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Zika Cases Likely Happened Domestically in Florida

July 29th, 2016 by flanews

Four people in South Florida likely have the first local and non-travel related Zika cases in the country.  As Matt Galka tells us, containment is now the state’s top priority.

Governor Rick Scott broke the news Friday morning, one woman and three men from South Floridaare the first people in the country to get Zika in the states.  The infections occurred in a one square mile area north of downtown Miami.  State officials are confident they can manage the virus based on past results.


“We’ve seen many types of mosquito born viruses such as chikingunya imported to our state, and we’ve been successful in limiting local transmission to small numbers,” said Surgeon General Dr. Celeste Philip.

State funds are being allocated to the areas main bloodbank to start screening for Zika.  The virus poses the greatest risk to pregnant women so the state is coordinating with women’s healthcare providers to give out Zika prevention kits.

The state has yet to find a mosquito that has tested positive for the virus.

Florida State University public health expert Dr. Chris Uejio says we will probably see more cases pop up.

“The most likely case is that we’ll continue to see these localized pockets of transmission of the Zika virus, transmitted locally during the sort of peak summer, early fall season in certain parts of Florida. That seems to be the most likely scenario,” he said.

But Floridians don’t need to panic. They just need to be prepared.

“This is not a let’s start freaking out moment, it’s definitely something that all together, all pitching in, looking out for each other and employing best practices we should be fine,” said Dr. Uejio.

The four people infected locally did not show any symptoms of the virus.

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DNC Not Gun Friendly

July 28th, 2016 by Mike Vasilinda

The Democratic convention in Philadelphia has seen a number of speakers, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, take on the NRA and gun rights. But as Mike Vasilinda tells us, such comments may not play well back home where the state is often called the gunshine state.

Calls to limit guns are getting plenty of applause from Democrats in Philadelphia.

Sabrina Fulton, the mother of slain teen Trayvon Martin spoke Tuesday night.

“This isn’t about being politically correct. This is about saving our children” said Fulton, who called herself an unwilling activist.

She was followed Wednesday by the mother of one of the Pulse Night Club victims, Christine Leinonen.

“Cristopher was my only child” said Leinonen, who appeared near tears.

Even Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn jumped on the bandwagon, telling delegates:
“I’m just concerned the Florida legislature pays more attention to the NRA leadership, Marion Hammer, and they should be paying attention to Mother Theresa. I’m a mayor. I see that carnage on the streets everyday.” Buckhorn is weighing a run for governor in 2018.

Ironically, Marion Hammer,  who’s  lobbied state lawmakers since the late 1970’s is a Democrat.

“I remain a Democrat” says Hammer “ so that’s its okay for other Democrats to know that it’s alright to love your country, to love freedom, to respect your flag.”

Hammer doesn’t always get what she wants. Two of her top priorities got bottled up in legislative committees this year. But she does get revenge. She helped keep one of those chairmen from becoming a judge.

Unified Sportsmen of Florida (NRA)

Hammer believes the anti gun talk won’t resonate with voters this fall. Especially in North Florida, where one candidate has even raffled off an AR-15.
On Thursday, the NRA posted it’s endorsements for the August primary, along with grades for everyone running for the legislature.

Democrats have generally voted no on expanding gun access in Florida. If you’d like to check how the NRA ranks your state lawmakers, you can find it here:  https://www.nrapvf.org/grades/florida/

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Scams Galore

July 28th, 2016 by flanews

It can be a helpless, frustrating feeling.  You get a call from the bank or look at your account and see weird charges or that all your money is gone…but you didn’t spend it. As Matt Galka tells us, fraud and scams just seem to be increasing in the state.

Greg Tish knows what it’s like to see charges on his credit card…that he didn’t make.

“I guess they just wanted a nice little vacation so they charged a hotel room up in Philadelphia,” he said.

Unfortunately, it’s a common thing in Florida. The state leads the nation in credit card fraud complaints, with the number of complaints more than doubling since 2011.

“It’s very nerve racking to think that, at any moment, there’s someone looking to scam you, somebody looking to take what you’ve worked so hard for and to make it their own,” said Tish.

But credit card schemes aren’t the only headaches the state has to deal with. Whitney Ray with the Attorney General’s office says Florida lawyers are now being targeted by an impostor scam.

“They were claiming that the Attorney General’s office had a complaint against their business, and they had a link that we believe to be malware,” said Ray.

The best advice; if an email seems suspicious, don’t click anything.

