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2 posts from April 6, 2013

April 06, 2013

Miami lawmakers question Beyoncé, Jay-Z trip to Cuba


U.S. Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, both Cuban-American Republicans from Miami, sent a letter late Friday to the Treasury Department asking for details about R&B stars Beyoncé and Jay-Z's trip this week to Cuba.

In the letter to the office of foreign assets control, the members of Congress say they want to find out which type of license the couple received to travel to the island, what the purpose of their trip is and who approved it.

"As you know, U.S. law expressly prohibits the licensing of financial transactions for 'tourist activities' in Cuba," the letter says. It also notes that so-called "people-to-people" licenses require that travelers have "a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities" in Cuba.

"Despite the clear prohibition against tourism in Cuba, numerous press reports described the couple's trip as tourism, and the Castro regime touted it as such in its propaganda," the letter says. "We represent a community of many who have been deeply and personally harmed by the Castro regime's atrocities, including former political prisoners and the families of murdered innocents."

Miami-Dade baggage wrap fight moves to court


The company that lost a lucrative contract to wrap baggage at Miami International Airport has re-filed a lawsuit contending that Miami-Dade commissioners violated the county's procurement process in awarding the concession to the second-place bidder.

TrueStar USA had submitted the same complaint in court last month, seeking an injunction to prohibit the county from executing the contract with Safe Wrap, the firm chosen by the commission. The court dismissed the complaint as premature because Mayor Carlos Gimenez vetoed the commission's action.

But last week, commissioners swiftly overrode that veto, upholding their choice. TrueStar brought back its complaint Friday. Later that same day, Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Bailey set an emergency hearing for next week, ordering "that the status quo be maintained" until further court action.

TrueStar argues that it should have been awarded the contract because it offered MIA more money, in the form of a minimum annual payment or a percentage of monthly gross revenues, whichever number is higher. The company received a higher overall score from a bid scoring committee, and a recommendation to the commission from Gimenez's administration. The commission acted in "an arbitrary and capricious manner," the complaint says.

But commissioners, who have the final say in contract awards, got Safe Wrap to agree to match TrueStar's minimum annual payment (though not the percentage). Though Gimenez countered that the lower Safe Wrap percentage would cost MIA money, the commission said it could not trust TrueStar because, as the airport's current vendor, it requested a reduction to its minimum fee last year. The board reluctantly agreed, with the condition that the county would re-bid the contract.