May 18, 2016

Florida lawmaker wants AG opinion on feds’ transgender bathroom rules; Pam Bondi declines

Adkins_2015@ByKristenMClark

An outgoing conservative lawmaker in Florida who is running for Nassau County schools superintendent wants state Attorney General Pam Bondi to issue an official opinion on what she believes to be the "constitutional encroach" of the Obama administration's new guidance to public schools over transgender students' bathroom access.

State Rep. Janet Adkins, R-Fernandina Beach, called the president's new policy a "clear violation" of states' rights under the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

"It is clear that the Obama administration is once again circumventing the Congress and even its own federal rule-making process to impose new federal rules and laws on Florida’s public schools," Adkins said in a statement this morning.

MORE: Read Rep. Adkins' letter to Bondi

But Bondi’s office isn’t wading into the issue. Deputy Attorney General Kent J. Perez wrote in a response to Adkins on Wednesday afternoon: “We do not issue legal opinions on federal law.”

On Friday, the U.S. departments of Education and Justice sent letters of guidance to all public schools nationwide informing them that they must treat students in ways that match their gender identities -- or risk losing federal money under Title IX, which prohibits discrimination in educational programs based on sex.

Republican leaders in Florida have been reluctant to comment so far on the new guidelines. But Adkins, the outgoing chairwoman of the House K-12 Education Subcommittee, wants a swifter response: For the state to challenge the Obama administration's directive.

Read the full story here.

Published 10:49 a.m.; Updated 4:30 p.m.

May 17, 2016

Carlos Beruff says comment calling Obama 'animal' was taken out of context, not racist

via @adamsmithtimes

So Republican U.S. Senate candidate Carlos Beruff called called President Barack Obama an animal the other day. As in: “Unfortunately, for seven and a half years this animal we call president, because he’s an animal, OK — seven and a half years, has surgically and with thought and very smart, intelligent manner, destroyed this country and dismantled the military under not one, not two, but three secretary of defenses.” 

The Ocala Star-Banner reports that Beruff said his comments were taken out of context:  "...I use strong language and it was meant in the context of the (current) dismantling of the military. I could have called him a bird, plane, anything,” Beruff said.

This, of course, makes complete sense:  “Unfortunately, for seven and a half years this PLANE we call president, because he’s aPLANE, OK — seven and a half years, has surgically and with thought and very smart, intelligent manner, destroyed this country and dismantled the military under not one, not two, but three secretary of defenses.” 

Anyhoo, his critics continue to seize on it.

Continue reading "Carlos Beruff says comment calling Obama 'animal' was taken out of context, not racist" »

President Obama is coming to Miami to raise money for Democrats

@PatriciaMazzei

President Barack Obama will be in Miami next month to ask wealthy Democratic donors to open their checkbooks to the political party ahead of the November election that will determine Obama's successor.

To lure donors to the June 3 dinner, the Democratic National Committee is billing the event as perhaps Obama's final Miami fundraiser as president.

"This may be the last time President Obama visits Miami as a sitting President, making it a truly special event," reads an invitation obtained by the Miami Herald. The fundraiser was first reported by Saint PetersBlog.

"This is a great opportunity to support the DNC and ultimately stop Donald Trump from reaching the White House in 2016," the invitation says.

 Though it doesn't say so on the invite, the dinner will take place at the Coconut Grove of attorney Robert Rubenstein.

To attend and get a photo with the president, donors must contribute $10,000 per person. To "co-host" the event -- which usually comes with more access to the president -- they must contribute $33,400 per couple.

Obama headlined a similar fundraiser for the DNC a year ago in Coconut Grove, unofficially kicking off Democrats' presidential fundraising season.

May 15, 2016

White House to award highest honor to South Florida cops

via @ChuckRabin

A Miami-Dade County police officer who stopped a man from setting a gas station on fire and a North Miami officer who shot a man after a wild car chase and shooting spree, will receive the nation’s highest public safety honor at a ceremony at the White House on Monday.

