Saturday, February 24, 2018
News Roundup

Finding beauty and virtue amid the noise of everyday life

When things look the darkest it is natural for us to look the hardest for slivers of light.

We find them, or they us, at strange and unexpected times, and they don't arrive with flashing lights and bugle fanfares.

Sometimes we have to watch and listen.

My son, Sean Holland, died Oct. 24 at 47 after a long and courageous battle with cancer. His wife, mother, stepfather and I were at hand. There were tears, hugs and great towering waves of anguish for all of us.

I mention this primarily because I wrote about his illness a couple of months ago, and was touched by the kind responses from readers and friends, but also in part because of something that happened a few nights before his death while I was staying in a Gainesville motel room between visits at Haven Hospice, Shands at the University of Florida and his home.

Disgusted by endless campaign advertising and talking heads filling airtime with droning discussions about what they don't know, I switched to a favorite, The Daily Show, for a lighter touch.

Host Jon Stewart was interviewing Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling and, not being a big Harry Potter fan, I wasn't paying rapt attention other than that due from any writer when another writer who has made more than a $1 billion with more than 450 million books in print is speaking.

But then I heard what she had to say about why she has chosen to "stay and pay," and I perked up.

Rowling could be living somewhere like Belize or Monaco, where there are no income taxes. Instead she chooses to live in her native United Kingdom where tax rates that pay for the kind of social system abhorred by some Americans are massive.

Don't ask me how massive. Like most Americans, I can't figure out a 1040, much less the ins and outs of a complex system that provides government paid health care and "benefits," as the British call them, for the poor. I feel comfortable saying she pays millions in taxes.


Because at one time in her life, Rowling said she was "as poor as it is possible to go in the UK without being homeless."

She wrote for seven years without knowing if any of her books would ever be published.

She stays and pays because she feels she owes it to those who are less fortunate.

"I owe," she said. "My country helped me. There were places in the world I would have starved."

In a week of bellicose bellowing about entitlements, she spoke of obligation.

The second uplifting message came from my friends Molly Moorhead and her husband, John Sessa. She is a reporter for Politifact and he is an expert bicycle mechanic who works for an international racing team.

Molly and John were at a wedding in Port Townsend, Wash., for a rider on the team.

They noticed that the best man's girlfriend was hearing impaired and were impressed that he was signing other people's words and the wedding ceremony to her.

But more impressive was that the best man's friends, including the groom, had also learned sign language in order to be able to communicate with her.

Some, Molly noticed, were spelling words out in sign language.

They had learned the American Sign Language alphabet and not just a few signs, meaning they had gone to a lot of effort.

"It's hard to imagine a greater display of love and friendship," said Molly, tearing up as she told me the story.

So there you have it: a billionaire writer who feels obligated to reach back and help those who are now where she once was (what Stewart called " a perfect example of government making a good investment") and a group of friends, on a bride's special day, going out of their way to make the best man's girlfriend feel welcome.

These are, perhaps, not earthshaking examples. Maybe they lack drama, but please know this.

I am touched and moved that I have friends who have friends like the guests at that wedding — and who are smart enough to know when they are in the presence of grace.

And, though never a fan (not a detractor, either, just not a fan) of the Potter books, I have purchased Rowling's new book, The Casual Vacancy.

I am buying it partly because it deals with the social milieu from which she came. And I am buying if for the same reason I bought The Satanic Verses in 1988 when the Ayatollah Khomeini ordered that author Salman Rushdie should be murdered over content he said was blasphemous. Frankly I never understood it, but buying it was a matter of principle.

And I know I am quoting Linda Loman, from Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman, out of context, but it still fits.

Sometimes, especially when the universe is throwing more minuses than pluses at you and something makes you smile, "Attention must be paid."

Police: Man, 60, arrested for fleeing from fatal Largo pedestrian crash

Police: Man, 60, arrested for fleeing from fatal Largo pedestrian crash

LARGO — A 60-year-old man who police said was the driver in a fatal pedestrian hit-and-run on East Bay Drive from three days prior was arrested by Largo Police on Saturday, the department said.Victor Bonavita was arrested on three charges in relation...
Updated: 3 minutes ago
Sheriff: Roads reopen after Tampa crash results in natural gas leak near Citrus Park Mall

Sheriff: Roads reopen after Tampa crash results in natural gas leak near Citrus Park Mall

TAMPA — Officials reopened roads near Citrus Park Mall Saturday evening that had been closed in the afternoon for a natural gas leak caused by a car crash, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said. The Sheriff’s Office and Hillsborough County Fi...
Updated: 26 minutes ago

boca ratonState lawmakerencourages Scott to remove sheriffA lawmaker is calling on Florida Gov. Rick Scott to remove Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel from office after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. In a letter sent to ...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Two airlinescut ties withNRA aftershootings

The National Rifle Association lashed out at corporations rushing to abandon it on Saturday, as companies from United Airlines to Best Western have cut ties with the gun lobby organization.Without context, twin announcements from Delta and United air...
Updated: 1 hour ago

‘Up to States’ to armteachers, Trump tweets

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump appeared Saturday to begin refining his proposals for combatting school violence, tweeting that arming teachers as a deterrent against such often deadly violence — an idea he championed in recent days — is "Up to S...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Security Council demands30-day cease-fire in Syria

Security Council demands30-day cease-fire in Syria

UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a resolution Saturday demanding a 30-day cease-fire across Syria "without delay" to deliver humanitarian aid to millions and evacuate the critically ill and wounded. U.N. humanitarian ch...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Updated: 2 hours ago
Call her more than just a survivor

Call her more than just a survivor

TAMPA — On the quiet morning of Oct. 8, 2011, a 30-ton freight truck ran a stop sign in the small town of Clinton, Conn.It ran over Colleen Kelly Alexander, who was riding a bicycle.The truck's front wheels crushed her, then spit her to the bac...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Police: Male motorcyclist crashed, then the driver was run over by two cars

Police: Male motorcyclist crashed, then the driver was run over by two cars

TAMPA — A male motorcyclist died early Saturday morning on the Courtney Campbell Causeway, the Tampa Police Department said.About 1:35 a.m., the victim rode his motorcycle west on the Courtney Campbell at high speeds, police said. The motorcycle stru...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Northeast High alumnus Jon Mott wins 3rd Gasparilla 15K crown

Northeast High alumnus Jon Mott wins 3rd Gasparilla 15K crown

TAMPA — Roughly 20 minutes into Saturday morning's Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic 15K, reigning champ A.J. Richmond glanced over his left shoulder to former college teammate Jon Mott and flashed a quick hand signal."He was telling me that t...
Updated: 6 hours ago