Scott Powers, Author at Florida Politics - Page 7 of 100

Scott Powers

Americans agree on historic events: 9/11, Barack Obama, tech revolution, Vietnam War, Pulse

The seminal historic moments in our lives: for Americans today nothing comes close to 9/11, and the Pulse massacre in Orlando this summer is up there, according to a newly-released survey from the Pew Research Center for U.S. Politics and Policy.

The Pew survey taken last summer, then broken down by generation (Greatest, Silent, Baby Boomer, X, and Millennial,) various demographics and political leanings, found almost universal resolve that the Sept. 11, 2001, coordinated attack on New York’s World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and Flight 93 is the most significant historic event of our shared lifetimes.

The survey was conducted in association with A+E Networks’ HISTORY channel, and Pew published its report Thursday.

Many of the other events named on respondents’ top ten lists, such as the election of President Barack Obama, also were shared across all ages and diversities as uniting memories. Naturally, however, the younger generations left off events before their births that older generations considered seminal, starting with World War II and including such moments as President John F. Kennedy’s assassination and the moon landing.

One notable disagreement: Blacks most commonly named Obama’s election as a historic moment, though it was within the margin of error with second-ranked 9/11.

The June 22 mass shooting at Orlando’s popular gay nightclub Pulse was still fresh in everyone’s minds when Pew conducted the poll of 2,025 American adults in late June and July, and the tragedy made it onto most lists. Millennials in particular were touched by the moment, listing it as the sixth most profound of their lifetimes. Overall it ranked 10th for all Americans.

Overall, 9/11 was named on 76 percent of the lists; while Obama’s election ranked second at 40 percent; and a hard-to-define moment, “the tech revolution,” was third at 22 percent.

Pew claimed a margin of error of 2.3 percent for such general findings, and up to 7.8 percent for demographic-specific findings.

“The perceived historic importance of the attacks on New York and the Pentagon, span virtually every traditional demographic divide,” concluded the Pew report, written by Claudia Deane, Maeve Duggan and Rich Morin. “Majorities of men and women, Millennials and Baby Boomers, Americans with college degrees and those without a high school diploma rate 9/11 as one of the 10 most historically significant events to occur during their lifetime. And while they seem to agree on little else this election year, the survey finds that more than seven-in-ten Republicans and Democrats name the attacks as one of their top 10 historic events.”

Rounding out the top ten most-mentioned overall were the Kennedy assassination, the Vietnam War, the Iraq/Afghanistan wars, the moon landing, the fall of the Berlin Wall and end of the Cold War, the legalization of gay marriage, and the Pulse massacre. Because the Orlando event was so recent at the time of the survey, Pew also listed the 11th-ranked event, the Gulf War, which was within the margin of error with Pulse regardless.

Pew combined results for the Greatest and the Silent generations, all born before 1946. They listed World War II as second behind 9/11, and also included the Civil Rights movement and Korean War among top seminal moments.

Baby Boomers, born between ’46 and 1964, had the Kennedy assassination second, and also included the Civil Rights movement and the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King in their top 10.

Generation X, born between 1965 and 1980, also included the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion, Hurricane Katrina, the Columbine High School shooting and the Oklahoma City Federal Building bombing among historic moments.

The Millennial Generation, born after 1980, had Katrina, Columbine, the death of Osama Bin Ladin, the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, the Boston Marathon bombing, and the Great Recession among unforgettable moments.

Pew also asked everyone what they considered the best and worst historic moments of their lifetimes. Americans said they were most proud of the country’s response following 9/11. The second most proud moment was Obama’s 2008 election.

On the other hand, Obama’s 2008 election also was the most commonly-cited most disappointing moment.

Pitbull releases $1M Visit Florida contract on Twitter; state suit still pending

In a surprise move, Miami rapper Pitbull released his entire controversial contract with Visit Florida this morning by posting it onto a tweet Thursday, revealing the breadth of duties he’d signed onto as a celebrity tourism ambassador for the state, and Florida’s fee for his service — $1 million per year.

