Posts Tagged ‘Context’

Brewster Bevis: Karenna Gore out of touch with Florida’s energy future

Monday, February 20th, 2017

Floridians have heard a great deal about the potential expansion of renewable energy, and for good reason.
Per the Energy Information Administration, renewable energy like solar and wind rank among the fastest-growing energy sources. It’s a promising development – one we should all applaud.
Still, one pressing concern remains: Renewables alone can’t meet the state’s escalating energy needs.
The University of Florida estimates that the state’s population will increase from nearly 20 million in 2014 to about 29 million in 2040 – which the Florida Reliability Coordinating Council projects will increase electricity demand by more than 10 gigawatts by 2035.
Remember: One gigawatt powers about 750,000 homes and renewables currently account for just a sliver of Florida’s electricity generation portfolio.
That means one of two things will occur as our population surges.
Some will have more difficulty getting the energy they need to turn on the lights, cool their homes and refrigerators and power their smartphones. Others will have the misfortune of paying a lot more for the energy they do get. No one wants to fall into either category.
But unless we urge policymakers to greenlight the construction of more critically-needed pipeline expansion, they will.
A recent report from Consumer Energy Alliance shows this reality all too well. Per the report, Florida and other states in the U.S. Southeast could sustain a 29.2 percent electricity shortfall if the U.S. rejects more pipeline expansion proposals and baseload generation options go offline prematurely.
That’s why it’s important we think twice before nodding our heads to what out-of-state, anti-energy activists like Karenna Gore say about how we develop and acquire our energy.
Gore doesn’t live in Florida. She won’t be affected when demand exceeds supply, and she won’t pick up the tab when your electric bill crushes your budget. Florida is just another stop on her misguided tour, coordinated by national anti-energy

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For ‘Dem-witted’ Florida Democrats, stop arguing and get to work

Monday, February 20th, 2017

In case Democrats haven’t figured it out yet, they are in a position of increasing irrelevance for a couple of big reasons: They consistently have been outworked, and they apparently can’t understand what’s actually happening in Florida and this country.
The election of Donald Trump is just the latest in what has been a series of events that left Democrats dazed and confused (apologies to Led Zeppelin). I was reminded of that Saturday when an enthusiastic and large crowd (yes, Mr. President, it was large) turned out in Melbourne to hear President Trump rail against his favorite targets — chief among them, the media.
Democrats will point to opinion polls that show the president at historic lows after one month in office. Many of them will assume that means Trump’s administration is headed for a thrashing in the 2018 midterms, ultimately to crash on the rocks in 2020 — if he isn’t impeached before then.
They may be right, but I wouldn’t bet the mortgage on it. The disconnect between everyday people and the so-called powerful elite has been widening for a while now. It shows no signs of easing. If anything, the gap is increasing. News flash: The everyday people are winning.
Go back to the 2010 governor’s election in Florida. How many experts gave Rick Scott any chance of winning? After he beat Alex Sink, Democrats disdainfully wrote it off an anomaly that would self-correct.
They argued that Scott had essentially bought the election by pouring millions from his own bank account into the campaign. They grumped that Sink had run a lackluster campaign. And when Scott was later judged to be the least popular governor in the nation, Democrats assumed they would regain power in 2014.
How did that work out?
Take it even closer to home. There was a story Friday on SaintPetersBlog

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Miami-Dade residents, rise and activate!

Monday, February 20th, 2017

I was born and raised in Miami, after my family was forced to flee from our home country of Nicaragua in the 1970s. My family took refuge in Miami, I believe, because of its welcoming environment and close proximity to Central America. I spent my entire childhood and teenage years in this community, devoting countless hours to service and working hard through my studies at MAST Academy, a privilege and honor I hold close to my heart till this day.
I share this brief look into my early life because I am completely in awe of how Miami-Dade has seen its residents rise and activate in what has become one of the most contentious and fearful times in our nation’s history. I know our relatively young nation has faced turbulent times in past decades and overcame some of its darkest moments, but I worry that we are seeing, once again, our country live through a defining moment.
We are a community of refugees, past and present, and it seems some have forgotten this. This is a unique characteristic to Miami-Dade because so many here are first generation residents to this country.
As we struggle to make sense of today’s chaos, we have to turn to our personal stories to reflect on who we are as people so we can then define who we will be as a community. My family came from Nicaragua like so many Cubans did in the 1980s, fleeing oppression and literally leaving a life behind to start an unknown one.
However, it seems many have forgotten their own stories of how this community opened its doors and welcomed a transformational change to the way of life Miami-Dade knew at the time. I know too many Cubans and Nicaraguans, among other nationalities who back in the day lived here undocumented and

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Dan Raulerson and Dennis Baxley say ‘Let them eat steak’

Sunday, February 19th, 2017

In 10 years as head of the Florida Housing Finance Corporation (FHFC), Stephen Auger didn’t do much to solve the chronic, critical problems of people who work hard, play by the rules, and still can’t afford a decent place to live.
But he won the hearts and minds of millionaire senators like Dennis Baxley and Dan Raulerson, who think that buying steak dinners for people who do business with FHFC is a good use of taxpayer money.
Auger is among the casualties of Gov. Rick Scott‘s pre-session purge of agency heads caught in the act of frivolous, selfish, useless and stupid expenditures of public funds.
If government was really “run like a business,” Auger would have been gone years ago, when a Tampa Bay Times reporting team led by Susan Taylor Martin first began turning the rocks over at FHFC and finding an embarrassing pile of misfeasance and nonfeasance.  But Auger held on to his $183,000 job until December, when the legislature’s own auditors weighed in on FHFC’s miasma of mismanagement. Highlights include $443,000 in criteria-free staff bonus payments and a $52,000 “lender appreciation” dinner which featured broiled lobster tails, filet mignon and a nice “display” of tasty “imported and domestic cheeses.”
State audit manager and Master of Understatement Christi Alexander formally presented audit findings last week to the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee, noting that such expenses “did not appear to be clearly necessary” to FHFC’s affordable housing mission.  Raulerson tried to stick a fork in Auger’s critics by pointing out that the real cost of the Festival of Filet was “only” $36,000, thanks FHFC’s ability to attract corporate “sponsorships ” from folks who very, very much appreciate the money they make doing business with FHFC.
Raulerson has no problem with FHFC blowing more taxpayer money on one dinner than many of his constituents make

