"State law enforcement officials expect to complete their investigation into former U.S. Rep. Mark Foley within 10 days and hand over the information to a state attorney, Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey said Wednesday. The FDLE, FBI and Congress are examining whether Foley, a Fort Pierce Republican, broke state or federal laws by sending sexually suggestive electronic messages, including e-mail, to minors." "State probe of Foley nearing completion".
It looks as if the "investigation" will be less than complete: , "Florida's top police agency said Wednesday its investigation into former U.S. Rep. Mark Foley's lurid Internet communications with teenage boys has been hindered because neither Foley nor the House will let investigators examine his congressional computers." You see, "only Foley can release them for review", and he won't. "Foley won't let investigators examine his House computer" See also "Florida's top police agency can't gain access to former U.S. Rep. Mark Foley's computers".
Scott Maxwell notes that, you may "not paying much attention to all the water-cooler talk that continues to have Charlie Crist's name pop up as a potential White House running mate in 2008."
But ya know, no matter how remote the chances of that are, here are two words that may strike fear in your heart and force you to pay attention to the possibility: "Governor Kottkamp.""Crist to the national arena? What would happen here?".
"Democrats said they would fight the national party"
"Florida Democrats said they would fight the national party and carry on with the Jan. 29 presidential primary."
Three days before a showdown with the national party, defiant Florida Democrats vowed Wednesday to push ahead with a January presidential primary that flouts party rules."State Democrats vow an early vote".
The national Democratic Party's rules committee is set to take up on Saturday Florida's decision to host a Jan. 29 primary. The vote violates a party rule that permits only four smaller states to vote before Feb. 5.
The national party suggested this week that Florida Democrats instead stage their own election, called a caucus, after Feb. 5. The national party said it would spend about $800,000 on the vote.
But state party Chairman Karen Thurman said Wednesday that Florida Democrats believe any approach other than a Jan. 29 election would disenfranchise voters.
FlaDems are facing "tougher-than-expected sanctions against Florida over its too-early Jan. 29 presidential primary date. Those penalties, if enforced, essentially would render the primary votes of Florida Democrats moot in the battle for the party's nomination." "Florida Primary A Concern To Democrats". See also "A primary without a winner?". More: "The Democratic Rules and Bylaws Committee".
In related news, "Gov. Janet Napolitano has decided to move up Arizona's presidential primary by three weeks to Feb. 5, joining at least 19 other states with primaries or caucuses on that date. ... Florida's primary is Jan. 29." "Governor moves Arizona's election primary to Feb. 5".
"Lawyers for a Death Row inmate are allowed a behind-the-scenes look at a mock execution, the Florida Supreme Court ordered Monday. The court rejected Attorney General Bill McCollum's attempt to thwart a ruling by an Ocala circuit judge granting the walk-through and inspection of the execution chamber by lawyers for convicted killer Ian Daco Lightbourne. Lightbourne is challenging Florida's method of execution, lethal injection, which his lawyers say should be ruled unconstitutional." "Justices OK mock execution viewing".
"Ten years ago this month, a very happy Gov. Lawton Chiles announced this state's multibillion-dollar settlement with the tobacco industry, calling it "the straw that broke Joe Camel's back." It's true, you don't see Joe Camel's face leering from Florida billboards anymore. But 10 years later, tobacco remains the No. 1 killer of Floridians, and the battle to keep children from starting to use tobacco and to help adults stop continues. Still, there have been victories." "The 10-year war".
"Protecting insurers ahead of children's health"
"When Bill Clinton signed the State Children's Health Insurance Program into law 10 years ago, it was the biggest expansion of federally supported health care since Medicare was created in 1965."
It's been successful, enrolling 6.6 million children and slowing the overall increase in uninsured Americans (now at 46 million). But it's not yet been as successful as states would like: In Florida, where children with family incomes up to 200 percent of the poverty rate qualify, the 253,000 enrolled in Healthy Kids (Florida's version of the children's program) as of January ... represent 40 percent of those eligible. The national rate of those covered is around 70 percent.
