The Big Picture: 3 Toxic Crises Boiling Over In Florida

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By Dipika Kadaba for The Revelator – A difficult hurricane season unearths issues ranging from cancer hotspots to deadly bacteria. Ah, Florida — home to famous natural landscapes and amazing wildlife, but also to more than 20 million people and billion-dollar industries. Decades of booming development in Florida — all of it built in the path of Atlantic hurricanes — have brought to a head some toxic problems the state still struggles to solve. Every major flooding event, like the one following this year’s Hurricane Irma, leaches toxic waste into people’s homes and drinking water. Florida is particularly vulnerable to storm surges and flooding from hurricanes like Irma. The EPA’s “Superfund” program oversees the cleanup of hazardous waste sites. Ahead of Hurricane Irma, the EPA worked to secure about 80 sites ranked at the highest priority for cleanup from Miami to North Carolina — but Florida alone contains more than 50 Superfund sites at this priority level, with approximately 500 hazardous waste sites in total. Superfund sites in Florida have been linked to increased cancer risk, and experts worry that these sites are vulnerable to flooding and spreading toxic pollution.

After The Hurricane, Solar Sped Recovery For Some

Florida, for all its solar potential, is still in the nascent stages of what could become a solar boom. Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

By Lyndsey Gilpin for Inside Climate News – Just after midnight on Sept. 11, Eugenio Pereira awoke to the sound of tropical-storm-force winds slamming his Gainesville, Florida, home. Hurricane Irma had arrived. At 1:45 a.m., the power flickered out, and he was in total darkness. Unlike large swaths of Florida that were facing days if not weeks without electricity, Pereira knew he would have power when the sun rose. He had installed rooftop solar panels two weeks before the storm, along with an inverter that allows him to use power from the solar panels without being connected to the grid. The next morning, he plugged an extension cord into the inverter, flipped it on, and let his 7-kilowatt rooftop solar array do the rest. He was able to use his appliances and his Wi-Fi, so he could continue his work as a home-based IT consultant while the neighborhood waited for grid power to came back on. “We didn’t have sun at all the day after the hurricane, but even with clouds, it was enough,” he said. Hurricane Irma cut the power to about 6.7 million customers across Florida, as well as hundreds of thousands in Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. Only about two-thirds of those in Florida had power back by Thursday, and Florida Power & Light said the outages could last weeks in some areas.

While Prison Activists March For Humane Treatment, Florida Shuts Off Visits This Weekend

Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones visits the Wakulla Correctional Institution in Crawfordville, Fl. March 1, 2016.
Emily Michot emichot@miamiherald.com

By Julie K. Brown for Miami Herald – Visitation to all Florida state prisons has been canceled this weekend after evidence surfaced that inmates are planning possible uprisings to coincide with Saturday’s march for prisoners’ human rights in Washington, D.C. Julie Jones, Secretary for the Florida Department of Corrections, announced the move as a precaution, given the agency’s staff shortage and “credible intelligence’’ that groups of inmates at several institutions were planning disturbances. “There’s no reason to be alarmed. We are just being proactive,’’ said Michelle Glady, a spokeswoman for the department. The agency is taking preemptive steps to secure facilities so that staff and inmates will be secure, she said. Social media has been advertising a “Millions for Prisoners’ Human Rights” rally on Saturday in Washington, but it’s not clear who is spearheading the movement. Postings advertise the effort as a way to raise awareness about the problem of mass incarceration and human rights violations in prisons across the country.

Rubio Is Asked To Leave Tampa Office Over Disruption From Weekly Protests

Demonstrators gather in front of Republican Sen. Marco Rubio's office on West Kennedy Boulevard in Tampa on Jan. 31 to protest the recent actions of Donald Trump. The owner of the building, called Bridgeport Center, has asked Rubio's office to leave because the weekly demonstrations are disrupting other tenants.

By Tony Marrero for Tempa Bay Times – TAMPA — Vocal crowds of demonstrators making weekly visits to the Tampa office of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio have gotten the Miami Republican booted from the building. The owner of Bridgeport Center, a gleaming, nine-story office center at 5201 Kennedy Blvd., notified Rubio’s office on Feb. 1 that it will not renew its lease. The reason: The rallies have become too disruptive to the other tenants and a costly expense for the company, said Jude Williams, president of America’s Capital Partners. “A professional office building is not a place for that,” Williams said. “I understand their cause, but at the end of the day it was a security concern for us. Rubio is now faced with the prospect of going without a brick-and-mortar office until a new location can be found.

More Than 1,000 Protest At Trump’s Florida Estate

Protesters hold a “Dump Trump” sign as they march in downtown Miami on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017. Roberto Koltun rkoltun@miamiherald.com

By Alex Harris And Lance Dixon for Miami Herold – Protesters held colorful signs and chanted messages like “We want a leader, not a creepy tweeter” and “Hey hey, ho ho. Donald Trump has got to go.” Many said they were standing in support of Muslims, minorities and people they felt were at risk because of Trump’s recent executive order temporarily banning travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries. Late Saturday, that order was tied up in the courts. Lawrence Otremba, and his husband, Chris Busby, have been together for 18 years and got married as soon as it was legal. Busby said he was grateful for the hard work of activists that came before him and he wanted to use his privilege to speak up for others.

Why Protest Camp In Florida Is Being Called The Next Standing Rock

Opponents of the Sabal Trail pipeline say it is not only harming the natural beauty of the Suwannee river but also doing irreversible environmental damage. Photograph: Richard Luscombe for the Guardian

By Richard Luscombe for The Guardian – At first glance the quiet town of Live Oak seems an unlikely venue for a stand against Big Energy. But in recent weeks it’s become a centre of opposition A north Florida river that attracted the state’s first tourists a century before Walt Disney’s famous cartoon mouse is emerging at the centre of a fight against a contentious 515-mile natural gas pipeline that many are calling America’s next Standing Rock. One section of the so-called Sabal Trail pipeline is being laid beneath the crystal waters of the Suwannee river, whose pure mineral springs were once fabled to cure anything from marital strife to gout.