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Hail Britannia: U.K. could teach U.S. a thing or two about running government

Sunday, February 19th, 2017

Late in the campaign, the New Yorker satirist Andy Borowitz wrote that Queen Elizabeth II was offering to take the colonies back, suggesting that Americans dissatisfied with their options should just write in her name for president.
It doesn’t seem quite as funny now as it did then.
Let’s imagine, though, that we are still part of the British Empire, and that Donald Trump has moved to London and is now Prime Minister.
Imagine him waddling into the House of Commons to face that jolly good British ordeal known as Prime Minister’s Questions.
Imagine him trying to explain to the MPs and to the world on television, why he discussed a North Korean missile launch in full view and earshot of a dining room full of swells without security clearances. Imagine the barrage of questions from the opposition over why he kept a national security adviser for weeks after he was warned that the Kremlin had blackmail on the man who, he knew also, had lied about it.
Imagine him melting down under the jeers from their benches, if not also from his own side. Compared to the Commons, Saturday Night Live is gentle.
Had he been the British P.M., it might not have gotten even that far. There would have been a no-confidence vote once it became plain that he and his family were in it for the boodle rather than for the nation “Buy Ivanka’s stuff?” Really?
Or perhaps his network of Russian connections would have brought him down first.
In 1963, the British regarded minister of war, John Profumo, was forced to resign after admitting that he had lied to colleagues in denying an affair with a call girl who was also sleeping with a Russian naval attaché and spy. The scandal helped to bring down the Harold Macmillan government a year later.
What’s hardest to

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We don’t have a president. We have a high priest of the American id

Sunday, February 19th, 2017

I don’t know what to tell you. Honestly.
One of the hallmarks of an unfree society is a lack of narratives to make clear sense of the government’s behavior — especially the government’s preferred narratives.
But this government has no narratives; no coherent, meaningful story to tell to us, the governed; no clear philosophy. We only neurotic and self-serving prevarications that shift as quickly as the ground beneath the lie-manufacturers.
America is in a crisis, and the America that eventually emerges will not be one any of us — liberal, conservative, urban, rural — will much recognize.
In the future, in this space, I hope to piece together some occasional narratives of this decline, accounts that can perhaps put America’s crisis in a useful context. But this week, a month into the most inept, malign, dishonest, infantile, hateful government administration I have witnessed in my lifetime, all I can do is try to pluck out a few waypoints on our rapid ride down the cliff.
For us mere mortals, there have been too many outrages to track, which is probably as close as Donald Trump’s inner circle comes to a strategy. They are prone to crisis and deceit, so they make crisis and deceit perpetual, until the populace adapts to it — like the stench of an unemptied garbage pail in your own home.
As my Pennsylvania-Dutch great-grandmother used to say, “If you hang long enough, you get used to it.”
This week, Michael Flynn, a simple soldier whose lifelong genius for connecting dots and acting on the picture they produce may have worked in an Afghan village but not in a bureaucracy designed to protect 319 million Americans, lost his job as national security adviser, and that is a good thing on its face.
Flynn’s unpardonable sin, per the president who hired him, is not that he

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Economic development incentives drive jobs to Florida, boost state economy

Friday, February 17th, 2017

Shaping up to be one of the biggest battles in the Legislature in many years, the fight on economic development incentives and tourism funding has been swirling throughout the halls of the Capitol the last few weeks. On one side are those who believe that taxpayer dollars should not be used to entice businesses and tourists to Florida; the other side sees these programs as crucial for creating jobs and boosting our economy.
Having watched and safeguarded taxpayer dollars being spent and invested for nearly than 40 years, I am convinced by overwhelming evidence that these programs are essential components in the toolkit to grow the Sunshine State, but equally assured that proper oversight is as vital as the programs themselves.
Florida TaxWatch independent research – as well as analysis by the state’s economists – has shown that Florida’s economic development incentives that are targeted to specific industries and investments have generated positive return on investment by enticing qualifying businesses to bring high-wage jobs to the state and diversifying the state’s industry portfolio. These results boost the state economy, creating a rising tide and lifting up all boats in the process.
Our state’s economy continues to flourish with non-farm employment hitting a high of 8.4 million jobs and the unemployment rate averaging 4.8 percent throughout 2016. While many jobs are not directly created with incentives, we would not see the same level of success if we hadn’t implemented these programs. If Florida wants to continue to compete with the nation, it must have smart incentive programs that attract and expand high-wage jobs and entice companies that otherwise may not come to Florida.
Since all of our competitor states, as well as nearly every other state in the Union, use incentives, it would be a major detriment to Florida if we eliminated our economic development

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Subliminal message no help in Enterprise Florida fight

Friday, February 17th, 2017

I was watching the fascinating video from the Florida House of Representatives in its escalating war with Gov. Rick Scott over state subsidies for private businesses and tourism when an image caught my eye as it streaked by quickly.
It was the logo for Enterprise Florida, the public-private partnership that is supposed to create jobs. Scott loves the concept so much he included $85 million in his budget request for the endeavor. Therein lies the battle line with House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who says it’s a waste of taxpayer money.
The House video makes that case emphatically.
Anyway, I rolled the video back to the logo and thought, hey, wait a minute. It looked familiar. One quick Google search later confirmed that EP’s logo looks suspiciously similar to Enron’s, and, well, need I say more?
That’s not a subliminal message an endeavor fighting for its life (and funding) wants to send.
Enron, as we remember, set the gold standard (so to speak) for getting into taxpayers’ wallets in the name of “job creation” and other such gibberish. The Libertarian-leaning Cato Institute in 2012 called Enron “a poster child for the harm of business subsidies,” reporting the company received $3.7 billion through various means through federal government agencies before it collapsed in December 2001.
No one is trying to place Enterprise Florida on the same level as Enron, but the principle Corcoran and his GOP-controlled House members believe is where the connection is valid. Corcoran strongly argues that government (meaning taxpayers) shouldn’t decide business winners and loser by funneling public money to private interests.
And EP certainly has received more than a little bit of public dough since it was founded in 2005. As the Orlando Sentinel reported in December, “A prime example of Florida’s political favoritism is Enterprise Florida, a public-private partnership that promised to create 200,000

