Orlando Archives - Page 5 of 81 - Florida Politics

2 central Florida students arrested in school shooting plot

Authorities say two students who were plotting a Columbine-style attack at a central Florida middle school have been arrested.

Sumter County Sheriff’s officials said in a news release that the boys, ages 13 and 14, planned the attack at The Villages Charter Middle School for Friday.

Deputies say rumors about a shooting began circulating Tuesday. The 13-year-old was questioned as he arrived at school Wednesday and told deputies he and another boy had talked about the plot. When the older boy was questioned, he mentioned the 1999 Columbine shooting that killed 12 students and a teacher at the Colorado high school.

Neither boy had weapons at school, but deputies say guns were found at their homes when they were arrested Thursday.

They’ve been charged with conspiracy to commit murder.

Republished with the permission of The Associated Press.

Val Demings on Donald Trump: ‘We’re going to hold him accountable’

At a ceremonial swearing-in for newly-elected Congresswoman Val Demings in Orlando, she and Sen. Bill Nelson, along with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, spoke out fiercely against several of President Donald Trump‘s actions in his first week of office.

In a letter to Trump, Nelson expresses dissatisfaction with Trump’s freeze on government hiring, saying it will have a negative effect on veterans.

“A hiring freeze at VA will delay veterans’ access to health care and resolution of their disability claims,” he writes. “Which for many of our nation’s heroes provides a sole source of income to them and their families. Our nation’s veterans should not be made to sacrifice any more than they already have while you review federal hiring.”

Nelson says the VA’s inability to hire clinicians and administrative support could prove detrimental to veterans in need of health care, that it will affect appeals for disability compensation – more than 450,000 are currently waiting for benefits, and they’ll wait longer because of the freeze.

In addition, he said veterans seeking jobs will also have a harder time finding them. So he asks Trump to reconsider the freeze and lighten restrictions on veterans.

Nelson spoke to reporters prior to Demings’ swearing-in about a number of other issues – including the infrastructure plan Democrats have proposed after Trump himself expressed a desire for a $1 trillion infrastructure plan on the campaign trail.

“I hope he supports this plan,” Nelson said. “It will be a trillion over 10 years for infrastructure – for the airport, for Port Canaveral, to build roads, to widen roads, rehabilitate bridges with structural deficiencies. We’re taking him at his word.”

On the environment, Nelson, Demings and Pelosi were in agreement against Trump’s actions to silence news from environmental outlets and climate scientists earlier this week.

“Florida is ground zero for sea level rise,” Nelson said. “Records show the sea has risen five to eight inches. The streets of Miami Beach are flooded. How people can say we don’t have climate change mystifies me. We need to listen to our scientists, not listen to the orders to muzzle them.”

Pelosi said the responsibility in the age of Trump would fall to the media to distribute the correct facts.

“In the press, be ever-vigilant,” she said. “What they’re not saying is suppressing any expression of science, evidence, data, facts. That is a very dangerous thing to a democracy. I believe you all are the guardians of democracy. Freedom of the press, freedom to report on those things, and what they’re doing is very bad.”

She also criticized Trump’s false claims that millions of people illegally voted in the election for Hillary Clinton, calling it a deliberate attempt to “destroy the confidence in our system and lay the groundwork for further voter suppression.”

“The first thing the president said was he won the popular vote, that three to five million voted illegally,” she said. “It’s not true. There is no evidence to support that. What’s dangerous about it is, they’re going to use that false three to five million, alternative fact, to repress the vote in our country.”

All three of them also spoke out against Trump and the Republicans’ efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act – especially with no current plan to replace it.

“Mr. Trump telegraphed very strongly what he intended to do if elected, and we all thought it was just political jargon,” Demings said. “To take something away from hundreds of thousands people that depend on it – it’s mind-boggling that that would be his first order of business as president of the United States. This is the greatest country on Earth – to me that means every person should have access, quality affordable health care.”

Demings said in spite of the Democrats losing the election, and in the face of opposition from Trump and the Republicans, her own priorities remained the same.

