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Associated Press

Evoking slain son, John Kelly defends Donald Trump on condolence calls

He started by describing the reverent handling of America’s war dead, bodies packed in ice and shipped home in the dark to Dover Air Force Base.

From that opening, White House chief of staff John Kelly delivered a raw and searing monologue Thursday about the reality and pain of war sacrifice, praising those who serve and summoning the 2010 death of his own son to defend President Donald Trump against accusations of insensitive outreach to a grieving military family.

In an unannounced appearance at the White House, Kelly, a retired three-star general whose son was killed while serving in Afghanistan, dressed down the Democratic congresswoman who had criticized Trump for comments she said he had made in a condolence call to the pregnant widow of a Green Beret killed in Niger.

Kelly called Rep. Frederica Wilson of Florida an “empty barrel” who “makes noise,” but he did not deny the lawmaker’s account of the phone call, as the president had this week. Throughout his remarks, Kelly lamented what he said was lost respect for military service, women, authority and more.

“I was stunned when I came to work yesterday morning, and brokenhearted at what I saw a member of Congress doing,” Kelly said. “Absolutely stuns me. And I thought at least that was sacred.”

The remarkable scene underscored Kelly’s singular role as an authoritative adviser and now spokesman for a president who is prone to false claims, exaggerations and misstatements. Kelly, who joined the White House to restore internal order, has increasingly become a public figure himself, employed to project calm and reassurance in times of crisis.

The uproar over Trump and how presidents should or shouldn’t try to console families of the fallen has rattled the White House and overshadowed the rest of Trump’s agenda in recent days.

Kelly personally absolved Trump of blame in his call to the family of Sgt. La David Johnson, a conversation that prompted Wilson to declare that the president had been disrespectful to the grieving family and couldn’t remember Johnson’s name.

“If you’re not in the family, if you’ve never worn the uniform, if you’ve never been in combat, you can’t even imagine how to make that call,” Kelly said. “I think he very bravely does make those calls.”

Trump – who has frequently struggled with showing empathy – has emphatically rejected claims that he was disrespectful. But he started the latest controversy this week when he boasted about his commitment to calling service members’ next of kin and brought Kelly into the issue by wondering aloud if President Barack Obama had called the former Marine general after the death of Kelly’s son.

Kelly confirmed Thursday that Obama had not called him, but he made clear “that was not a criticism.”

“That’s not a negative thing,” he said. “I don’t believe all presidents call. I believe they all write.”

In fact, the chief of staff said that when Trump took office, he advised him against making those calls: “I said to him, ‘Sir there’s nothing you can do to lighten the burden on these families.'”

But Trump wanted to make the calls, and asked Kelly for advice on what to say. In response, Kelly told him what General Joseph Dunford, now chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told him when Robert Kelly was killed. Kelly recalled that Dunford told him his son “was doing exactly what he wanted to do when he was killed. He knew what the possibilities were because we’re at war.”

And Kelly added that Dunford told him that “when he died, he was surrounded by the best men on this earth, his friends. That’s what the president tried to say to four families the other day.”

Kelly said the Defense Department is investigating the details of the Oct. 4 ambush that killed four American soldiers, including Johnson, in Niger.

Islamic militants on motorcycles brought rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns, killing the four and wounding others after shattering the windows of unarmored U.S. trucks. The attack happened in a remote corner of Niger where Americans and local counterparts had been meeting with community leaders.

Kelly said Thursday that small groups of U.S. military personnel are being sent overseas, including to Niger, to help train local people to fight the IS group “so that we don’t have to send large numbers of troops.”

His speech was a rebuke to Wilson, who was in the car with the family of Johnson when Trump called on Tuesday. She said in an interview that Trump had told Johnson’s widow that “you know that this could happen when you signed up for it … but it still hurts.” Johnson’s aunt, who raised the soldier from a young age, said the family took that remark to be disrespectful.

The call came in as they drove to Miami’s airport to receive the body. At the airport, widow Myeshia Johnson leaned in grief across the flag-draped coffin after a military guard received it.

A spokeswoman said Thursday that Wilson stood by her earlier comments. The congresswoman herself, asked by WSVN-TV in Florida about Kelly’s remarks, replied only indirectly.

“Let me tell you what my mother told me when I was little,” Wilson said. “She said, ‘The dog can bark at the moon all night long, but it doesn’t become an issue until the moon barks back.'”

