Sunday, November 11, 2007

FLORIDA DIGEST November 11, 2007

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For candidates, the Internet holds promise and pitfalls

By Jose Antonio Vargas
November 11, 2007

Candidates use the Internet to generate buzz, draw grass-roots support andraise record amounts of money. But in the intense, round-the-clock world ofonline presidential campaigning, the good comes with the bad.

"The pool of negativity is much bigger, and it spreads virally," said MindyFinn, chief online strategist for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney'sRepublican presidential campaign. "The Web can be hateful."

Just ask Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y.

Sites such as and, funded by conservativeswho have followed her political career since the 1990s, are easilysearchable on Google. Unflattering online videos, including the "mash-up"page that portrayed the Democratic front-runner as an Orwellian Big Brother,are heavily viewed on YouTube. And Facebook, the online sociopolitical hubof the moment, is the unofficial capital of anti-Clinton country: One group,Stop Hillary Clinton, has more than half a million members, compared withthe nearly 51,000 who have signed up as supporters on her Facebook profile.It's the largest group on Facebook against a candidate.

The Web is often more effective than television advertising and direct mail,the traditional methods campaigns and independent groups have used to try todefine their opponents, political analysts say. It's cheaper and spreadsinformation more quickly. But so far, its potential for affecting apresidential campaign is untested.

more . . . . .


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Lure of sun and sea, plus strong Canadian dollar, bring snowbirds southFrench-Canadian residents fly in for sun, sea - and spending

By Thomas Monnay

South Florida Sun-Sentinel

November 11, 2007


As the town installs "Bienvenue" signs on Hallandale Beach Boulevard towelcome back its seasonal French-Canadian residents, Broward County tourismofficials expect to lure more of them than ever.

The reason is the "new strength of the Canadian dollar," according to NickiGrossman, president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & VisitorsBureau.

"We welcome them with open arms," Town Manager Bob Levy said. "They maintainthe economy.... They keep restaurants open. They're very active."PembrokePark is their main destination, although Hollywood, Hallandale Beach, DaniaBeach, Tamarac and Fort Lauderdale also draw large numbers. Each winter,Canadians double the population of 1.6-square-mile Pembroke Park from 6,000to 12,000 residents.

"I love it when they come," said Broward Sheriff's Deputy Melissa Fuller,who deals with Canadians at the town's mobile home parks. "They call me assoon as they get here and say, 'We're in town. What can we do to help you?'"

During the next six weeks, Grossman said, about 450,000 Canadian visitors,often called snowbirds, are expected to alight in Broward, a second homeduring the winter for many. Attracted by South Florida's warm weather andbeaches, they will pour almost $1 billion into the local economy, sheestimates.



Former Santaluces High School drama teacher's sex case raises questions,concerns

Sex allegations against teacher raise concern
By Scott Travis

South Florida Sun-Sentinel

November 11, 2007

He used his school's auditorium, restrooms and closets as settings forsexual liaisons with at least two of his theater students, his accusers say.

Drama instructor Andrew Foster once showed up in boxer shorts for playrehearsal at Santaluces High School, west of Lantana, his students said. Hewould take them on out-of-town trips, invite them to his Boynton Beachapartment and send X-rated cell phone pictures to female students, policesay. He impregnated one student and signed off on her abortion, according toa police report.

All the alleged activities happened for more than a year, from June 2006 toSeptember 2007, before he was caught. There were also allegations ofinappropriate behavior at a previous school in Indiana that didn't turn upin a background check.

Now Palm Beach County School District officials are examining what happenedin this case, and whether any procedures can be improved in the future.They're re-examining the effectiveness of their background checks, teachertraining and security measures. But Superintendent Art Johnson said thedistrict has strong policies already, and there are limits to what it cando.

"It doesn't matter how much we strengthen policies or increase the number ofcameras or security. If someone is bent on doing something inappropriate,you can find a way to do it," Johnson said.

Foster, 27, who is being held in lieu of bail, faces several charges inconnection to two girls, both 17 at the time of the relationships. Thecharges include unlawful sexual activity with a minor, child abuse andtransmission of pornography by electronic device. The South FloridaSun-Sentinel is not naming the girls.




FAU severance pay blunder shows policies need changing
South Florida Sun-Sentinel Editorial Board

November 11, 2007

ISSUE: State audit questions need for $500,000 FAU severance payment.

Florida Atlantic University President Frank Brogan made a colossal blunderwhen he quietly decided to slip ousted fundraising chief Lawrence Davenportnearly $500,000 in what could easily be perceived as hush money.

The public, who finances the school through tax money, and students, whohave the most to lose when such mistakes are made, suspected as much afterDavenport's March resignation. Last week's preliminary state audit, whichquestioned the wisdom, record-keeping and reasons behind the severancepackage, only makes that assessment more valid.

Brogan has said he pushed Davenport out because of differences in leadership philosophy and his tense relationship with the FAU Foundation fundraisingarm. But the audit points out that no paperwork was presented to documentany shortcomings.