“My priorities have not changed. My presidential candidate did not win, but my priority has not changed. I still intend to fight for equal protection under the law. There are people in Mr. Trump’s own party who don’t understand what he’s going to do, or how he’s going to do it, or where he’s going to get the funding from. We’re going to hold him accountable.”

She said she had also been working with Republican colleagues to make plans that would “not be in our own personal best interest, but in that of the American people.”

Amy Mercado, Victor Torres seek ‘parent abuse’ reporting system

Concerned that there are under-the-radar problems with teen children abusing parents, state Rep. Amy Mercado is seeking to create a parent abuse reporting system that could give the parents some of the same protections the state extends to children being abused by parents.

Mercado, an Orlando Democrat, filed House Bill 431 this week, aiming to establish reporting, response and criminal charge protocols that, had they been in place, might have led to an intervention before the 2013 murder of Rosemary Pate  of Ocoee by a teenage son Everett Pate, whom she had complained had abused and terrorized her for years.

“The statutes don’t define [parent] abuse; we’re trying to clarify that,” Mercado said.

And this family matter could be a family matter for the legislation. Mercado’s father, state Sen. Victor Torres, an Orlando Democrat, intends to file a companion bill in the Florida Senate. It would be a first for them, as Mercado is a freshman in the house and Torres a freshman in the senate, though he had spent four years in the house. And that would make it a first for the Florida Legislature, as Mercado and Torres are the first daughter-father combination to serve together.

This is not the first time around for this effort. While Torres was in the Florida House he introduced a similar bill there, while then-state Sen. Geraldine Thompson of Orlando pushed a measure in the Senate. Thompson championed the cause on behalf of the family of Pate, one of her constituents, but the measures died. Torres and Mercado are taking it up.

Torres called it a silent problem, saying that people tend to think, “‘It’s my kid or my child or it’s a family matter; we can take care of it.’ But If you constantly are in fear… we want to make sure we provide the appropriate opportunity for these families and for parents going through what they’re going through.”

HB 431 identifies situations that would be defined as a child’s abuse, aggravated abuse, exploitation, or emotional abuse of a parent. It sets various criminal charges including misdemeanors and felonies. The abuse ranges from physical abuse and threats of physical violence to false imprisonment to financial abuse to false reports of child abuse.

The bill also establishes guidelines for reports, including by third parties, of reasonable suspicions of such abuse to the Florida Department of Children and Families, including providing immunity from prosecution for the person who reports.

Mercado said statistics show hundreds of cases of domestic violence by children against other family members reported annually in Orange County alone.

In the case of Pate, she had complained and reported alleged abuses and fear of her son for years, Mercado said. One day she was found murdered in her bedroom. Everett Pate, now 22, was arrested, charged and convicted of second-degree murder and is serving a 30-year sentence.

“Miss Pate had tried to reach out, she got a restraining order against her son and a people didn’t pay attention to her concerns and how violent her son is,” Torres said. “It’s sad.”


And it may not have needed to happen, Mercado said.

“People knew, and they called law enforcement, but there never was a mechanism of follow-up,” she said. “So what we’re trying to do through DCF is have a reporting mechanism.”

There would be a fiscal impact, as the bill likely would require additional staff at DCF assigned to handle such complaints, though the amount is undefined.

As for the parent and child taking up the parent and child bill, Torres called it, “an honor.”

Seminole elections chief Mike Ertel takes to social media to defend voting integrity

Seminole County Supervisor of Elections Mike Ertel wants voters to know that that the voting process is sound and he believes it was not corrupted by millions of illegal votes in November as President Donald Trump has alleged.

Ertel, a Republican, took to social media Wednesday morning to spread that message. He conceded there may be problems to be fixed and attempts by some to manipulate voting. But he sought in a Facebook post Wednesday morning to explain that the system should ensure voter trust. He also said trust in the democratic process hangs in the balance.

