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98 posts from September 18, 2016 - September 24, 2016

September 24, 2016

Snatched naked Trump statue turns up -- with a few missing body parts

via @ChuckRabin  Image1

A Coral Gables man wanted for the theft of a naked Donald Trump statue in Wynwood turned himself in to police Friday — but refused to speak and even invoked the Fifth Amendment, police said.

Pedro A. Rodriguez, 36, a graffiti guide in Wynwood with a history of minor criminal acts, refused to tell police if he stole the iconic sculpture. He wouldn’t even say if he knew where it was.

Still, police and prosecutors believe they had enough probable cause to make an arrest. So​ Friday afternoon, Rodriguez was charged with grand theft and burglary.

Here’s what police say they know: When they arrived at the Harold Golden Gallery at Northwest Second Avenue and 23rd Street​ early Thursday morning​, a witness said he saw a man walking on the roof where the statue was erected. It was about 3 a.m. Thursday.

Then, the man said, a person believed to be Rodriguez picked up the statue and dropped it into the back of a pickup truck. But before he could split, the witness took a picture of the license plate on the 2013, gray, Ford F-150. By early Friday, police linked the license plate to Rodriguez.

More here.

Florida, Miami-Dade at odds over disclosing Zika mosquito sites

via @dchangmiami

At a court hearing Friday for the Miami Herald’s lawsuit against Miami-Dade seeking the locations of traps in Miami Beach where mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus were captured, a county attorney said the Florida Department of Health had instructed local officials not to disclose the information — a statement the state agency strongly denied afterward.

The suit seeks disclosure of the Zika-positive mosquito trap locations on grounds that the information would help the public make decisions about precautions to take if they live or work nearby, and also inform the community debate on the use of the controversial insecticide naled.

Rachel Walters, an assistant county attorney, told Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Samantha Ruiz-Cohen during a scheduling conference that the county plans to file a motion to dismiss the Herald’s lawsuit. Walters said the motion to dismiss would be based on the idea that an “indispensable party” — Florida’s health department — is not included in the lawsuit.

“We’re going to continue speaking with the Department of Health and asking them to release us from their instruction that we maintain confidentiality,” Walters said.

After learning of Walters’s statements in court, however, Florida health officials issued a written statement denying the agency ever muzzled the county.

More here.

Rubio delivers weekly GOP address, criticizes Obama on Gitmo


The Republican Party gave a platform to reach conservative voters Saturday: The Florida senator delivered the GOP's weekly address.

Forty-five days before the election, Rubio's message focused largely on terrorism, citing the recent attacks in Minnesota, New Jersey and New York.

"These attacks remind us once again that evil is real, and that we remain a nation at war against radical Islamic terrorism," Rubio says in the taped message.

Rubio criticized President Barack Obama's handling of terrorist threats, and chided him in particular on his push to get detainees out of the U.S. Navy Base in Guatánamo Bay, Cuba.

"With just four months left in office, President Obama and his allies in Congress want to release every single terrorist from the military's custody at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba," Rubio says. "We've already seen why this is a dangerous mistake, as many have been released to other countries, only to quickly go missing. Others have returned to the battlefield, and replenished the forces of evil."

September 23, 2016

Latest Miami-Dade mayor cash race: Regalado raises $252K, Gimenez raises $542K


It took Raquel Regalado just two weeks in a runoff to raise a quarter of what she took in during the entire primary campaign in the Miami-Dade mayoral race. But it still amounted to less than half of the fund-raising haul of her opponent, incumbent Mayor Carlos Gimenez.

Friday brought the first pure look at fund-raising in the runoff, which was required after Gimenez failed to cross the 50-percent threshold in the Aug. 30 primary against Regalado and five other challengers. The previous bimonthly report straddled the primary, but the latest one covered the two-week stretch between Sept. 3 and Sept. 16. 

Regalado, a two-term school board member an daughter of Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado, raised $252,000. During the primary, she brought in about $1 million. Gimenez, in office since 2011, raised $542,000 in the latest report. That's much more than Regalado brought in but not as impressive a figure relative to his primary haul, which approached $4.5 million.  

