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April 18, 2015

Miami Herald special report: Life in Florida without Medicaid expansion

For two years, Florida legislators have refused to expand Medicaid as envisioned under the Affordable Care Act. Their decision left an estimated 850,000 Floridians without healthcare insurance in the "coverage gap." Those caught in the gap earn too much to receive Medicaid, but not enough to qualify for subsidies to buy a plan through the federal marketplace. The Miami Herald looks at how these Floridians are coping and what other states are doing to close the gap.

Read the special report by Daniel Chang (@dchangmiami) here.


In 1960, CIA stopped Miami Herald scoop about Bay of Pigs invasion

via @glenngarvin

There were a lot of bad days during the Cold War, but 54 years ago this weekend was one of the worst, at least for the United States. President John F. Kennedy sent an army of anti-Castro exiles backed by the CIA onto the beach at Cuba’s Bay of Pigs to suffer bloody, catastrophic defeat. It was “the beating of our lives,” the despondent Kennedy would say a few days later as he wondered aloud why nobody had talked him out of it.

One of the piquant questions of Cold War history is, could the Miami Herald have done that — talked him out of it? In a little-known collision of journalism and national security, the Herald, seven months before the Bay of Pigs, had prepared a news story saying that the United States was planning to launch a military operation against Cuba. But the paper’s top management killed the story after CIA Director Allen Dulles said publishing it would hurt national security.

“It’s hard to know these things,” says Peter Kornbluh, a senior analyst at the National Security Archive, which has published several books on the Bay of Pigs. “But could a bold, dramatic story that the United States was planning an invasion have stopped the Bay of Pigs? I think the answer might be yes.”

The tale of the Herald’s Bay of Pigs scoop and its subsequent capitulation to the CIA has mostly been shrouded in mystery for the past five decades. It was explored briefly in Anything but the Truth, a book by Washington reporters William McGaffin and Erwin Knoll that was published in 1968 and quickly disappeared.

It all started with some kids throwing firecrackers over a fence in Homestead.

More here.


Obama to visit Everglades to speak about climate change


President Obama will travel Wednesday -- Earth Day -- to the Florida Everglades to speak about the threat of climate change.

In his weekly radio address Saturday, the president said, "there is no greater threat to our planet than climate change."

"And on Earth Day, I’m going to visit the Florida Everglades to talk about the way that climate change threatens our economy," Obama continued. "The Everglades is one of the most special places in our country. But it's also one of the most fragile. Rising sea levels are putting a national treasure -– and an economic engine for the South Florida tourism industry –- at risk."


Marco Rubio tries to raise candidacy's profile in New Hampshire



MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Seven years ago, Marco Rubio trekked to New Hampshire so invested in another politician’s presidential campaign that a cop almost wrote him a ticket for darting through traffic as he shoved Florida oranges into bewildered drivers’ hands.

He returned to the nation’s first primary state on Friday, this time as a Republican presidential candidate himself. He brought no citrus. He stopped no cars.

Marco Rubio’s first day campaigning directly to voters since announcing his candidacy Monday in Miami was a far more dignified affair than his now-distant 2008 trip. He drew a flock of curious reporters. He wore a body microphone so the professional camera crew trailing him — presumably to produce future television ads — could record his every word.

And he confronted the formidable task of introducing himself to voters outside Florida.

“I didn’t know his name, actually,” said Joseph Biladeaux, a 20-year-old welding student.

More here.

Jeb Bush wrestles with family shadow in New Hampshire


via @LightmanDavid

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- The shadow of his brother and father followed Jeb Bush on the campaign trail Friday, leaving him torn whether to follow them or inch away.

He was peppered with questions from reporters in New Hampshire about how he differed with President George W. Bush’s foreign policy. Not relevant, Jeb Bush insisted. The previous night, a voter asked him to explain why another president should come from the Bush family.

At the same time, the Bush name, and more important, its financial and political network, provide a huge advantage in the early going.

Bush is well aware he can’t escape. When he spoke at a breakfast Friday, staring right at him from the opposite wall was a big picture of his brother. Photos of his father were also plastered on the wall of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, where Bush appeared. “Brings back really fond memories,” he laughed.

More here.

April 17, 2015

PolitiFact looks at Hillary Clinton's claim about her grandparents

Hillary Clinton this week became the latest example of a politician flubbing her family’s ancestry while making the case for her presidency.

Clinton was speaking at a business roundtable inside an Iowa produce store when she related her personal family heritage to the struggles of undocumented immigrants trying to work in the United States.

"I think if we were to just go around this room, there are a lot of immigrant stories," Clinton said, according to a video of the event. "All my grandparents, you know, came over here, and you know my grandfather went to work in a lace mill in Scranton, Pa., and worked there until he retired at 65. He started there when he was a teenager and just kept going. So I sit here and I think well you’re talking about the second, third generation. That’s me, that’s you."