Ertel tagged 25 other Florida supervisors of elections as well as Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner, assuring that his post would be seen by their followers as well as his own. Among those he tagged was Clay County Supervisor Chris Chambless, who is president of the Florida State Supervisors of Election Association [Ertel is not a member.]

Ertel said he also would be tweeting out a similar message today on Twitter.

“President Trump has created quite the kerfuffle with today’s tweets concerning voter fraud,” Ertel wrote in his post. “To be clear: voter fraud is likely one of the least committed felonies in America, and barring system-wide collusion, it is simply not the case that ‘millions voted illegally.’

“However, there are always political operatives who attempt to manipulate the process throughout, and to pretend it doesn’t exist at all, is to either be putting your head in the sand or to exercise an extreme naïveté of the presence of dirty political tactics,” he continued. “There is good news: Florida’s system, while not perfect, is among the best at ensuring voter trust. We have hard-working, ethical supervisors of elections, and Seminole County is home to pollworkers and staff who together constitute America’s Finest Elections Team.”

Ertel then pointed out a number of issues he believes can and should be addressed, including many that already are, including strong enforcement of existing laws, “realistic voter registration guidelines,” “common sense photo ID laws with non-arguous provisions for those without an ID,” and savvy, prepared local officials.

“Like with any endeavor, we can’t stop all bad actors from attempts, but we can work together to ensure their efforts are thwarted. An honest appraisal of the process is fair, and if done in a dignified, professional manner, could certainly bear positive results,” Ertel concluded.

“Because after this new discussion, the trust in the democratic process of electing our republic’s leaders now hangs in the balance.”

Darren Soto appointed to subcommittee overseeing Puerto Rico

U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, whose district oversees one of the largest and fastest growing Puerto Rican diasporas in the states, has been appointed a seat on a Congressional subcommittee that oversees Puerto Rican affairs.

Soto, an Orlando Democrat who is of Puerto Rican descent himself – a first for Florida’s congressional representatives – announced Tuesday he’s been granted a seat on the House Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs

That subcommittee keeps tabs on the federal territories, including Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. It also is the launching point for congressional actions regarding the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act. PROMESA was adopted last year in an effort to resolve the most pressing of challenges in the current economic meltdown in Puerto Rico.

Soto’s Florida’s 9th Congressional District, covering southern Orange County, Osceola County and eastern Polk County, includes the heart of the Puerto Rican population in Central Florida, which numbers in the hundreds of thousands. That community has been growing rapidly in the past two or three years as thousands of islanders flee Puerto Rico every month. Soto campaigned with Puerto Rico as a big part of his platform.

He also was assigned to the Energy & Mineral Resources, and Oversight & Investigations subcommittees on the Natural Resources Committee.

Women’s March in Orlando brings out hundreds standing up for civil rights and issues

Worldwide on Saturday afternoon, women and the men who stand with them marched and rallied against new President Donald Trump. Orlando’s march happened at Lake Eola’s Walt Disney Amphitheater, which filled with hundreds of people, covering every square inch of the park.

Over the loudspeakers, speakers spoke empowering messages of women’s rights and the need to stand up and protest.

The event, like others happening around the country and worldwide, was a reaction to the election of Trump, whose messages and statements on the campaign trail since 2015 have many people fearful about what he’ll do on the many issues they care about.

The crowd in Orlando was full of people milling around with shirts bearing slogans like ‘Feminist’ or ‘Nasty Woman’ as well as signs of protest, touting ‘Not My President,’ expressing messages of support for women’s reproductive rights, the Affordable Care Act, LGBT issues, climate change and more. Some signs called for Trump’s impeachment.

“We wanted to come out and make sure our voices were heard,” said protester Robin Katz. “Protecting climate change, reproductive health, the rights of people of color… these should be the top issues.”

An older man calling himself Pippi Dreadstocking, with a long gray beard and a huge cardboard box with a sign proclaiming Trump to be “never his president,” stood by Rosalind Avenue, strikingly visible to passing motorists.