The move comes just over a day after Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran sued his production company to get a judge’s ruling against him. Corcoran was challenging claims that the contract must be kept secret because it contains trade secrets covered by exemptions in Florida’s Sunshine Laws.

Yet the unexpected release by Pitbull — said to be strongly supportive of wanting to help promote his state — does not mean the lawsuit is going away.

At about 9:30 a.m. Pitbull, whose real name is Armando Chrstian Perez, tweeted, “Full Disclosure — Florida” with a picture of himself set proudly against the Miami skyline, and posted a link to a Dropbox account containing the full contract, with just addresses redacted out.

Corcoran responded with a hint of frustration. And his communications director Fred Piccolo said he will meet with counsel to determine whether to continue the lawsuit. Ultimately, the key issue in the lawsuit is not about Pitbull but whether Visit Florida can shield its contracts to promote Florida tourism, as was done with this contract, or whether the Florida House of Representatives has overriding legal responsibility to review them, Piccolo said.

The issue became contested because Corcoran and others expressed growing concerns that Visit Florida contracts are being shielded both from public review and from legislative review by increasing reliance on the trade secrets loophole. Corcoran and the house want to scrutinize the state-chartered nonprofit corporation acting as a quasi-state agency, starting with the contract with Pitbull’s production company, PDR Productions of Miami

But Visit Florida advised him that PDR Productions considered virtually the entire contract a trade secret, and said the company even threatened to sue anyone associated with the Florida House of Representatives if they publicly disclosed anything. So late Tuesday Corcoran sued PDR first, seeking to stop such veils. On Thursday he sounded still determined.

“It is unfortunate that it took litigation to lift the veil of secrecy on this particular contract. This was a long unnecessary journey through claims of trade secrets, threats of prosecution, and corporate welfare paid for by taxpayers,” said in a statement released Thursday. “The people’s house will not hesitate to use every tool at our disposal to protect the taxpayer and ensure transparency is the rule and not the exception in state government. It is my hope that the coverage this issue received will foster a larger discussion of the proper role of government in the free market and the need to end the idea that government as ‘venture capitalist’ is good for our economy.”

The 11-page contract was good for the period of July 1, 2015, through June 30, 2016, with options for both Pitbull and Visit Florida to renew it annually. Among the things Pitbull agreed to do:

* Work with Visit Florida to coordinate a live-TV broadcast of a New Year’s Eve celebration in Miami, featuring him.

* Create a music video called “Sexy Beaches” featuring Florida beach scenes, and licensed it to Visit Florida for promotional uses.

* Promote Florida through social media, including using and promoting the hashtag #LoveFL, to be displayed on a video screen during each of his concerts

* Participate in quarterly strategy planning sessions with Visit Florida to coordinate his activities with the Visit Florida brand.

* Make promotional public appearances, with Visit Florida picking up his travel expenses.

* Provide 10-15 second “intro” and “outro” video clips for Visit Florida to use with its “Conquering Florida” video series.

* Make best efforts to use Florida locales in his other music video productions.

* Allow Visit Florida reasonable use of his music in other promotions.

* Have Visit Florida pick up many of the production expenses.

House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz also chimed in, calling the disclosure a win, but with final judgment on the value of the contract still to be determined:

“Today’s disclosure of Visit Florida’s $1 million payment to Pitbull is a win for Floridians who may now judge for themselves whether or not this agreement constitutes a good deal for our state with all the facts at hand.

“For state government to be fully accountable to the people of Florida, these decisions must be made without secrecy and in the sunshine at all times. There is no excuse for a lack of transparency when it comes to how taxpayer dollars are being spent.

“With the many challenges currently facing our state, we must ensure that every tax dollar spent is gaining the greatest benefit for every Floridian.”

Drop-launch of rocket off Florida coast sends NASA satellites into orbit

A Pegasus XL rocket dropped from beneath an airplane off the coast of Daytona Beach Thursday morning, then launched from there into orbit and deployed eight NASA hurricane-tracking satellites into orbit.

