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November 29, 2015

In Sarasota, Donald Trump promises 'bigger and stronger and bolder' American Dream

GOP 2016 Trump (2)

via @adamsmithtimes

SARASOTA -- Thousands of Donald Trump fans packed inside and outside a Sarasota arena Saturday to hear the Republican frontrunner rip Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, super PAC political committees, “phonies” in the press corps (especially the New York Times), Obamacare, “weak” generals leading America’s military, political correctness, Hillary Clinton and assorted people who have doubted or criticized him.

The billionaire reality TV star who has upended the Republican primary drew booming cheers and chants of “Trump! Trump! Trump!” as he delivered a disjointed, borderline stream-of-consciousness speech heavy on knocking critics and vague on promises about reviving the American dream and making it “bigger and stronger and bolder” than ever before.

At least 4,000 people filled Robarts Arena, and thousands more listened to speakers booming his remarks outside. After the Trump helicopter landed, he first spoke to the crowd outside, calling for a half-dozen “beautiful children” to hop aboard for a ride.

After his speech in the arena, Trump addressed the crowd outside again before hopping back into the Trump helicopter as it departed, commander-in-chief-like, while speakers blared the majestic soundtrack to the film Air Force One.

More here.

Photo credit: Steve Nesius, Associated Press

November 27, 2015

Both sides now accuse the other of conspiring for political gain in Senate redistricting

Senate alt nfl

The knock-down fight over the political future of the Florida Senate entered its third round this week as lawyers for the coalition of voting groups accused Republican lawmakers of conspiring again to protect incumbents, while the Legislature’s lawyers accused opponents of “operating in the shadows” trying to advantage Democrats.

The Senate’s map “smacks of partisan intent” because it failed to maximize population and respect political boundaries, “while offering unmistakable benefits for the Republican Party and incumbents,’’ wrote the lawyers for the coalition plaintiffs, led by the League of Women Voters and Common Cause of Florida.

But the lawyers for the Republican-led Senate and House blasted the plaintiffs for relying on map drawing experts who had ties to Democrats and therefore drew maps that “systematically” benefited Democrats.

The sparring legal briefs, filed late in the evening on Wednesday, offer a glimpse into the arguments in the Senate redistricting trial scheduled Dec. 14-18, before Leon County Circuit Court Judge George Reynolds.

Lawmakers tried and failed to adopt a Senate map for the 2016 elections during a three-week special session that ended early this month so the job was handed to Reynolds who has asked each side to present alternative maps.

The coalition named the incumbents they believed were protected by the proposed Senate map -- from Miami Sens. Anitere Flores and Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, to Panhandle Sen. Greg Evers and Rep. Matt Gaetz -- and said the Legislature failed to enact a Senate map during its special session “because of partisanship, self-interest, and palace intrigue,’’ a reference to the Republican infighting over the future Senate presidency.

The Senate proposal was submitted to the court by Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, and Senate redistricting chairman Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, as a combination of two staff-drawn maps but it was never voted upon by the Senate.

The plaintiffs argued that the Legislature ordered staff to draw six “base” maps but never told them to “correct – or even consider – the constitutional defects identified by Plaintiffs” in the map the Senate had previously agreed had been illegally gerrymandered.

Continue reading "Both sides now accuse the other of conspiring for political gain in Senate redistricting" »

Lawmakers seek to crack down on gas pump 'skimmers'


With the simple swipe of a credit card at a gas station pump, it’s become easier for identity thieves to steal customers’ information and rack up fraudulent charges in their names.

State Sen. Anitere Flores’ family knows this all too well; a close family member’s credit card information was stolen from a gas station “skimmer” two years ago in Miami, she said.

“Within hours, hundreds and hundreds of dollars worth of charges — specifically gas station charges — were put on the card,” said Flores, R-Miami. “It was scary, but it was also a major inconvenience: canceling credit cards and changing account numbers. You shouldn’t have to go through all that just because you’re using the convenience of paying at the pump.”

With support from Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, Flores and Rep. Dana Young, R-Tampa, want to crack down on the use of skimmers by requiring gas stations to have better security measures and by increasing the penalties for criminals convicted of credit card fraud.

Skimmers are devices that illegally capture and steal credit- and debit-card information. State inspectors in Putnam’s department have located and removed 161 skimmers statewide since March alone.

More here.

November 26, 2015

November 25, 2015

PolitiFact examines what Donald Trump has said about registering Muslims

Does Donald Trump want a registry for all Muslims? Or just some Muslims? Or no database at all?

The Republican presidential candidate’s comments on the topic have drawn a lot of criticism, with some pundits and commentators comparing it with the registration of Jews in in Nazi Germany. But Trump has said he didn’t propose such an idea -- a reporter did, and Trump just didn’t understand the question.

His comments and the media coverage of them have left us confused, so we did a deep dive into what exactly Trump said about registering Muslim people in a database.  

After going through all of his comments from this past weekend, it seems that Trump definitely wants a database of Syrian refugees, and he hasn’t ruled out the possibility of a database for all Muslims -- though he isn’t actively calling for the latter. And we’ll warn you now that many of Trump’s comments strike us as contradictory or confusing.