Gimenez also has more to spend, with more than $900,000 in surplus dollars, according to the reports. Regalado has about $300,000.

On the Gimenez report, $75,000 combined came from Lennar CEO Stuart Miller and his two siblings, Jeffrey Miller and Leslie Miller Saiontz. The Capo Group, developers of the Bimini Bay resort, which has run a ferry from the county port, gave $50,000, as did Miami Perfume Junction, a global duty-free retailer out of Doral.   Each of the donors gave to Gimenez's political committee, Miami-Dade Residents First. 

Notable donors on Regalado's latest report include auto magnate Norman Braman, who has been her main backer since the start. He gave $50,000 to Regalado's political committee, Good Government in Miami-Dade. Also giving on the Regalado side: Miami developers Ricardo Tabet ($50,000) and Gary Nader ($30,000) and philanthropist Adrienne Arsht ($15,000).




Ros-Lehtinen, Ortega toss verbal grenades at each other

NP-ILR-092316-Florida_Candidates 05 EKM


Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and the Nicaraguan government traded bitter criticisms Friday over charges of intimidation and repression.

The exchange started with a statement by the Managua government opposing an effort in Congress led by Ros-Lehtinen to restrict its access to loans in what would be a form of economic sanctions.

Without citing the Miami Republican by name, Nicaragua accused her and other lawmakers of having "been involved in disinformation and intimidation campaigns in the media against Democratic, pluralistic and progressive processes in Latin America and the Caribbean."

The alleged interference in Latin America appeared to be a reference to lawmakers' past criticism of the Cuban and Venezuelan governments.

Ros-Lehtinen has been especially critical of Cuba and its allies in Venezuela and Nicaragua, along with Sen. Marco Rubio, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart and other Cuban-American members of Congress.

Ros-Lehtinen fired back at the Nicaraguan government's latest salvo.

"Ortega's baseless accusations are just his latest attempt to detract attention away from the human rights abuses and the acts of corruption and intimidation he has been perpetrating in Nicaragua, but nobody is fooled," she said.

While Ros-Lehtinen targeted Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, the statement criticizing her bill came from the government he heads, not from him personally, although he all but certainly approved it.

And although Ros-Lehtinen said Ortega had attacked her, the Nicaraguan government statement did not mention her or any other lawmaker by name.

The House on Wednesday unanimously passed a measure that would place U.S. limits on loans to the Ortega government unless it accepts international observers and other steps toward holding free elections.

Ros-Lehtinen and Rep. Albio Sires, a Cuban-American Democrat from New Jersey, were lead sponsors of the legislation. The Senate has not pass a companion bill.

Ros-Lehtinen said her measure's main aim was to “stop Ortega from accessing international funds until he adopts reforms that promote democracy, strengthen the rule of law, respect human rights, and celebrate free, fair, and transparent elections supervised by electoral observers.”


Photo credit: Emily Michot



Kaine will campaign in Miami on Sunday

Kaa28 TKaine NEW PPP

Tim Kaine will make a Miami stop Sunday evening, ahead of Hillary Clinton's appearance Monday night at the first presidential debate.

The Democratic VP nominee plans to drop by Miami Dade College Kendall Campus to discuss Clinton's economic plans, according to the campaign. The Clinton team has spent the week trying to reach young voters, an elusive demographic for both big-party candidates this year.

Kaine last visited South Florida in late August, as part of a small-business tour. He's been a consistent presence since Clinton named him her running mate at Florida International University in July.

Clinton is expected to prep this weekend for the debate against Donald Trump, which will take place at 9 p.m. Monday at Hofstra University in New York. She planned to campaign Sunday in Charlotte, North Carolina, where a police shooting has prompted major street protests, but she cancelled the trip after the city's mayor urged presidential candidates to hold off so as not to drain local resources.

Tickets to Kaine's event can be requested here.