The drop-launch from an altitude of 39,000 feet, about 110 miles east of Daytona Beach, went as planned after the mission was postponed twice this week for minor technical problems. At 7:38 a.m., an Orbital ATK L-1011 Stargazer airplane took off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, and exactly an hour later it dropped the Orbital ATK rocket.

Pegasus reached orbit level altitude of 300 miles, and then launched the small, 65-pound satellites, 13-15 minutes after the rocket dropped from the plane. The Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) spacecraft will line up in orbit over world tropics to be able to send fresh data from cyclones as each satellite passes overhead, at 12-minute intervals.

The system significantly improves on current hurricane data technologies.

The mission marks a new era for NASA and Cape Canaveral, successfully adding launch-drops to the more traditional blast-offs from launch pads at Cape Canaveral AFS or Kennedy Space Center.

The Pegasus rocket launch went smoothly if just a couple of seconds later than anticipated. The airplane was traveling about 600 mph within a 40-mile-long “drop box.” The rocket released and five seconds later the engine fired, and it blasted upward, through and out of the atmosphere.

Anti-Airbnb group arrives in Florida

A new group calling itself AirbnbWatch Florida has emerged declaring its goal as “to bring attention to illegal hotel operations in residential areas” in the Sunshine State.

The group is a state chapter of a national group called AirbnbWATCH, which is a project of the American Family Voices, a non-profit advocacy group that does not disclose its donors. The national AirbnbWATCH also lists the backing of such diverse supporters as the American Hotel & Lodging Association and the UNITEHERE! Local 11 labor union. AirbnbWATCH Florida’s background is not yet disclosed on either the Florida Division of Corporations or Florida Division of Elections.

“AirbnbWATCH Florida, a neighborhood watch group of concerned individuals and organizations, today launched its effort to bring attention to illegal hotel operations in residential areas that are disrupting communities and posing safety concerns for Floridians,” stated a press release issued by Bascom Communications and Consulting in Tallahassee.

Their target, Airbnb [and competing services like it] is a rapidly-growing, by-the-night, private home rental service run through apps. Last year Airbnb arranged for 754,000 visitors to stay in 16,100 private homes in Florida in 2015, according to a press release Airbnb issued in July.

AirbnbWATCH Florida’s legislative agenda, as stated on it’s Facebook page: “We urge lawmakers to close the ‘illegal hotel loophole’ and hold Airbnb accountable for keeping communities safe and playing by the rules.”

“It seems a bit counterintuitive that an organization purporting to be a ‘Florida neighborhood watch group’ is operated out of Washington D.C.,” said Ben Breit, spokesperson for AirBNB Florida. “This is simply a poorly veiled front group for the national hotel lobby. We will continue to work in support of our amazing Florida host community while engaging proactively with mayors and policymakers in all 67 counties.

Sarah Bascom, spokesperson for AirbnbWATCH Florida, insisted the group is not directed from elsewhere.

“This group has been transparent from the outset about its supporters and its objective,” she said. “It is a broad and diverse group of stakeholders who care about this issue and the need to rein in commercial operators. Opponents are simply trying to distract from the real issue, which is that they are fostering activity that is outside of the confines of Florida law on their platform and they could take simple, transparent steps to stop it. Airbnb is not the community partner they claim to be.

“There are many implications of the rise of hotels that operate outside of Florida law via home-sharing platforms. AirbnbWATCH joins residential neighborhood, affordable housing advocates and the legitimate lodging industry who all care about fair and even application of zoning, health and safety laws, and taxes,” Bascom added.

Airbnb contends it and its client homeowners abide by state and local lodging rules and regulation. But the AirbnbWatch group argues against that. The new Florida group also is alleging abuses bringing chaos to otherwise-quiet neighborhoods.

One such example is the house next door to retiree Tom Alderson, 75, and his wife in Longwood. That house was sold to someone last year and a few months later became an Airbnb-fueled bed and breakfast, he said. Alderson said he’s spent the better part of a year trying to find a government agency to get involved, without luck, and now says “the security is totally gone for the neighborhood.”