“If your information, if you’ve given  your information to a company, if you’ve done business online, then you are at risk of becoming a victim of identify theft or credit card theft, so it’s important to always check your statements, put an alert on your card, check your credit score,” said Ray.

The attorney general’s office has already received more than 50 complaints from Florida lawyers since Wednesday night.

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Do Not Call List Tops One Million, but the Phone Keeps Ringing

July 27th, 2016 by flanews

The phone rings, you pick it up, only to be solicited by a business or telemarketer. As Matt Galka tells us, the state is celebrating a milestone for the list that’s supposed to be helping end those pesky phone calls, but many Floridians are saying there’s a disconnect.

Amy Reznik signed up for the Do Not Call list hoping to stop the telemarketers from making the phone ring.  But they’re still calling.

“It’s very annoying,” she said.

Reznik is unfortunately one of many Floridians that pick up the phone only to be pestered by a real person…or a robot.

‘The robo calls almost sound like a human, but you know that it isn’t a human because you give them a response and it’s not appropriate,” said Reznik.

We even got one at the office while working on the story. The Department of Agriculture says more than one million Floridians have their names on the Do Not Call list, with more than 900,000 signing up since fees went away in 2012.

“Florida’s Do Not Call list is the most effective way to get rid of some of those calls, but some people still might receive calls. There are exemptions to the law, if you’ve recently done business with somebody, or charitable organizations are allowed to reach out,” said Department of Agriculture Press Secretary Aaron Keller.

Do Not Call list violations routinely top the list of consumer complaints into the Department, but they say they’re doing they’re part. They gave us a list of the companies they’ve fined in the past year, some multiple times, totaling more than one million dollars. But, so far, they’ve been able to collect just under $97,000 dollars.

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Medical Marijuana is now for Sale

July 26th, 2016 by Mike Vasilinda

The first legal medical marijuana sale took place in the State Capitol today. Trulieve, the north Florida licensed grower sold the fist low THC marijuana to Dallas Nagy. Nagy got several doses delivered over the weekend and picked more up ion the store today. Nagy suffers from a Parkinson like disease. His caretaker, Joann Bravata says the initial response has been positive.

“It’s gonna help him relax. He’s very nervous. He’ll be able to think clearly because of a lack of sleep.  He’s in a lot of pain,you know, medicines cause many different after effects. but with this, it’ll just calm him and there’s no bad side effects with this” says the caretaker.

Nagy himself says he’s glad to be the first to try the low dose cannabis.

“The first couple of nights I’ve been able to sleep. It relieves my cramping, what more can I say. it helps, and it gives other people like me hope” says Nagy.

Low dose THC does not produce an euphoria, but full strength THC goes on the market in August for terminally ill patients.  Current law does not go as far as what would be legal if voters approve Amendment 2 on the November ballot.

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The Ballots are in the Mail

July 26th, 2016 by Mike Vasilinda

Today was the first day for elections Supervisors to mail out mail in ballots for the August 30th Primary. So far, more than two million ballots have been requested. In the State Capitol, Elections Supervisor Ion Sancho delivered more than 20 thousand ballots to the post office.

“This is the largest number of mail ballots for an initial mail out ever done, and that indicates to us that we’re going to have an unprecedented fall cycle of elections” says Sancho.

Supervisors have until the end of the week to make the first bulk mail drop. Ballots are due back in six days before the election.

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Algae Delivered to Rick Scott

July 26th, 2016 by Mike Vasilinda

Governor Rick Scott got a special delivery of algae from the east coast of Florida today from Congressman and US Senate Candidate Patrick Murphy. Murphy says Scott wouldn’t come see for himself, so Murphy brought the algae to the governor.

“We have repeatedly called on the Governor to come down and visitor district to see this first hand and the governor has refused to see it. so, I decided I wanted to come to Tallahassee and deliver this bottle of toxic algae to the Governor to make sure he sees exactly what we are dealing with on a day to day basis” Murphy told reporters.

For his part, Rick Scott wasn’t in the office. He was in Orlando announcing new jobs.

Algae Delivery00000004

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Environmental Regulation Commission Approves More Chemicals in Surface Waters

July 26th, 2016 by Mike Vasilinda

Big agriculture, dry cleaners and wastewater treatment plants are among those who would all benefit from a state plan approved on a three to two vote today. It allows more toxic chemicals to be dumped in our surface waters. As Mike Vasilinda tells us, the presence of some chemicals could triple.

