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October 02, 2015

Hillary Clinton's misleading claim about the length of Benghazi investigation

Critics of the House of Representatives’ Benghazi investigation have recently begun to make a strong claim -- that it is officially the longest congressional investigation in history.

The Select Committee on Benghazi came into existence in May 2014, charged with investigating the 2012 terrorist attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in the Libyan city that left four Americans dead. Costing $4.5 million so far, with no final report in sight, critics see the committee as a waste of taxpayer dollars and a partisan witch hunt aimed at Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Clinton is slated to testify before the committee later in October.

In recent days, the claim that this is the longest-running investigation ever has gone somewhat viral. We saw it in The HillSalonThe New York TimesEsquire,MSNBCABC News and, notably, a Twitter account belonging to Clinton’s campaign.

The Briefing -- an arm of the Clinton campaign that aims to counter what it considers misinformation in the public sphere -- tweeted on Sept. 30 from its account: "It's the longest-running congressional investigation ever. It's cost taxpayers $4 million. And what's it about?"

See what Lauren Carroll of PolitiFact found and see Clinton's Truth-O-Meter record.

Donald Trump hires Florida campaign director


In a bid to show he's preparing for a long-run campaign, Donald Trump announced several state campaign directors Friday, including one in Florida.

Karen Giorno, a political consultant who at one point worked as Gov. Rick Scott's external affairs director, will lead Trump's Florida effort, according to a campaign statement. Trump also named directors in Texas and Virginia.

"We are in this to win it," Trump said in the statement. "These staff additions are the continuation of our plan to have a strategic and significant presence across the country...By adding to our team in these critical states we will be able to build on the tremendous support we have received and share our message with even more voters in these states.

"I look forward to being in these states even more as I continue to share my ideas about how to put America back on top!"

Florida is the nation's largest swing state, and Trump has plenty of business here -- including Trump National Doral, his single largest revenue source last year. He also owns a home in West Palm Beach.

Analysis: 1 in 3 Florida legislators were elected without a single vote

@ByKristenMClark @MaryEllenKlas

When Florida lawmakers return to Tallahassee for another redistricting special session on Oct. 19, they will talk a lot about how to comply with court guidelines when redrawing state Senate districts, but they’ll say much less about how competitive to make them.

That’s because in 2012, lawmakers redrew the House and Senate maps to adjust for population changes in the decennial census and to comply with the new anti-gerrymandering amendments to the state constitution. The result: a third of all legislators were elected in their last election without a single vote. They got here by default.

Legislators wield tremendous power in Florida — from crafting the state’s annual budget and determining how much taxes people pay to deciding whether to implement environmental preservation spelled out in Amendment 1.

Drawing the political boundaries for the next decade through redistricting is like creating the rulebook for who calls the shots.

With that as the backdrop, the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times examined how many votes each legislator received in their last election, and assessed the intensity of competition and voter support for all 160 of them.

Marco Rubio steps up Vladimir Putin criticism

via @learyreports

The U.S. and Russia are "barreling toward a Second Cold War," Marco Rubio will say in a speech Friday in Iowa, "and strong American leadership is the only force capable of ensuring that peace and security once again prevail."

Rubio, who has gotten attention for his hard-line foreign policy outlook, is to speak in Cedar Rapids at the Americans for Peace, Prosperity and Security National Security Forum.

"The more our current president fails the test of leadership against [Vladimir] Putin, the more important it becomes for our next president to pass it. I will pass this test," Rubio vows in prepared remarks.

Continue reading "Marco Rubio steps up Vladimir Putin criticism" »

Politico: Marco Rubio campaign kicks out Jeb Bush super PAC tracker from Iowa event

From Politico:

The Florida family feud between Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio took a surprising turn on Thursday night when a tracker for a super PAC supporting the former governor tried to slip into an Iowa event for Rubio, whose staff quickly spotted and removed him.

The incident involving the Right to Rise super PAC stripped away another veneer of civility between the two friends-turned-campaign rivals, who have been slowly escalating their criticisms of one another.

“It was ill-spirited. Republicans shouldn’t be attacking other Republicans,” said Chris Mudd, who hosted the Cedar Falls Town Hall for Rubio at Mudd Advertising, where the tracker was seen and asked to leave about 6 p.m. local time.

For Rubio backers like Mudd, the situation exposed a contradiction in Bush's “Right to Rise” rhetoric. The former governor has repeatedly invoked that phrase since the committee was set up in January, with his blessing, saying he looked "forward to an exchange of ideas and substantive policy proposals.”

More here.

Republican doctors in the Florida House propose alternative ideas for health care reform

A pair of Republican state legislators who are also doctors are pushing an alternate plan to reform health care that runs counter to the proposed overhaul laid out by their party leaders.

Reps. Julio Gonzalez, R-Venice, and Fred Costello, R-Ormond Beach, want to keep doctors in control of health care decisions and give individuals incentives to negotiate health care costs. They even want the state to run its own Medicaid program, cutting federal regulations out entirely.

The plan, laid out in a 29-page missive to a House panel Thursday, is an eight-year road map for where the two freshman lawmakers want the state to go. While some of it aligns with House leaders such as soon-to-be Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, many of their ideas conflict with those of lawmakers who are influential in health care.

The goal, according to Gonzalez and Costello, is to cap the total cost of delivering health care at one-third of the state's budget. Medicaid totals $25.7 billion in the current state budget, about 32 percent of the total.

