April 22, 2017

Miami's March for Science: 'What do we want? Evidence-based science. When do we want it? After peer review.'

By Caitlin Randle and Alex Harris

“Mad” scientists descended on downtown Miami on Earth Day.

Instead of beakers and death rays, more than a thousand scientists and science fans carried protest signs reading “A planet is a terrible thing to waste,” “Scientists resist with evidence” and “What do we want? Evidence-based science. When do we want it? After peer review.”

The Saturday afternoon rally was one of hundreds worldwide, from Texas to Greenland. The main event, the March for Science in Washington, D.C., drew thousands of people.

The goal of the march was to show nonpartisan support for science-based policy, but plenty of the marchers arrived with politics in mind. President Donald Trump’s administration has faced criticism over the validity of information it releases and plans for sweeping cuts to federal science budgets, including a 20 percent slice of the National Institutes of Health

Terry Mitchell, who said she was there Saturday because her 14-year-old daughter planned to be a scientist one day, said she’s worried about Trump’s policies.

“They’re going to harm us in every single way,” she said. “If he were really a business guy, he would be looking at alternative energy.”

More here.

Photo credit: Pedro Portal, Miami Herald staff

Trump administration recommends sending tens of thousands of Haitians back to Haiti

Haiti matthew
via @Jacquiecharles

The Trump administration is recommending sending tens of thousands of Haitians back to their homeland because it believes conditions have significantly improved in the disaster-prone, poverty-stricken nation.

But the move comes as more than 40,000 Haitians continue to call makeshift shelters and tents homes — seven years after Haiti’s devastating Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake — and as severe hunger and housing crises plague the country’s southern region six months after a deadly Hurricane Matthew wiped out roads, home and farmland.

“If they send everyone back to Haiti, they might as well be sending us to die,” said Cadeus Chaleus, 70, who after 16 years of living as an undocumented immigrant in Miami has spent the past seven years living without fear of deportation. “Despite what they say, things have not improved at home.”

James McCament, the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said Temporary Protected Status, the immigration relief that has allowed Haitians to live and work freely in the United States, should be terminated. The Obama administration granted the status following the earthquake, which left more than 300,000 dead, 1.5 million injured and an equal number homeless.

“Conditions in Haiti no longer support its designation for TPS,” McCament said in a memo to U.S. Department of Homeland Secretary John F. Kelly obtained by the Miami Herald.

McCament’s recommendations came as a surprise to many, including Haitian and immigration advocates who have been pushing for the extension of TPS before July 22, when it is up for renewal.

Last month, 10 members of the South Florida congressional delegation wrote to Kelly urging for renewal, and Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski asked Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo to include language on TPS in a bill he refiled that would allow individuals brought illegally as children to remain in the country.

More here.

Photo credit: Rebecca Blackwell, Associated Press

April 21, 2017

Secret meeting at Mar-a-Lago raises questions about Colombia peace and Trump

Colombia trump

via @FrancoOrdonez @anitakumar01

President Donald Trump quietly met a pair of former Colombian presidents last weekend at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, thrusting his administration into an ugly power struggle in Latin America that threatens to undermine the country’s controversial peace agreement with rebel leaders.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos is expected to push Trump to support the peace accord with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia at their first meeting at the White House next month. He wants the Trump administration and Congress to maintain the $450 million in foreign aid promised by former President Barack Obama to implement the plan to end Latin America’s longest armed conflict.

The meeting between Trump and the former presidents, Álvaro Uribe and Andrés Pastrana – Colombia news media have reported it was arranged by an influential U.S. critic of the plan, Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida – was not on the president’s schedule and was not disclosed to reporters who traveled with him to Palm Beach.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer initially declined to answer questions about the meeting, leading to a rash of speculation in Colombian media. Colombian newspapers, websites and radio stations debated the meeting’s significance — and whether it actually had happened. “I don’t have anything for you at this time,” Spicer said Wednesday when asked.

The White House later confirmed the meeting to McClatchy but downplayed its significance, saying it was a mere coincidence that both former leaders opposed to the peace pact were at the president’s club. Aides to Rubio declined to comment. 

“They were there with a member from the club and briefly said hello when the president walked past them,” spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said. “There wasn’t anything beyond a quick hello.”

More here.

Photo credit: Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Associated Press

April 19, 2017

Bernie Sanders rallies crowd in Miami



Independent Bernie Sanders was met with cheers in Miami Wednesday night as he called for transforming the Democratic Party into a grassroots force that will fight for the poor and middle class and push back against President Donald Trump.

“We are going to take on the billionaire class…” Sanders said. “Donald Trump did not win the election — the Democrats lost the election! That means rebuilding the Democratic Party, making it a grassroots party — a party from the bottom on up!”

Sanders spoke at the James L. Knight Center as part of a nationwide “Come Together and Fight Back” Tour largely in swing states and Republican states. Sanders spoke in Maine and Kentucky earlier this week and will later go to Texas, Nebraska, Utah, Arizona and Nevada. The goal is to rebuild the party after the major rift that developed between supporters of Sanders and Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee for president. About 2,000 people were in the crowd, according to a Knight Center official.

Sanders was accompanied by Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez, a labor secretary under President Obama. Perez’s predecessor, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston, had to step down from the chair position in July after WikiLeaks published thousands of emails showing that the DNC favored Clinton over Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont.

Perez bashed GOP leaders — with some colorful language as he dropped the “s” word multiple times: “The Republican leadership doesn’t give a s--- about people who are suffering.”

Keep reading here.

