Survivors of the Florida School for Boys return to the site of legal kidnapping, torture and murder of children


Mother Jones has published a heartbreaking story about the survivors of the Florida School for Boys; children who were, basically, kidnapped by southern cops and sent to a hellhole where backbreaking labor, torture, and murder were the order of the day. A state court has finally given the go-ahead to exhume the graves of the children who were killed and buried in anonymous, unmarked graves by their jailers. The survivors returned for a press-conference, but found themselves with almost no press to speak to.

Mike Mechanic writes, "Johnny Gaddy, 68, still doesn't understand how he landed at Florida's Dozier reform school. When he was 11, the police showed up at his front door. 'They told me the judge wanted to talk to me,' he recalls. 'I'll never forget it as long as I live. I was watching 'The Lone Ranger' on TV. My mama said, 'The officer going to take you down, the judge going to talk to you.' I said, 'Mama, why's he going to talk to me?' She said, 'Go ahead.' He took me to the police station, told me to get in a cell. I never saw a judge. I wasn't sentenced for anything as far as I know. I was handcuffed all the way to Marianna.'

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Pensacola bans sheltering from weather with blankets or newspapers

This week, the city of Pensacola, FL will vote on an "anti-camping" ordinance that makes it a crime to protect yourself from the weather with a blanket or a newspaper. Its intention is to criminalize homeless people, but, of course, it also makes criminals out of anyone who holds a newspaper over her head in the rain. Cory 48

Miami Gardens police arrest black man for trespassing 56 times -- at the store where he works


In the city of Miami Gardens, outside of Miami, FL, the police use aggressive campaigns of stop-and-frisk and absurd arrests to bolster their records, to the great detriment of the African-American majority who live there. For example, a young man named Earl Sampson has been stopped by Miami Gardens police 258 times; they've searched him more than 100 times; and they've arrested him for trespassing 56 times. He's never been convicted of anything apart from simple possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Sampson's trespassing arrests occurred at his place of work, a convenience store called the 207 Quickstop; Sampson was repeatedly arrested for trespassing there, over the loud objections of his employer, Alex Saleh, who owns the store, and who explained to police that Sampson was not trespassing in his store.

When Saleh gathered video evidence that showed the police had falsified their arrest reports and violated the rights of his customers, he was targeted for police harassment, including falsified vehicle stops and personal threats. Saleh is suing for federal civil rights violations, alleging that Miami Gardens police "routinely, under the direction of the city’s top leaders, directed its officers to conduct racial profiling, illegal stops and searches and other activities to cover up illegal misconduct."

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The REAL reason the Florida Haunted Mansion's elevators go up


On the always-amazing Passport to Dreams Old and New, a fantastic piece of detective work about the evolution of the Walt Disney World Haunted Mansion. FoxxFur starts with the observation that the traditional story about the Florida stretch rooms going up (unlike the California Mansion, whose stretch rooms descend) is that the water table was too high to permit a descent, but quickly demolishes that. From there, she undertakes some remarkable detective work in exploring the inspiration and thinking that went into the Florida Mansion's design.

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No one harmed in Whac-a-Mole/Rock-a-Fire band warehouse explosion

Thankfully, no humans were harmed by last week's explosion in Aaron Fechter's warehouse in Orlando, FL, but it did leave "robots scattered around burning rubble."

Fechter invented both the Whac-a-Mole machine and the animatronic, coin-operated Rock-A-Fire robot musicians who delighted audiences in Chuck-E-Cheeses around the world. Lately, he had been experimenting with carbohydrillium, a cleaner-burning alternative to propane, which was apparently the culprit in yesterday's explosion. His warehouse was described by one witness as a "Joker's lair," and a video tour posted to YouTube shows it full of computer models, animatronic creatures, and carbohydrillium gear.