There is a need for a "safety net," they say, but the system as a whole should be built on the idea of "individual ownership" of people's own health care.

Just three months ago, the Florida House voted down a plan to request federal Medicaid money as a way to fund private health insurance for needy Floridians. Gonzalez, an orthopedic surgeon, and Costello, a dentist, were in the 72-vote majority.

Instead of expanding Medicaid, they suggest that the state create its own program to pay for needy Floridians' health care.

Under the plan, Florida would still use federal Medicaid dollars but would seek waivers for federal regulations.

More here.

October 01, 2015

News Service of Florida: Fascism! Eugenics! Ritual sacrifice! ...And the Florida Libertarian Party

From the News Service of Florida:

Adrian Wyllie has decided to resign as chairman of the Libertarian Party of Florida, he announced Thursday on Facebook, because the rest of the party's executive committee was unwilling to openly oppose Augustus Sol Invictus, the only declared candidate for the party's U.S. Senate nomination.

According to Wyllie, Invictus --- whose translated name purportedly means "Unconquerable Sun God" --- is a fascist who supports eugenics and is committed to start a second Civil War.

"Mr. Invictus practices Thelema, an occult pagan religion based on the teachings of Aleister Crowley," Wyllie wrote. "Mr. Invictus was ejected from Ordo Templi Orientis for brutally and sadistically dismembering a goat in a ritualistic sacrifice."

On his website, Invictus says he uses Benito Mussolini's logo because it "dates back to the Roman Republic and represents strength through unity." Invictus says he wrote a paper in law school supporting eugenics, but has changed his mind and no longer believes it is the right public policy.

Invictus says he is a pagan. And in an August blog post entitled "A Call for Total Insurrection," he quotes himself as saying: "I have prophesied for years that I was born for a Great War." But it's not entirely clear how violent he wants the rebellion to be.

"I want you to take LSD and practice sorcery," Invictus writes. "I want you to listen to trap music and black metal, to learn the law and to break it deliberately, to find your own religion. I want you to learn the use of firearms and subject yourselves to rigorous physical training. I want you to treat your bodies as Holy Temples and to take your girlfriend to a strip club so you can seduce a dancer in the back room. I want you to worship Nature and dance naked in the moonlight `round the fire, screaming in ecstatic joy."

Wyllie said he believes the party should have disowned Invictus.

"While no one on the Executive Committee openly supported Mr. Invictus, only a few had the conviction to stand openly against him," he wrote.

Florida prisons' inspector general steps down for different corrections job

via @jknipebrown

Jeffery Beasley, inspector general of Florida’s Department of Corrections, said Thursday that he is stepping down to assume another role at the embattled agency.

His announcement comes after more than a year of widespread criticism and allegations by corrections officers, inspectors, sworn law enforcement officers and prisoners that he and others in his office failed to investigate, and in some cases, may have even thwarted, investigations into the suspicious deaths, beatings and medical neglect of inmates in Florida state prisons.

In an exclusive and wide-ranging interview with the Miami Herald Thursday, Beasley talked about everything from the accomplishments of his four-year tenure to the high-profile inmate deaths of Darren Rainey and Randall Jordan-Aparo. He hinted that the local, state and federal inquiries into their deaths would reveal no evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

Beasley, 41, also stated that he is not being “run out on a rail," but rather, elected voluntarily to move into a new role as head of the inspector general’s intelligence division, which is tasked with probing inmate-generated crime, including identity theft and drug and tobacco trafficking.

“This is a phenomenal move and opportunity,’’ Beasley said of his new post. “This is not the secretary running me out of the position. This is not the governor forcing me out of the office."

More here.

Education accountability system is 'broken,' Florida school board members say


Echoing a host of critics, the Florida School Board Association today joined a slew of education groups who are calling for an "overhaul" of the state's education accountability system because of the Florida Standards Assessments' botched debut last spring.

In a statement today, the group said it "firmly supports the Florida Standards and valid and reliable state assessments to measure student progress in mastering those standards.

"However, Florida school board members are deeply concerned about the integrity of Florida’s current accountability system, which they believe has continuously deteriorated," the group continued. "Additionally, the FSBA is concerned with the lack of trust from educators, students and the broader public in the fairness of statewide assessments and standards."

The Florida Department of Education has stood by the FSA, citing an independent validity study last month which found that, despite the technical disruptions in the test administration, the test results can still be used in "group-level" situations -- such as determining school grades and aiding in teachers' performance evaluations. The agency is beginning to release results of last spring's FSA this fall; district percentiles were published Wednesday.

Both the PTA and superintendents association recently declared they have “lost confidence” in the exams and have pushed the state not to issue school grades this year. The school board association agrees.

“The accountability system in Florida is broken. In such a high-stakes testing environment, it is imperative that we reassess current procedures so that we can move forward with a reliable system that educators, students and the community can support,” FSBA Executive Director Andrea Messina said in the statement.

Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Ben Carson top PolitiFact Florida's Truth-O-Meter in September


The GOP presidential debate on CNN fueled many of PolitiFact Florida's most-clicked fact-checks in September.

Claims by three of those candidates -- retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson of West Palm Beach, former Gov. Jeb Bush, and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio -- dominated our Top 5 most clicked-on reports in September, as did a couple of attacks on frontrunner Donald Trump.

Here’s a look at our most popular reports from September, counting down to the most popular.