Environmentalists waived signs for an hours outside the building named for Florida’s  greatest environmentalist, Marjorie Stoneman Douglas.:

As proposed, Florida would regulates 39 new chemicals for the first time

The plan also allows higher rates of the regulated substances in drinking  and surface waters, but Tom Frick from the Department of Environmental Regulation says someone who eats a lifetime of fish exposed to the higher level of chemicals would face a minuscule increased risk of cancer.

“The risk of cancer for an individual increases point 0001 percent” Frick told the ERC.

But adamant environmentalists don’t trust DEP or the Gubernatorial appointed panel making the decision. David Kern is a Legislative Candidate.

“You’re saying that benzene is going to be tripling. What I see happening her is the potential move to poison water bodies in the state of Florida” says Kern.

The chairwoman is a registered lobbyist for two of the states largest agricultural interests.

Environmentalists came into the room believing  the deck is stacked against them. That’s becauseTwo seats on this panel, one reserved for local governments and the other for environmental groups remain vacant.

Jim Parker brought his grand daughter because he believes what happens here could affect her life.

I’m 70 years old so I don’t have the decades that they spoke about dealing with this issues, but she certainly does.”

The water standards were last set in 1992. DEP has been working on the update for the last four years.

Environmentalists have 21 days to appeal any action taken by the ERC.

Toxic Water00000006

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Requests for Mail In Ballots Surge

July 25th, 2016 by Mike Vasilinda

Elections supervisors across Florida will begin putting more than two million domestic mail in ballots in the mail tomorrow, which is the first day they ballots can legally be mailed. Supervisors are reporting a 15 to 20 percent increase in ballot requests this election. Karen Williams at the Leon County Elections Supervisor’s Office says they have been working for more than a week to get the ballots out.

“We have to print and individualize an envelope for all of our vote by mail requesters and make sure they get their assigned ballot style and instructions and then we verify. So once everything assembled, we do a quality assurance check, and check every single ballot package to make sure it is accurate. Then we have to seal all of them, so the whole process takes about a week.”

Ballots can be returned up until six days before the August 30th Primary.

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First Pot Sales Begin One Day Early

July 25th, 2016 by Mike Vasilinda

Florida’s first medical marijuana dispensary opened earlier today in the state Capitol without fanfare. As Mike Vasilinda tells us, the opening follows the first delivery of low THC over the weekend to a Pasco County man.

Trulieve opened it’s doors at 8 AM Monday, a day early.

Nat sot: “High there!”

We were met at the door by Frank Feliciano.

Q:”How many patients have you seen so far?”

A:”None so far”.

Just a couple on inquires?

“Yep, people inquiring.”

One of the curious is retired Army veteran Carey Carpenter.

“Do you anticipate going to a doctor?”

Yeah, I’m a veteran. I did two years in Iraq and the way the system is going now, they’re trying to make CBD legal for veterans. Trying to get off prescription medication, so just trying to see what my options are” says the Army Vet.

Over the weekend, Truelove delivered the first low THC to a Pasco County man He suffers from a Parkinson’s like disease. This picture shows the cannabis oil being put on cracker for oral consumption.

Trulieve’s Medical Director first agree to talk with us, then said he couldn’t.

To receive the low dose THC, patients must have it ordered by a qualified doctor. So far, just 81 doctors across Florida have completed the 8 hour course.

Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers told us last week the products are tightly controlled.

“There’s very specific…we have to track every product from seed to sale” says Rivers.

The company expects to begin offering high doseTHC products for terminally ill patients in August. A recommendation from two doctors is  required for high dose THC.

The Company plans a 2 pm news conference on Tuesday.

Six growers are authorized to deliver their products anywhere in Florida. The Florida Department of Health says only five patients have so far been certified to receive the low dose marijuana. When the program expands in August, as many as 7 hundred thousand people are expected to qualify for its use.

Absentee Ballot00000001

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Do Police Need Better Training to Recognize Autistic Individuals?

July 22nd, 2016 by Mike Vasilinda

The shooting of a Miami behavioral specialist by a police officer while trying to calm an autistic man points to a lack of training for police dealing with someone who is autistic, say experts in the field. But, as Mike Vasilinda tells us, efforts to increase police training have gone nowhere two years in a row.

This video of a police officer shouting for an autistic man to lay down fell on deaf ears. Autism expert Victoria Zepp says the man sitting had no idea what he was being asked to do.

Q:“How important is it that police officers get additional training in recognizing someone who is on the spectrum?”

A:”It’s criticalIt’s critical for every single community because the individuals in a community have to feel like they can trust their police department. I mean I see a police officer and I thank them for their service, you know, and I also say, have you had any training in autism?”