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In mock court, UF law students argue case echoing infamous FSU ‘Jane Doe’ lawsuit

Friday, February 17th, 2017

The black-robed justices who filed solemnly into a courtroom at the University of Florida law school Thursday morning were not the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, but they were announced as if they were.
“All persons having business before the Honorable, the Supreme Court of the United States, are admonished to draw near and give their attention, for the court is now sitting,” a bailiff boomed out as students, law professors and attorneys with Holland & Knight — the law firm that sponsored the event — stood respectfully.
But when Florida’s chief justice, Jorge Labarga, took a seat behind the long desk at the front of the room, along with four of his colleagues from the state’s high court, and said, “I’m actually Justice Roberts” — referring to the chief justice of the nation’s high court — laughter and applause erupted throughout the room.
Ignoring the outburst, Labarga continued. “We’re here today to decide over … ah, the case of …” he flipped through a file before him, “Chilton State University and Jane Doe.”
Over the more than two hours that followed, two law students representing that fictional university and two students representing a fictional female student presented arguments explaining why the university had, or did not have, responsibility under the federal law known as Title IX to investigate her allegations that she was raped at an off-campus event by a male student who had a leadership role at the university that they both attended.
Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity. The law also addresses sexual harassment and rape of students.
In the fictional case presented at UF’s 33rd Annual Raymer F. Maguire Appellate Advocacy Competition, events, characters, circumstances and questions of law — discussed by the students and the justices — sounded strikingly

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Out like Flynn: The firing of National Security adviser Mike Flynn

Friday, February 17th, 2017

“In like Flynn” has been part of American language since the 1940s.
The San Francisco Examiner in February 1942 contained the first known use of the term when it stated: “Answer these questions correctly, and your name is Flynn, meaning you’re in …”
Within a few months, the term became closely identified with movie idol Errol Flynn. Flynn had developed a reputation as a fighter, drinker and womanizer. In November 1942, Flynn was accused by two underage girls of statutory rape. Flynn was cleared of the charge in 1943 and “in like Flynn” became part of the actor’s persona. The phrase has had a sexual connotation ever since.
A final variation of the origin of “in like Flynn” is tied to New York political boss Edward J. Flynn, who dominated politics in the Bronx during FDR’s administration. Boss Flynn’s “Democratic Party machine exercised absolute political control over the Bronx … The candidate’s he backed were almost automatically in.”
Whatever the origins, we may now coin a new term: “Out like Flynn.” “Out like Flynn” refers to someone who supposedly has the complete support of his boss, but is quickly fired. It is also associated with a political appointee who was quickly hired and quickly fired. Mike Flynn‘s tenure as National Security Adviser lasted 24 days.
Although Kellyanne Conway, Donald Trump‘s campaign manager and now presidential adviser noted on MSNBC that Flynn “does enjoy the full confidence of President Trump, a few hours later press secretary Sean Spicer told the press that Trump was “evaluating the situation.”
Within hours, Flynn submitted his letter of resignation.
At issue was whether Flynn gave Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak assurances that the Trump administration would reverse sanctions imposed by President Obama after the intelligence community concluded that they were involved in trying to influence the 2016 presidential election.
Flynn denied discussing sanctions with

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David Santiago plays Jason Bourne while FDLE ferrets out real terror in the House

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

We are a nation of immigrants with very short memories. How else to explain HB 427’s frontman David Santiago‘s embrace of a ludicrous and mean-spirited effort to take Florida out of a federal program that assists people fleeing “war, persecution and violence.“
Not so long ago, folks whose name ended in a vowel might be admonished — along with Jews, dogs and Irish — to “keep off the grass.” Yet Santiago and a large crowd of pols whose people arrived here from Someplace Else are hell-bent on taking Florida out of a federal program that assists refugees to settle in to an economy that depends in large measure upon the friendship and goodwill of tourists from Someplace Else.
Florida’s participation in the refugee program has been quietly managed for years by the Department of Children and Families (DCF). Prior to the Era of Extreme Hysteria and Vetting, it operated with a low profile and a high degree of success. Catholic Charities and other organizations not known for harboring “bad hombres” work closely with state authorities and refugee families, and FDLE’s intelligence officers have assured lawmakers that “zero terrorism incidents in Florida can be attributed to refugees.”
While Santiago & Company preen and play dress up as Jason Bourne, FDLE keeps busy investigating genuinely terrifying threats to public safety. Operation Cupid’s Arrow, for instance, targeted dirty old men trolling Craigslist for little girls to sexually abuse. One geezer arrested in the sting was the $161,000 a year associate general counsel for Florida State University. Another was the “Civics Program Coordinator” for the school boys — and girls — in the House of Representatives’ Legislative Page Program.
The post David Santiago plays Jason Bourne while FDLE ferrets out real terror in the House appeared first on Florida Politics.