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Guy who preemptively shot his BBQing neighbors says that self-defense includes killing people who pose "imminent" danger, like Saddam and drone-victims

You know how Obama and GWB's spin-doctors redefined "imminent" (as in "we attacked pre-emptively to prevent an imminent attack")? Well, if it's good enough for the Prez, it's good enough for Florida's neighbor-shooting yahoos. The yahoo in question is William T. Woodward, whose lawyer argues that he shot his neighbors while they were having a backyard barbecue because they were going to attack him. Eventually. Which is to say, imminently. And that, argues Mr Woodward's lawyers, is just self-defense as defined in Florida's "Stand Your Ground" laws.

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Sinkhole opens 'neath holiday resort complex near Disney World

A 15-foot-deep sinkhole opened beneath a vacation condo complex near Walt Disney World in Florida, partially devouring a pair of three-story buildings above it. Some 35 people were successfully evacuated from the buildings at Summer Bay Resort, 10 minutes' drive from the Disney property. One building is still sinking.

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Florida bans computers

Florida tried to ban Internet Cafes that were functioning as unlicensed casinos, but may have banned smartphones and computers instead, due to language that defines slot machines as "any machine or device or system or network of devices" that can be used in connection with games of chance. I question the legitimacy of shutting down all Internet Cafes in the first place, but this is clearly an overbroad definition, as has been pointed out in a suit challenging the law, brought by an Internet Cafe owner in Miami -- ironic, as Florida is the state whose law once took over 100 words to precisely define "buttocks."

Carl Hiaasen's Bad Monkey


Rejoice! For Carl Hiaasen, author of the funniest crime novels in the business, bar none, has a new book out! Bad Monkey has just arrived on shelves and it is every bit as hilarious as you could hope -- I spent the weekend reading choice bits aloud to whomever I could grab, and giggling noisily to myself when no one was around. This is vintage Hiaasen, which is to say it is absurdist, gross, human, sexy, weird, and as Floridian as a styrofoam snowman despoiling the Everglades.

Summarizing Hiaasen's many plot-threads and twisty-turns is a mug's game, but here's his publisher's synopsis:

Andrew Yancy—late of the Miami Police and soon-to-be-late of the Monroe County sheriff’s office—has a human arm in his freezer. There’s a logical (Hiaasenian) explanation for that, but not for how and why it parted from its shadowy owner. Yancy thinks the boating-accident/shark-luncheon explanation is full of holes, and if he can prove murder, the sheriff might rescue him from his grisly Health Inspector gig (it’s not called the roach patrol for nothing). But first—this being Hiaasen country—Yancy must negotiate an obstacle course of wildly unpredictable events with a crew of even more wildly unpredictable characters, including his just-ex lover, a hot-blooded fugitive from Kansas; the twitchy widow of the frozen arm; two avariciously optimistic real-estate speculators; the Bahamian voodoo witch known as the Dragon Queen, whose suitors are blinded unto death by her peculiar charms; Yancy’s new true love, a kinky coroner; and the eponymous bad monkey, who with hilarious aplomb earns his place among Carl Hiaasen’s greatest characters.

Which captures some of the spirit of the story, but what's missing is the fantastic satisfaction of reading a new Hiaasen, wherein the most baroque and evil villains and foils each get some form of karmic retribution that is both wildly unlikely and, in hindsight, inevitable. Hiaasen's a master of the revenge fantasy who makes the rest of us look like amateurs. And despite this -- or perhaps because of it -- he still writes some of the best, most likable antiheroes in the business, and Andrew Yancy is no exception. Lucky us, there's a new Hiaasen! Now, to begin the long, agonizing wait for the next one!

Bad Monkey

Previous Hiassen reviews:

* Star Island

* Basket Case

* Nature Girl

Horrifying clown statue deep in the woods


This horrifying clown mannekin was reportedly placed on a hiking trail deep in the Oleta River in Aventura, Florida by a park employee who got it from the Enchanted Forest Elaine Gordon Park in North Miami.