Trump misleads about formation of MS-13 gang

TrumpMelbourneAPSusanWalsh (1)


President Donald Trump blamed former President Barack Obama on Twitter for the formation of one of the most notorious gangs.

“The weak illegal immigration policies of the Obama Admin. allowed bad MS 13 gangs to form in cities across U.S. We are removing them fast!” Trump tweeted April 18.

Trump’s tweet came days after four young men were found brutally murdered in Central Islip in Long Island. The Suffolk County police commissioner said he suspects the MS-13 involvement.

But the president’s post about the Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13 gang, is misleading.

The gang was established in Los Angeles and spread across the country decades before Obama took office.

Trump’s administration has conducted target operations to arrest criminals, but data is not yet available on how many MS-13 gang members have been arrested or removed.

Ioan Grillo, author of the 2016 book “Gangster Warlords: Drug Dollars, Killing Fields, and the New Politics of Latin America,” disputed Trump’s conclusion.

“I have seen no evidence that the Obama administration can be blamed in any way for the existence or activities of the gang in the U.S.,” Grillo told PolitiFact.

We asked a Trump spokesman for more information but did not hear back by deadline.

Keep reading from PolitiFact Florida.

Gov. Scott at White House Wednesday morning for bill signing

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON - Gov. Rick Scott will be at the White House Wednesday morning as President Trump signs a veterans bill.

Florida Department of Veterans Affairs Executive Director, Retired Army Lt. Col. Glenn Sutphin, will also join, according to Scott's office. Trump is to sign the Veterans Choice Program Extension and Improvement Act.

“My father served in WWII and I proudly served in the United States Navy and I appreciate President Trump’s commitment to our military and our veterans.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times


April 18, 2017

Florida House budget chief's absence stokes rumors of ambassador appointment by Trump

@PatriciaMazzei @MaryEllenKlas

Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Trujillo was conspicuously absent Tuesday morning from a meeting of the Florida House budget committee he leads.

The reason? Word in the state Capitol was that Trujillo is away in Washington -- interviewing with President Donald Trump's administration for a potential ambassadorship to Latin America.

Reached Tuesday afternoon, Trujillo declined to comment.

The powerful budget chief was an early Trump supporter, one of only a handful of state elected officials to back his long-shot candidacy early. He's been under consideration to be ambassador to Argentina or Panama.

Another Miami lawmaker who campaigned for Trump, Republican Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, a former contestant on "The Apprentice" TV show Trump once hosted, is one of several candidates being considered to be South Florida's top federal prosecutor.

On Monday, two days after Politico reported Diaz was a finalist for the position of U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida, the legislator declined to answer questions about vying for the job.

"I can't talk about that," he said.

This post has been updated.

Photo credit: C.M. Guerrero, el Nuevo Herald

April 14, 2017

Donald Trump golfs in West Palm Beach


via @learyreports

President Donald Trump kicked off the Easter weekend with a visit this morning to Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, where a 74 degree morning made for nice conditions.

He arrived at his club host before 10 a.m., and the White House staff has not yet said what he’s doing — which is usually a good indication of what’s he doing.

Trump is on his seventh visit to Mar-a-Lago.

According to a tracker maintained by the Palm Beach Post, Obama golfed 333 times as president, or once every 8.8 days in office. Trump has gone 14 times so far, or once per 5.9 days.

April 13, 2017

Take note, Mr. President: Health inspectors ding Mar-a-Lago kitchen

From Miami Herald gossip columnist Jose Lambiet:

Just days before the state visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Mar-a-Lago, President Donald Trump’s Palm Beach private club, Florida restaurant inspectors found potentially dangerous raw fish and cited the club for storing food in two broken down coolers.

Inspectors found 13 violations at the fancy club’s kitchen, according to recently published reports — a record for an institution that charges $200,000 in initiation fees.

Three of the violations were deemed “high priority,” meaning that they could allow the presence of illness-causing bacteria on plates served in the dining room.

According to their latest visit to the club Jan. 26, state inspectors decided Mar-a-Lago’s kitchen did meet the minimum standards.

But they had a field day with elements that could give members of the high-class club and foreign dignitaries some pause:

More here.

Photo credit: Charles Trainor Jr., Miami Herald staff

April 11, 2017

Nelson calls for end on attacks to climate science

North miami sea rise
via @jenstaletovich

Three years after he held a field hearing in Miami Beach to draw attention to a region at ground zero for climate change, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson convened a second hearing in West Palm Beach on Monday with a new target: the Trump administration’s attack on climate science.

Held just across the Intracoastal Waterway from Mar-a-Lago, President Donald Trump’s vulnerable island retreat, the hearing highlighted worsening conditions — and the need to free science from politics.

“There are people trying to muzzle scientists. I’ve seen it in Washington. I’ve seen it here in the state of Florida,” said Nelson, a Democrat and the state’s former insurance commissioner.

Southeast Florida is often considered a model for planning for climate change as it grapples with sea rise that has increased five to eight inches over the last 40 years. Four counties, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach, formed a compact eight years ago, vowing to work together to make the region more resilient for what could be a nearly three-foot rise by 2060.

But progress has been slow, in part because South Florida has often been at odds with a Republican-led state and the administration of Gov. Rick Scott, who reportedly banned the term climate change.

Now comes the Trump administration. In recent weeks, Nelson said he has met with supervisors in federal agencies who say the administration has issued the same ban. Worse, he said, the administration has proposed scaling back agencies, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Environmental Protection Agency, that provide critical research and enforce regulations that deal with climate-related problems.

More here.

Photo credit: Joe Raedle, Getty Images