“We’ve got a year-round Spring Break happening next door to us with new people we don’t know coming in and out at all hours of the night,” Alderson said in a release issued by AirbnbWATCH. “It’s not only bad for our property values, it’s horrifying when strangers start showing up in your neighborhood night after night. Legislators shouldn’t wait for Airbnb to move in next door to them before regulating this. They won’t like it either, that’s for sure.”

The Florida Division of Hotels and Restaurants does not license or regulate Airbnb.com. However, the Division of Hotels and Restaurants retains jurisdiction over licensed establishments utilizing Airbnb.com services. Whether an individual home host applies for a lodging license and complies with state standards generally is on a case-by-case basis.

In Europe and elsewhere, the service has become enormously popular. Worldwide, Airbnb claims more than 2 million hosts and 60 million visitors using the service.

There also is a rising concern about unfair competition with highly-regulated hotels, motels and other lodging facilities in Florida.

“What sense does it make that Airbnb’s unlicensed property owners are not held to the same standard as traditional bed and breakfasts?” Florida Bed and Breakfast Inns Executive Director Patricia Detwiler stated in the news release. “To protect consumers, following fire and safety codes, operating in accordance with existing local zoning laws, and complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act should be applied evenly to the short-term rentals next door. I say a simple solution would be requiring short-term rental operators to register and be required to publish a license number when advertising.”

 

Julie Jones says prisons need higher pay to stop ‘churn in the hiring’

Turnover of staff at Florida’s prisons is so high that a substantial majority of guards in some prisons have less than two years experience, Corrections Secretary Julie Jones said Wednesday before the Senate Criminal Justice Appropriations Subcommittee.

Jones was at the subcommittee’s introductory meeting to push hers’ and Gov. Rick Scott administration’s priorities. They start with pay increases to attempt to boost recruitment and retention in prisons where guards can make less than $30,000 a year right now.

Jones outlined her top priority as a safety and security issue, arguing the inexperienced staff can lack the savvy needed to keep the system stable.

“So that experience working with inmates, knowing how to talk to an inmate, and… there’s smarts [that] corrections officers and police officers have to de-escalate; they don’t have enough experience on the job to be able to do that,” Jones said. “So contraband is up. Inmate violence is up. Inmate violence on inmates and officers is up. And it’s a churn in the hiring that has to stop in order to stabilize the system.”

The churn, she said, is 29.3 percent annually, about 3,000 prison guard jobs a year in the Florida Department of Corrections System. That doesn’t include another 1,000 floating job openings she maintains. “I’ve got facilities now that are 60, 70 percent [staff who have] less than two years.”

Though several members of the subcommittee had already stated that their highest priorities this year would be to address recidivism among parolees, Jones found support for her argument, particularly from Chairman Aaron Bean, a Jacksonville Republican.

“I looked at the numbers. A starting correction officer’s salary is $29,000 and change. They become certified, they go to $30,000,” Bean said. “But yet they can still go down the street to work at a distribution center where they start at $39-40,000, and not have anybody want to beat them up at the warehouse.”

“Mr. Chairman you’re absolutely correct. I’m losing … good, solid, five- to ten-year tenured higher pay,” Jones said.

Her presentation followed a discussion in which subcommittee members talked in earnest about making the prisons more efficient and reducing other costs by reducing their populations, releasing non-violent offenders.

Bean and the subcommittee’s legislative analyst Marti Harkness discussed the prospects of certain drug offenders being released. Vice Chair Randolph Bracy, the Democratic senator from Oakland, suggested non-violent elderly prisoners might be released. Sen. Jeff Clemens, the Democrat from Lake Worth, suggested Texas and Georgia be looked at, after those states released large numbers of non-violent offenders.

“No one is talking about letting out bad men and women. They will be remaining behind bars,” Bean clarified. “But they cost money. And we want them working. We want them working. So if there is something we can explore, I think our committee has the jurisdiction to explore.”