Kelly also accused Wilson of grandstanding at the dedication of a Miami FBI office in 2015.

The White House chief of staff said he was so upset by her criticism of Trump’s call that he went to walk “among the finest men and women on earth” in a 90-minute visit to nearby Arlington National Cemetery, among the graves of service members, including some who died under his command.

Kelly began his remarks by recounting in painstaking detail what happens after a soldier is killed in overseas combat. The dead soldier’s body is wrapped in a makeshift shroud by his colleagues, Kelly said, and then flown by helicopter to a nearby air base, where it is packed in ice. It is then flown to a second base, often in Europe, and put in more ice before it is transported to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. The body is then embalmed and dressed in military uniform, complete with medals before heading home.

Kelly said the next of kin are notified by a casualty officer, who “proceeds to break the heart of a family member.”

Robert Kelly, 29, was killed when he stepped on a land mine in Afghanistan’s remote Helmand province. Kelly said his family got calls from Robert’s friends in Afghanistan attesting to his character. Those calls, he said as he fought back tears, were the most important.

After his dramatic opening statement, Kelly then took questions from reporters, asking first if any of them were Gold Star parents or siblings, meaning relatives of slain service members. When no one raised a hand, Kelly then said he would take questions only from those who knew a Gold Star family.

Kelly, whose frustration with the distractions created by Trump on other subjects led him to deny last week that he was considering quitting, also bemoaned how the nation no longer held things sacred, from life to religion to women. He said the respect given to Gold Star families “left in the convention over the summer,” an apparent reference to the bitter election exchanges between the Trump campaign and a family whose military son had been killed.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Feds: Inspections show Lake Okeechobee’s dike sound

Federal officials are conducting daily inspections of the dike that surrounds Lake Okeechobee because of its near-record water levels but say it is not in danger of failing.

Almur Whiting of the Army Corps of Engineers said Thursday there has been some seepage through the Herbert Hoover Dike but it is not significant.

The corps is halfway through a $1.7 billion renovation program for the 80-year-old dike, which is scheduled for completion in 2025. The dike’s current water level is 17 feet – 4 feet higher than it was before Hurricane Irma passed over the area Sept. 10. Officials believe the water level has peaked.

The corps starts doing extra inspections when the level hits 16 feet.

Two failures of an earlier dike killed thousands in the 1920s.

 

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Social media helping college teams start new traditions

In an era when it’s increasingly difficult to get fans in the stadium, it apparently isn’t so hard to get them into new rituals.

Average attendance at the Football Bowl Subdivision level has dipped nearly 6 ½ percent over the last six years — from 46,632 in 2010 to 43,612 last season — and lagging student interest during the digital age is considered a factor. But in a sport that loves its history, the same technological advances that tempt fans to stay home also make it easier for programs start their own game-day traditions.

It has become apparent in Florida’s last two games, as the Gators have mixed practices old and new. As is customary, Gator fans sing “We Are The Boys From Old Florida” at the end of the third quarter. Now they follow that up by singing along as the public-address system plays “I Won’t Back Down” by Gainesville, Florida, native Tom Petty, who died Oct. 2.

The “We Are The Boys From Old Florida” singalong has been going on for decades. The decision to play Petty’s song right afterward arose following Petty’s death, but fans knew what was planned because Florida announced its intentions beforehand.

Just like that, a potential new tradition was born.

“To see that after ‘We Are The Boys,’ to hear that place (sing) in unison, it was special,” Florida coach Jim McElwain said. “Credit goes to the people who put it together, and more than that, the response of the fans. And, ultimately, ‘I won’t back down’ — it kind of hits home for me.”

The quick turnaround of Florida’s Petty project highlights the potential for social media to impact tradition making. For example, when a school wants to “stripe” its stadium in school colors, as West Virginia did last week before its game with Texas Tech, school officials merely remind fans on Twitter which color to wear based on where they’ll be sitting.

“I think it’s actually a little easier to start a tradition now in the digital age,” Houston athletic department spokesman David Bassity said. “You’re able to communicate and get information out ahead of time. I remember going back as a high-school student or in junior high with season tickets to Oklahoma, they tried popping out the ‘shock wave’ — a wave from the first row to the very top row, like a vertical wave. But no one really knew about it until you got to the game and it was kind of a half buy-in. Now you have your digital platforms and you can let people know what you want to do. It becomes your own organic word of mouth.”

