

Leon County Sheriff Larry Campbell and the county superintendent of schools made a similar request of the governor, the Tallahassee Democrat reported. Earlier in the week, the Orlando Sentinel reported that Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs proposed adding armed deputies at Central Florida elementary schools.

Others are calling for arming teachers with weaponry. Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, said teachers and principals should be allowed to carry guns. Baxley, an ardent guns rights advocate, is one of the authors of the state's controversial Stand Your Ground law. 

Meanwhile, Scott has urged all local school officials to review their security plans but he has been reluctant to outline details or suggest additional funding for the effort. 

Scott spokesman John Tupps said Friday the governor remains open to all ideas.

"Gov. Scott agrees that school safety is an important issue for Florida families,'' Tupps said in a statement. "As he finalizes his budget recommendations, he looks forward to working with legislators and others on their ideas.


UPDATED Former U.S. Marine from Miami to be released from Mexican prison

Jon Hammar, the Marine veteran from South Florida detained for months in a Mexican border prison for bringing his great-grandfather’s shotgun into the country, is expected to be released Friday in what his mother calls a “Christmas miracle.’’

His mother, Olivia, said she and her husband were awoken with a 2:30 a.m. phone call from Hammar’s defense attorney sharing the good news. Hammar’s father, Jon, quickly found a flight to Texas.

“We made it from our house in Palmetto Bay to the airport in 11 minutes,” she told The Miami Herald. “This is our Christmas miracle.”

The elder Hammar will wait for his son, who has been held since August in a prison in Matamoros, Mexico, across the border in Brownsville, Texas. They will likely remain there for a few days, Olivia Hammar said, because her son is interested in getting back the 1972 Winnebago motor home — and some nine surfboards he was transporting — from Mexican authorities.

“It will be closure for him,” she said.

Hammar was arrested Aug. 13 when he and a fellow Marine veteran, who were headed to Costa Rica to surf, tried to cross into Mexico. Hammar had been told by U.S. authorities he could declare a six-decades-old .410 bore Sears & Roebuck shotgun at the border. The firearm is suitable for shooting rabbits and birds.

But Mexican authorities dismissed Hammar’s U.S. registration papers for the disassembled relic. Prosecutors charged him with a serious crime: possession of a weapon restricted for use to Mexico’s armed forces.

More here.