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Frank Artiles: A review of the facts — SFRTA gets it right

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

Over the last few weeks, South Florida has seen criticism regarding the process used by the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (SFRTA) to award a contract to operate and maintain the South Florida Tri-Rail commuter rail system to Herzog Transit Services, Inc.
As your elected representative, I made it my personal mission to delve into the details surrounding the process and draw my own conclusion on the integrity of the process. What I found was that the attacks on the process are not consistent with the facts surrounding this issue and do not divulge the entire story.
SFRTA initiated a competitive process for a contractor to provide operations and maintenance services for the Tri-Rail system. SFRTA’s instructions to proposers were very clear that conditioned proposals – a proposal that takes exceptions or makes assumptions relative to the technical or commercial terms of the solicitation – were not acceptable and SFRTA reserved the right to reject such proposals.
In response to the solicitation, six bidders submitted proposals, and five of those six contained the very technical or pricing conditions that were specifically not permitted. As such, this made the real costs of their proposals virtually impossible to determine. Only one bidder, Herzog Transit Services, followed the rules and did not condition their bid. In fact, their bid of $511 million, which is lower than the independent engineer’s estimate of $530 million, is the only credible number that can be used for comparison purposes. I feel strongly that SFRTA got it right, and that the integrity of the process was maintained.
Herzog Transit Services, a well-known company with a strong track record, were SFRTA’s operations and maintenance contractor from 1994 to 2007 and know the project. Further, Herzog Transit Services, which is nationally recognized and the largest private passenger rail operations and maintenance service provider in

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Patrick La Pine: Credit unions work to protect consumers’ interests, balance Florida economy

Tuesday, February 14th, 2017

As a member-owned cooperative, a credit union’s success is directly related to the financial health of the people who use its services every day. This symbiotic structure is why credit unions remain the safest and most consumer-friendly option for financial services.
This is the reason the government was not bailing out credit unions after the 2008 financial crisis. Washington seems to have forgotten who was responsible for that crisis. Regulations written and created to police the bad behavior of Wall Street and big banks have been slapped onto credit unions, too.
These massive one-size-fits-all regulations have been detrimental to many Florida credit unions, with limited resources as not-for-profit financial institutions. It is simply not reasonable to treat behemoth financial institutions the same way as not for profit, member-owned and governed credit unions.
How can the big banks collapse the economy and emerge in even better shape than the credit union industry that safeguarded its members all along? This is unjust.
Certainly, Congress was not ill intended when they created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Protecting consumers from the irresponsible behavior we saw from big banks makes sense. It was not reasonable, however, for this agency to blanket all financial institutions with the exact same regulations, regardless of size.
It is not common sense for Florida credit union members, to pay for the mistakes of the big banks. Something must be done.
As the 115th Congress works on these and other issues, credit unions need support from our elected officials for legislation that will rectify these problems. We need legislative fixes that will direct the CFPB to treat credit unions like credit unions, and not like big banks. We need more oversight at the CFPB, such as the installation of a multimember board instead of one, single-minded director.
Since the financial crisis, more Americans have chosen credit

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Florida’s drug laws are giving me a pain in the ass

Tuesday, February 14th, 2017

No one disputes that opiate addiction is a national problem. Statistics show that over 52,000 Americans died because of drug abuse, or about 142 people a day. One-third of those deaths are from opioids prescribed by doctors.
Although a national problem, Florida led the nation in opioid abuse until recently. Individuals from all over the southeastern United States flooded into Florida to visit our “pill mills.” I-75 was known as the gateway to easy drugs. In fact, the Drug Enforcement Administration referred to I-75 as the “Oxy Express.”
A single pill mill in Tampa wrote scripts for over 1 million oxycodone pills in a six-month period in 2019. Of the top 100 doctors in the nation prescribing oxycodone, 98 resided in Florida.
The situation was so bad in Florida that Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi created the Florida Regulatory Drug Enforcement Task Force to combat drug abuse in Florida and crack down on the pill mills.
The Task Force had great success in reducing the abuse by pill mills. The number of oxycodone pills prescribed dropped from 650 million in 2010 to 300 million in 2013. Almost 4,000 individuals were arrested including 67 doctors. Over 848,000 pills were seized, as well as $10 million in cash. 254 pill mills were shut down.
Changes in the Florida drug laws now require patients to see a certified pain specialist monthly in order to receive prescriptions for pain meds. Where 98 out of the top 100 doctors prescribing oxycodone resided in Florida in 2010, that number was zero in 2013.
Florida had great success in closing the pill mills and eliminating much of the drug abuse that existed. So, what’s the problem?
The problem is that individuals with chronic pain have a very difficult time getting their pain meds in a timely fashion. Pain specialists can write a

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Florida abuses teachers and can’t figure out why there’s a teacher shortage

Monday, February 13th, 2017

At the rate Florida is hemorrhaging classroom teachers, it soon won’t matter that we can’t hire school bus drivers for $11.88 an hour, because there won’t be any classrooms worth taking the kids to.
Every week brings fresh reporting about Florida’s teacher shortage; none of it is a surprise to parents or policymakers who have been paying even the slightest bit of attention.
The teaching talent pool began to shrink in the mid-20th century as women’s professional options expanded into better-paying places. Still, girls and an increasing number of boys raised to revere teachers continued to pursue careers in the classroom.
Teaching reading to fidgety first-graders and science to 17-year-olds suffering from senioritis is hard duty under the best of circumstances. In recent years, it’s become close-to-impossible.
Technology and testing mandates change at warp speed, to the delight of stockholders in companies that sell technology and tests. There’s no money left for toilet paper and Kleenex, so teachers’ pay for those “amenities” personally.
Technology has also made it possible for helicopter parents to harass teachers at any hour of the day or night. Email is great for monster moms and douchey dads who wanted to bully teachers while wearing pajamas and drinking heavily. But it sucks down a lot of time that teachers need to grade papers and attend “trainings” on their uncompensated time.
It’s hard to maintain teacher morale when the wage gap in the public-school system is closing in on the wage gap in the private sector. In Miami, for example, Superintendent and Fashion Plate Alberto Carvalho can afford to dress like Rico Suave on his $345,000 salary. Teachers making $40K are lucky if they can keep up with their student loans.
Then there’s the daily dose of defamation heaped upon teachers by folks looking to dismember the public-school system for the benefit of people

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The new civics course in schools: How to avoid fake news

