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15 posts from November 12, 2013

November 12, 2013

PolitiFact gives CEO of gaming association a Mostly False

by @rkoff

Celine Dion concerts. Michelin-star restaurants. Luxurious spas. Could such amenities, instead of gambling, now be the biggest draw in high-end casinos?

That’s the claim Frank J. Fahrenkopf, the recently retired CEO of the American Gaming Association, made in an opinion piece on South Florida resort casinos and regulations that he wrote for the Miami Herald.

"The majority of people travelling to these destination resorts are not going for the primary purpose of gambling," he wrote. "They are visiting to dine at five-star restaurants, watch incredible live shows or participate in business meetings or conventions. Every year, thousands of people flock to these resorts to watch golf tournaments or tennis matches and never set foot in a casino." 

Read PolitiFact's analysis here about why Fahrenkopf gets a Mostly False for his claim that the majority of people traveling to these resorts are not going primarily for gambling.

We have fact-checked gambling opponents too: read here and here and here.

Miami Herald reporter recounts 48 hours in Venezuelan custody

@jimwyss

I was wearing a bulletproof vest, lying flat in the backseat of an unmarked armored car and being escorted by three heavily armed men when I started to worry.

At that point I had been in the custody of Venezuela’s General Directorate of Military Counter Intelligence for 24 hours. I didn’t know what to expect. All I knew was that a “commission” was waiting for me.

It was Friday, and I had missed my return flight to Bogotá, where I’ve lived for the past three years covering the Andes for the Miami Herald. During that time, I’ve probably made a dozen reporting trips to Venezuela without serious problems — until now.

My troubles began Thursday in the border town of San Cristóbal in Táchira state. I had spent the day interviewing opposition and ruling-party leaders about Venezuela’s Dec. 8 municipal vote.

The national race is seen as a referendum on Nicolás Maduro’s six months in office as he has struggled to fill the shoes of his late boss Hugo Chávez amid a deepening economic crisis and skyrocketing inflation.

In San Cristóbal, not surprisingly, both parties cited contraband as a hot-button issue.

More here.

Miami-Dade, Broward work to close 'school-to-prison pipeline'

@NewsbySmiley @MrMikeVasquez

The clients and cases that flowed out of Broward’s classrooms and into the public defender’s juvenile division used to make Gordon Weekes Jr. shake his head.

Weekes and his colleagues found themselves defending teenagers arrested for trespassing because they had been suspended and returned to campus after school, and kids jailed for “disruption of a school function” because they cursed a teacher.

“When a child would take a spitball and spit it across the classroom, they’d criminalize that and call it battery,” said Weekes, Broward’s chief assistant public defender.

Until recently, under hard-line policies that left little room for judgment calls, thousands of students were sent directly from South Florida schools to jail each year. Most were arrested for nonviolent misdemeanor offenses, and often they were black or Hispanic students.

But recently, Miami-Dade and Broward counties have done an about-face, cutting the number of arrests in half, reducing the number of suspensions by a nearly equal rate, and replacing tough love with counseling and mentorship.

More here.

The Democrats' role in hamstringing immigration reform in the US House

@MarcACaputo

You can't blame both sides equally for the death of comprehensive immigration reform this year in Washington, DC. After all, Republicans in the Democrat-led Senate barely backed a bipartisan bill (and Sen. Marco Rubio was raked over the far-right coals for helping usher it). And in the GOP-led House, conservative Republicans have blocked a hearing on the Senate bill or the issue.

But still, Democrats bear some blame.

A must-read article from The Hill lays out what happened behind the scenes. It points out that the White House and Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer tried in May to stop a bipartisan House bill from moving because, in their view, it endangered the Senate bill.

Guess who was identified with gumming it up at the time? Rep. Xavier Becerra, who belongs to the same delegation as Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.

We noted Becerra's purported sand-in-the-gears role at the time, and refused to comment. Afterward, he denied the reports but refused to elaborate. Update: Becerra's spokesman James Gleeson wanted the following statement added (note: It says I "accuse Becerra of gumming up the works." That's inaccurate. As you see, the post above says Becerra "was identified with gumming it up at the time."):

"For an unbiased reporter to accuse Congressman Becerra of ‘gumming up’ negotiations is an odd way to describe what he did in consulting with the very people on whose behalf he was negotiating and doing so before committing them to a position. As Marc Caputo himself acknowledges there's more nuance to the situation than some would admit to passing comprehensive immigration reform in the House."

Intriguingly, immigration-reform advocates didn't tweet out the above-mentioned blog post or mention it en masse at all. And today, it's the same story with what The Hill wrote.

Hmmmmm.

But when Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (who would probably vote to pass the Senate bill if it came up for a vote) noted that time has expired this year in the House for the issue, he was excoriated by some on the left. One columnist in the hill called him the "Latino face of GOP's immigration reform blockade."

Perhaps today's Hill article might change a few minds about the issue, or at least show that there's more nuance than some advocates would admit. 

Continue reading "The Democrats' role in hamstringing immigration reform in the US House" »

A bipartisan push to raise Florida's maximum speed limit to 75 mph

Two state senators, Republican Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg and Democrat Jeff Clemens of Lake Worth, say they will propose an increase in the state's maximum speed limit from 70 to 75 miles per hour.

From a press release issued Tuesday: "Sen. Brandes’ motivation behind the legislation is a desire to adjust speed limits to be more in line with actual driver behavior. If adopted, traffic engineers would be able to extend the maximum allowable speed on some roadways to 75 miles per hour if determined that the roadway was safe enough for such a speed."

"While I had some early reservations to adjusting speed limits, my study of the research from the 17 other states that have already increased their speed limits above 70 miles per hour led me to believe that it is time for Florida to review this policy,” Brandes said. “This legislation allows traffic engineers to make the decision to raise the speed limit on a roadway if they believe it is safe and advisable to do so.”

Added Clemens: "Allowing professionals to determine safe speeds based on the engineering standards of individual highways is simply common sense. A five mile per hour increase is unlikely to have an impact on road safety, but we’ll let the experts do their job.”

State law establishes varying speed limits on different types of roadways. The current limits are 70 mph on interstates, 65 for highways with a divided median and 60 miles per hour for other roadways that the Florida Department of Transportation oversee. The Brandes-Clemens bill proposes to increase these limits by 5 miles per hour. The highest speed limits in the nation are in Texas, which allows up to 85 miles per hour on certain roads, and Utah’s 80 mile per hour speed limit. Since 1996, the fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in Florida has consistently declined.

-- Steve Bousquet