Bill Nelson warning about cyber attack vulnerability of toys

A number of popular internet-connected toys including children’s tablets, a talking stuffed bear and smart watches are vulnerable to hacking that could expose information about the child and the parents’ credit cards, according to a new cautionary report released Wednesday by U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

Nelson’s report, “Children’s Connected Toys: Data Security and Privacy Concerns,” which he produced as ranking member of the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, reports that a toy tablet maker already has been hacked and other popular smart toy products’  companies appear to have similar vulnerabilities.

The late 2015 hack was at VTech Electronics, a leading manufacturer of electronic learning toys and baby monitors, reportedly expensing the personal information of more than six million children around the globe, including their names, genders and birthdates, as well as photographs and account passwords.

Nelson’s report also specifically cites  security flaws found in two other popular children’s toys – Fisher-Price’s Smart Toy Bear and hereO’s GPS watch – which could have exposed not only a child’s personal information, but in the case of the GPS watch, a child’s real-time physical location as well.

A hereO spokesman responded that the vulnerability the senator’s report referenced has been fixed, and that there no longer is any risk associated with the watches.

Nelson’s point was one of caution regardless.

“It’s frightening to think that our children’s toys can be used against them in this way,” Nelson, the Florida Democrat, stated in a press release Wednesday. “The companies that make these toys have to do more to safeguard the parents and children who use them.”

The report warns that there appears to be an increased in hacker activity targeting children, despite heightened federal law to protect children’s  privacy.

“A number of factors make children a particularly attractive target for identity thieves,” the report states. “A child’s identity is a “blank slate” that can be fraudulently used over a long period of time without detection. Parents generally do not monitor their children’s credit histories and thus may not know for years that an identity thief has victimized their child. Personal information about children may also be more readily available as children and parents often fail to appreciate the potential consequences of sharing this information through social media or connected toys and devices.”

Speaking for hereO, Matt de Leon of Van Communications in London said the concerns were initially raised by a watchdog group and addressed by the company a year ago, before any of the watches has been sold, and that the company not only considers a child’s safety paramount – the very reason for the products – it continues to take steps to make sure the watches are safe.

“Since addressing the issue, we’ve been working with two world-leading cyber security firms who carry out random penetration tests of the hereO watch, smartphone app and systems to ensure there will never, ever be privacy concerns or a situation where a child is put at risk,” de Leon wrote.

Nelson cautioned parents to consider the risks during the holiday season. According to the report, various internet-connected toys have been shown to collect and thereby put at risk a variety of information, including:

* a child’s name, birthdate, gender, profile picture, chat messages, call logs and internet history;

* parents’  email address, gender, profile picture, chat messages, credit card information, phone umber, wifi password and IP address.

Nelson’s report said other companies’ products also appear to be vulnerable.

He cautioned that, if possible, parents buying any smart toy should learn in advance what personal information the toy will collect, how that information will be used, whether it will be shared with others outside the toy manufacturer, and how long it will be retained. This information can usually be found in the toy’s privacy policy, the long, small-print legal statement many consumers typically ignore.

Parents, Nelson urged, also should change default passwords that come with toys and install any available software updates; and change, if possible, the toy’s default privacy settings to limit the amount of personal information it provides to the manufacturer, allowing only information necessary for the toy to function.

 

Florida House sues over Visit Florida-Pitbull deal documents

Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran sued PDR Productions Inc. Tuesday for a judge’s permission to publicly release documents involved in the Visit Florida deal used to hire Miami rapper Pitbull to promote Florida tourism.

At issue is Corcoran’s concern that Visit Florida deals — done increasingly in secret — may require deeper scrutiny in how it’s spending state money. He wants the Florida House of Representatives Appropriations Committee to hold hearings, starting with a look at the PDR contract.

But Visit Florida turned over the PDR contract only with explicit statements from the company that the firm believes its entire contents are “trade secrets” which must be shielded from Florida Sunshine Laws.

The company threatened to sue House staff members or others if anything was publicly disclosed.

