Monday, December 03, 2007

FLORIDA DIGEST December 3, 2007

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A new generation of sites ease travel planning

The Associated Press
December 2, 2007

Planning a winter vacation?

There's a whole new collection of Web sites for savvy travelers. Some areaggregators, following the successful model of, which pulls datafrom a variety of sources so you can compare airfares. Others combine socialnetworking and consumer reviews, such as Some are improvedversions of old favorites, like OrbitzTLC Traveler Update, which allowstravelers to share information about conditions at more than 40 airports inthe U.S.

Here is a guide to some of the new or reincarnated sites, with one importantcaveat: Some of these sites do not yet offer the comprehensive database ofreviews and information available on older sites like TripAdvisor. connection to the defunct fashion Web site): Offers travel reviews fromconsumers, search capabilities for 2,500 destinations in 170 countries,comparison hotel prices, and booking through boo or hotel Web sites.Includes restaurants, bars and other interesting things to do in chosendestinations. An online booking agency for international air travel withflight and fare options to about 190 countries. Allows travelers to enterpreferences for connecting airports and travel time. Also has informationabout obtaining visas, passports and immunizations. Combines user-generated reviews, meta-search capabilities,and social networking (think TripAdvisor plus Kayak plus Facebook) forpersonalized hotel recommendations and booking at the best prices.Personalizes hotel searches via three categories: "Ambience," "Activities,"and "Recommended For," such as a romantic hotel near the beach for gays andlesbians. Users can create custom groups, or become members of existinggroups, such as marathon travelers, to exchange stories, tips andrecommendations. Connects you to the Web site with the best price forbooking from among 120,000 hotels. Searches up to 12 travel Web sites, including Orbitz,Kayak, Expedia and SideStep. Users click on each site's logo at the top ofthe page for the results., a subsidiary, allows users to search two travel sites at the same timeand places the results on a split screen.

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Ken Jenne's case shows justice is hardly blind

December 2, 2007

What a refreshing thought about justice in Broward County. For poor people,as well as those with no contacts to powerful attorneys or judges, "Don't dothe crime if you can't do the time" is the motto.

However, for those such as Ken Jenne, with the in-crowd of judges, attorneygeneral, and in short, connected folks, the motto young people and otherslearn from Jenne as well as Judge Dimitrouleous is: "Do the crime and youwon't get time."

In essence, the federal judge helped a local criminal (as the former top law enforcement officer of a huge county) teach a young generation not only thatcrime pays well, but also that it doesn't hurt at all. In fact, as he wasled away from the courthouse, Mr. Jenne's last public act was to laughheartily as he got away with a short vacation in a minimum security countryclub for crimes the ordinary citizen would serve five to 15 years. No wondercrime is out of control. This is the new generation of "different levels ofjustice" depending on who one is. And I thought justice was blind?

Will De Salazar


Property tax portability rewards longtime residents
Your place in housing chain would determine savings

By Paul Owers
December 2, 2007

Cynthia Pelton's timing was terrific.

The retired fundraiser from New York City paid $225,252 for a house in thegated Ponte Vecchio development west of Boynton Beach in early 2003 as SouthFlorida's housing market was flourishing.

Her three-bedroom home with arched doorways and Roman columns on a quietcul-de-sac quickly soared above $300,000 in market value, but she pays taxesas if it's worth much less.

Pelton, a recent widow, now wants to sell and buy a more expensive propertyin Highland Beach with higher taxes. Under a Florida lawmakers' proposalscheduled to go before voters in January, she and other residents on themove could carry with them accrued tax savings up to $500,000. For Pelton,that would mean about $2,600 less in taxes for the first year in her newhome.

This so-called portability is one part of a new tax plan that also wouldincrease the existing $25,000 homestead exemption to about $40,000 and captaxes for businesses and second-home owners. The package needs the approvalof at least 60 percent of voters on Jan. 29 to take effect.

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Wilton Manors:

Cong. Etz Chaim Celebrates Hanukkah, Honors New Members (Dec. 7)

Congregation Etz Chaim, a South Florida Reform Synagogue for GLBT Jews andtheir friends, will Celebrate the feast of Hanukkah and recognize its newmembers during Friday Night Services on December 7 at 8:30 p.m. RabbiHarold Caminker and Cantorial Soloist Michael Greenspan will lead a livelyholiday service and the Membership Committee will recognize the new members.The Service will be followed by a festive Latke Oneg, sponsored by the CECMen's Club. Congregation Etz Chaim is located at 1881 N.E. 26 Street inWilton Manors. For more information or RSVP contact Jules at 954-288-8174or

BREAKING NEWS: Community singing group, 'in HARMONY," under the direction of Randall Leonard, will perform at Congregation Etz Chaim's Hannukah Service on Friday, December 7. Members of "in HARMONY" will sing three songs from the group's Hannukah repertoire.