If you went hiking through Oleta River in Aventura Florida last year, you probably shit your pants a couple miles in. (imgur.com)

Simpsons land coming to Universal Studios Florida

Universal Studios Florida is opening a Simpsons themed area this summer. It'll mostly consist of facades and restaurants serving food inspired by the horrible cuisine of Springfield, as well as a pair of rides:

The expansive, new area within Universal Studios will be anchored by the mega-attraction, The Simpsons Ride, and will allow guests to enter the world of The Simpsons like never before. It will be the only place in the world where guests can walk the streets of Springfield. It will include a brand-new outdoor attraction, places and foods pulled right from the show and two new Simpsons characters who will make their debut with the new area – Krusty the Clown and Sideshow Bob.

And yes – there will be Duff Beer, brewed exclusively for Universal Orlando.

For the first time ever – anywhere – fans will be able to walk down Fast Food Boulevard and visit the places that helped Springfield stake its claim as “Shelbyville by the Sea.” They will be able to grab a Krusty-certified meat sandwich at Krusty Burger, snatch the catch of the day at the Frying Dutchman, get a slice at Luigi’s Pizza, go nuts for donuts at Lard Lad, enjoy a “Taco Fresho” with Bumblebee Man and imbibe at Moe’s Tavern. The new attraction – called Kang & Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl – will take “foolish humans” on an intergalactic spin designed to send them into orbit.

Springfield Comes to Life at Universal Orlando This Summer

Florida polo tycoon has difficulty adopting his 42-year-old girlfriend in order to keep assets away from bio-kids, ex-wife, family of guy he killed in a hit-and-run

A Florida polo tycoon named John Goodman has hit a hitch in his plan to adopt his 42-year-old girlfriend so that his kids and ex-wife won't be able to keep him from writing her into his will. The court says he failed to disclose important information, but there's no word on whether that will have have any bearing on his manslaughter appeal stemming from his conviction for a drunken hit-and-run killing in 2010, or on his apparent plan to keep his assets from the family of the dead man by transferring them to his girlfriend/daughter.

What an enterprising gentleman Mr Goodman appears to be.

A Florida appeals court ruled yesterday that John Goodman (not the actor John Goodman, the Florida polo tycoon John Goodman, who founded something called the International Polo Club) committed a fraud on the court when he failed to notify it, or the opposing parties in a pending lawsuit, about his plan to adopt his girlfriend and thereby give her access to a substantial trust fund. The trust was one in which "all Goodman's children were to share equally," so if his girlfriend also became his child … you get the idea. The "Adoption Agreement" also gave the girlfriend/daughter almost $17 million in additional assets plus an unlimited right to ask for more money from the trust, not a bad right to have if you can get it.

This concerned Goodman's two existing children and his ex-wife for obvious reasons, and also bothered the parents of Scott Wilson. Wilson died in 2010 after a car accident involving Goodman, who was allegedly drunk at the time. The accident knocked Wilson's car into a canal, whereupon Goodman suddenly remembered some polo tycoonery he had to take care of, and, to use a legal term of art, he skedaddled, without even calling 911. Wilson died. Goodman was convicted of DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide and sentenced to 16 years in prison, but is out on bail pending appeal.

What's the Point of Being a Polo Tycoon If You Can't Adopt Your Girlfriend?

Pirate radio station jams keyless entry system

A mysterious string of keyless entry malfs in Hollywood, FL were resolved when police was discovered a 24-hour pirate Caribbean music station that was inadvertently jamming the car-fobs.

For months, dozens of people could not use their keyless entry systems to unlock or start their cars whenever they parked near the Hollywood Police Department. Once the cars were towed to the dealers, the problem miraculously disappeared.

..."How do you like them potatoes?" said Mannolie Disantos, a manager at a nearby Radio Shack where several stranded car owners flocked when their electronic keys failed, only to learn their key batteries weren't dead after all. "We were blaming it on the police. The police were blaming it on the courthouse. We didn't know what was going on."