In his 10-page lawsuit filed in his capacity as Speaker of the House Tuesday in Circuit Court for Florida’s 2nd Judicial Circuit in Tallahassee, Corcoran argued that there are no trade secrets in the contract, or if there are their importance is far outweighed by the Florida Legislature’s mandates to watch spending. And Corcoran stated that there is no way the house committee can hold a hearing on a secret document. He also argued that the contract, as administered by the Florida Division of Tourism Marketing, is subject to Florida’s Sunshine Laws, which require public disclosure.

Corcoran asked the court to take a look at the contract, hold an immediate hearing, and then declare that it contains no trade secrets, allowing the house committee to release it and discuss its terms in open session in this year’s Legislative Session.

Miami lawyer Sandra Navarro-Garcia, the registered agent for PDR Productions, was not immediately available Tuesday afternoon to comment on the suit or the company’s response.

Neither Visit Florida nor PDR has disclosed even how much the company was paid, or the full responsibilities Pitbull agreed to in the contract.

The Florida Legislature appropriated $74 million overall to Visit Florida, which acts as the state’s tourism and visitors promotions agency but is, in fact, a state-chartered non-profit corporation formally known as the Florida Tourism Industry Marketing Corporation.

“PDR’s trade secret confidentiality claim effectively covers the entire contract with Visit Florida,” Corcoran’s complaint states.

The complaint continues: “PDR’s over broad trade secret confidentiality claim, and the attendant threat of litigation against anyone violating that claim, will impede the ability of the house, it’s members, and committee staff to fulfill their duties to monitor and investigate true expenditure of public funds, to insure that public funds are properly spent in the public interest in the manner intended by the legislature, and to participate in the development of a General Appropriations Act for the coming fiscal year in an open and transparent process,”

Visit Florida has not made a claim of confidentiality for itself; it only asserted the claim on behalf of PDR, the lawsuit claims.

Space Coast reports rising tourist trade

Florida’s Space Coast saw solid increases in tourism and hospitality employment fostered by rising hotel and cruise ship occupancies but tempered slightly by a drop in gambling boat passengers in the past year.

A new “Space Coast Tourism Report” from the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast projects that 2016 will break the tourism records set in 2015 in Brevard County.

The cruise ship industry continues to boom out of Port Canaveral, according to the report. Just over 3 million passengers boarded the cruise ships in 2016, through the end of September. That’s an increase of 8 percent over the same period in 2015. However, single-day cruise passengers – primarily aboard gambling ships leaving Port Canaveral, are down just over 7 percent during that period, to about 233,000.

Hotel occupancy rates are up 5 percent overall and was averaging 60 percent through the first nine months of 2016. That’s in spite of the fact that room charges also are up, almost 9 percent on the year, to an average price of about $94 a night. Together, those two factors have driven up hotel operators’ revenue per room almost 25 percent in the period.

Leisure and hospitality employment climbed 2.5 percent during the year, and averaged about 25,800 jobs during the first nine months. Overall, however, Brevard’s unemployment rate of 5.2 percent is down just a half-point since September 2015.

 

Alan Grayson files to run again but says it’s just paperwork, for now

Democrat U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson is downplaying prospects that his filing to run again for Congress means he’s going to run again for Congress — but he’s not ruling it out.

The Democrat from Orlando — who leaves office Jan. 3 because he did not seek re-election in Florida’s 9th Congressional District — has filed paperwork to run in 2018. And this time he filed to run in Florida’s 11th Congressional District, centered in Lake County.

Yet Grayson insisted Tuesday that the paperwork is simply a legal requirement because his campaign committee continued to raise money since the Nov. 8 election.

Federal law requires a candidate to actually be running for something if his campaign is raising money.

“The campaign raises money all the time. When the campaign raises a certain amount of money after an election, the campaign is legally required under the Federal Election Campaign Act to file a candidate’s statement of candidacy,” Grayson said in an interview with FloridaPolitics.com.

“The statement of candidacy form requires some kind of designation of an actual district, and the reason for that is the FEC keeps its records in terms of congressional districts,” he added. “Legally, I can run anywhere in Florida.”