“I’m here in solidarity with the women of this planet,” he said. “I see this new leader as a threat to all life on this Earth as we know it. As a white man, it’s my job to support every other group attacked. It’s my duty as a citizen. If you do nothing, you’re complacent.”

Over the loudspeaker, the messages kept coming, a never-ending stream of them: “If women succeed, we all succeed,” one speaker triumphantly proclaimed.

But through all their messages they were unified in purpose.

“It’s about peace,” said protester Andrea Delph. “About being around others who share your values. With this new presidential year… I wanted to be here with all my women.”

Orlando is building the train station, not sure when or if trains will arrive

By the end of this year Orlando’s gleaming new $211 million train station should be virtually finished at Orlando International Airport, but it may be many years before trains start rolling in – if at all.

The Greater Orlando Aviation Authority is building a train station based on a vision of the future in which planes, trains, cars and buses all come together at what would be Florida’s tourism hub, with a people-mover tram connecting the station to the main air terminals, and a walkway to the next big air terminal GOAA plans to build next door. There also will be a new parking garage there.

In the vision, the planes would arrive from Sao Paulo, London, Frankfurt, New York, Atlanta, Los Angeles and elsewhere. The visitors move to the station from the main terminal on the people-mover trams, and then board 100-mph trains for South Florida, commuter trains to downtown Orlando and the rest of the SunRail corridor, or light-rail trains to the Orange County Convention Center and the glittery hotels and attractions of International Drive. Or they get off those planes and trains and board buses or taxis, or rental cars, to explore the world’s tourism Mecca of Central Florida.

Construction of the station, known in transportation-jargon as the Orlando Intermodal Transportation Facility, began with contracts and promises for multiple trains and the kind of widespread civic support for which Orlando’s big projects are known.

“We’re moving along. We expect the project to be substantially complete,” GOAA Executive Director Phil Brown said of the train station, the parking garage and the people mover. “We’ll probably be operational in the fall of 2017.”

But trains never come easily for Orlando.

Brightline, formerly known as All Aboard Florida, just unveiled its first train set in West Palm Beach, with assurances that it and 15 others should start rolling, full of passengers, between there and Fort Lauderdale and Miami, by year’s end. Brightline has even begun test runs with the train, on 9 miles of test tracks. The stations there are nearly done. The tracks are nearly all ready. The marketing program is gearing up. Brightline secured $600 million in financing for it all.

The real draw of Brightline, though, may be its future connection from there to the Orlando Intermodal Transportation Facility at Orlando International Airport. With that, the state’s two biggest tourism centers could become an easy, two-day, two-attraction ticket. In addition to Orlando visitors heading south, South Florida visitors could head north.

There’s a place for Brightline at the Orlando Intermodal Transportation Facility.

Brightline has all the track corridor it needs from Palm Beach to Cocoa, has signed contracts with GOAA and the Central Florida Expressway Authority to obtain the corridors needed from there to the Orlando Intermodel Transportation Facility, and has spent at least $90 million on right of way. The company’s environmental impact statement is essentially done, and most of its permits are acquired. Planning, design and engineering work for the final track segments have begun.

Yet Brightline’s track from Palm Beach to Orlando is snarled in opposition and litigation. County and local leaders of Florida’s Treasure Coast want no part of being ride-over territory for trains traveling more than 100 mph through their scores of at-grade intersections and bridging their environmentally-sensitive rivers, canals and wetlands.

Last year Martin and Indian River counties sued in U.S. District Court and won some key preliminary decisions. Brightline’s financing was locked up. So, this past fall the company filed to split its funding plan, severing the $1 billion or so worth of tax-exempt bonds it needs for the controversial Orlando-Palm Beach portion from the rest, in case that portion never comes together. For the moment, that money is gone.

The lawsuit continues, as do other challenges, including to the environmental statement, and the permits Brightline has received from the South Florida Water Management District.

Brightline remains undaunted, though.

“We are committed to extending Brightline to Orlando, and we are exploring financing options for Phase 2,” spokeswoman Ali Soule said.