Florida isn’t alone. A number of programs have successfully launched new rituals. They may not be as old as the Friday night yell practice at Texas A&M or the rolling of Toomer’s Corner at Auburn, but these practices have quickly become a part of their school’s football culture:

HAWKEYE WAVE: No new college football tradition has garnered quite as much attention this year as Iowa’s friendly greeting. After the first quarter of home games, fans wave to patients at the UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital that’s adjacent to Kinnick Stadium. Patients and relatives often are looking out the window and waving back.

HOUSTON’S ‘CAGE SWAY’: After the Cougars finish their pregame warmups, they gather in front of the student section, lock arms and sway back and forth while engaging in a call-and-response with the students, who also are locking arms and swaying. The practice started in 2015. “The song had been one some of our players had kind of created a while back and was more of an inside-the-locker-room type of deal,” Bassity said. “It became a matter of what if we do that with the student body before we go up to the locker room?”

TOUCHING THE STATUE: Ever since Arizona State unveiled a statue of former defensive back Pat Tillman outside the school’s student-athlete facility just before the season, the Sun Devils have made a point of touching the statue as they head to the field before every home game.

“If you are going to go out there and touch that statue, you get out on that field and you bring it like he did,” Arizona State coach Todd Graham said. “If we do that, great things are going to happen.”

HONORING BEAMER: When Justin Fuente took over for the retiring Frank Beamer as Virginia Tech’s coach last year, he chose to honor his predecessor by handing out Beamer’s retired No. 25 jersey to a special teams player of the week. Beamer’s Virginia Tech teams were known for their exceptional special-teams performances.

OPENING THE GATES AT WAKE: Wake Forest has a prominent alum or former Demon Deacons athlete open the BB&T Stadium gate and lead the team onto the field for every home game. Former Wake Forest stars Arnold Palmer, Tim Duncan and Chris Paul have already taken a turn.

“It came out of our marketing department,” Wake Forest athletic department spokesman Steve Shutt said. “We were looking for a way to recognize some of our alums and former athletes. When you a have a famous person come back to campus rather than just have them stand up in a stadium and (have a public address announcer) say, ‘Arnold Palmer’s here today,’ kind of put a little more meat to it.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Kent Fuchs: Security cost for Richard Spencer speech ‘unfair’

A day before white nationalist Richard Spencer is scheduled to speak at the University of Florida, its president affirmed his belief in free speech but said the security costs of holding such an event at a public university put an unfair burden on taxpayers.

UF President W. Kent Fuchs said Wednesday in an interview with The Associated Press that Spencer is “hijacking” public universities — which are compelled by the First Amendment to provide a speaking forum — and forcing taxpayers to pay the resulting security costs.

Fuchs estimates the school will spend $600,000 on security for Spencer’s planned speech Thursday. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the government, in this case a public university, cannot charge speakers for security costs.

Spencer’s National Policy Institute is paying $10,564 to rent space for the speaking event.

“I fully understand freedom of speech cannot be burdened legally with the full cost of this, but on the other hand we’re being burdened,” said Fuchs, sitting in his office on campus in Gainesville. “So taxpayers are subsidizing hate speech.”

Following the August violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, that left one counter demonstrator dead, Fuchs said high security costs are required to ensure a reasonable amount of safety.

The school has called in hundreds of law enforcement officers from federal, state, county and city sources. Streets will be blocked off, and movement around the campus tightly controlled.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency Monday, saying a “threat of a potential emergency is imminent” in Alachua County, where the school is located. The order allowed local law enforcement to partner with other agencies.

Cameron Padgett, a Georgia State University student who organized the event at University of Florida for Spencer, called the high security costs “discouraging,” and said anyone from either side who incites violence should be arrested.

“That money should be used for scholarships, more research or stay with the taxpayers. But at the end of the day free speech needs to be protected,” he said.

After Scott’s emergency declaration, Fuchs said the school received many calls from parents concerned about safety. Fuchs had told students prior to the governor’s announcement to go to class as usual, and said the campus would remain open.

Fuchs said he supported the governor’s decision because it was requested by law enforcement, but admitted it created challenges for his administration.

“Parents want to know, ‘Why is the governor declaring a state of emergency and yet you President Fuchs are saying my son or daughter should be going to class?’ That (announcement) elevated that tension, locally with parents and brought a national visibility to this,” Fuchs said.