It was October 2013 when Miami-Dade police officer Mario Gutierrez spotted Domique Jean, 51, acting erratically at a Shell Gas station on LeJeune Road near Miami International Airport. As Gutierrez approached, Jean tried to set a gas pump on fire. The two struggled. Gutierrez was stabbed, and Jean was shot dead.

In April 2015, North Miami officer Niel Johnson confronted an armed Frantzy Armand outside an apartment complex in Sans Souci. During the shootout, Aramnd was shot. He survived. But before he was subdued, Armand stole a cop car, got into a shootout with an officer and led police on a wild chase north and then east, while shooting and injuring two unsuspecting car drivers along the way.

On Monday in the East Room of the White House, the two officers will receive the prestigious Medal of Valor from President Barack Obama. It’s the highest national honor awarded to a public safety officer.

--CHARLES RABIN

May 13, 2016

White House praises Marco Rubio on Zika

@PatriciaMazzei

From White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest's briefing with reporters Friday:

QUESTION: ... yesterday. And on Zika -- I know you mentioned that the funding is not that -- on the current legislation that's making its way through right now.
 
Does the president expect to pass these pieces of legislation if they reach his desk? And are you championing about the effort by the Florida Senators Rubio and Nelson to give -- fully fund at $1.9 billion?
 
EARNEST: Yeah. Well, we certainly welcome the bipartisan support that our Zika proposal has received, including from Senator Rubio.
 
I think this reflects the degree to which, for all of our policy differences with Senator Rubio, when it comes to looking out for the public health and well being of the American people, there shouldn't be a partisan difference.
 
And I think Senator Rubio and Senator Nelson both understand the consequences for mothers and babies in Florida, of not doing everything possible to fight Zika.

Continue reading "White House praises Marco Rubio on Zika" »

April 28, 2016

Three Floridians among Obama nominees to federal district bench

@jamesmartinrose

President Barack Obama on Thursday nominated U.S. magistrate judges in Jacksonville and Ocala and a prominent Tampa lawyer for federal district court seats, adding their names to a backlog of dozens of judicial picks the Republican-controlled Senate has failed to confirm.

Obama named Magistrate Judge Patricia D. Barksdale of Jacksonville and Tampa white-collar defense attorney William F. Jung to the Middle District of Florida, and he chose Magistrate Judge Philip R. Lammens for the Northern District of Florida.

"There is a judicial emergency in the Middle District of Florida right now," Sen. Bill Nelson said. "Sen. Rubio and I have conferred on these three nominees, and even in this highly partisan environment, I'm hopeful that we can get them approved quickly."

Aides to Rubio confirmed that the two senators had worked together in recommending the Florida nominees to Obama.

Rubio, however, declined to say whether he would push for his Senate Republican colleagues to confirm them. Republicans are refusing to hold hearings or to vote on Obama's nomination last month of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.

With 85 federal district seats unfilled nationwide, Florida has three of 28 vacancies deemed "emergency" by the U.S. Judicial Conference, the policy-making body for federal courts overseen by the Supreme Court.

The emergency designation is based on a combination of the length of vacancy and how many cases are pending before a court.

Both seats that Obama moved to fill Thursday for the Middle District of Florida are among the 28 emergency vacancies, with one seat empty since June 30, 2015, and the second seat unfilled since August 1 of last year.

The Middle District of Florida had 9,401 cases in 2015, which is considered a heavy load. It stretches from south of Naples on the Gulf Coast to the Georgia border and includes Jacksonville, Tampa and Orlando.

Obama also nominated five other district judges to seats in Nevada, Colorado, North Carolina and the District of Columbia.

"Throughout their careers, these nominees have displayed unwavering commitment to justice and integrity," Obama said of his eight choices for judicial promotion. "Their records are distinguished and impressive, and I am confident that they will serve the American people well from the United States District Court bench."

The Senate on April 11 unanimously confirmed Waverly Crenshaw Jr., an African-American lawyer from Nashville, Tenn., to a federal district judgeship.

The Senate confirmed just 17 of Obama's judicial nominees last year, the fewest since 1960.