Initially, back when GOAA and All Aboard Florida reached their first agreements and the Orlando Intermodal Transportation Facility was green-lighted, the plan was for the first Brightline train to arrive at the airport this year. This year became the completion target for Orlando’s station.

Now, no specific timetables are being offered for the Brightline trains, not even ballparks, not even to GOAA officials.

The first rail of track has not been installed yet nor have any of the needed five bridges been built in the 38 miles between Cocoa and Orlando. The company also has to double-track the rest of the route, and the first rail of new track has not yet been laid, nor any of the 18 bridges upgraded, in the 129 miles between Cocoa and Palm Beach. All of that must be built after the lawsuits wrap up, and after new financing is secured.

“I think we anticipate there may be a delay from when we had originally anticipated they would be completed the same time we would be completed,” Brown said. “I don’t think that’s realistic now. But not having ever built a railroad, I wouldn’t want to suggest how they do that.”

Yet Brightline might wind up being the airport’s best train option for the foreseeable future.

The aviation authority, Orlando, Orange County, the Florida Department of Transportation, and the expressway authority also have been talking for years to a group including, at various times, the Spanish train company Globalvia, Florida EMMI LLC of Orlando, and American MagLev Technologies of Marietta, Georgia, for a magnetic-letivation train or, in more recent proposals, a light-rail train, to connect the airport with the Orange County Convention Center and International Drive.

There once was talk of the train starting service to the Orlando Intermodal Transportation Facility next year. But now GOAA officials are not looking for the proposed $560 million, private-planned, -financed, -developed and -operated train anytime soon.

“I don’t think the light rail project, if it goes forward, will be in there any sooner than 2021,” Brown said.

For now, there is disagreement about how welcome it is at the airport. GOAA officials don’t see the train as adding anything for the airport, only supplanting existing transportation: taxis, buses and rental cars. That trio provides significant fee revenue to the airport, so GOAA officials want the train companies to agree to replace those fees.

“They have issues with it, and they are contemplating how that works in with their feasibility,” Brown said.

American MagLev and EMMI already had negotiated a right of way lease along State Road 528 with the Florida Department of Transportation for just over 60 percent of the proposed corridor it needs. But the option has not been exercised and may be in trouble.

Tony Morris, president of American MagLev and manager of Florida EMMI, insisted in an email to FloridaPolitics.com that talks with the government agencies are ongoing and well, and he expects to wrap them up early this year.

“We spent all of 2015 and 2016 negotiating with the local stakeholders, for a project that we are paying 100 percent of the costs. That phase took two years longer than expected, but we think we are finishing that up now, hopefully in the next 60 days. When these agreements are done, we can then do the easy part, which is to build it,” Morris wrote. “The land is 100 percent in the public domain… This is a big advantage.”

The right of way lease option was to have expired at the beginning of this year because the companies had not met required conditions demanded by FDOT, and the department reluctantly extended it six months. But only six months. “No further extension will be granted,” FDOT Secretary Jim Boxold wrote earlier this month to Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, and GOAA Chairman Frank Kruppenbacher, who all are on the GOAA board.

Those Orlando-area leaders had advised Boxold, in December, that their talks with the company were leading to other potential alignments. Boxold responded sternly in his Jan. 3 letter, stating that fundamental changes in alignment would not be consistent with “the terms of the EMMI proposal or the negotiated escrowed lease.”

“If the proposal by EMMI to establish a maglev system along State Road 528 does not reach fruition, we will be happy to discuss other concepts you may have for establishing that connection,” Boxold advised the Orlando leaders.

Then there is SunRail, Orlando’s commuter train, run by the Florida Department of Transportation, which operates on a north-south line that runs from DeBary in Volusia County, through downtown Orlando, to Sand Lake Road in south Orange County.

The next phase is an extension of that line southward into Osceola County, through Kissimmee, to Poinciana. That leg is to be finished late this year. The next phase after that was to be an extension of the line northward to Deland, though that died with opposition from U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, whose district includes Deland.