Miami Herald

Broward commissioner to pay $15K ethics fine

Posted on Sat, Dec. 01, 2007

Broward County Commissioner Diana Wasserman-Rubin will pay a $15,000 finefor violating Florida ethics laws, after state ethics commissioners decidedFriday that the penalty she agreed to in an earlier deal was ``a slap on thewrist.''

Wasserman-Rubin originally offered to pay $1,000 to settle a 2005 complaintthat she broke state ethics laws when she voted on grant applications herhusband, Richard Rubin, had written for Southwest Ranches.

State ethics investigators say those votes -- cast on a 2003 landpurchase -- resulted in a $15,000 bonus for Rubin. Florida ethics law sayselected officials cannot vote on issues that financially benefit themselvesor an immediate relative.

On Friday, the Florida Commission on Ethics rejected the proposedsettlement, explaining that a $1,000 fine seemed like a ''slap on thewrist'' for an experienced public official like Wasserman-Rubin.

''They felt it was more a more serious violation than $1,000 wouldindicate,'' said commission spokeswoman Kerrie Stillman.

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Miami Herald

Science standards reviewed

Posted on Sat, Dec. 01, 2007

Two years ago, an influential national think tank concluded in a scathingreport that Florida's science standards that outline what students need toknow to be well-grounded in the subject were sprawling, superficial anddeserving of a big, fat F.

Amazingly, the Fordham Institute noted, the standards didn't even mentionthe word ``evolution.''

Fast-forward to now.

Proposed standards are more focused and better organized. They not onlymention evolution, they dub it a ''big idea.'' And this time, they get athumbs-up from the chief author of the Fordham report.

''Much better,'' said biologist Paul Gross, a former provost at theUniversity of Virginia, who reviewed the draft at the request of the St.Petersburg Times.

more . . . .


Palm Beach Post

Graduation rates exceed state's average

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 01, 2007

Treasure Coast graduation rates outpace the state's, with Martin Countyclaiming the second-best statewide, according to state data released Friday.

About 91.2 percent of Martin County teenagers who began ninth grade fouryears ago graduated as part of the Class of 2007, compared with about 72.4percent statewide, according to data provided by the Florida Department ofEducation and Gov. Charlie Crist's office.

Only Brevard County had a higher rate, with 92.1 percent.

St. Lucie County's graduation rate was 75.4 percent, an improvement fromlast year's rate of 72.7 percent. In 2004, the rate was 79.5 percent.

"We've got a ways to go, but we're making progress," St. LucieSuperintendent Michael Lannon said.

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St. Petersburg Times

Graduation gap gets wider
School officials here dispute the state's figures. Across the bay, educatorsare beaming.

Published December 1, 2007

Hillsborough schools have a bigger concentration of poor kids than Pinellasschools. They have a far greater percentage of minority kids. Their teachersaren't as well paid.

So, could it be true that Hillsborough has a high school graduation ratethat is a whopping 15 percentage points better than the district across thebay?

According to the state, yes.

Figures released by the state Department of Education on Friday showHillsborough had a 79.1 percent graduation rate last year, putting it No. 21among 67 counties, but tops in Tampa Bay and first among the state's sevenbig urban districts.

Meanwhile, Pinellas' reported rate of 64.5 percent is not only one of theworst in the state (it ranks 59th), it's the third consecutive year the ratehas dropped.

more . . . . .


St. Petersburg Times,0,2808001.story?coll=sfla-news-broward

Haitian-Americans fault report on spreading of AIDS
Many feel stigmatized again by new research tracing spread

By Ruth Morris
December 1, 2007

Haitian-Americans are calling for an independent review of an AIDS studythey say again stigmatizes them in the spread of HIV.

Activists, lawyers and health workers say the new research, based on geneticanalysis of blood samples from three early Haitian patients in SouthFlorida, could bring back discrimination they endured in the early 1980s. Atthat time, health officials singled out Haitians as being at increased riskfor the virus that causes AIDS and banned them from donating blood.

The controversy around the new study - by evolutionary biologist MichaelWorobey of the University of Arizona - overlaps with the good news last weekthat HIV is actually less prevalent globally than originally thought, andwith World AIDS Day, which is observed around the world today.

But Haitian-Americans in South Florida say the Worobey report reopens an oldwound.

"My initial reaction: This is just more of the same," said Jeff Cazeau,president of the Haitian Lawyers Association, of the Worobey study.

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Property Tax

Portability Calculator,0,4976747.flash?coll=sofla_tab01_layout



No hurricanes may mean more tourists

December 2, 2007

One more reason to like slow hurricane seasons: The tourists don't stayaway.

Florida tourism rose 4.8 percent, to 21.1 million people, during the thirdquarter. With a struggling housing sector, we can use all the help we canget these days on the economic front.

The one downer in the tourism figures is that international travel remainssoft. It's been that way since tighter security measures were enacted afterthe Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. As a result, international travel to theUnited States is off by 20 percent over the past six years, and Florida hasfelt its share of the pain.

That means we need to value our domestic visitors even more - and ournon-event hurricane seasons, too.


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