Before becoming a U.S. magistrate judge in 2012, Lammens was a federal prosecutor in Jacksonville, the city's No. 2 attorney and a civil trial lawyer in the torts division of the U.S. Justice Department. He earned his law and undergraduate degrees from the University of Florida.

A U.S. magistrate judge since 2013, Barksdale also previously worked as a federal prosecutor in Jacksonville. She, too, has undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Florida.

Jung is a founding partner of the Jung & Sisco law firm in Ocala, specializing in white-collar criminal defense. He was a federal prosecutor in Miami in the late 1980s and clerked before that for then-Supreme Court Justice William H. Rehnquist. Jung received his law degree from the University of Illinois and his undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt University

 

 

 

  

April 09, 2016

Miami’s once-mighty political guard left out of conversation on Cuba

US NEWS BAYOFPIGS 6 MCT

@PatriciaMazzei

President Barack Obama’s historic trip to Cuba last month marked the culmination of a foreign policy he laid out eight years as ago as a candidate, when he broke with his predecessors and pledged to sit down with unfriendly dictators, because punishing them with silence seemed “ridiculous.”

He did more than just meet with Raúl Castro. Obama, flexing his office’s extensive executive power over international affairs, dismantled almost every piece of the U.S.’s Cold War-era approach to Cuba.

Left out of the conversation: anyone who disagreed, including the eight Cuban Americans — Republican and Democrat — in Congress 57 years after the Cuban revolution. Half of them — one senator and three representatives — hail from Miami, the new city exiles made in Havana’s old image.

For eight years, they’ve had zero input on the issue on which some of them built their political careers. And now they face the prospect of four or eight more years of the same, with a new White House tenant come January. Castro has promised to retire in 2018.

Miami’s Cuban-American political guard risks losing any influence it has left at a time when Cuba could undergo its most sweeping changes.

“There’s no doubt about it,” said Pepe Hernández, president of the Cuban American National Foundation, which supports the Cuba policy Obama unveiled 15 months ago. “Like they say in dominó, they have been shuffled off the table, quite substantially, in the past few years — but especially since Dec. 17, 2014.

“But I don’t think, honestly, they care much.”

They don’t.

“I’m not hurt at all — it frees up my day,” Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said of not talking to Obama. “He’s of no consequence to us.”

But what about the next president?

More here.

Photo credit: Astrid Riecken, MCT

April 08, 2016

DNC chief Wasserman Schultz to Bernie and Hillary: Chill

@jamesmartinrose

With most political enthusiasts' attention riveted on the divisive GOP presidential race, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is urging the Democratic White House hopefuls to tone down their rhetoric.

Wasserman Schultz, who lives in Weston when she isn't in Washington or traveling the country as head of the Democratic National Committee, was asked about the increasingly sharp attacks against each other in recent days by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

"I think both campaigns really need to be careful about making sure that we don't do lasting damage," Wasserman Schultz told Fox News' "America's Newsroom" program Friday morning. "I don't think we're at that point, but I think it is important to be careful that at the end of the primary process, when we have a presumptive nominee, that we're able to easily reunify."

In advance of the April 19 primary in New York, which Clinton represented for six years as a U.S. senator before heading the State Department, Clinton has challenged Sanders' allegiance to the Democratic Party and questioned his preparedness to be president.

On Wednesday, Clinton told MSNBC that Sanders "himself doesn't consider himself to be a Democrat." Sanders, who lists his party for Senate votes as Independent but caucuses with Democrats, has at various times in his career described himself as a Socialist or a Democratic Socialist.

Clinton also criticized Sanders' repeated presidential campaign calls to break up big banks, again comparing her record as a pragmatist who gets things done.

"You can't really help people if you don't know how to do what you are campaigning on saying you want to do," Clinton said.

Sanders responded that night at a rally in Philadelphia.