Congress just re-authorized the children's health program for the next five years, increasing funding by as much as $35 billion (according to the Senate version of the bill) or $50 billion (the House version). President Bush is threatening to veto the legislation (his budget proposed just $30 billion for the program). His administration issued rules late last week that undermine the intent of the law by circumventing congressional authority and imposing seemingly insurmountable restrictions on states that wish either to expand coverage or reach out to those who are eligible but haven't yet enrolled. Bush's approach adds up to a dirty war on the children's health insurance program.
On a separate front: "It's a hot, new, mad trend in private health insurance: individual coverage mostly divorced from company benefits or group plans. It looks attractive. It can be inexpensive. In some cases you can own your own plan, so if you lose a job you won't lose coverage. But what adds up to a private insurer's dream is fresh new symptoms in the disease that passes for America's health-care system. The symptoms have one thing in common: profiting private insurers more than caring for people's health." "Bared-bones coverage". More: "Emergency rooms can't fill health insurance gaps".
Kenneth Brummel-Smith, M.D., the Charlotte Edwards Maguire professor and chair, Department of Geriatrics, Florida State University College of Medicine writes today that "compared to European countries we have the highest infant mortality. The average in the U.S. is worst than the infant-death rate among the poorest of Canada. Mothers don't do well here, either - we have a maternal death rate that is between two and three times that of the Europeans. At the other end of the age spectrum, we have the shortest life expectancy when compared to all European countries, Australia and Japan. And even for those lucky enough to have insurance, 28 percent report having difficulty getting needed care. Of course, we know they all have to wait in long lines to get care in those European countries, right? Wrong - the percent of people in the other countries report having to wait at much lower rates than we do - only about 15 percent report difficulty getting care." "We can't afford to not have national health care".
"The federal government has given Florida more time to negotiate a gaming agreement with the Seminole tribe, and it appears the talks could bring table gambling such as blackjack and baccarat along with high-end slot machines to the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino near Tampa." "State Gets Extension On Casino Negotiation".
And here we go again: "Crist suggested Wednesday that potential revenues from a deal on Las Vegas-style gambling could be funneled into state education coffers." "Crist floats idea of earmarking gambling revenues for education". Troxler: "Casinos are no way to balance budget".
"It should come as no surprise that just a few months after the Johnnie B. Byrd Sr. Alzheimer's Institute and Research Center beat back attempts by lawmakers to cut its budget in half that its finances are again threatened." "State Has Too Much Invested In Alzheimer's Center To Kill It".
"Florida's first black governor?"
"Crist was endearingly described Wednesday as Florida's first black governor and, at a gala held by the state's black lawmakers, praised for his commitment to leading in a way that represents everybody. The appearance of the Republican - and white - governor at a legislative black caucus event was a striking contrast to the relationship his predecessor, fellow Republican Jeb Bush, often had with the organization." "Crist praised as governor for all by black lawmakers".
Early Shot at Clemency
"A Hudson man serving a mandatory 25-year prison term for trafficking in painkillers has been granted a waiver allowing him to appear before the state Board of Executive Clemency. ... Traditionally, inmates must serve one-third of their time before becoming eligible for the clemency process; this week, the clemency board approved a waiver allowing his case to be heard as early as the board meeting Sept. 20." "Chronic Pain Sufferer To Get Early Shot At Clemency".
Allen Update: "Of all people"?
"State Rep. Bob Allen apologized to a handful of black residents Tuesday night, saying comments he made to police following his arrest on charges of soliciting prostitution were never meant to be racist."
"If there is one thing I hope, it's that you know that is not me," the embattled legislator said during a meeting of the North Brevard branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People."Allen: Remarks weren't racist".
"I really do apologize if it sounded that way."
The group's local president, Bill Gary, and others in the audience shook Allen's hand and wished him well.
"I've known Bob for at least eight years and he has always supported our activities," Gary told the small gathering.
"Of all people, I was surprised when I saw that characterization in the paper. ...
He reiterated his desire to stay in office and fight the charges.
"I am an innocent man," he said.
Allen is expected to appear in court for the first time Monday, where his attorneys will argue that the charges should be dismissed and the legislator's taped statements suppressed."
Here's an odd twist, as Allen tries to explain why he wanted to go one way but not the other with the (unbeknownst to him) undercover police officer: "Allen said he hoped to seek refuge at a Kennedy Space Center security gate from an undercover Titusville police officer he thought was going to rob him, according to records released Wednesday. Allen's statement was included in a two-page report from Titusville Assistant Police Chief John Lau, who interviewed Allen after the lawmaker's July 11 arrest on a solicitation of prostitution charge."
