Orlando Archives - Page 6 of 101 - Florida Politics

Stephanie Murphy joins John McCain for Vietnam war-era prison tour

Winter Park’s U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, who was born in Vietnam and escaped with her family in a boat lift when she was six months old, returned to Vietnam Wednesday and joined U.S. Sen. John McCain and other members of Congress for a tour of the notorious “Hanoi Hilton” Vietnam War prison.

Murphy, a freshman Democrat, posted a picture Wednesday of herself with McCain outside the Hoa Lo Prison, now a historical shrine in Hanoi, with a caption that read:

“With Arizona Senator John McCain in Vietnam outside the prison in which he was held for more than five years as a POW. He is truly an American hero for his service to this country in times of both peace and war.”

Murphy, McCain and other members of the U.S. Senate and U.S. House armed services committees are in Vietnam as part of a congressional tour of undisclosed sites in Asia.

Murphy’s office said the members toured the prison at the invitation of McCain, the Republican senator from Arizona. He spent five and a half years imprisoned there during the Vietnam War, when he was a Navy lieutenant commander and was shot down during a bombing mission.

The four-nation trip is focused on strengthening the United States’ Indo-Asia-Pacific alliances and partnerships. This is a bipartisan congressional delegation led by Armed Services Committee Chairman U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, a Republican from Texas.

Police: Man with fake gun in custody at Orlando airport

A former Marine who was armed with a fake gun attempted a “suicide by cop” Tuesday night during a nearly three-hour standoff with police at the Orlando International Airport, authorities said.

No one was hurt and no shots were ever fired, but the standoff caused confusion and anxiety among travelers who were uncertain about what was going on. Part of the airport was evacuated as hundreds of officers stormed the area, some with their guns drawn.

Michael Wayne Pettigrew, 26, was in “mental distress” when police surrounded him at the rental car area of the airport, authorities said. He pointed what looked like a real gun at officers and himself, authorities said.

“Our negotiators did a phenomenal job of talking with the subject for about two hours and finally got him to peacefully surrender,” Orlando Police Chief John Mina said.

He was being held for a mental evaluation and faces aggravated assault charges.

Glorializ Col�n Plaza, 20, told the Orlando Sentinel she was just getting off work from Virgin Atlantic airlines when she saw everyone hiding. She got off the elevator and saw the man on the floor near the rental car area. He was screaming, and cops had surrounded him.

“I couldn’t make out the words, but he was screaming really loud,” she said. “Everyone there told me right before this happened a man said to everyone: ‘You’re going to need mental therapy after this,’ then he pulled out a gun and everyone ran.”

Plaza said she didn’t hear any gunshots or see anyone injured.

“I saw all the cops with the long rifles and started shaking,” she said. “It didn’t seem real.”

Earlier this year, authorities say an Alaska man killed five people inside a baggage claim area at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

The incident at the Orlando airport was first reported about 7:24 p.m. Terminal A was eventually closed, but the other side of the airport, Terminal B, remained open during the standoff.

Greater Orlando Aviation Authority Chairman Frank Kruppenbacher praised the response of both law enforcement and airport employees.

“Our employees did everything in accordance with what OPD has trained them to do,” Kruppenbacher said. “You couldn’t have a better resolution. No one was hurt. The airport continued to operate on the other side.”

Some flights were delayed during the ordeal, but airport operations were returning to normal late Tuesday night.

Images posted on social media showed a heavy police presence in the area and passengers were worried about their safety and missing flights. At one point, the Florida Highway Patrol tweeted that all roads to the airport were shut down, with “zero exceptions.” Orlando police later said the entrances were open but congested.

Rally seeks to keep heat on Marco Rubio to oppose health care bill

“Hey guys, if everyone would assemble themselves beside the tombstones and the coffin,” declared progressive organizer Melanie Gold, and with that the weekly protest rally outside Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s Orlando office commenced Tuesday, urging him to oppose the American Health Care Act

Gold and others have been organizing such protests every Tuesday lunch hour in downtown Orlando since early January, sometimes with cardboard tombstones and coffins, sometimes just with signs, tambourines and megaphones. By now the Republican senator, or at least his Orlando staff, should have a pretty good idea that Central Florida’s progressive activists want to keep the heat on.

Now armed with the Congressional Budget Office’s report from last week on the bill, the gathering shouted and chanted their warnings to Rubio Tuesday that Floridians want the President Barack Obama-era Affordable Care Act fixed, not repealed and replaced as the American Health Care Act would do if the U.S. Senate passes it like the U.S. House of Representatives did earlier this month.

“For me what is exciting is what is happening around the country,” said Mitch Emerson, one of four speakers at Tuesday’s rally. “Every Republican who voted for this bill is being held accountable, whether it is someone like [U.S. Rep. Bill] Posey or [U.S. Rep. Daniel] Webster, people really all across the state are saying if you voted for this bill we will hold you accountable.

“I will say there is one positive from this: Approval for the ACA, ObamaCare, has never been higher,” Emerson added.