Fuchs said he hopes the event will end up bringing the community closer together, and that it can be used to create a dialogue about race.

Student leaders are hosting a “virtual assembly” via Facebook during Spencer’s event to discuss race relations and diversity.

Family of slain sergeant says Donald Trump showed disrespect

The mother of an Army sergeant killed in Niger said Wednesday that President Donald Trump, in a call offering condolences, showed “disrespect” to the soldier’s loved ones as they drove to the airport to meet his body. Trump, engulfed in controversy over the appropriate way for presidents to show compassion for slain soldiers, strongly disputed that account.

Sgt. La David Johnson was one of four American military personnel killed nearly two weeks ago whose families had not heard from Trump until Tuesday. Rep. Frederica Wilson said that Trump told the widow that Johnson “knew what he signed up for.”

The Florida Democrat said she was in the car with the widow, Myeshia Johnson, on the way to Miami International Airport to meet the body when Trump called. La David Johnson’s mother, Cowanda Jones-Johnson, told The Associated Press Wednesday that the congresswoman’s account was correct.

“Yes the statement is true,” Jones-Johnson said. “I was in the car and I heard the full conversation.

That’s simply not so, Trump said Wednesday. He declared on Twitter: “Democrat Congresswoman totally fabricated what I said to the wife of a soldier who died in action (and I have proof). Sad!”

And in a White House meeting on tax reform, Trump said that he “didn’t say what that congresswoman said, didn’t say it at all. She knows it.”

Wilson did not back down from her account, suggesting that Trump “never wants to take ownership” of a mistake.

“If you are the leader of the free world, if you are president of the United States and you want to convey sympathy to a grieving family, a grieving widow, you choose your words carefully,” Wilson told the Associated Press Wednesday. “And everyone knows that Donald Trump does not choose his words carefully.”

“She was crying for the whole time,” Wilson said of the new widow. “And the worst part of it: when he hung up you know what she turned to me and said? She said he didn’t even remember his name.”

Like presidents before him, Trump has made personal contact with some families of the fallen but not all. What’s different is that Trump, alone among them, has picked a political fight over who’s done better to honor the war dead and their families.

He placed himself at the top of the list, saying on Tuesday, “I think I’ve called every family of someone who’s died” while past presidents didn’t place such calls.

But The Associated Press found relatives of two soldiers who died overseas during Trump’s presidency who said they never received a call or a letter from him, as well as relatives of a third who did not get a call. And proof is plentiful that Barack Obama and George W. Bush — saddled with far more combat casualties than the roughly two dozen so far under Trump, took painstaking steps to write, call or meet bereaved military families.

After her Army son died in an armored vehicle rollover in Syria in May, Sheila Murphy says, she got no call or letter from Trump, even as she waited months for his condolences and wrote him that “some days I don’t want to live.”

In contrast, Trump called to comfort Eddie and Aldene Lee about 10 days after their Army son was killed in an explosion while on patrol in Iraq in April. “Lovely young man,” Trump said, according to Aldene. She thought that was a beautiful word to hear about her boy, “lovely.”

Trump’s delay in publicly discussing the men lost at Niger did not appear to be extraordinary, judging from past examples, but his politicization of the matter is. He went so far Tuesday as to cite the death of chief of staff John Kelly’s son in Afghanistan to question whether Obama had properly honored the war dead.

Kelly was a Marine general under Obama when his Marine son Robert died in 2010. “You could ask General Kelly, did he get a call from Obama?” Trump said on Fox News radio.

A White House official said later that Obama did not call Kelly but not respond to questions whether some other sort of outreach was made. Kelly, who was absent from a pair of public White House events on Tuesday, was sitting near the president in his tax reform meeting on Wednesday but did not address reporters.

Democrats and some former government officials were livid, accusing Trump of “inane cruelty” and a “sick game.”

Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, an Iraq veteran who lost both legs when her helicopter was attacked, said: “I just wish that this commander in chief would stop using Gold Star families as pawns in whatever sick game he’s trying to play here.”

For their part, Gold Star families, which have lost members in wartime, told AP of acts of intimate kindness from Obama and Bush when those commanders in chief consoled them.

Trump initially claimed that only he among presidents made sure to call families. Obama may have done so on occasion, he said, but “other presidents did not call.”

He equivocated Tuesday as the record made plain that his characterization was false. “I don’t know,” he said of past calls. But he said his own practice was to call all families of the war dead.

