Pensacola newspaper editorial board condemns censorship of Little Brother

An unsigned editorial in the Pensacola News Journal decries the decision of a local high-school teacher to cancel the school's One School/One Book summer reading program to stop students from reading my novel Little Brother. They point out that the principal violated school procedures when he took it upon himself to unilaterally cancel the assignment, and that this is both inappropriate as an educational matter and from the perspective of free speech and free inquiry. It's a great editorial, and it rightly emphasizes the bravery of English department head Mary Kate Griffith, who has fought valiantly over this issue. Read the rest

National anti-censorship orgs protest cancellation of Little Brother summer reading program

Last week's news that the principal of Pensacola, FL's Booker T Washington High School had cancelled its One School/One Book summer reading program rather than have his students read my novel Little Brother has alarmed several national anti-censorship organizations, led by the National Coalition Against Censorship. Their open letter to the principal of BTWHS, signed by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, the National Council of Teachers of English, the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, the American Booksellers Federation for Free Expression, the Association of American Publishers, and PEN American Center, discusses the legal and moral duty of educators to put challenging material in front of their students.

I'm immensely grateful to these organizations and especially the NCAC for their support, and I really hope that the principal reconsiders his decision and that I can have a chance to discuss the admittedly challenging themes and scenes in Little Brother with his students in the fall. Read the rest

Why I'm sending 200 copies of Little Brother to a high-school in Pensacola, FL

The principal of Booker T Washington High in Pensacola FL cancelled the school's One School/One Book summer reading program rather than letting all the kids go through with the previously approved assignment to read Little Brother, the bestselling young adult novel by Cory Doctorow. With Cory and Tor Books' help, the teachers are fighting back.

US Marshals raid Florida cops to prevent release of records of "stingray" surveillance

US Marshals swept into the offices of police in Sarasota, Florida to whisk away records related to operation of "stingray" surveillance tools that the ACLU had requested. The records detailed the farcically low standard for judicial permission to use a stingray (which captures information about the movements, communications and identities of all the people using mobile phones in range of them), and is part of a wider inquiry to their use without a warrant at all -- at least 200 Florida stingray deployments were undertaken without judicial oversight because the police had signed a nondisclosure agreement with the device's manufacturer and they decided that this meant they didn't have to get warrants anymore.

The ACLU has seen a lot of shenanigans in respect of its campaign to document the use and abuse of stingrays, but this is a cake-taker: "We’ve seen our fair share of federal government attempts to keep records about stingrays secret, but we’ve never seen an actual physical raid on state records in order to conceal them from public view." Read the rest

Upside-down coffin filled with medieval weapons discovered in wooded area

A Deputy Sheriff from De Leon Springs, FL, responded to a report of an upside-down coffee in a wooded area. He arrived on the scene, overturned the coffin, and discovered that it was full of replica medieval weaponry, which News 13 enumerates in eye-watering detail: Read the rest

Florida nixes concealed carry for the zombpocalypse

Florida state senator Dwight Bullard thought that a proposed bill to legalize carrying concealed firearms during disaster evacuations was an incredibly stupid idea. So he proposed an amendment to rename the bill "An act relating to the zombie apocalypse." Both the bill and the amendment failed to pass the state legislature.

If you're serious about killing zombies, you don't want a gun, anyway. You want one of these. Read the rest

Miami Crimestoppers head eats a tip rather than hand it over to defense lawyer

Richard Masten is the executive director of Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers, a service that promises anonymity to the people who send in tips on serious crimes. So when a judge ordered him to hand over a tip -- with potentially identifying information -- to a defendant's lawyer, he ate it.

As Lowering the Bar points out, this is probably more of a symbolic gesture than a real defense of his source's anonymity, since there's likely a file-copy at Crimestoppers itself. Masten is going back to court this week to receive a punishment from the judge: "I'll bring a toothbrush and some pajamas." Read the rest

Florida set to delete Hampton, a town with a questing, rent-seeking, corrupt wang

Hampton, Florida is a town so corrupt that it offends the Florida Legislature, a body with a notoriously high tolerance for sleaze. With fewer than 500 inhabitants, Hampton's major source of revenue is a diseased, questing wang that it has protruded from its main mass onto a 0.2 mile stretch of Highway 301 -- a stretch where the speed limit dips from 65 to 55. Hampton's hard-working traffic cops write an average of 17 tickets a day against out-of-towners, clearing $419,624 in 2011 and 2012. However, the town also operated at a deficit during this time. Read the rest

Florida sheriff arrests mayor on drug charges: "This isn't Toronto"

Barry Layne Moore, erstwhile mayor of Hampton, Florida, has been arrested for possessing and selling Oxycodone. Upon arresting him, Bradford County Sheriff Gordon Smith quipped: Read the rest

Miami police choke 14-year-old and hurt his puppy after receiving 'dehumanizing stares'

Police in Miami-Dade slammed a 14-year-old child on the ground, then placed him in a chokehold. Why? Because he gave them a "dehumanizing stare." When asked about his puppy, injured during the arrest, Miami-Dade Police Detective Alvaro Zabaleta told CBS: "We are not concerned with a puppy. We are concerned with the threat to the officer." [Miami New Times] Read the rest

Giant snails invade Florida

"One female can produce 1,200 eggs a year and they eat stucco" [Gizmodo] Read the rest

Dave Barry's Insane City

Dave Barry's Insane City is a tremendously fun novel that romps through a Miami full of grifters, pimps, thugs, sweet-hearted beachbunnies, honorable men with pythons, seductive women with spiked drinks who'll rob you blind, dope-sniffing dogs and the cops who handle them, and a girl-crazed orangutan.