Monday, February 13th, 2017

Teachers from elementary school through college are telling students how to distinguish between factual and fictional news — and why they should care that there’s a difference.
As Facebook works with The Associated Press, FactCheck.org and other organizations to curb the spread of fake and misleading news on its influential network, teachers say classroom instruction can play a role in deflating the kind of “Pope endorses Trump” headlines that muddied the waters during the 2016 presidential campaign.
“I think only education can solve this problem,” said Pat Winters Lauro, a professor at Kean University in New Jersey who began teaching a course on news literacy this semester.
Like others, Lauro has found discussions of fake news can lead to politically sensitive territory. Some critics believe fake stories targeting Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton helped Donald Trump overcome a large deficit in public opinion polls, and President Trump himself has attached the label to various media outlets and unfavorable reports and polls in the first weeks of his presidency.
“It hasn’t been a difficult topic to teach in terms of material because there’s so much going on out there,” Lauro said, “but it’s difficult in terms of politics because we have such a divided country and the students are divided, too, on their beliefs. I’m afraid sometimes that they think I’m being political when really I’m just talking about journalistic standards for facts and verification, and they look at it like ‘Oh, you’re anti-this or -that.’”
Judging what to trust was easier when the sources were clearer — magazines, newspapers or something else, said Kean senior Mike Roche, who is taking Lauro’s class. Now “it all comes through the same medium of your cellphone or your computer, so it’s very easy to blur the lines and not have a clear distinction of what’s real and what’s

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Charlie Crist may be likable, but how soon before he eyes a new gig?

Monday, February 13th, 2017

One of Charlie Crist’s best traits is his likability.
He can be a candle-in-the-wind on issues, depending on his audience. Changing parties infuriated Republicans and made Democrats skeptical. And once he gets a job, he tends to get wandering eyes for his next gig. But damn, he is a really nice guy. Despite his baggage, people like him and a lot of them vote for him.
That’s one reason he rose above the political tsunami that swamped Democrats nationwide and beat another good guy in Republican David Jolly to represent Florida’s 13th Congressional District.
Given that, it’s puzzling that Crist so far apparently hasn’t used his best trait to solidify the home base, even as he adjusts to life in the U.S. House of Representatives. Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times reported Sunday Crist has had a series of stumbles that have supporters wondering what the heck is going on.
Smith wrote that Crist and his wife, Carole, who is paid to oversee his political activities, “generated widespread grumbling and head-scratching about his clumsy start in Congress, even among longtime friends.”
Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long, a Democrat, told the newspaper Crist hasn’t touched base with her since he left for Washington.
“I can only compare the two, and right after David Jolly was elected he was calling my office and asking for a meeting and wanting to work together,” she said. “We built a very tight relationship. I’m hoping we can build the same kind of relationship with Charlie.”
Compare Crist to other members of Congress from the area. Democrat U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor frequently returns to Tampa and Hillsborough County to keep in touch with voters.
Republicans Gus Bilirakis (District 12) and Rep. Dennis Ross (District 15) do the same.
Bilirakis, as was widely reported, held a second “listening session” Saturday with Pasco County voters who

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Bruce Grant: Leave alcohol wall as is

Monday, February 13th, 2017

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Florida has some laws on the books that actually work well – and we should leave them alone.
Such as the law that restricts hard liquor sales to a store that primarily sells liquor. The same law limits and controls direct access to these stores by requiring customers to enter through a separate door facing the outside of the establishment. Both provisions exist to control – and thereby limit – access to minors.
When minors enter a liquor store, they immediately stand out from customers of legal age. This makes identifying and monitoring minors easier for store employees, and intimidates minors who realize everyone is watching them – and results in fewer sales to youth.
Under Senate Bill 106, big box stores would place liquor directly on their shelves – right next to all their other merchandise like diapers, video games or groceries. This change would allow access to underage employees, some as young as 16.
Why do we need special regulations for alcohol sales? Because alcohol is not just another product line – it is intoxicating and addictive, particularly so when used by those under age. Business and marketing practices – perfectly legitimate for selling other commodities – may cause social harm when the product is alcohol.
So why this law? There is no compelling reason to do this. Profits are high at the box stores and most consumers already go to multiple stores when they shop. Nobody’s complaining about having a hard time finding a convenient place to buy hard liquor. So the real agenda is simply to make more money. By doing this, they accomplish a major cultural shift in how and where alcohol is sold at the expense of our kids.
SB 106 will tear down the alcohol wall, give us lower costs, increased access and

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Federal judges’ lifetime tenure for good reason; Tallahassee should take note

Saturday, February 11th, 2017

There is a profound reason why the Founders gave life tenure to federal judges, subject only to impeachment for bad behavior. As Alexander Hamilton explained it in The Federalist No. 78:
“In a monarchy, it is an excellent barrier to the despotism of the prince; in a Republic, it is a no less excellent barrier to the encroachments and oppressions of the representative body…”
Judges subject to the whims of a president or the Congress to keep their jobs would be worthless. So would the Constitution.
The founding wisdom has been confirmed time and again, most famously when the Supreme Court ruled that Richard Nixon was not above the law, and most recently Thursday, when the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal ruled that Donald Trump is not above it either.
Although the effect is only that Trump’s immigration decree remains on hold while the court fully considers his appeal of the District Judge’s order suspending it, the three-judge appellate panel made an enormously important point.
Trump’s lawyers had argued, as the court put it, that his “decisions about immigration policy, particularly when motivated by national security concerns, are unreviewable, even if those actions potentially contravene constitutional rights and protections.” The regime had also claimed, the court said, that “it violates separation of powers for the judiciary to entertain a constitutional challenge to executive actions such as this one.” (Emphasis supplied)
A president in office less than three weeks was asserting the powers of a dictator.
“There is no precedent to support this claimed unreviewability, which runs contrary to the fundamental structure of our constitutional democracy,” the court said.
I hope they’re paying attention in Tallahassee, where some legislators seem to think they too are above the constitution and are trying to take down the state courts that sometimes disagree.
The current attack is led by House Speaker Richard

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Palm Beach County Commissioner has great advice for Rick Scott