The answer is usually no.  Florida currently spends 67 dollars a year on each officer for training and retraining.

Efforts to provide additional training for police to deal with autistic individuals has failed two years in a row, because of cost.

Lawmakers did pass a bill this past session that requires police to allow experts in the room when they are interviewing an autistic individual.

“I think what people need to know is that they’re aren’t good guys, bad guys in the process. it’s about education” says Advocate Zepp.

Sheriff Mike Woods says better training will help officers re-earn respect they appear to have lost.

“There are circumstances like that that aren’t necessarily with evil intent, but when you have a lack of training, a lack of preparation, these things occur.”

280 thousand Floridians, or one in every 68 of us, shows up on the autism disorder spectrum.

autism training for police00000006

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One day record for New Zika Cases

July 22nd, 2016 by Mike Vasilinda

Congress is on vacation as Florida investigates what could be two cases of Zika potentially originating from mosquito bites here in the state. The state is also reporting 19 new cases of travel related Zika infections today, a one day record increase since daily reports began. Congresswoman Gwen Graham says the failure to fund a fight against Zika is an example of why people are unhappy with Congress.

“This was an example of the Congress not doing what we should do to provide the funding to provide the resources to those here on the ground for mosquito eradication efforts, and working hard with research and development to find a vaccine, particularly now that we found one case of local transmission, which is very scary because its the potential for an epidemic.”

The state has not yet determined if the two cases, one in Miami Dade and the other in Broward counties did indeed result from people being bitten by a mosquito in Florida.

zika update

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Panic Buttons for Classrooms

July 22nd, 2016 by Mike Vasilinda

panic buttonSchool districts could receive grants of up to two hundred thousand dollars to install classroom panic buttons under legislation introduced by Congresswoman Gwen Graham. The one term representative says there is still time for congress to act on her Securing our Schools legislation before the school year starts and says if the buttons are good enough for Congress, they ought to also be in schools.

“I thought if members of Congress can have a security button under their desks, it would be something that would be beneficial to out teachers and students and everyone at our schools across the country to have a similar button” says Graham.

Graham says how the systems would work would be up to individual districts without creating a one size fits all program. The grants would come from the Department of Justice.

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Possible Florida Transmitted Zika Case Being Investigated

July 21st, 2016 by Mike Vasilinda

More than three hundred people have been diagnosed with the Zika Virus in Florida. All of them,so far, contracted the disease traveling abroad, but as Mike Vasilinda tells us, state and federal health agencies are investigating what they believe may be the first mosquito bite transmitted case in the state.

The state’s zika update shows 28 Florida counties have someone who’s been infected with Zika. the list does not include the home county for 46 infected pregnant women. Those infected are in counties the make up the vast majority of Florida’s 20 million residents.  Until now, all of the infected contracted Zika while traveling abroad. But while providing few details, the state now acknowledges it is investigating what could be the first non travel related case in the state.

Documents given to the federal government show it is two to three times more expensive to treat an area like this after a mosquito has infected someone with Zika, than it is to get rid of the mosquitos before hand.

What state health officials are looking at is unclear.

Glen Pourciau runs the mosquito control operation in the state Capitol.

Q:”If there were a case, you would immediately go in and clear the area of mosquitoes, Is that right?”

A:”Yes that’s the general plan. These mosquitoes tend to be weak fliers. They would travel usually two hundred yards.”

In extreme cases, aerial spraying would be deployed” says Pourciau.

“If we had multiple cases of locally transmitted, then the only way to respond, quickly enough, would be an aerial spraying program.”

Zika is usually transmitted by the bite of a mosquito, but it can also be spread through sex, blood transfusions, or exposure in a laboratory.

Florida has been told it will soon receive an additional 5.6 million dollars from the Federal Government to fight Zika. Calls and emails to the Department of Health asking how the money would be used and the status of the case under investigation went unanswered today.

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Lawsuit Filed by FSU Library Worker

July 21st, 2016 by Mike Vasilinda

An FSU library worker on duty in November 2014 when a gunman shot three people is suing the university for ignoring her trauma. Paige McFadden was on duty at the entrance of the library when the gunman entered, shot her co worker, then pointed the gun at her and pulled the trigger. She escaped injury when the gun did not fire.

“I feel like the University has forgotten about me. that’s it. they haven’t me at all. I don;t think they took into considerate the effects it would have on me mentally and emotionally” says the former library worker.

The interview with McFadden was conducted on the one year anniversary off the shooting. FSU says it did reach out to the victims of the shooting with trauma assistance and noted that McFadden only attended one of the classes.


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