Water Protector Alliance

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By Staff of Water Protector Alliance – Hundreds of water protectors gathered in peaceful protest singing and praying. Water trucks needed to drill under the river were blocked for hours. For the first time in history Suwannee River State Park was closed due to capacity. Suwannee County Sheriffs, Florida Highway Patrol, Fish & Wildlife Commission and State Park Rangers arrived in large numbers. No arrests were made and no one was hurt. The Floridan Aquifer, water quality, and ecology are being threatened. Communities have mobilized and are on the move, STAND NOW FOR CLEAN WATER!

In Tampa, Food Not Bombs Activists Arrested For Feeding Homeless—Again

Two activists with Food Not Bombs are handcuffed after they defied police orders to stop feeding the homeless in a downtown Tampa public park.Anthony Martino

By Kate Bradshaw for Creative Lofting Tampa Bay – Temperatures were dipping into unfriendly territory Saturday afternoon as sports fans flocked to the events at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park. At nearby Lykes Gaslight Park, members of Tampa’s homeless community were gathered for hot coffee and bagels, courtesy of the group Food Not Bombs. There were no altercations, no illicit substances, no bad behavior—unless you count that, according to the City of Tampa, that coffee and bagels were illegal. Why? Because you have to have a special permit in order to offer free food to the needy in city parks.

Utilities Trying To Kill Solar Energy In Florida

In this file photo, workmen install install a solar panel array for a whole-house solar power source at a home in Pinecrest. TIM CHAPMAN MIAMI HERALD STAFF

By Fred Grimm for Miami Herald – The leaked recording should have been political dynamite. Except it only confirmed what solar energy advocates already knew: Florida’s electric utility monopolies had engineered a ballot initiative composed of mendacious doublespeak. Amendment One, an unseemly misnomer entitled “Rights of Electricity Consumers Regarding Solar Energy Choice,” was no more than “political jiu-jitsu,”…

Marissa Alexander And Trayvon Martin Prosecutor Loses Re-Election Bid

Unseated Florida prosecutor Angela Corey.
Win McNamee/Getty Images

By Mark Joseph Stern for The Slate – On Tuesday, Florida voters kicked Jacksonville prosecutor Angela Corey out of office. Corey garnered just 26 percent of the vote in the Republican primary. Her rival, Melissa Nelson, defeated her by a 38-point margin. Nelson is reform-minded but also touts a National Rifle Association endorsement. She will run unopposed in November. Corey is widely known as one of the cruelest and deadliest prosecutors in America. She is infamous for vigorously prosecuting Marissa Alexander, a black woman who fired a warning shot into a wall during an altercation with her abusive husband.

Nation’s Longest Bike Path Will Connect Maine To Florida

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By Katie Pohlman for Eco Watch – The East Coast Greenway will stretch from Calais, Maine, to Key West, Florida, a 2,900-mile distance. The project will provide non-motorized users a unique way to travel up and down the East Coast through 25 cities and 16 states. Walkers, cyclists, runners and other active-transportation users will be able to travel on a continuous, firm and paved greenway with a route specifically designed to give travelers a traffic-free experience, East Coast Greenway Alliance, the non-profit organization behind the project.

Florida Legislators Stop Funding From Groups Associated With BDS

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By Christine Baniewicz for Truthout – Nothing particularly alarming seemed to transpire in the Florida State Capitol building during this January’s Senate floor hearing of Florida SB 86. No vocal dissent cropped up between senators, and there was no public testimony – just a wall full of little green lights flicking on as every legislator in the chamber voted the bill through. However benign in appearance, that wall of green lights signals an alarming violation of Floridians’ First Amendment rights.

Fracking Everglades? Floridians Recoil As House Approves Bill

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By Zahra Hirji for Inside Climate News – South Florida, home to one of the country’s most fragile water systems, could be the nation’s next fracking frontier. The Florida House of Representatives voted 73-45 on Jan. 27 to approve abill that opens the door to fracking by 2017 after the state studies the environmental and public health risks. Next, the bill requires state regulators to draft rules governing the practice, which could begin in 2018 or 2019. This is the third time in three years the Florida House has passed a version of this bill.

Florida School Superintendents Revolt Against Testing

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By Valerie Strauss for The Washington Post, A battle over Florida’s public education system may be reaching a tipping point, with school superintendents revolting against the state’s school accountability system and editorial boards of major newspapers now weighing in on their side. One, the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, is warning against the collapse of that system. The Florida Association of District School Superintendents issued a statement on Sept. 25 saying that superintendents have “lost confidence” in the current accountability system for students and schools, which is based on the scores students receive on the controversial Florida Standards Assessments. The superintendents called for a suspension of the accountability system and a full review.

Lakeland Students: “Won’t Let This Happen In Publix’s Hometown!”

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By Coalition of Immokalee Workers – This past Thursday, in a classroom just miles from Fair Food holdout Publix’s corporate headquarters in Lakeland, FL, a crowd of over sixty Southeastern University students, professors, staff, and Lakeland community members gathered to learn about the CIW’s groundbreaking work for farmworker justice and of the shameful, six-year refusal of their hometown supermarket, Publix, to join the CIW’s Fair Food Program. The began the evening with a screening of the critically acclaimed documentary “Food Chains“. Lakelanders’ response to the film was strong and clear: excitement at the tremendous gains of the CIW, and dismay that their hometown grocer has refused to take responsibility for farmworker exploitation in its supply chain.