Enter Seth Weinstein, who is about to marry Tina, a woman beyond his wildest dreams: beautiful, rich, brilliant, principled -- the daughter of a powerful, uptight billionaire, who has been brought up to seize her goals and never back down. Which is a far cry from Seth, who is a loser who tweets about feminine hygiene products for a marketing company that pays him to astroturf unintentionally humorous consumer packaged goods.

Seth, Tina, and their friends and family descend upon Miami for the wedding. But a comedy of errors, each more improbable than the last, soon has Seth in custody of a refugee from Haiti and her two small children, as well as an angry stripper and her muscle, and the aforementioned man-with-python and sweet-hearted beachbunny. It's a long story, but at least he's doing better than his groomsmen, who have been robbed of everything (including, for one gentleman, all his clothes including his underwear) and dumped on Miami beach.

Though the characters here are stock figures from central casting, the plot is an insane, glorious hairball of best-laid-plans gone wrong, a cross between Fawlty Towers and Weekend at Bernies, building to a crescendo that had me literally hooting with laughter on an airplane. Dave Barry is a funny man. Read the rest

Genital-kicking woman arrested

In an unbylined report, the Bradenton Herald reports that a Florida woman accused of kicking people in the genitals was charged Tuesday with battery: "The foot pursuit ended with Collins allegedly turning and punching the deputy, causing his sunglasses to fall off." [via The Awl] Read the rest

A closer look at that freaky, giant fish eye

Last week, Mark told you about a giant eyeball that washed up on the beach in Florida. Today, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission released their preliminary analysis of who that eyeball once belonged to and how it likely ended up becoming the temporary toast of the Internet.

The Deep Sea News blog called it last week, but the official word from the experts is that this was the eye of a swordfish. The distinction is based on the size, the color, and the fact that there are bits of bone present around the edges (something you wouldn't see attached to a giant squid eye).

How do you get a swordfish eye without a swordfish attached? Simple: It's swordfish season. In the press release, Joan Herrera, curator of collections at the FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg, said that, "Based on straight-line cuts visible around the eye, we believe it was removed by a fisherman and discarded."

But before we pack this mystery away, I think you should take one more close look at the giant eyeball, because it offers a great view a really interesting feature of fish eye anatomy. Fish eyes are similar to those of land-dwelling vertebrates. But there are some key differences. In particular, the shape of the lens... Read the rest

The Shuttle Shokunin, and Kennedy Space Center's 50th anniversary

Discovery launch. Source: NASA.

This past weekend, I accompanied Miles O'Brien to the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy Space Center. In attendance were present and past KSC directors, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, astronauts and space heroes of all eras—from Thomas Stafford to Cady Coleman—and many of the so-called "pad rats" who built spacecraft from the Apollo era through the Shuttle era. Miles delivered an amazing speech dedicated to those pad rats.

If you're familiar with traditional Japanese craftsmanship culture or you've seen the film Jiro Dreams of Sushi, you'll know why he calls them "The Shuttle Shokunin."

Read the rest

Scientology's "Hole" - alleged torture-camp for high-ranking execs who fell out of favor

The Village Voice has a haunting, well-sourced account of "The Hole," where upper echelon Scientologists who have fallen into bad odor with the group's leader are imprisoned under inhumane conditions and tortured.

Debbie Cook was in for only 7 weeks in 2007, but her experience was brutal. She testified that Miscavige had two hulking guards climb into her office through a window as she was talking to him on the phone. "Goodbye" he told her as she was hauled off to the gulag. Like Rinder, she described a place where dozens of men and women were confined to what had been a set of offices. Cook testified that the place was ant-infested, and during one two-week stretch in the summer with temperatures over 100 degrees, Miscavige had the air conditioning turned off as punishment. Food was brought up in a vat riding on a golf cart. Cook described it as a barely edible "slop" that was fed to them morning, noon, and night. Longtime residents of the Hole began to look gaunt.

They had to find places on the floor or on desks to sleep at night. Rinder said there were so many of them they slept only inches from each other, and having to get up in the middle of the night was a nightmare of stepping over sleeping figures in the dark.

In the morning, they were marched out of the offices and through a tunnel under Gilman Springs Road to a large building with communal showers. They were then marched back to the Hole, and during the day would be compelled to take part in mass confessions.

Read the rest

Elderly gentleman shoots armed robbers at Internet cafe in Florida

This surveillance video clip shows 71-year-old Samuel Williams thwarting an armed robbery at an internet cafe in Marion, Florida on Friday, July 13, 2012. Williams, a licensed gun owner, may now become the poster child for those who support "concealed carry" rights in the state.

Williams was present when two masked thugs walked into the Palms Internet Cafe in Marion County, Florida. One of the men was brandishing a gun while the other had a bat. They started ordering patrons around and one smashes a computer screen. That's when Williams took action.

Williams was seated toward the back of the cafe dressed in a white shirt, shorts and baseball cap. One of the masked men, identified as Duwayne Henderson, 19 [at left in photo], comes in pointing a handgun at customers. The second man, Davis Dawkins, 19 [at right in photo], is seen swinging a bat at something off screen, which was later identified as a $1,200 computer screen.

As Henderson turns his back, Williams pulls out a .380-caliber semi-automatic handgun, stands from his chair, takes two steps, nearly drops to one knee, and fires two shots at Henderson, who bolts for the front door. Williams takes several more steps toward the door and continues firing as Henderson and Dawkins fall over one another trying to exit the building. The two eventually run off screen.

Both suspects received non-life threatening gunshot wounds, and were later captured by police. Williams will not face any charges, according to a rep from the State Attorney's Office (via Joe Sabia). Read the rest

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