Friday, February 10th, 2017

The Very Best Idea in Florida Right This Minute comes from Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay, who is asking Gov. Rick Scott to call Florida’s heroin epidemic by its right name: a public health crisis.
This should be a no-brainer for Scott. With heroin-related hospital bills running at close to a billion a year in Florida, a governor who made millions as a hospital executive and reportedly aspires to higher office should take the state’s opioid addiction problem at least as seriously as McKinlay’s hometown newspaper.
For over two years, The Palm Beach Post has relentlessly pursued the hydra-headed heroin story. The Post has a disproportionate share of Florida’s best print, database, digital and visual journalists, and just about all of them have been deployed to expose the dark underside of the county’s booming medical tourism industry.
Fraudsters figured out how easy it was to get hapless insurance companies to pay tens of thousands of dollars for unnecessary urine testing in the county’s burgeoning “sober home” industry.
It was a short hop from insurance fraud to illegal patient brokering. It was only a matter of time before addicts who had come to Florida in good faith with a hope of getting well were forced into prostitution and dying of overdoses.
Florida politicians and policymakers are locked into a 14th century “understanding” of addiction, and The Post continues to pour its heart and soul into shifting the paradigm. Day by day and document by document, the paper pursues the bad guys and educates the public and public officials.
The Post’s reporting provided a wake-up call and a road map for police and prosecutors. State Attorney David Aronberg‘s Sober Home Task Force has made 21 arrests, and more are on the way.
In 2015, your chances of sudden death by heroin-related overdose in Palm Beach County was higher

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Florida seniors, be careful what you wish for with Donald Trump, Medicare

Friday, February 10th, 2017

Florida’s estimated 3.8 million senior citizens wanted change. They wanted to, how you say, drain the swamp? They voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump in November.
With voters age 65 and over, Trump won Florida by 17 percent. That likely was the difference in a statewide race he won over Hillary Clinton by about 119,000 votes.
Here is part of the change they voted for. His name is Tom Price, just confirmed in the Senate as Trump’s secretary of Health and Human Services by a party-line vote of 52-47. Seniors may become better acquainted with him the next few years. He is the guy who The Washington Post says wants to privatize Medicare and Medicaid.
“Under his vision, both programs would cease to be entitlements that require them to provide coverage to every person who qualifies,” the Post reported. “Instead, like many House Republicans, he wants to convert Medicaid into block grants to states — which would give them more latitude from federal requirements about eligibility rules and the medical services that must be covered for low-income Americans.
“This plan would also require ‘able-bodied’ applicants to meet work requirements to receive health care benefits — an idea that the Obama administration has consistently rebuffed.”
I wonder how that will go over with the good folks in Charlotte, Sumter, Sarasota and Citrus counties. They are among the 11 “grayest” counties in the country.
Sumter, with nearly 53 percent of residents age 65 or older, ranks No. 1 on that list compiled by Pew Research. It is the only county in the nation to have that distinction.
Sumter, by the way, voted 69 percent for Trump. Charlotte, the second-grayest county in the land, delivered 62 percent in favor of Trump. Citrus was 68 percent. Sarasota was 54 percent.
To be fair, some of the angst over Price is about what he

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Travis Hutson, Mike La Rosa: Florida needs 5G now

Friday, February 10th, 2017

What do smart cities, driverless vehicles, autonomous drones, and instantaneous 3D downloads all have in common? The need for 5G wireless technology.
Under Senate Bill 596 and House Bill 687, which creates the Advanced Wireless Infrastructure Deployment Act, Floridians have the opportunity to bring ultra-fast speeds – speeds that were previously only available through a wired connection – to your wireless devices.
With the deployment of 5G across Florida, we are looking at the future of machines talking to machines and wireless network speeds that are 10 times faster than today. This advancement to 5G will dramatically impact our everyday lives, allowing for the next innovation in communications.
So, what is 5G technology, why do we need it and how do you get it?  Simply put, 5G is the next generation of wireless networks that will allow users to move data at much faster speeds. As technology advances, just as it did from 3G (which brought texting and photos) and 4G (which provided for the capability to have social connections like FaceTime and video), our state will need to be prepared to give its consumers the tools needed to be able to participate in the technology revolution.
Which leads us to how we get this technology and why we are pushing for this legislation this session. In order for Florida to be a part of this technological revolution that is beginning to happen in other states, wireless communication providers, like Verizon and AT&T, need to be able to put in place the proper infrastructure needed to support 5G technology from the Panhandle to the Keys.
To help clear the path for this vital innovation, we introduced SB 596 and HB 687, which lays the framework and guidelines for the installation, placement, maintenance and replacement of micro-wireless facilities across the state.
As we begin to reach capacity

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How can we respect the presidency, when Donald Trump clearly doesn’t?

Friday, February 10th, 2017

When President Harry S. Truman threatened in December 1950 to punch out a Washington Post music critic who had panned his daughter’s singing, he wrote the letter in his own hand, affixed his own postage stamp, and did not make it public. Neither did the Post.
But America knew all about it once it had leaked to the Washington News.
“It seems to me that you are a frustrated old man who wishes he could have been successful,” the president wrote …”Some day I hope to meet you. When that happens, you’ll need a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for black eyes, and perhaps a supporter below!”
Public reaction was divided. Some people, Republicans especially, said that what Truman did was terrible. Others, fathers especially, applauded him for sticking up for his daughter.
Actually, the critic, Paul Hume, was a young man, 34, only three years into what became a long and acclaimed career at the Post. When they finally did meet, years later at Truman’s home in Independence, Missouri, they played the piano together.
Truman’s outburst comes to mind with the news of the very public way in which Donald Trump and his shrill White House shill, Kellyanne Conway, reacted to news of a department store chain, Nordstrom, dropping Ivanka Trump‘s branded merchandise.
The so-called president used his personal and White House Twitter accounts to denounce the company for treating his daughter “unfairly.” Conway was on Fox “News” the next day urging people to “go buy Ivanka’s stuff.
“I’m going to give a free commercial here. Go buy it today everybody, you can find it online,” Conway said.
That goes way, way beyond what Truman did, and is far, far worse. Truman involved public resources only to the extent that he was living in the White House when he wrote the letter, and he did not