But that hasn’t happened.

No White House protocol demands that presidents speak or meet with the families of Americans killed in action — an impossible task in a war’s bloodiest stages. But they often do.

Altogether some 6,900 Americans have been killed in overseas wars since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the overwhelming majority under Bush and Obama.

Despite the much heavier toll on his watch — more than 800 dead each year from 2004 through 2007 — Bush wrote to all bereaved military families and met or spoke with hundreds if not thousands, said his spokesman, Freddy Ford.

Veterans groups said they had no quarrel with how presidents have recognized the fallen or their families.

“I don’t think there is any president I know of who hasn’t called families,” said Rick Weidman, co-founder and executive director of Vietnam Veterans of America. “President Obama called often and President Bush called often. They also made regular visits to Walter Reed and Bethesda Medical Center, going in the evenings and on Saturdays.”

Trump feuded with one Gold Star family during last year’s campaign, assailing the parents of slain Army Capt. Humayun Khan, who died in Iraq in 2004, after they criticized him from the stage at the Democratic National Convention.

Donald Trump issues warning to John McCain after senator’s tough speech

President Donald Trump on Tuesday issued a warning shot after Republican Sen. John McCain questioned “half-baked, spurious nationalism” in America’s foreign policy, saying “people have to be careful because at some point I fight back.”

McCain, a former Navy pilot who spent 5½ years in a Vietnam prisoner of war camp and is battling brain cancer, offered a simple response to Trump: “I have faced tougher adversaries.”

Trump said in a radio interview with WMAL in Washington, “I’m being very, very nice but at some point, I fight back and it won’t be pretty.” He bemoaned McCain’s decisive vote this past summer in opposition to a GOP bill to dismantle Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, a move that caused the failure of GOP efforts to repeal and replace “Obamacare.”

In Philadelphia on Monday night, the six-term Republican senator from Arizona received an award for a lifetime of service and sacrifice to the country. In addition to recalling his more than two decades of military service and his imprisonment during the war, McCain took a moment to go a step further than the night’s other speakers, who lamented what many described as a fractured political climate.

“To abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems,” he said, “is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.”

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

He continued: “We live in a land made of ideals, not blood and soil.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden presented McCain with the Liberty Medal. Though members of opposing parties, the two men worked together during their time in the Senate. Former President Barack Obama, who defeated McCain in his bid for the presidency in 2008, congratulated the senator on the award in a tweet Monday night.

“I’m grateful to @SenJohnMcCain for his lifetime of service to our country. Congratulations, John, on receiving this year’s Liberty Medal,” Obama wrote.

Another political foe, 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, said on Twitter: “Ran against him, sometimes disagree, but proud to be a friend of @SenJohnMcCain: hero, champion of character and last night, Lincolnesque.”

Pressed on Trump’s threat Tuesday morning, McCain told reporters he has had tougher fights, and then smiled.

Trump said in the radio interview that McCain’s vote against Republican efforts to dismantle the 2010 health care law was a “shocker.”

McCain and Trump have long been at odds. During the campaign, Trump suggested McCain was not a war hero because he was captured in Vietnam.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

325-pound woman charged with killing girl by sitting on her

A 325-pound (150-kilogram) Florida woman is charged with killing her 9-year-old cousin by sitting on the child as punishment.

Veronica Green Posey, 64, was arrested and charged with homicide and cruelty toward a child, The Pensacola News Journal reported. The Escambia County Sheriff’s Office report identified Posey as the girl’s cousin.

Paramedics and deputies responded to the family’s Pensacola home following a 911 call Saturday. Posey told deputies she sat on Dericka Lindsay as discipline “for being out of control.”

During the punishment, Dericka told Posey and two other adult relatives, who are identified in the report as the girl’s parents, that she couldn’t breathe. When Posey got up, Dericka wasn’t breathing. Authorities said Posey called 911 and started CPR on the child.

The arrest report said Grace Joan Smith, 69, and James Edmund Smith, are charged with child neglect.

Grace Smith called Posey, who is her niece, to her house to help with disciplining the girl, according to the report. She told investigators that Posey hit the girl with a ruler and metal pipe before the child ran to an armchair.

James Smith told investigators that Posey sat on the girl for about 10 minutes before she complained she couldn’t breathe. She stayed on the chair for an additional two minutes before getting up, he said.