See what Lauren Carroll of PolitiFact found here.

Jeb Bush says the Brits 'are spotting us choppers.' Are they?

via @AmySherman1

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush called for using ground troops against the Islamic State and beefing up our military the week after the Paris terrorist attacks.

Bush criticized President Barack Obama and Congress for weakening the military through "careless, chronic neglect," summing up the lack of sufficient personnel and equipment with a single anecdote.

"To conduct training exercises under our NATO obligations in Europe, American forces have been borrowing helicopters and other vehicles from our allies. Really,"Bush said in a speech at The Citadel on Nov. 18. "We don’t have enough of our own hardware and equipment even for training purposes. So the Brits are spotting us choppers. That’s just not unsafe — that’s embarrassing for the greatest country on the face of the Earth. Whatever challenges we face in Europe or elsewhere, we’re not going to meet them with borrowed equipment."

China, however, has been spending heavily on new military equipment, Bush said.

We wanted to know if the U.S. military is so hard up that it’s borrowing choppers from the Brits.

More here.

Grayson, Murphy are thankful for... your campaign donations


Not even national holidays are immune from being politicized.

In the run-up to Thanksgiving, the two leading candidates battling for the Democratic primary in Florida's U.S. Senate race -- U.S. Reps. Alan Grayson of Orlando and Patrick Murphy of Jupiter -- have both sent out fundraising emails to their supporters asking for donations of "$3 or more" because of the holiday.

Grayson's email on Tuesday, suiting his fiery, sometimes-combative personality, offers supporters the chance to "win a call from me to your most conservative relative on Thanksgiving."

"You know that Republican in your family who always tries to get into a political debate with you over Thanksgiving dinner? This year, they can argue with me instead," Grayson writes.

Meanwhile, this morning, Murphy's finance director released a fundraising pitch for Murphy -- intentionally or not, countering Grayson -- and pledging that "Thursday is off-limits" and that he has a "strict no-politics-on-Thanksgiving policy."

So instead, Murphy's campaign is asking his supporters to donate the day before -- so as not to infringe on the sanctity of the holiday, of course.

Marco Rubio supporter backs anti-Ted Cruz ad

via @learyreports

The battle between Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz continues with an ad from a political nonprofit attacking the Texan as soft on terrorism.

Cruz hit back on Fox News last night, accusing Rubio and his allies of trying to shift attention from Rubio’s immigration work.

The ad comes from American Encore, a group that does not have to disclose donors. Politico reported that founder Sean Noble is backing Rubio and co-hosted a fundraiser for Rubio in Arizona last week.

Noble asserts his group isn’t pro-Rubio. Yet the Florida Republican first opened up the attack on Cruz for voting to curb the NSA’s data collection. That came after Cruz went after Rubio on immigration.

A new poll shows Cruz surging to a near tie with Donald Trump in Iowa. Coincidentally, the anti-Cruz ad is playing in Iowa.



--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Opa-locka ousts City Manager Steve Shiver amid financial turmoil

By Michael Sallah and Katie Lepri

Just weeks after revealing Opa-locka was on the edge of financial failure, City Manager Steve Shiver was fired by elected leaders in yet another tumultuous turn for a city that’s millions in debt and the target of a federal corruption probe.

During a brief but emotional meeting on Tuesday, commissioners ousted the 49-year-old manager three months after hiring him to stem the city’s mounting deficit and out of control expenses.

Moments after the 3-1 vote, Shiver abruptly rose from the dais and walked outside, where residents gathered and began shouting at one another over the move.

“This is sad. It’s absolutely sad,” said Dorothy Johnson, a former Opa-locka mayor who turned out to support Shiver.

The firing, led by Mayor Myra Taylor, comes shortly after the city manager pleaded with the state for help in resolving a deficit — now at $8 million — in a move that the mayor criticized because she said Shiver should have taken the issue to the commission.

“Mr. Shiver wanted to be in charge,” Taylor said. “It seems he wanted to expose everything we did wrong.”

More here.

Emilio and Gloria Estefan receive Presidential Medal of Freedom

US NEWS MEDALOFFREEDOM 12 ABAvia @maria_e_recio

WASHINGTON -- Emilio and Gloria Estefan were honored and celebrated along with 15 other distinguished Americans at the White House on Tuesday with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The Miami-based Cuban-American couple are entertainers, musicians and producers known for their philanthropy. They entered the East Room to raucous applause, Emilio, 62, first and then Gloria, 58, as all the recipients walked into the stately room in alphabetical order. President Barack Obama presided over the ceremony that was also attended by first lady Michelle Obama.

Obama told the story of how the Estefans first met. “On a Miami night in 1975, a young woman named Gloria walked into a wedding reception and saw a handsome young man named Emilio leading his band. He was playing `Do the Hustle' – on an accordion. I’m quoting her now – she said she found this `sexy and brave.’“

“I mean, the brave part I understand,” said Obama to laughter.

“He brought her up to sing a few songs that night,” he said. Emilio Estefan a few months later asked her for a birthday kiss. “It wasn’t his birthday. He got the kiss,” said the president.

More here.

Photo credit: Olivier Douliery/TNS