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Carol Dover: Florida’s future depends on tourism

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

Marketing is a contest for people’s attention, and state tourism marketing is no different. However, the detrimental impacts of removing a powerful marketing mechanism mean a world of difference when your state budget revenue depends on your share of the market.
The proposed bill spearheaded by the House Careers & Competition Subcommittee that eliminates VISIT FLORIDA will have severe and irreversible impacts on the state’s hospitality industry. We must protect the tourism industry, Florida’s top employer and chief economic driver, not only for the industry’s 1.4 million employees, but for the local communities whose livelihood is contingent on bringing tourists to the Sunshine State. In 2015, more than 106 million visitors came to Florida, spending $108.8 billion and generating $11.3 billion in state and local tax revenue.
Unfortunately, some lawmakers would put Florida’s economy at risk based on a philosophy financed by Americans for Prosperity. Other states have already suffered from this failed, free-market experiment. In 1993, Colorado cut their state tourism marketing budget from $12 million to zero dollars. Within one year, Colorado lost $1.4 billion in traveler spending. Tax receipts declined by $134 million from 1993 to 1997. Eighteen years later, Colorado still hasn’t recovered market share.
We must build on the successes of Florida’s hospitality and tourism industry by committing the necessary dollars to VISIT FLORIDA that will create jobs and generate revenue for the state. With a 2 percent reduction in travel, Florida would lose $2.2 billion in traveler spending, $225 million in tax revenue and 28,000 jobs.
Florida’s future depends on our lawmakers’ investment in the state’s destination marketing efforts that continue to bring record visitation numbers. VISIT FLORIDA funding isn’t about “corporate welfare” for Fortune 500 companies; it’s about sustaining hospitality employment, and the myriad related local businesses that depend on tourism. For every 76 visitors to the

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FAU puts its money where its priorities are, part 2

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

Brand-in-himself (and biggest celebrity football coach in our state) Lane Kiffin has hit the headline-grabbing ground running.
Just weeks on the job at Florida Atlantic University (FAU), Kiffin is providing elite sportswriters and citizen journalists with reams of revealing insights into the mind of the young genius chosen to channel FAU’s “unbridled ambition” into a winning season at the jock palace formerly known as GEO Group Stadium.
The ink was barely dry on Kiffin’s $950,000 contract when he struck a blow for transparency and accountability (T&A), inviting Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated to keep him company as he shopped around Boca Raton’s $5 million-and-under waterfront properties.
That would be a lot of house for a guy who’s newly divorced from his wife of 16 years, but Kiffin sees it as an “investment in recruiting.”
Best not to think too hard about what that might mean. Among the coaching talent Kiffin attracted to FAU is Baylor’s Kendal Briles; the school has long been up to its eyeballs in litigation for fostering “an environment that promotes sexual assault and a “show ’em a good time” policy.
Baylor is known for sparing no expense in covering up for miscreant players and coaches, but Kiffin, by contrast, is right up front with his misogyny.
Kiffin pulled off a humble-brag, and a diss on the mother of his three young children, telling Thamel that he was “so young and his wife so attractive” that in his married years, less dazzling folks were inclined not to like him.
For Mrs. Kiffin, the married years meant having babies and dragging them all over the country as Coach tried and failed to keep a job. She’s still caring for the kids, some of whom are old enough to read national magazines and learn that their father resents the 34.5 percent their mom got in the property

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On Rick Scott/Richard Corcoran feud; ‘incentives’ not needed to draw business to Florida

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

In 2012, Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan went on a personal crusade to convince Bass Pro Shops to build a store in Brandon.
Hagan’s aim was to create jobs as the county struggled to recover from the Great Recession. He proposed an “incentive” package that was about $15 million of taxpayer money, arguing that it was the cost of doing business with a company like that.
Many people disagreed. They screamed. They howled. They complained that giving a Death Star-like Bass Pro public money to open shop forced small outdoor businesses to subsidize a multibillion-dollar corporation that could run them into bankruptcy.
Eventually, the incentive package was winnowed way down to some infrastructure improvements. Bass Pro came anyway. It seems to be thriving in its Brandon location.
I mention this in the context of the now-public feud between Gov. Rick Scott and Republican House Speaker Richard Corcoran over the governor’s signature issue — jobs.
Scott has repeatedly shown he is a true believer in offering tax and other incentives to lure business to Florida. Corcoran guards the public bank account like a hungry pit bull, which is apropos because one of Corcoran’s targets was Visit Florida — the state’s tourism promotional arm that paid rapper Pitbull $1 million to tout our glory.
Scott built $85 million into his budget proposal for business incentives. Corcoran has dismissed that as corporate welfare and will have none of it.
I think Corcoran’s aim is more on target. Hillsborough’s experience with Bass Pro is proof.
Big businesses do create jobs, yes, but they also exist to make money. They will go to places where they can do that. Florida, now the third-largest state in the nation, is fertile ground for any company that wants to turn a profit.
But with the assumption that Scott will run for the U.S. Senate in 2018, the

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Darryl Paulson: We are not the same; the immoral equivalency of President Donald Trump