Mike Carroll, secretary of the Florida Department of Children and Families, issued a statement that called the child’s death “appalling.” He said the agency will work with the sheriff’s office to hold those responsible for her death accountable.

“As the family has a prior interaction with the child welfare system, a thorough quality assurance review will be conducted to review all prior interactions this family has had with the child welfare system,” the statement said.

Posey was released Monday on $125,000 bail. The Smiths remained in jail, with Grace Smith’s bond set at $75,000 and James Smith’s bond at $50,000. Escambia County jail records didn’t list an attorney for Posey or the Smiths.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

State of emergency declared for white nationalist speech

Citing past clashes and protests, Gov. Rick Scott on Monday declared a state of emergency in advance of a speech white nationalist Richard Spencer is scheduled to give at the University of Florida.

The state’s Republican governor warned in an executive order Monday that a “threat of a potential emergency is imminent” in Alachua County, in north Florida. Spencer is slated to speak at the campus on Thursday and his pending appearance has already sparked protests in the university town.

Spencer participated in a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that led to deadly violence in August.

Scott’s executive order will allow local law-enforcement authorities to partner with state and other law-enforcement agencies to provide security for the event. The university has already said it expects to spend $500,000 on security.

The governor is also activating the Florida National Guard to help with security if it is needed. Scott said he declared the emergency after discussing Spencer’s speech with Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell.

“We live in a country where everyone has the right to voice their opinion, however, we have zero tolerance for violence and public safety is always our number one priority,” Scott said in a statement. “This executive order is an additional step to ensure that the University of Florida and the entire community is prepared so everyone can stay safe.”

Spencer said the emergency declaration was “flattering” but “most likely overkill.”

“I’m not a hurricane or an invading army, at least not literally,” he said during a telephone interview Monday.

However, Spencer expressed concern that the emergency declaration could be used as a pretext for blocking his speech. He noted that Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe had declared a state of emergency on the day of the Charlottesville rally before Spencer and others could speak.

“That was basically a means for suppressing the rally,” Spencer claimed.

When he issued the declaration, McAuliffe had said via his Twitter account that he did it in order “to aid state response to violence” at the Charlottesville rally.

University of Florida officials said it was the violence in Virginia that led them to reject a request from Spencer and his National Policy Institute, a white nationalist think tank, to allow him to speak in September. After they threatened to sue, school officials said they would try to accommodate Spencer if he renewed his request for a different date.

University of Florida President Kent Fuchs earlier this month asked students to stay away from the campus event. He wrote in an email that Spencer and his group seek only “to provoke a reaction.”

Darnell said Scott’s executive order was not intended to “alarm anyone,” but to make sure that her office has the “resources and equipment to help us prepare for violence or widespread property damage.” Darnell said currently they are expecting both protesters and counterprotesters to show up in connection to Spencer’s appearance.

“We are hoping this is a nonevent,” Darnell said. “We are hoping this will go very smoothly and peacefully. But in the reality of this world we have to be well prepared.”

911 calls on nursing home dying: ‘Oh my God, this is crazy’

At first there was no hint of distress in the 911 calls, no sense of panic. But newly released emergency calls from a sweltering South Florida nursing home that lost its air conditioning to Hurricane Irma showed staffers becoming increasing agitated by an unfolding disaster that would ultimately claim 14 elderly lives.

The city of Hollywood on Monday released eight 911 calls made by employees of the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills on Sept. 13, when eight patients died. By the second call, an employee is heard muttering “Whatta night.” On the fourth call, another tells someone, “Oh my God, this is crazy.”

The ninth call reported problems at the adjoining mental hospital owned by the same company.

Police are investigating. There have been no arrests and no charges filed.

Florida’s 2 main political parties could pay hefty fines

Florida’s two political parties could get hit with some hefty fines.

State officials this month levied a $110,000 fine against the Republican Party of Florida. The party turned in a campaign finance report dealing with a South Florida House race 11 days late.

Republicans are appealing the fine to the state elections commission.

The Florida Democratic Party could also get hit with a large fine. The state Division of Elections notified the party on Oct. 9 that Democrats had failed to turn in a report associated with a central Florida House race.

Blaise Ingoglia, chairman of the state Republican Party, said it was an “oversight” that the report wasn’t filed on time.

But he contended state officials did not follow the law because they didn’t immediately notify party leaders. Ingoglia said the fines should be waived.

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