Grayson said that is why he filed a statement of candidacy on Nov. 14.

Still, he said he’s leaving open the prospect of another congressional run, whether in CD 11 or elsewhere.

“That decision actually gets made not in November or December of 2016. That decision gets made in May of 2018,” Grayson said.

Rather than seek re-election this year, Grayson ran for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate. He lost in the August 30 primary to U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, who then lost to Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio in the general election.

Florida’s 9th Congressional District, Grayson’s current district, soon will be represented by another Democrat, Congressman-elect Darren Soto of Orlando. Soto defeated Grayson’s wife Dena Grayson in a primary election in August.

The other two Orlando districts, CD 10 and Florida’s 7th Congressional District, also are soon to be represented by freshmen Democrats, Congresswomen-elect Val Demings and Stephanie Murphy respectively. Another area district with potential appeal to Grayson, Florida’s 8th Congressional District, which reaches into far-east Orange County, is represented by Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Posey.

Dena Grayson is from that district and owned a home there before marrying Alan Grayson last spring.

A CD 11 run likely could appeal to Grayson, because it would be a rematch with U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster, the Republican from Clermont who defeated Grayson in a bitter 2010 election in yet another district, Florida’s 10th. Grayson, never one to mince words, has never liked Webster and might savor even the threat of a rematch.

As he said, Grayson could legally run anywhere in Florida. The U.S. Constitution does not specify that a member of Congress actually live in his district, and no federal or state law can change that.

Meanwhile, Grayson said he would turn his attention toward advocacy for the restoration of civil rights for people convicted of felonies in Florida. It’s an issue he has pursued in Congress and which he made a high priority in his failed U.S. Senate campaign.

Florida’s law says a convicted felon cannot vote, serve on a jury, or hold public office until civil rights have been restored, which critics of the law say is an overly difficult process. An estimated 1.6 million Floridians have lost such rights, with a disproportionate amount of them being black.

“I was really moved to see the plight of African Americans all around the state as I was campaigning,” Grayson said. “I think one of the underlying causes of that comes from lack of political power, which comes from the fact that 23 percent of African Americans aren’t allowed to vote, the highest percentage in the country. I think that’s wrong on many levels.”

He said he hopes to see a measure placed on the Florida ballot to address the law, and said there’s also the possibility he could help raise a legal challenge in the courts.

Orbital ATK drop launch of rocket set for Wednesday

Cape Canaveral is set to host an unusual rocket launch Wednesday morning with a NASA satellite-carrying rocket dropped from beneath an airplane that takes off from the Florida coast.

The launch of Orbital ATK’s Pegasus XL space vehicle, originally set for Monday, has been bumped to no earlier than Wednesday, between 8:20 and 9:20 a.m.

The event will begin with an Orbital ATK L-1011 airplane taking off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, carrying the Pegasus XL rocket underneath it.

At a height of about 40,000 feet, the plane will release the rocket, somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean. The rocket will then ignite and rise with three stages to an altitude of  300 miles, the rocket will release the Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System, or CYGNSS.

If all goes well, the rocket will be deployed at about 8:25 a.m.

Monday’s launch was aborted due to an issue with the launch vehicle release system on the L-1011 Stargazer. A hydraulic system operates the mechanism that releases the Pegasus rocket from the aircraft. The hydraulic system functioned properly during the pre-flight checks of the airplane.

The current targeted Wednesday launch time will allow for a replacement L-1011 carrier aircraft component to arrive from Mojave, California, and be installed, as well as support the required crew rest requirements.

Once in orbit, CYGNSS will make frequent and accurate measurements of ocean surface winds throughout the lifecycle of tropical storms and hurricanes. The CYGNSS constellation consists of eight microsatellite observatories that will measure surface winds in and near a hurricane’s inner core, including regions beneath the eyewall and intense inner rainbands that previously could not be measured from space.

Orbital ATK is one of several space companies employing plane-drop launched rockets, including Virgin Galactic and Vulcan.

 

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