"She has been saying lately that she thinks I am quote-unquote 'not qualified to be president,'" Sanders declared. "Let me just say in response to Secretary Clinton, I don't believe that she is qualified if she is, though her super PAC, taking tens of millions of dollars in special-interest funds. I don't think you are qualified if you have voted for the disastrous war in Iraq. I don't think you are qualified if you support the Panama free trade agreement."

Clinton didn't actually say the phrase Sanders attributed to her about his lack of qualifications, but that phrase or similar ones ran in headlines in some news accounts of her comments.

Despite the sharp exchanges, Wasserman Schultz said it doesn't compare to "the food fight and the civil war that continues to rage on the Republican side."

Wasserman Schultz, who some Sanders supporters have accused of favoring Clinton in the Democratic race, also said that Clinton and then-Sen. Barack Obama had a more hard-hitting contest in their presidential primary campaign in 2008.

"Right now I would characterize the tenor and tone of this party to be nothing like the intensity of where we (Democrats) were eight years ago in 2008 between then-Sens. Clinton and Obama," she said.

After Obama gained the Democratic nomination in that primary race and then defeated Sen. John McCain to gain the White House, he chose Clinton as secretary of state. The two established a close relationship, and she has been trumpeting his achievements during her current run.

On the Republican side, billionaire businessman Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz have been engaged in a nasty war of words for weeks, with the fight intensifying two weeks ago when the Republican front-runner tweeted an unflattering photograph of Cruz's wife Heidi Cruz.

 

 

 

 

March 25, 2016

Florida is No. 3 in agricultural imports to Cuba

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe sees Cuba as a land of opportunity.

Amid President Barack Obama’s historic trip to Cuba this past week, McAuliffe said in an interview that Virginia already has made impressive headway in tapping the island nation’s export market.

"Virginia now is the number one exporter of ag (agricultural) products to Cuba," McAuliffe said during a March 21 MSNBC interview. "We have now jumped to number one."

In January, the governor returned from a trip to Cuba aimed at bolstering the commonwealth’s commercial ties with the nation. The U.S. still has a decades-long embargo on most trade with Cuba. But a 2000 law allows limited exports of agricultural products and medical equipment. In 2014, Obama re-established formal diplomatic relations with Cuba.

McAuliffe supports ending the trade embargo.

Brian Coy, the governor’s spokesman, pointed us to a Feb. 12 news release where McAuliffe announced that last year Virginia exported $41.6 million in agricultural goods to Cuba, all of it soybeans and soybean meal. In past years, Virginia also has shipped apples, poultry and beef. McAuliffe said the 2015 export tally was the most that any state had sent to Cuba that year.

We tracked down the same trade figures through an online database provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It shows that in 2015, Virginia’s $41.6 million indeed was the most of any state, followed by Georgia, which had $30.9 million in agricultural exports to Cuba; and Florida, which had $29.9 million in exports.

Keep reading the fact-check by Sean Gorman of PolitiFact Virginia here and here is our round-up of fact-checks about Cuba including Hillary Clinton's flip flop on the embargo.

March 23, 2016

Obama in Cuba - more popular than Castro?

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via @lesleyclark

HAVANA -- President Barack Obama’s decision to restore ties with Cuba may have given him a revered spot in the heart of many Cubans.

Crowds lined the roads here to catch a glimpse of the presidential motorcade: en route to a baseball game between U.S. and Cuban teams, thousands spilled into the streets and crowded onto balconies.

The American flag, once a sign of hostility, did fly beside the Cuban colors from the antennas of the vintage American automobiles that ferried visitors around the city. And an entrepreneur pitched a refrigerator magnet with Obama holding a cigar under his nose.

But they were still outnumbered by trinkets with images of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. And in a country accustomed to disappointment and ruled by the same family since 1959, there were few overt displays of support for the American president, even as he spent the better part of three days touring Havana’s sights, eating its food and urging its people to embrace democracy.

Cubans cheered his speech in the privacy of their homes - the government did not erect large screen monitors in public as with other events. “Who would have thought we’d see this,” said Jesus Magán as he watched at home. ““I mean, we were trained to fight against the Americans!”

More here.

Photo credit: @PatriciaMazzei in Havana