The phase after that was to be a new line running eastward, to Orlando International Airport.

There’s a place for SunRail at the Orlando Intermodal Transportation Facility.

No firm plans, timetables or alignments ever have been announced, though.

The Florida Department of Transportation is still studying the prospect, and it has no federal funding, which was envisioned to pay for most of it. The region’s transportation planning agency, MetroPlan Orlando, now programs federal construction money for the airport SunRail line to become available no sooner than 2020. Another MetroPlan projection has the project completed in 2016, noting that $153 million of the estimated $195 million cost is unidentified.

“Currently, study continues to examine which modes of transport, from SunRail Phase 2 to the airport, would be most efficient, cost feasible, and would qualify to be federally funded in part, as well as meet the needs of the community,” FDOT District 5 public information specialist Jen Horton stated in an email. “Once that additional study/work is complete, the plan would be presented to the public in the form of a public hearing.”

The trains lost crucial support in Congress when two highly committed and active backers, U.S. Reps. Corrine Brown of Jacksonville and John Mica of Winter Park, both lost re-election bids last year. Brown had served on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, while Mica was a former chairman of that committee with considerable influence at the U.S. Department of Transportation. Both had close ties to both SunRail and Brightline.

In their place, newly-elected U.S. Rep. Brian Mast was given a seat on the transportation committee last week. Mast, a Republican whose Florida’s 18th Congressional District includes the Treasure Coast counties of Indian River and Martin, is “100 percent against” Brightline running through his district from Palm Beach to Orlando, said Mast’s communication director Brad Stewart.

Nonetheless, Orlando airport officials are pushing forward. They do have some financial security. Most of the station was paid for with state transportation grants, and they have a $10 million line of credit from Brightline, provided to help amortize the $52 million in bonds.

Though it is already clear the train station will open without trains, and may stay that way for years, it still will have some use, Phil Brown said.

“We will be using the people mover system … We’ll have a parking garage down there. That clearly will be operational as well, because we, on a regular basis in the last several months, we’ve had to shut down the structured parking at the airport because it’s full. We have a need for more parking,” he said.

Surprise to Central Florida Expressway Authority: Tom Goodson wants it in Brevard

State Rep. Tom Goodson filed a bill Thursday to expand the Central Florida Expressway Authority into Brevard County, yet it seems no one on the expressway authority knows why.

Goodson filed House Bill 299, which would expand the authority’s realm from its current Orange, Seminole, Osceola and Lake counties base, eastward into the Space Coast county. The bill includes the addition of a board member appointed by the Brevard County Board of Commissioners chairman, and opens another spot for a possible gubernatorial appointment of a Brevard resident.

Neither Goodson, a Republican from Merritt Island in Brevard County, nor his office responded to inquiries from FloridaPolitics.com on Thursday.

But Authority spokesman Brian Hutchings said Thursday he is not aware of any plans for the expressway authority to extend its toll-road network into Brevard County. And he said he could find no one on the Authority who is aware of why Goodson would introduce a bill to expand it there.

“It’s the first we’ve seen of that,” Hutchings said after checking on HB 299. “Our board members have not been briefed or anything.”

The expressway authority operates 109 miles of toll roads, mostly expressways, in Lake, Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties. The closest it comes to Brevard County is the Beachline Expressway, State Road 528. The Authority operates that toll road only as far as the interchange with State Road 520, about four miles west of the Brevard line. There are some long-term plans regarding extending the authority’s East-West Expressway, State Road 408, further east from where it ends. But that plan currently doesn’t propose taking it east of S.R. 520 either.

The Central Florida Expressway Authority board currently has nine members, including three appointed by the governor, the mayor of Orlando, the mayor of Orange County, and one county commissioner each from the four counties in the system.

Goodson’s bill would expand the board to ten members.


SpaceX to reopen legendary Kennedy launch site

Kennedy Space Center is getting back in the rocket business, now that SpaceX is back in business.