Photo credit: Pedro Portal, Miami Herald

Ted Cruz endorses Donald Trump


Remember the Ted Cruz who stole the show during July's Republican National Convention, failing to endorse nominee Donald Trump?

He's gone now.

The Texas senator posted a robust Trump endorsement on his Facebook page Friday.

Trump issued a brief statement on Cruz's about-face.

"I am greatly honored by the endorsement of Senator Cruz," he said. "We have fought the battle and he was a tough and brilliant opponent. I look forward to working with him for many years to come in order to make America great again."

Photo credit: J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press

Anti-pot group spends $1.3M as medical marijuana boosters keep fundraising


Supporters of a ballot question expanding medical marijuana in Florida continued fundraising the week of Sept. 10-16 while opponents started spending big money on advertising.

State campaign finance records released Friday show that United for Care, the group behind the constitutional amendment, called Amendment 2, raised $20,000 last week, most of it from donations $1,000 or less.

No on 2, the campaign opposing the measure, raised just $1, but they've started using major donations to produce and buy ads. Records show that Drug Free Florida, the political committee opposing medical marijuana, spent more than $1.3 million that same week, most of it going to Jamestown Associates, an ad buying firm.

Here's the dollars in and dollars out for the campaigns thus far:

United for Care: Raised $4.01 million ($32,162 since Sept. 1); spent $3.89 million ($40,474 since Sept. 1)

Drug Free Florida: Raised $2.86 million ($1.03 since Sept. 1); spent $1.79 million ($1.39 million since Sept. 1)

Supporters and opponents of the medical marijuana initiative have both relied heavily on big-money donors to fund their causes.

John Morgan, the Orlando trial lawyer, has funded $2.7 million of the money United for Care has spent getting Amendment 2 on the ballot, though he hasn't donated to the committee since Jan. 5.

Conservative Tampa Bay developer Mel Sembler has this year spent $1 million and promised to donate or raise up to $10 million to fund Drug Free Florida. In early September, Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, dropped $1 million in campaign against Amendment 2.

Can Zika aid bill overcome its DC partisan past?



WASHINGTON Senate Republican leaders revealed what they called a breakthrough in Zika funding Thursday under renewed pressure from Florida lawmakers and mayors to break a seven-month political impasse.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/latest-news/article103560742.html#storylink=cpy

Democrats, however, said disputes over funding other urgent needs could still block any final deal, with the Zika money now part of a larger appropriations measure meant to fund the federal government through Dec. 9.

Just a few hours after Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine met with South Florida members of Congress and visited the White House to push for the stalled Zika money, the Senate Republicans disclosed the new Zika effort.

For more, read here:

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


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/latest-news/article103560742.html#storylink=cpy


Marco Rubio, Republicans use Iran to attack Patrick Murphy on foreign policy

Murphy _ ap


For months, Republicans have hammered Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy for his support of the Obama administration when it comes to Iran policy, and those attacks escalated overnight after Murphy voted with House Democrats to oppose a ban on future cash payments to the Middle East nation.

GOP groups, including Republican incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio, are using Thursday night's vote to characterize the Jupiter congressman as "weak" on national security, but Murphy, like other Democrats, argue Republicans are merely playing politics.

The debate stems from revelations this summer that the U.S. paid $400 million to Iran as part of a decades-old settlement on the same day four American prisoners were released from the country. Republicans have described the transaction as a "ransom" payment, a characterization the Obama administration disputes.

In response to that controversy, though, the Republican-led House on Thursday passed a bill -- mostly along partylines with Democrats, like Murphy, opposed -- that would prohibit cash payments to Iran and require congressional notification for any future settlement transactions.

MORE from McClatchy DC: "House approves legislation prohibiting cash payments to Iran"

When asked by the Herald/Times why Murphy opposed the bill, his congressional spokeswoman Erin Moffet initially did not specify the reason for Murphy's vote, but then later explained his position in a follow-up statement.

"It is not in our nation's best interest to tie this and the next president's hands from being able to settle claims, which this politically motivated bill would do by preventing the U.S. government from making future payments – even if required by law," Moffet said.

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