"Mr. Allen stated that he wanted to lure (the officer) with him and ultimately get to the guard shack entrance to the Space Center where there was security," Lau wrote. "Mr. Allen claimed he was in fear of (the officer) which is the reason he wanted to have (him) get in the car with him so that Mr. Allen could drive to the security gate.""New report released in Allen case"
That route cuts through the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. The nearest KSC gate is about eight miles from the park along a paved two-lane road lined with native Florida brush and wetlands. The Titusville Police Department is about the same distance away.
Toxic Algae Blooms
"Next to hurricanes and high gas prices, red tide may be the biggest threat to Florida Gulf Coast tourism. The toxic algae bloom can swiftly turn sandy beaches into a putrid expanse of rotting fish that causes beach visitors to flee and coastal businesses to collapse. One estimate puts its annual economic toll at $82 million a year." "Taking The Fight To Red Tide".
"The curtain appeared to be drawing to a close on Florida's no-fault auto insurance law Wednesday as state Senate leaders showed little enthusiasm for a proposal from House Republicans that would cap attorneys' fees while trying to eliminate fraud and reduce medical costs from car accidents." "Deadlock leaves no-fault insurance hanging".
In the meantime, "think you're confused about pending changes in Florida's auto insurance law? The state may be as perplexed as you are." "State reverses itself, says drivers will still need insurance". See also "Don't change your insurance just yet".
The Palm Beach Post editors: "House Republicans in Tallahassee acknowledge that they don't have a perfect plan for continuing Florida's no-fault auto insurance system. But they do have a plan." "A spark on no-fault".
"Overall, 63 percent of [Palm Beach County] property owners will see their taxable values lowered on their 2008 bill, with the average drop about 7 percent, according to figures from the Property Appraiser's Office." "Property taxes to drop by average of 7% in Palm Beach County".
Obama's "Sensible" Approach to Cuba
"The easy out in dealing with Cuba is to throw up an ideological wall and isolate yourself from practical politics. That's pretty much been the standard approach from the United States for almost 50 years. Sadly, hardships continue for Cubans while the U.S. and Cuba spar like a dysfunctional odd couple."
Presidential candidate Barack Obama offers a different approach, and a sensible one:"Reach out to Cuba". See also "Fresh thinking on Cuba overdue".
Reach out to Cuba to "advance peaceful political and economic reform on the island." The plan calls for concessions on both sides.
It not only would empower the people of Cuba, but also allow the U.S. to have better leverage once Fidel Castro yields power. And that, based on growing speculation about his failing health, may have already happened.
What's Next? Banning Budweiser?
"A state appeals court has struck a blow for drivers of pickup trucks against Coral Gables, otherwise known as 'The City Beautiful.'"
"Perhaps Coral Gables can require that all its houses be made of ticky-tacky and that they all look just the same, but it cannot mandate that its people are, or do," Senior Judge Alan Schwartz wrote for the panel."Court rules Coral Gables cannot ban pickup trucks".
The court said it was OK to ban commercial trucks from city streets overnight, but not those used as personal vehicles.
Coral Gables is known for strictly regulating the appearance of businesses and residences to create an upscale image.
Spencer Kuvin said the truck ordinance was driven by discrimination, not aesthetics.
It Gets Weirder
"Florida Republican strategist Roger Stone issued a statement today in response to allegations that he crank-called New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer's father" Read his story here: "Stone speaks out against Spitzer".
"Leaders of the slow-growth Florida Hometown Democracy petition drive want a judge to strike down a new law that gives voters 150 days to revoke signatures from petitions after signing them. The revocation law passed the Legislature in the spring with support from major business groups." "Hometown Democracy sues to block petition law".
"Florida's Commission on Open Government met for the first time Wednesday to begin its quest for ways to keep public records and meetings in the 'sunshine.'" "Open government panel begins work". See also "Panel weighs public access issues".
Who Reads Books?
The Orlando Sentinel editors point out that an Associated Press-Ipsos poll suggests that the "composite" person who reads books more often than others" is "a white, liberal Democratic woman from the South, West or Midwest who doesn't attend church."