Rick Scott, All Aboard Florida, the Sabal Trail Transmission, and linking the personal to the political

Rick Scott.


Rick Scott.

Time's Michael Grunwald:

The Florida governor has been questioned about his investment in a natural gas company and his aide's involvement in a rail project.

A few months ago, I wrote about an epidemic of fake Republican scandals that Democrats were hyping for 2014, starting with a nothingburger of a whatever-gate involving Florida Governor Rick Scott. My point was that political scandals rarely get traction, and shouldn't get traction, without a semi-plausible link to significant public policies. Let me put it a different way: Damaging scandals look more like the two latest messes involving Governor Scott.

The first involves Scott's support for a controversial Miami-to-Orlando rail project known as All Aboard Florida, when the company pushing it had financial ties to his chief of staff. The second involves Scott's support for a controversial natural gas pipeline to North Florida, when he owned a stake in the company building it. You probably haven't heard about these messes, because they're pretty obscure. They're also mini-messes, especially for Scott, who was once CEO of a hospital chain that paid a record $1.7 billion fine for fraud committed on his watch. Keep reading.

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John Romano on Dunedin Elementary and school grades and what's really the problem

In his column today, which you should read, here are the three most important points he makes:

1. One small problem with school grades: They're a sham.

2. The single most predictive factor in a school's grade is the poverty level of the student body. You tell me how many students are eligible for the free/reduced lunch program, and I can usually tell you a school's grade.

3. Dunedin Elementary was once a highly regarded school with the test scores to prove it. Back in 2005, Dunedin scored a coveted A in the state grading system. At the time, its free/reduced lunch rate was 53 percent. As that rate increased to 59, 62, 63 and then 67 percent, Dunedin clung to a B grade. By 2010, the rate was up to 78 percent and Dunedin dropped to a C. By 2012, it was 83 and the school was down to a D.

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Because this is the biggest issue facing Florida and America right now?

You saw this on 1A of today's Times?

What Marco Rubio says: "Those who support same-sex marriage have a right to lobby their state legislatures to change state laws. But Americans like myself who support keeping the traditional definition of marriage also have a right to work to keep the traditional definition of marriage in our laws without seeing that overturned by a judge. ... I will be attacked as a hater, a bigot or someone who is anti-gay. This intolerance in the name of tolerance is hypocrisy. Supporting the definition of marriage as one man and one woman is not anti-gay, it is pro-traditional marriage. And if support for traditional marriage is bigotry, then Barack Obama was a bigot until just before the 2012 election." …

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A twist to the story about the 'dork' from Jupiter who was said to have taught scientists something new about invasive lionfish


SUJIT KUMAR | Creative Commons


The Lauren Arrington story? Turns out it was too good to be true. Some highlights from io9:

A marine biologist is now claiming that the project was based on published work he did back in 2011 — and that the girl is the daughter of his former supervisor's best friend.

Since the story broke a couple of days ago it's been picked up by numerous media outlets. The news eventually got the attention of Jud, who claims that his many years of groundbreaking work on lionfish in low salinity estuarine habitats is being completely and intentionally ignored.

"At this stage in my career, this type of national exposure would be invaluable ... if only my name was included in the stories," Jud wrote on his Facebook page. "I feel like my hands are tied. Anything I say will come off as an attempt to steal a little girl's thunder, but it's unethical for her and her father to continue to claim the discovery of lionfish in estuaries as her own." …

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Marco Rubio on the J.C. Newman cigar factory in Tampa's Ybor City

A Tampa institution.

New York Times

A Tampa institution.

Remember this from the other day? Here's what Rubio had in this morning's paper:

When my grandfather was a young boy growing up in Cuba, he was afflicted by polio that permanently disabled his legs and rendered him incapable of working in the tobacco or sugarcane fields like most boys his age. Instead he was sent to school, where he learned to read and write and developed a lifelong passion for learning.

The opportunity to learn in Cuba opened doors for my grandfather that were closed to most, including one at a local cigar factory. Since he couldn't work in the fields but was able to read, he landed a job keeping the cigar rollers entertained during the workday by reading to them.

For more than 150 years, Tampa has been home to dozens of cigar factories just like the one my grandfather worked at in Cuba. This industry helped turn Ybor City into an enduring symbol of the cultural links between Tampa and Cuba while providing thousands of jobs to people trying to live the American Dream. So synonymous is this area with cigars that one of the rising stars of the city's emerging craft beer industry, Cigar City Brewing Co., pays homage to this identity with its name. Keep reading.

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Charm, vim and 'swagger,' thanks to fancy boxes in city centers

This is Adrienne Hatch. She's paying $1,330 for a 700-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment. In St. Pete!


This is Adrienne Hatch. She's paying $1,330 for a 700-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment. In St. Pete!

Three things I underlined in Drew Harwell's important story today on 1A:

1. "The younger generation, under 35, they don't want to own homes. They don't want a yard. ... They watched what happened (during the recession), watched their parents lose their houses," said John Stone, a managing director of multifamily housing for Colliers International, a real estate brokerage. "They have a different taste, a different value system. ... These kids are more than happy to pay $1,200 in rent to walk out their door and immediately go to their favorite bar, their favorite restaurant."

2. ... adding to what U.S. Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan called "the worst rental affordability crisis that this country has ever known." Tampa Bay renters are now spending more of their income toward rent than at almost any point in the past 30 years, a Zillow index found.

3. Rents here in June, real estate data site Trulia said, climbed 4.6 percent over the last year, a jump even higher than Portland or New York.

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Morning. Thursday already? Seven and then some.

1. ... possible cheating on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test at an elementary magnet school in St. Petersburg. Click.