Like I say every time my kid busts the string used to run her mittens through her jacket sleeves, intermitten problems are the hardest to diagnose.

Pirate radio jammed keyless car entry systems [Susannah Bryan/Sun Sentinel] (via /.)

Voter suppression: targeting the poor, the old, and students


The Atlantic's Andrew Cohen describes the seven-hour early voter lines at polling stations in Democratic strongholds like Miami, where Republican officials like Governor Rick Scott has reduced the number of early voting days, making it harder than ever for working people with marginal incomes to vote.

When the remaining restrictions were challenged in federal court, a George W. Bush appointee said there was no proof that the reduced hours would "impermissibly burden" minority voters. How many hours in line must a Florida voter wait before the burden upon her becomes an "impermissible" one? If Florida's election officials, and its Republican lawmakers, and its state and federal judges, all were required to stand in line for seven hours to vote those long lines would go away forever. You know it, I know it, and so do those officials.

How about Ohio, another "battleground" state governed by partisan fiat. Its election rules are administered by a secretary of state, Jon Husted, who just a few years ago was the GOP speaker of the state house. Like their counterparts in Florida, Ohio's Republican lawmakers sought to restrict wildly popular early-voting hours around the state. And again the federal courts blunted the impact of their new rules. So what has Husted done? He's focused his energy this weekend ginning up ways to justify discarding provisional ballots cast by his fellow citizens.

These are just two recent examples. There are more. But they all have a few core things in common. In each instance, elected officials are making it harder for American citizens to vote and to have their votes counted. And in each instance, the partisan restrictions are designed to impact the elderly, and the poor, and students. The Constitution gives power to the states to handle elections. But what we are seeing is one party's systemic abuse of that power to disenfranchise likely voters of another party. Don't believe me? Let's go to the videotape.

In Pennsylvania, House Majority Leader Mike Turzai was caught on tape this summer boasting about his colleagues' success: "... First pro-life legislation -- abortion facility regulations -- in 22 years, done. Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done." In Ohio, the Republican Party chairman of Franklin County, which includes Columbus, was even more blunt. Doug Preisse said, "I guess I really actually feel we shouldn't contort the voting process to accommodate the urban -- read African-American -- voter turnout machine."

No One in America Should Have to Wait 7 Hours to Vote (via Waxy)

(Image: It's a long, long line to vote early today here in Columbus, Ohio., by finneganlatimes/Michael Finnegan )

Billionaire timeshare CEO to employees: there'll be fewer jobs around here if Obama is re-elected


David Siegel, the billionaire CEO of the highly profitable Florida-based Westgate Resorts timeshare company, has sent a letter to all his employees implying that they'll all get fired if Obama is elected. Concerning Mr Siegel, ThinkProgress notes "Siegel earned national notoriety this year for his quest to build the biggest house in America, 'a sprawling, 90,000-square-foot mansion inspired by Versailles.'"

As most of you know our company, Westgate Resorts, has continued to succeed in spite of a very dismal economy. There is no question that the economy has changed for the worse and we have not seen any improvement over the past four years. In spite of all of the challenges we have faced, the good news is this: The economy doesn’t currently pose a threat to your job. What does threaten your job however, is another 4 years of the same Presidential administration. Of course, as your employer, I can’t tell you whom to vote for, and I certainly wouldn’t interfere with your right to vote for whomever you choose. In fact, I encourage you to vote for whomever you think will serve your interests the best.

However, let me share a few facts that might help you decide what is in your best interest.

[...]

So where am I going with all this? It’s quite simple. If any new taxes are levied on me, or my company, as our current President plans, I will have no choice but to reduce the size of this company. Rather than grow this company I will be forced to cut back. This means fewer jobs, less benefits and certainly less opportunity for everyone.

Billionaire CEO Threatens To Fire Employees If Obama Wins (via Wil Wheaton)