"Florida criminals have a well-earned reputation as some of the strangest in the country, possibly the world. But as the Escambia County Sheriff’s Department demonstrated late last month, when it shot an unarmed man in his own driveway, it’s not just Florida perps who are out of line. A number of the state’s police and sheriff’s departments are every bit as notorious for employing weird, backwards, and even criminal Floridians.”
Earlier this summer, the FBI shot and killed Ibragim Todashev at his Orlando, Florida apartment, where he was being questioned by law enforcement officials. Afterward, police sources gave wildly conflicting accounts of what happened just before his death: some said he was unarmed but agitated; others said he was armed, but disagreed about the weapon. Did he reach for a gun? A samurai sword? A knife? A metal pole? A broomstick? Every news report seemed to tell a different story. The FBI wouldn’t go on record with an official version of events, and was unusually tight-lipped about the case, even as the dead man’s grieving father speculated that his son was murdered. The ACLU, the Counsel on American Islamic Relations, and various newspaper editorial boards called for an independent investigation, in part because when the FBI investigates itself, its agents are basically always found blameless for fatal shootings.
Then the story faded from national headlines.
Last week, Justice Antonin Scalia excoriated his colleagues on the United States Supreme Court for not always saying what they mean. Today, with a man’s life on the line, with lower courts in full-flowered rebellion, and with a clear and present opportunity to decisively affirm their own precedent, those same justices demonstrated that they don’t always mean what they say. The result is yet another shocking example of the hollowness of constitutional doctrine in the Roberts Court era.
Today, the Supreme Court allowed Florida to execute a patently insane man named John Ferguson, a man with 40 years worth of paranoid delusions chronicled by government doctors, a man who considered himself the “Prince of God.”
Read more. [Image: Joe Skipper/Reuters]
Down in Florida, a task force commissioned by Governor Rick Scott is putting the finishing touches on a proposal that would allow the state’s public universities to start charging undergraduates different tuition rates depending on their major. Students would get discounts for studying topics thought to be in high demand among Florida employers. Those would likely include science, technology, engineering, and math (aka, the STEM fields), among others.
But Art History? Gender Studies? Classics? Sorry, but the fates are cruel. Unless a university could show that local companies were clamoring to hire humanities students, those undergrads would have to pay more for their diploma.
Read more. [Image: Edudemic]
No matter who wins the presidential race, no matter which party controls Congress, can we at least agree as reasonable adults that when it comes to voting itself the election of 2012 is a national disgrace? We ask our sons and daughters, our husbands and wives, to give their lives abroad for noble concepts like “freedom” and “democracy.” And yet we are content as a nation, and as a people, to tolerate another cycle of election rules that require our fellow citizens to sacrifice a measure of basic human dignity simply to exercise their right to vote. […]
This is happening not because of a natural disaster or breakdown in machinery. It is happening by partisan design. Alarmed by the strong Democratic turnout in early voting in 2008, Republican lawmakers, including Governor Rick Scott, reduced the number of early voting days from 14 to eight. When the restrictions were challenged in federal court under the Voting Rights Act, a three-judge panel said they would have a discriminatory impact upon minority voters. But only five of the state’s 67 counties are covered by the federal civil rights law.
Read more. [Image: Michael Finnegan/Twitter]
An early tropical storm drenched Florida earlier this week, leaving as much as 10 inches of of rain in some spots. Tropical Storm Beryl has since been downgraded, but continued to bring wet weather to the North Carolina shore on Wednesday. Above, the storm as it appeared around noon on Memorial Day, as captured by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite.
"Oh look, there they are!" my mother said, swerving the car a bit as she pointed to the side of the road. "The rent-a-cows!"
And indeed, there they were, a tiny herd of cattle — maybe a half-dozen of them, from what I could see — marooned in a wide, fenced-in field of grass off the highway, like the last, cud-chewing remnants of a long-vanished family farm. Perhaps they would’ve seemed less out of place if we weren’t just a few minutes away from Medical City, the University of Central Florida’s sprawling new campus of hospitals and teaching facilities that’s becoming a magnet for Orlando-area developers. Its gleaming new VA hospital loomed ahead.
My mother had been talking about the rent-a-cows since she had begun house-hunting in the area a couple of months before. It was a tax thing, she explained one day. You could rent a cow, put it in your yard, and get a property tax break. I took the story with a grain of salt. Zoe had spent the last four decades of her life living in New York City before moving to Florida for a job at UCF’s medical school. I assumed something had just gotten lost in translation.
No. Sadly, my mother was basically right.
It’s known as Florida’s greenbelt law. The statute is meant to preserve farmland by taxing it at special, low rate. But some of the act’s biggest beneficiaries are deep-pocketed developers, who often take advantage of it by literally renting cows. […]
The total cost of these abuses isn’t clear, but there are hints that it may be significant. According to a 2006 Associated Press article, the law costs Florida $950 million a year total. Some of the breaks go to legitimate commercial farms. But according to the Herald’s 2005 investigation, more than two-thirds of the loophole’s top 60 beneficiaries in South Florida weren’t farmers.
"This thing’s a game. Always has been since I’ve been here," one cattle rancher told the paper.
When a 14-year old can afford to buy a home, does that mean home prices have hit bottom? Willow Tufano is a child of the housing collapse. Her real estate agent mom scrapes together a living in Florida by selling foreclosed properties. Willow found her own niche scavenging abandoned washes, dryers and furniture from her mother’s properties and selling them on Craigslist. In just six months, Willow saved enough money to buy a two-bedroom fixer upper for $12,000. -Chana Joffe-Walt (Photo by Chana Joffe-Walt/NPR)
Large snakes, like boa constrictors, anacondas, and pythons, are not native to North America, but are popular among reptile collectors and traders who — inadvertently or not — re-introduced them to the Florida swamps about a decade ago. Since that time they caused a huge disruption to the already fragile ecosystem, threatening wildlife and even some humans. They grow fast, breed rapidly, adapt well to their environments, and prey on small animals that don’t recognize them as a threat. They’re also great at hiding, which makes them both deadly hunters and difficult to catch. Read more.
Note to self: Never move to Florida.