Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Consider giving web-based newspaper subscriptions as gifts and/or buying one or more hard copy newspaper subscriptions for delivery to your workplace; whenever you visit a newspaper site online, please click on one or more of the advertisements. Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry follows.

63 percent of Floridians support normalizing relations with Cuba

An Atlantic Council poll shows that a "majority of Americans from every region and across party lines support normalizing relations with Cuba."

- Nationwide, 56 percent of respondents favor changing our Cuba policy, with an increase to 63 percent among Florida adults and 62 percent among Latinos.

- Support is strongest among Democrats and Independents, but 52 percent of Republicans also favor normalization.

- Florida, home to the country’s largest Cuban- American population, leads the nation by 7 percentage points in supporting normalized relations.

- In Miami-Dade County, where the highest percentage of the state’s Cuban-American population lives, support registers at 64 percent—as high as the overall state number.

"US-Cuba: A New Public Survey Supports Policy Change". The Council's webcast discussing the poll is here.

More on the poll" "Read the poll and analysis", "Cuba poll reflects changing political landscape in Florida" and "Poll: Floridians support thaw with Cuba. A plus for Charlie Crist?". Even the Tamp Trib, "State ban on Cuban research makes no sense".

Meanwhile, Florida Gov. Rick Scott has taken issue "with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist’s view that the U.S. embargo has outlived its usefulness, saying keeping it in place is “standing up” for the Cuban people."

Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera was even more forceful in his rejection of Crist’s assertion last Friday on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher that the time has come to lift the embargo. . . .

The politicians’ remarks come at a time when attitudes toward Cuba are evolving as more liberal travel policies by both the United States and Cuba increasing put Cubans on the island and those in Florida in more frequent contact with each other. . . .

Asked if he thought the Cuban-American population in Florida still supports the embargo, Scott [before release of the poll] responded, “Absolutely.”

A new poll to be released by the Atlantic Council Tuesday may provide some clarity on the issue. The national poll examines attitudes toward U.S.-Cuba relations, including the embargo.

"The Cuban embargo emerges as a political issue in Florida".

Safe Bet

"It's a Safe Bet Fred Costello is Headed Back to Tallahassee".

Did Rubio inhale?

"Sen. Marco Rubio is declining to say whether he ever smoked marijuana." "NEW: Rubio dodges question on his past marijuana use".

Hill's Univision Advantage

"High in the polls with a dream candidate’s résumé, Hillary Clinton’s advantages in the 2016 presidential race are the stuff of near-constant media chatter these days."

Except for one topic: Univision.

The Spanish-language network, which broadcasts from Doral, has remarkably close ties with Clinton — from the way the media giant covers immigration to the financial backing of its top leader to a new initiative between the network and the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation. Barely a peep from the press, though. . . .

So far, the RNC isn’t taking on Univision the way it pressured CNN and NBC last year to scrap plans for a Clinton documentary, which Republicans said amounted to election-year infomercials. In that case, the RNC threatened to boycott the networks from hosting a 2016 GOP White House candidate debate.

The dispute was well-covered in the navel-gazing ranks of the New York-D.C. media-industrial complex.

How about the close Univision-Clinton ties? Crickets — although The Washington Post, to its credit, covered the Univision event and noted some political advantages Clinton could gain. On a related note, The New York Times reported in August how “efforts to insulate the foundation from potential conflicts have highlighted just how difficult it can be to disentangle the Clintons’ charity work from Mr. Clinton’s moneymaking ventures and Mrs. Clinton’s political future.”

"'She would be a wonderful president,' Haim Saban, a major Clinton donor and backer, told the Israeli paper Yedioth Ahronoth. 'If it happens, we will of course pitch in with full might. Seeing her in the White House is a big dream of mine.'".
Oh, yeah. Saban basically owns Univision, too. His Saban Capital Group bought Univision Communications Inc. in 2007 with other investors.

Saban wasn’t speaking about Univision in that above-mentioned Nov. 29 interview.

But just four days before, his network coincidentally announced its partnership with the Clinton foundation and a host of other major nonprofits, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Under Saban, Univision has become one of the most-watched networks on TV. Depending on the day or month, Univision has sometimes beaten out English-language ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox for young viewers in prime-time.

With Hispanics comprising the fastest-growing population and electoral demographic, the network is poised for outsized growth and political influence. . . .

Perhaps Univision gets a pass because most political-media reporters don’t pay attention to Spanish-language media.

Regardless of language, though, the silence remains deafening.

"Marc Caputo: Hillary Clinton's Univision ties met with near-silence in media; 'pay-to-play' claim from GOP".