Still, Davenport was given an extra two years' worth of pay - $495,661 ontop of the contracted severance of $82,291 - even though it wasn't calledfor in his contract, because he threatened to sue. But again, the universityoffered nothing in writing to back up the claim.



Home-builder executive assesses South Florida market
By Paul Owers

South Florida Sun-Sentinel

November 11, 2007

Three years ago, home builders held lotteries to deal with hordes ofpeople, mostly short-term investors, overwhelming their sales centers.Today, with housing markets crashing, builders practically beg for buyers.

"During the boom, you were developing strategies to manage demand," saidJill DiDonna, a vice president of Sunrise-based GL Homes. "Now your wholemodus operandi is trying to stimulate demand. It's come 180 degrees."

GL has grown substantially since beginning as a small local company in 1976.At the end of 2006, GL was ranked as the 36th largest builder in the nation,according to Professional Builder magazine.

The privately held builder also is one of the largest in Palm Beach andBroward counties and is feeling the brunt of the slump because its businessis concentrated in the Sunshine State. California, Nevada and Florida wereout front in the housing boom and now are leading the downturn.

GL, with revenue last year of $871.7 million and about 250 employees, buildshomes for young families and retirees in Broward, Palm Beach, Indian River,Lee and Hillsborough counties. About 35 percent of its business is thegrowing active-adult segment.

"People are still moving to Florida to retire, and retirees don't have timeto wait on the sidelines," said DiDonna, 37, in her 14th year at GL.



The Miami Herald

Posted on Sun, Nov. 11, 2007

Bush approval hits all-time low in Florida


Florida twice put President Bush into the White House, but a new poll showshim hitting an all-time low among voters in the nation's most populous swingstate.

The survey shows that voters are troubled by Bush's handling of the war inIraq, support withdrawing troops ''as quickly as possible,'' and areoverwhelmingly convinced -- 68 percent -- that the country is on the wrongtrack.

Just 33 percent of the state's registered voters rated Bush's job performance ''excellent'' or ''good,'' and 50 percent called his handling ofthe situation in Iraq ''poor,'' according to the poll conducted for TheMiami Herald, the Palm Beach Post, the St. Petersburg Times and Bay News 9.The survey has an overall margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentagepoints.

Voters, said Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway, who conducted the pollalong with Democrat Rob Schroth, ''are in a very sour, pessimistic mood''when it comes to the nation's fortunes.

Dampening the state's spirits appears to be Iraq: More than one in four ofthose surveyed said that ''managing the war in Iraq'' was the most importantissue for the president and Congress to resolve.

Controlling illegal immigration came in a distant second -- but placedhigher than the traditional hot-button issues of increasing access tohealthcare and tackling terrorism. Other concerns trailed, includingprotecting Medicare and Social Security and lowering energy prices.



The Miami Herald

Posted on Sun, Nov. 11, 2007

Clinton, Giuliani keep big leads in Florida; Romney overtakes Thompson for2nd


In an abrupt reshuffling of the Republican presidential race in Florida,Fred Thompson has tumbled from second to fifth place, while rival MittRomney has climbed into second place, a new poll shows.Rudy Giuliani isn't budging from the front of the line, according to thesurvey conducted for The Miami Herald and other media outlets.

Neither is Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton. While a conflict overFlorida's early presidential primary has brought Democratic campaigning inthe state to a halt, Clinton sits on a 24-point lead over her closest rival,Barack Obama.

Still, each leader's vulnerabilities -- Giuliani's lower ratings among womenand devout churchgoers, Clinton's narrower appeal among voters outside SouthFlorida and Tampa Bay -- mean that neither contest is a done deal. About onein 10 voters aligned with either party are undecided.

''A couple of good weeks of earned media or paid media, a misstep by acandidate, or a strategic decision to pull resources out of Florida and putthem elsewhere could really tip the balance,'' said Republican pollsterKellyanne Conway, whose company conducted the survey with a Democratic firm.``No one candidate can claim overwhelming primacy.''



St. Petersburg Times

Florida backs away from water deal

Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The state of Florida on Friday backed away from atemporary truce brokered by the Bush administration to help settle along-standing water war, now heightened by an ongoing drought, involvingFlorida, Georgia and Alabama.

In a letter to federal officials, Florida's environmental protection chiefsaid the state opposes an arrangement announced in Washington last weekunder which the Army Corps of Engineers would cut river flows into Floridaand Alabama in order to capture more water for Georgia.

The river reductions would cause a "catastrophic collapse of the oysterindustry in Apalachicola Bay" and "displace the entire economy of the Bayregion," wrote Michael Sole, secretary of the Florida Department ofEnvironmental Protection. He was referring to Gulf coast waters offnorthwest Florida.

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist raised no such objections at a press conferencein Washington last week, where Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne announcedthat the cuts would be implemented as the governors worked toward completinga longer-term pact by Feb. 15.



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