SpaceX is planning to launch its next rockets in the next few weeks from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A . They will be the first rockets to blast off from Kennedy Space Center since the space shuttle program was shut down more than five years ago.

NASA announced Thursday that the company will launch another cargo load to the International Space Station on a Falcon 9 rocket, sometime in February, from Launch Complex 39A. The exact date has not been set.

But that won’t even be the first. SpaceX also is planning a private launch from the site before then, though the company has not announced any details on the exact date or customer. The company is in line to lift two different commercial satellite missions  into space this winter, for the Luxembourg SES-10 satellite, and for the Brazilian EchoStar satellite.

Whichever, it’ll be SpaceX’s first rocket launch from anywhere in Florida since the last Falcon 9 blew up on a launch pad at the adjacent Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in August, though SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket from California last weekend.

The location of the next blasts-off – 39A – signals both that SpaceX is back in business launching from Florida, and Kennedy Space Center is finally back in business hosting rocket launches.

Neither NASA nor SpaceX is saying much yet about the grand reopening though.

Launch Complex 39A is legendary. It’s where about half of the Saturn V rockets carrying Apollo launches, including the Apollo 11 moon mission of Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins began. It’s where most of the space shuttles were launched. And almost all NASA missions in between. But NASA hasn’t used the pad since Space Shuttle Atlantis blasted off on its final mission, July 8, 2011.

SpaceX signed a 20-year lease in 2014 with NASA to take over the complex and rebuild it to support the company’s Falcon 9 and Falcon 9 Heavy rockets, including those that will carry astronauts into space in the company’s Dragon Crew capsule. SpaceX and has been pouring tens of millions of dollars into rebuilding the complex. Still many of the historic structures where Armstrong, Aldrin, Collins and other historic NASA astronauts walked remain in tact.

SpaceX’s Cape Canaveral AFS launch site, Launch Complex 40, was heavily damaged when a Falcon 9 rocket blew up on the pad on Sept. 2. A few weeks ago SpaceX announced it had identified and resolved the issues, and last weekend launched its first rocket since, from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. SpaceX had announced earlier in 2016 that it was essentially done rebidding 39A, except for some fine-tuning for the astronaut program, and there had been widespread speculation after the Sept. 2 disaster that it might switch to that site with its return to space.

Launch Complex 39A has a twin, 39B, which has not been used since 2009. NASA is rebuilding that to handle its next big rocket, the Space Launch System. Launch Complex 39B  likely won’t be used before 2018.

NASA has no other active launch sites at Kennedy. So, since Atlantis went up its final time, the federal, civilian space agency has launched all its Florida-based missions, whether on SpaceX, United Launch Alliance, Orbital ATK, or other rockets, from Cape Canaveral AFS, just over the fence from Kennedy. All military and commercial launches also have gone up from Cape Canaveral AFS.

At first court appearance, Markeith Loyd goes on expletive-filled rant about death of girlfriend

Murder suspect Markeith Loyd appeared in court early Thursday morning for an arraignment hearing, at which he went on a profanity-laced rant aimed at the accusations against him.

The judge has also ordered Loyd held without bond.

According to the Ninth Judicial Circuit State’s Attorney’s office, Loyd does not yet have an attorney representing him. He said in court Thursday that he’d be representing himself in the trial.

The hearing was only for his alleged killing of his girlfriend, Sade Dixon, and her unborn child, in December of 2016 – he hasn’t yet been charged in the killing of Master Sergeant Debra Clayton that spurned the nine-day, widely-covered manhunt that ended earlier this week.

At the hearing, Loyd was initially quiet, WFTV reports – answering questions with a “yes” or “no.”

But then he started to open up.

He said he was “defending himself” when Dixon was shot and killed, WFTV reports.

“Ya’ll just making (expletive) up,” he said. “You’re acting like I just went down there and shot that girl.”

“Her little brother got dropped off while we were just there talking.”

The judge warned him that everything he was saying was on the record, but he did not stop. As he left the courtroom, he spat a curse at her.

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