BuzzFeed’s Andrew Kaczynski quickly pointed out that Clinton was wrong, primarily using census and military records from

Turn to PolitiFact for the rest of this fact-check by Katie Sanders and see our full Truth-O-Meter file for Clinton.

Miami-Dade transportation board under siege for being too large



A county transportation board is the subject of a Tallahassee fight over how many people should get to run it. 

Miami-Dade's 23-member Metropolitan Planning Organization can be controlled by the County Commission, since the 13 elected commissioners make up a majority of MPO's membership.

A state bill backed by Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, Miami City Commissioner Francis Suarez and others would cut membership down to 12, mainly by reducing county-commission seats to four.

The mayor of Miami-Dade would get a vote for the first time, and Miami-Dade's six largest cities would retain their seats. One seat would still belong  to the county's toll authority.

But seats reserved for the school board, an at-large elected municipal official, and a civilian from the suburbs would each go away. 

The proposed changes haven't sat well with county commissioners. Chairman Jean Monestime, who also serves as chair of the  MPO, wrote the sponsor of the proposal, Rep. Jeanette  Nuñez  of Miami, a letter this week urging her to rewrite her plan. 

"By dramatically reducing the number of officials serving on the MPO, you would significantly erode the breadth of representation and the very legitimacy of this federally certified planning body," Monestime wrote. The "theory that fewer members will result in better outcomes does not apply in this instance."

 Nuñez wrote back: "Clearly, the status quo has not worked and I do not believe that the MPO will reorganize itself, absent my proposal."

Continue reading "Miami-Dade transportation board under siege for being too large" »

Gift ban anything but in Tallahassee


The chief advocate of a 2005 gift ban prohibiting Florida lawmakers from having meals, drinks and trips paid by special interests now has meals, drinks and trips indirectly paid by special interests.

Sen. Tom Lee, who vowed that his ban would change the behavior of legislators, has received more in personal reimbursements from his political committee than any other state senator since 2013.

The Brandon Republican's committee, called The Conservative, raised $1.8 million over the past two years from corporate interests such as Anheuser-Busch, U.S. Sugar, Duke Energy and Walt Disney. Exploiting a loophole, The Conservative paid Lee $15,511 in a series of reimbursements during the same period, according to state Division of Elections records.

Lee is just one example of how powerful lawmakers in both parties still get special interests to cover personal expenses — even after the gift ban and a subsequent reform in 2013.

Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, was personally reimbursed more than $9,000 the past two years by his PAC, Florida's Future. But tally up all reimbursements by his staff, including his committee treasurer, and total reimbursements jumped to $42,674, nearly three times more than any other legislator.

The committees set up by Smith, Lee and others are legally allowed to reimburse their host lawmakers for expenses — as long as they can show it's related to the political mission of their committees.

But a Times/Herald review of 84 committees operated by 75 state legislators shows that a handful of politicians routinely used their committees for reimbursements that could not easily be explained:

More here.

AFP releases new anti-Medicaid expansion ad


As the gridlock over Medicaid expansion continues in Tallahassee, the conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity is making its position known with a new ad.

The ad ties Senate expansion plan to the politically charged Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. It claims that arguments for expansion are "spinning out of control."

"Florida Senators have been engaged in a game of political spin," AFP State Director Chris Hudson said in a statement. "Instead of focusing on how to reduce the overall cost of health care and instill real reform, the Florida Senate led by President Andy Gardiner has been claiming that expanding a broken and jammed system will somehow solve the healthcare crisis, create jobs and save money, and improve access to care for the most needy. That's simply not true."

AFP has been advocating for other health care policies, including telehealth and measures that would broaden the scope of practice for nurses and other health care professionals.

PolitiFact looks at Marco Rubio's record on federal marriage amendment

Sen. Marco Rubio’s fledging 2016 campaign got a lesson in presidential politics when he drew fire for potentially contradicting himself on whether he had ever supported a nationwide ban on gay marriage.

"I’ve never supported a federal constitutional amendment on marriage," Rubio told MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt during an April 11 interview.

But in an article on its website, the network pointed to a 2010 voter guide from the Christian Coalition that asked Rubio and his opponents Charlie Crist and Kendrick Meek their stance on several issues. Next to the topic "Federal Marriage Amendment to prevent same sex marriage," Rubio’s position is listed as "Supports."

What set PolitiFact’s bells ringing is that the voter guide is the only place we can find where Rubio apparently said he supported an amendment to the country’s constitution banning same-sex unions. That’s going to keep the statement off our Truth-O-Meter, because we don’t want to weigh in here when we can’t definitively confirm or debunk the position.

The Christian Coalition, which didn’t return our phone call or email, told MSNBC it stood by its voter guide. A spokeswoman said the guide was compiled from a survey Rubio filled out in 2010. The guide was then checked against candidates’ past statements and votes ( did the same thing, for example, because Rubio would not answer the question about same-sex marriage directly). The group told the network they couldn’t find the survey without looking through their archives.

Turn to PolitiFact Florida for the rest of this article.