That CBO report projected that 23 million people would lose or drop health insurance under the Republican plan. The CBO report also confirmed Democrats criticism that the state waiver clause could lead states to block coverage of pre-existing conditions, and eliminate coverages such as pre-natal care.

“People will die if this passes,’ Emerson said. “It’s not a debatable thing. If you don’t have health care, people will die.”



Celeste Philip: current indicators improved, but Zika threat remains serious

Florida Surgeon General Dr. Celeste Philip and Gov. Rick Scott told a roundtable of Orange County public health officials in Orlando Tuesday that Zika preparedness is up and incidents and rain down this year, but the risk of another major disease outbreak remains significant and no one should abandon precautions.

Florida has seen 50 confirmed case of Zika infection so far in 2017, all from overseas transmissions, and less than half of what was seen by this time in 2016. The dry spring has helped, as has more vigilance by officials and citizens, Philip said, and that must not change.

Real mosquito season is coming, and last summer’s experiences, with hundreds of confirmed cases and a local outbreak from infected mosquitoes in Miami-Dade County.

“Compared with last year’s experience, we are better positioned,” Philip said.

“Good news, but as long as there are Zika cases anywhere else in the world, and as long as we have as many travelers that we do, we have to remain vigilant and be proactive, and take steps to prevent transmissions,” Philip said.

That means covering exposed skin, using mosquito repellent, preventing standing water, even a bottle cap full, from appearing anywhere outdoors, to take extra precautions in infected countries, and to take sexual precautions for at least six months after traveling to any countries with Zika outbreaks.

Last year’s Zika outbreak in Miami-Dade led to Florida’s worst fears: that the infected mosquitoes could get established here, as they have in Puerto Rico and many Caribbean and Latin American countries most notably Brazil. The real threat is to pregnant women, as Zika can cause a range of birth defects up to microcephaly.

Last year Scott allocated $61 million to the Florida Department of Health for mosquito control and $25 million to accelerate development of a vaccine and to improve testing. Last year, much of the testing had to be done out of state, causing delays that left pregnant women in terror for weeks, who are eligible for free assessment tests. Now that testing all can be done in Florida, greatly shortening the turnaround time, Philip said.

“The focal point of our meeting today is to make sure everyone continues to stay focused to make sure we don’t see Zika expansion,” Scott said. “We’re going to see more rain … and when we see more rain we will see more mosquitoes.”

“We have not had any local cases in 2017. We have some individuals that were tested and diagnosed in 2017, but based on where they were and some other circumstances, we believe they were likely exposed in 2016.

Knox to open Orlando’s first medical marijuana dispensary Friday

Winter Garden-based Knox Medical is set to open Orlando’s first medical marijuana dispensary Friday in a location near Florida Hospital’s downtown campus.

Knox is one of nine companies statewide licensed to produce and sell medicines derived from cannabis. Knox has been in operation for several months, relying primarily on delivery service, and earlier this month opened its first storefront, in Gainesville. The Orlando dispensary will be its second, and the company vowed to open more in Jacksonville, Lake Worth, Tallahassee, and St. Petersburg in a short time.

The Orlando location hold a grand opening at 11 a.m. Friday, at 1901 N. Orange Ave. in Orlando, about six blocks from Florida Hospital, a location consistent with the company’s vowed strategy of locating near major medical centers.

The facility, the first of its kind in Central Florida, is open to qualified patients who have registered with Florida’s Compassionate Use Registry.

Like the Gainesville dispensary, the Orlando storefront will be low-key, with a single sign announcing “Knox Cannabis Dispensary.” The interior also is designed to be low-key, looking more like an optician’s office than like some of the marijuana shops that opened in California, Colorado and elsewhere under the medical marijuana laws sweeping through states.

“Knox Medical is working with Florida’s top architects and designers o create a cohesive dispensary experience that puts the needs and interests of our patients first,” said a statement from Knox’s founder and chief operation g officer José Hidalgo, and co-founder and chief operating officer Bruce Knox.

Florida approved a limited medical marijuana law in 2014, allowing for non-euphoric products designed to treat epilepsy and other neurological conditions, plus some cancer patients. Last fall Florida voters overwhelmingly approved a much broader medical marijuana initiative. The Florida Legislature failed to adopt enabling legislation, so the current legal parameters of medical marijuana are a little unclear.

SpaceX Falcon 9 launch set for Thursday evening

The next SpaceX launch, of a Falcon 9 rocket to send cargo to the International Space Station, has been set for a 5:55 p.m. launch on Thursday from Kennedy Space Center.

The mission would be SpaceX’s 11th commercial resupply effort to the space station.

The Dragon spacecraft will be carrying almost 6,000 pounds of science research, crew supplies and hardware. The unpressurized trunk of the spacecraft also will transport solar panels, tools for Earth-observation and equipment to study neutron stars.

This will be the 100th launch from Kennedy Space Center’s historic Launch Complex 39A, and sixth SpaceX launch from this pad. Previous launches include 11 Apollo flights, the launch of the unmanned Skylab in 1973, and 82 shuttle flights.