Crime-fighting credentials in CD13

"With a month to go, the candidates running in the special election for an open congressional seat in Pinellas County tried to establish their crime-fighting credentials on Tuesday, but also showed more of their teeth." "Who Is CD 13's Bigger Crime Dog, Sink or Jolly?".

We shed tears, but act like we don't give a damn

Yesterday in Orange County we lost another greedy first responder with three young children and the temerity to think he might receive a decent pension: "Deputy killed: 'Hero' slain in felon's attack".

Meanwhile, "Pasco County employees got pay raises this year for the first time in five years — but Sheriff Chris Nocco said that’s not enough of a bump to keep his deputies from fleeing to other agencies." "Sheriff’s office may face deputy exodus".

Rick Scott was nowhere near this announcement

"A mortgage company that has received $2 million in state incentives to create jobs has announced that it will lay off 745 workers in April. . . . Gov. Rick Scott had touted the company last year as a job-creating machine." "Touted Fla. mortgage company laying off 745".

Good luck with Rick Scott's botched unemployment compensation website.

Pension games

"House Speaker Will Weatherford says lawmakers will reform the Florida Retirement System during the 2014 legislative session. Several options are being considered, among them a 'cash-balance' plan proposed by Sen. Wilton Simpson." "Teachers union opposes pension changes; Speaker says expect some". See also "FRS bill emerges in Senate".

Appealing to Floridians' basest instincts

"Gov. Rick Scott continued his campaign-style tour of the state Monday, selling himself in South Florida as a champion of cutting taxes." "Rick Scott sells himself as tax cutter".

Teacher haters in a dither

"Survey says teachers are not the problem".

All this and no surprises

"The Florida Chamber of Commerce, having seen most of its agenda passed in recent years, will chase after bills that have stumbled in past legislative sessions." "Chamber unveils tax cuts, tort and pension changes, and anti-casino agenda".

Weatherford’s gambling support will fill GOP campaign coffers

Fabiola Santiago worries that Miami "is facing nothing short of a major affront on its quality of life as the state’s resistance to casino gambling expansion folds, player by player."

In a stunning move this week, Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford, a Republican who previously opposed gambling expansion, told the Herald/Times Bureau that he’s now open to passing legislation that would allow Las Vegas-style casinos in Miami-Dade and Broward. . . .

The speaker, who’s from Pasco County and has enormous power in setting the agenda for the Legislature, seems not to care one iota about what happens in South Florida.

In exchange for pushing through the casino gambling expansion as a priority this session, Weatherford wants a constitutional amendment that requires voters to approve any future gaming.

His condition is only a bone he’s throwing fellow conservatives who oppose gambling. Voters have in the past turned down casino gambling expansion, but look where we’re now. That’s how little the speaker respects them. What truly matters is that, in this hard-fought election year, Weatherford’s support will fill Republican coffers with campaign contribution from gambling interests.

But hey, if Miami’s ruined in the process, it’s all good.

"Fabiola Santiago: South Florida gambling plan is major affront to quality of life".

Chickenhawk discovers the political utility of veterans

"Marco Rubio and Jeff Miller Tackle Veterans Affairs Reform".

"Without mercy"

"With nine months to go until the gubernatorial election, Florida’s two major parties are like a couple of heavyweights in the 12th round, pounding each other on behalf of their candidates without mercy." "Governor's Race a Bruiser: Parties Slugging Away at Each Other Like Prizefighters".

They want their MJ now

"Medical marijuana bill filed".

State can't explain website flop, but wants to explore "telemedicine"?

Update: "Committee delays vote on telemedicine bill".

If "Florida’s unemployment benefits website was not ready for launch and state can’t explain why", do we really want "State lawmakers to explore telemedicine"? Who knew, but "doctors at Miami Children’s Hospital use advanced communications technology to diagnose sick children in Ecuador, Peru and the Dominican Republic."

Not surprisingly, "Helping young patients in remote parts of Florida or other states, however, is not so easy."

For one, insurance companies in Florida aren’t required to reimburse doctors for telemedicine services, meaning physicians aren’t guaranteed payment for Web-based consultations or diagnostic test interpretations. What’s more, many doctors don’t have the licenses to practice in other states or the credentials to practice at other hospitals.

“Because of the regulatory limitations, it is easier for me to care for a child in Colombia than it is for me to care for a child at Broward General,” said Dr. Jacques Orces, the chief medical information officer at Miami Children’s.

The Florida Legislature wants to change that.

"State lawmakers to explore telemedicine".