2. From Forbes: Florida has crawled back from the depths of the recession and the  employment outlook is bright, particularly for the retirement enclaves in the southern part of the state. Leading the way is Naples, which is expected to have the fastest job growth rate among the 200 largest metro areas with an annual rate of 4.1% through 2016, according to Moody's Analytics.

3. Via the Washington Post's new Storyline: Florida has the most properties vulnerable to surging sea levels — nearly half of the country's at-risk roads and buildings.

4. So ... Miami Beach (ground zero of ground zero!) is proposing an 84 percent increase in storm water fees — the cost of keeping rising seas at bay — with more rises in the future.

5. Watch a rare corpse flower bloom in Loxahatchee.

6. Did you see the cover of Weekend in this morning's paper? Cameron Cottrill strikes again.

7. A new reality show about buying an RV? Really? Is that a good use of anybody's precious and finite time on this planet?

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'Such a mixed multitude,' Florida

Five things I underlined in Rollins College English professor Maurice J. O'Sullivan's piece in the current issue of the magazine of the Florida Humanities Council:

1. It may seem surprising that Florida's first poem was written in French -- as was our first novel, Atala (1801), by Francois-Rene, the vicomte de Chateaubriand -- but our state has always been both multilingual and multicultural.

2. When Rachel Jackson visited Pensacola to witness her husband Andrew take possession of Florida for the United States in 1821, she expressed her surprise about the residents in a letter to her friend Eliza Kingsley: "The inhabitants all speak Spanish and French. Some speak four or five languages. Such a mixed multitude, you, nor any of us, ever had an idea of."

3. ... today education professionals claim that students speak 301 languages in the state's schools.

4. That extraordinarily complex heritage has provided Florida with the oldest, most diverse, and, arguably, richest literary tradition in the United States ...

5. ... we should recognize that when England finally established its first permanent North American settlement, Florida already had a flourishing multilingual literary heritage ...

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Daily Beast sponsored content says it's 'Tampa Time' this summer but uses a photo of St. Pete

Not Tampa.


Not Tampa.

Melissa Lyttle noted the flub. Here's the ... piece of content:

Heat is an inescapable part of Tampa's essence, and while visitors this summer will sweat profusely, they'll also be out experiencing the rich, understated history, natural beauty, and one-of-a-kind food and drink of this fast-rising Southeastern metropolis. These suggestions will help you wring every last drop out of the season, guaranteeing you'll fall into autumn bursting with more knowledge about a place that is much more than the cigars and outrageous pirate parties that the rest of the world seems to know it by. Keep reading.

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Wednesday now. Seven and then some.

1. The news today on 1A: An estimated 931,000 Floridians could lose $4.8 billion in subsidies to buy health insurance if a federal appeals court decision Tuesday striking down a major part of President Obama's signature health care law is upheld. …

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See Florida?

Lights in the dark.


Lights in the dark.

Spotted this in "World in a Snap" in today's tbt*. The picture was taken by an astronaut on the International Space Station on July 15. The long glow is from Miami, says Phil Plait on Slate, but you can see where the people are over on our coast, too, from Naples on up and then across the peninsula on and around I-4.

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This sixth-grade 'dork' from Jupiter taught scientists something additionally scary about the already scary lionfish

Invasives! Lionfish! Here's maybe my favorite thing I've read so far today:

When 12-year-old Lauren Arrington heard about her sixth-grade science project, she knew she wanted to study lionfish. Growing up in Jupiter, Fla., she saw them in the ocean while snorkeling and fishing with her dad.

Her project showed that the lionfish can survive in nearly fresh water. The results blew away professional ecologists. The invasive species has no predators on the Florida coast, so if they were to migrate upstream in rivers, they could pose a threat to the ecosystem.

"Scientists were doing plenty of tests on them, but they just always assumed they were in the ocean," Lauren, now 13, tells NPR's Kelly McEvers. "So I was like, 'Well, hey guys, what about the river?'" Keep reading.

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Lauren Groff in Oxford American on the mermaids of Weeki Wachee

I mentioned the piece here last month when the magazine showed up in the mail. Looks like now you can read it for free. Worth the click. …

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What we talk about when we talk about invasive species is ... Florida

Jeff Fobb with a python.


Jeff Fobb with a python.

17 things I underlined in this week's Time magazine cover story on invasive plants and animals:

1. "Removing a huge portion of all the mammals from the Everglades is going to have a dramatic impact on the ecosystem," says Michael Dorcas, a snake expert at Davidson College. "But right now we don't have anything that can significantly suppress the python population."

2. A quarter of the wildlife in South Florida is exotic, more than anywhere else in the U.S., and the region has one of the highest numbers of alient plants in the world.

3. ... Florida is America's soft underbelly when it comes to invasives.

4. ... during any 24-hour period, some 10,000 species are moving around in the ballast water of cargo ships ...

5. Add in climate change, which is forcing species to move as they adapt to rising temperatures, and it's clear that the planet is becoming a giant mixing bowl, one that could end up numbingly homogenized as invasives spread across the globe. "The scale and the rate is unprecedented," says Anthony Ricciardi, an invasive-species biologist at McGill University, who calls what's happening "global swarming." …

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Here are three quotes from the story about cigars and Ybor City and Tampa on the front of this morning's New York Times

Following the Times' Susan Thurston's story from earlier this month. Here's the NYT piece.

1. "When the cigar industry relocated to the Ybor City area, it basically transformed the economy of the state from agriculture to industrial."

2. "It goes to the heart and soul of Tampa. This would be a blow to our cultural history to have the last remaining cigar factory close."

3. "Cigars are to Tampa what wine is to Napa and automobiles are to Michigan."

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