Report: After Pulse massacre, police training needs changes

As a law enforcement foundation reviews how the Orlando Police Department responded to a 2016 mass shooting at a gay nightclub, the organization’s staffers say in a paper that police training and protocols may need to change.

They suggest that regular patrol officers should be trained in how to respond to a terrorist attack or a hostage situation. The paper was published earlier this month by three staffers of the Police Foundation in the CTC Sentinel, a publication of the Combatting Terrorism Center at West Point.

Both situations usually are handled by highly-trained SWAT team members, but the paper says patrol officers are usually the first to get to a scene.

“Routine patrol work places officers in neighborhoods where terrorists hide, plan, and attack, giving them the opportunity to gather critical intelligence as well as to identify potential threats,” the paper says.

The foundation is reviewing the Orlando police response, but it hasn’t yet issued a report. The paper is separate from the group’s review.

The paper uses the nightclub massacre, as well as an attack in San Bernardino, California, as examples.

The paper acknowledged some second-guessing in the media about why Orlando police officers didn’t take out gunman Omar Mateen sooner in the Pulse nightclub mass shooting on June 12, 2016. Forty-nine people were killed and dozens more were injured in the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Mateen was killed in a shootout with officers after a three-hour standoff.

“It should be stressed, however, that the police responding to the attack followed protocols and best practice for hostage situations,” said the paper, noting that people can debate about whether those protocols need to change.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for the Orlando Police Department said the agency’s policies and procedures are constantly being updated. The statement also said the agency would adjust its policies and training as needed once the foundation’s review was finished.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Dates set for special election to replace Eric Eisnaugle in House

The special election to replace Eric Eisnaugle in the Florida House will take place on Oct. 10, following a special primary election on Aug. 15.

Gov. Rick Scott set the schedule in an executive order Friday, as Eisnaugle’s resignation from his District 44 seat took effect.

Scott selected Eisnaugle on May 8 to replace former Judge C. Alan Lawson on the 5th District Court of Appeal. Lawson now sits on the Florida Supreme Court.

Eisnaugle, 40, of Windermere, has represented western Orange County district since 2014 but dropped his 2018 re-election bid in February.

The special session was expected to draw at least five candidates: Republicans Dr. Usha JainJohn NewstreetBobby Olszewski, and Bruno Portigliatti; and Democrat Paul Chandler.

Rene Plasencia appointed to Southern Regional Education Board

State Rep. Rene Plasencia, a former public school teacher, was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott as one of the state’s board members on the Southern Regional Education Board, a 16-state compact.

“I am a firm believer we need to start reducing some of the high-stakes testing that we offer,” Plasencia told POLITICO Florida. “I want to make sure they are hearing from a conservative voice who believes we’ve probably gone a little too far” in implementing accountability.

Through the board, each state receives core services funded by annual appropriations. States also benefit from targeted programs funded by grants from foundations and agencies. In addition, states, districts or schools may opt to contract for additional services or participate in networks with annual fees.

Plasencia, a Republican representing the Orlando-based House District 50, also is a district relations manager with Florida Virtual School. He sits on the House Education Committee.

He replaces former state Sen. Nancy Detert of Venice on the SREB. His term starts immediately and runs through June 30, 2018.

Shhhh! Stephanie Murphy seeks to stop presidential leaks to enemies

Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy wants to make sure that if a president or any other high official in the administration casually passes along classified intelligence to a country the United States is not happy with, he’ll have to tell Congress about it.

Murphy, from Winter Park, announced Wednesday afternoon she has introduced the Prevention Oversight of Intelligence Sharing with Enemies Act.

It would require the president to promptly notify the House and Senate Intelligence Committees if someone in the administration “intentionally or inadvertently discloses Top Secret information to government officials of nations that sponsor terrorism or, like Russia, are subject to U.S. economic sanctions.”

The bill and a press release announcing it make no specific mention of reports of President Donald Trump seemingly casually shared ISIS intelligence with Russian officials during a meeting earlier this month.

Yet Murphy, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee and who has intelligence analysis background as a former U.S. Department of Defense analyst, made her ire clear.

“As a former national security specialist in the Pentagon, I’ve seen the damage our adversaries can inflict when they gain access to our classified information,” she stated in a news release. “When U.S. intelligence falls into the wrong hands, it puts our service members, intelligence operatives, and diplomats at risk and undermines our national security interests around the world.

“Additionally, our allies are unlikely to share highly-sensitive intelligence if they lose confidence in our ability to protect such information,” she continued. “My bill will enable Congress to assess any damage, conduct appropriate oversight, and keep our country safe whenever classified information is intentionally or inadvertently disclosed.”

It’s not the first time Murphy has introduced a bill taking a swipe at Trump’s national security and intelligence handling, nor is it the first time the freshman congresswoman has taken on those issues outside of trump.

Earlier she introduced the Protect the National Security Council from Political Interference Act, gained 183 cosponsors and helped generated a groundswell of public support for Steve Bannon’s removal from the National Security Council.

She also introduced a bill to create an inter-agency unit to oversee intelligence about North Korea, and another that would create a defense commission to deal with security and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.

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