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

Voters who supported Donald Trump for president did so because they liked his free-speaking ideas, his attacks on the political establishment and his promise to “make America great again.”
President Trump has repeatedly stated that he would have won the popular vote for president if not for massive vote fraud. Does Trump believe that Russian dictator Vladimir Putin won his office in free and fair elections?  I hope Trump cannot be that deluded.
Republicans raised strong criticisms when President Barack Obama conducted what many Americans viewed as an “apology tour,” criticizing America for all its failures. Americans prefer their presidents defend the nation and its values, and not constantly criticize the nation for its shortcomings.
Obama told a European audience in 2009 that “there have been times where America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive.” He also criticized the notion of American exceptionalism that all presidents have defended.
When Jihadists burned a Jordanian pilot alive, then showing the video online as a recruiting tool, President Obama cautioned a national prayer breakfast audience not to “get on our high horse” and “remember that during the Crusades and Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.”
Many Americans were sickened and highly critical of Obama’s efforts to apologize for America’s shortcomings. Instead of defending American exceptionalism, the president seemed to delight in pointing out our deficiencies.
If President Obama’s “apology tour” disgusted many Americans and most Republicans, President Trump’s defense of Putin and the Soviets should strike a similar response from the electorate. To cast America and the Soviets as “one and the same” should thoroughly repulse Republicans, in particular. Republican Ronald Reagan must be retching.
President Trump turned in one of the most disgusting performances of any American president when he placed America and the Soviets on the same moral plateau. In a Fox News

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Blake Dowling: Drones, drones everywhere — Super Bowl to Prison

Tuesday, February 7th, 2017

Yay sports!
Or “yay ball,” as one of my techie staff members used to say (she had zero interest in football, etc.)
Yay sports, indeed. This weekend was awesome for sports, with the most thrilling Super Bowl ever. And I also attended the Kentucky-Florida basketball game; what a battle in the brand-new Gville arena.
If you love hoops, watching 6 of the top 10 teams get knocked out Saturday was exciting; for Gator fans, a 20-point whipping of Kentucky (doesn’t happen often) so we get to enjoy that one for a while.
Fast forward to Sunday; seeing Lady Gaga bring the thunder in her Super Bowl halftime performance, then wondering how she got on the roof.
And HOW IN THE WORLD IS THAT AMERICAN FLAG FLOATING IN THE SKY?
Also, on another subject, a huge shoutout to LG for her message of unity and being pro-America. So many haters out there nowadays. Best country ever, 42 years as a resident. No plans to leave — regardless of Carter, Reagan, Clinton, Bush, Obama, Trump or whoever is in the White House.
I would stay even if Lady Gaga was president. Cool outfit she was rocking; very presidential.
Anyway…
There is no need to comment on a flying drone pug, is there?
So, how are there lights in the sky above the game?
My dad lives in Houston and the only flights he says are allowed around the Dome game weekend are Military Black Hawk choppers. So, what are those lights again?
Drones, my friend.
Each dot is actually a flying drone, part of Intel’s Shooting Star Drone squad. Each one is about a foot long and covered in LED lights. The drones are all programmed from a central location that runs a dance routine.
Talk about a big stage, taking account the fact that security was as tight as any game in history, the stadium

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Super Bowl ads go political in a big way

Monday, February 6th, 2017

Messages about America, inclusiveness — and, yes, even “four years of awful hair” — kept bubbling up in Super Bowl 51 ads from Airbnb, the NFL and a line of personal care products. But there was still plenty of escapism and light humor for those who weren’t into the politics.
As the New England Patriots edged out the Atlantic Falcons on the field in Houston, Airbnb touted inclusiveness with an ad showing faces of different ethnicities and the copy: “We all belong. The world is more beautiful the more you accept.”
Coca-Cola aired a previously run ad during the pregame show in which people sing “America the Beautiful” in different languages. And Budweiser ran a 60-second spot chronicling co-founder Adolphus Busch’s migration from Germany to St. Louis in 1857, prompting some critics to start a boycott campaign on Twitter.
 Even a hair care brand dipped into politics: The “It’s a 10” hair brand indirectly referenced President Donald Trump‘s famously unruly do in its Super Bowl spot.
It’s tough to be a Super Bowl advertiser, period. But this year, a divisive political climate has roiled the nation since Trump took office in January, making it even tougher for advertisers.
Advertisers who paid $5 million for 30 seconds had to walk the line with ads that appealed to everyone and didn’t offend. Some were more successful than others.
“Anxiety and politics just loom over this game, so anybody who gives us the blessed relief of entertaining with a real Super Bowl commercial wins,” said Mark DiMassimo, CEO of the ad agency DiMassimo Goldstein.
Several ads aimed for just that. Tide, for instance, offered a humorous ad showing announcer Terry Bradshaw trying frantically to remedy a stain while his antics go “viral” online, with the help of New England Patriot Rob Gronkowski and actor Jeffrey Tambor.
WALKING THE POLITICAL LINE
“Brands used to worry about whether their ad could be interpreted as right or wrong,” said Kelly O’Keefe, a

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Santa Rosa Creep of the Week reveals cockroaches in school district kitchen

Monday, February 6th, 2017

Santa Rosa County Creep of the Week is also the Santa Rosa County School District’s 2016 Substitute Employee of the Year, proving yet again that Florida is never too busy to hand out meaningless awards, and always underfunded for things that matter.
Substitute teacher Richard Mack, 66, is charged with multiple counts of molesting multiple elementary school age children. The Pensacola News-Journal tells us “the investigation is still active so more information could be forthcoming.” The paper would have some of that information if the Santa Rosa School District had a personnel file of everyone who qualifies to be within touching distance of the kids. But it doesn’t, because Mack is a “contracted employee” of Professional Education Services Group (PESG) a company that supplies 500 school districts, with “innovative, hand-crafted solutions that meet the needs of your local school community.”
This is the kind of outsourcing the public rarely thinks about until the guy walking around your kid’s elementary school shows up in a hand-crafted mug shot, and there’s no “personnel office” that has to account for itself to local taxpayers.
PESG won’t answer media questions about its vetting process, which is about what you’d expect from a company whose acronym has the unfortunate sound of those things that House Speaker Richard Corcoran finds when he turns on the kitchen lights. But it didn’t take the News-Journal long to find out that Mack had been barred from teaching at two schools in neighboring Escambia County, where he dispensed unwanted, unwelcome and deeply disturbing back rubs to middle school girls, and ruminated on the possibility of shooters showing up at the classroom door, telling students he’d “hold the door open for them and let them come in.”
It will be up to school boards doing business with PESG to decide if the company’s hand-crafted vetting

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