REVEALED: Key figures in Florida GOP's ‘ghost’ candidate scandal had a business relationship

ORLANDO, Fla. — Frank Artiles, the former Republican lawmaker accused of bribing a spoiler candidate to run in an important South Florida state Senate election, had a business relationship with the political consultant behind an advertising campaign that boosted that candidate and similar ones in two other races — including one in Central Florida, records released Friday show. Emails and invoices obtained by prosecutors show that Artiles was working as a $5,000-a-month contractor for Let’s Preserve the American Dream, a politically active nonprofit with ties to the business-lobbying group Asso...

Disney World to require all guests to wear masks indoors starting Friday

If you’re going to Disney World, you will have to mask up. Starting Friday, Disney guests will have to wear masks while indoors and on resort transportation, regardless of vaccination status. Face coverings are optional when outside, and visitors younger than 2 will not be required to wear a mask. The updated guidelines, announced by the theme park Wednesday night, are in alignment with the CDC’s latest recommendations on mask wearing following a nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases due to transmission of the delta variant. On Tuesday, the agency updated its guidance to urge fully vaccinated peo...

DeSantis blames ‘quote-unquote experts’ for public distrust of COVID-19 vaccines

Gov. Ron DeSantis wouldn’t commit to holding more events promoting COVID-19 vaccinations and blamed public distrust of “experts” as the main reason why more people haven’t gotten inoculated in Florida. His comments came as the virus is booming again in the state and across much of the United States. Asked what he would do to raise Florida’s fully vaccinated population beyond the current 54% of people 12 and older, DeSantis didn’t answer the question, saying instead it was important not to be overly critical of people who don’t want to get the shot. “I do not agree with ... some of these quote-...

Another massive explosion off Florida hits 3.9 on Richter scale

ORLANDO, Fla. — The United States Geological Survey measured another incident off the coast of Florida on Friday that hit 3.9 on the Richter scale. It listed it as “experimental explosion” located about 100 miles northeast of Daytona Beach. It’s the same rating that happened on June 18 when the Navy set off a test explosion near its new aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford. That one came from a 40,000 pound explosive that shook the cameras filming the event, the first of several planned Full Ship Shock Trials. It’s a new aircraft carrier that’s going through the final steps needed before t...

Nowhere in US can minimum wage afford a ‘fair market rent’ 2-bedroom home; Florida among worst states for affordability

For the second year in a row, a group studying the chasm between declining wages and soaring rents found that nowhere in the U.S. can a minimum-wage worker afford a two-bedroom apartment at the fair market rent. In its signature Out of Reach report released this week, the National Low Income Housing Coalition determined that a full-time hourly worker would need to earn $24.90 an hour, more than three times the $7.25 federal minimum wage, in order to afford a $1,295-a-month rental home. That’s the average “fair market rent” in the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Deve...

4 out of 10 employers will fire employees for not returning to office: survey

ORLANDO, Fla. — Employers responding to a survey about remote workers say they will fire employees if they don’t return to the office. A new survey from Digital.com shows employers and employees are not on the same page when working from home. Digital surveyed 1,500 small business owners. 50% of employees said most workers worked on-site full-time, 18% had a hybrid schedule for in-person/remote working. 38% said they had a primarily remote workforce and, as such, were eliminated from the rest of the survey. According to the survey, a large portion of employers wants employees back in the offic...

Biden administration says Florida’s teacher bonus plan may violate COVID-19 relief money rules

ORLANDO, Fla. — Florida’s plan to use federal COVID-19 relief money to give classroom teachers and school principals $1,000 bonuses may have hit a snag. The U.S. Department of Education, in a letter this week, told Florida education leaders their bonus plan looks likely to conflict with federal requirements that the money help address student “learning loss” brought on by the pandemic. That could derail the state’s effort to spend nearly $216 million on bonuses for about 180,000 teachers and about 3,600 principals. The problem, first reported by Politico Florida, was detailed in a letter the f...

Central Florida rescue crew receive hero’s welcome after week working Surfside collapse

ORLANDO, Fla. — More than a dozen rescue vehicles carrying about 40 members of Urban Search and Rescue Task Force IV drove along 36th Street were welcomed Saturday by a crowd of relatives, friends and a massive American flag displayed over the road despite the drizzling rain and humidity. “I can’t see daddy? Where is daddy?” said two children as they ran after the vehicles to meet with their father. Others followed suit, chasing down and embracing their loved ones on Saturday afternoon, more than a week after the task force — comprised of first responders from Orange, Seminole and Lake countie...

Suspect accused of shooting Daytona police officer arrested, has ties to militant group, officials say

Authorities apprehended the suspect accused of shooting a Daytona police officer early Saturday morning. The Daytona Beach Police Department announced Othal Wallace, who was involved in the attempted murder of Daytona police officer Jason Raynor last Wednesday, was captured at 5:00 a.m in a property near Atlanta, GA. Wallace, 29, was hiding in a tree house in a property associated with a Black nationalist paramilitary organization called the No F-ing Around Coalition, DBPD Chief Jakari Young said in a press conference this morning. “In the tree house with Wallace were also multiple flashbangs,...

2 children test positive for COVID-19 on Royal Caribbean cruise ship

Royal Caribbean reported that two children tested positive on this week’s sailing of Adventure of the Seas. The ship sails out of the Bahamas, and was the first by the cruise line to return to business in North America, requiring vaccines for those eligible. Both positive results, which came after the required routine testing ahead of disembarkation, were for unvaccinated guests under the age of 16. The two were immediately quarantined with one showing mild symptoms and the other asymptomatic, according to a press release. Members of their travel party, who are all vaccinated, tested negative,...

President Biden signs bill designating Pulse nightclub a national memorial

President Biden signed into law Friday the bill designating the site of the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, as a national memorial, according to the White House. “Just over five years ago, the Pulse nightclub, a place of acceptance and joy, became a place of unspeakable pain and loss,” Biden said. “And we’ll never fully recover, but will remember. ... May no president ever have to sign a monument like this.” Biden was joined at the White House by First Lady Jill Biden, survivors and family members of the victims of the June 2016 shooting, as well as Florida Congress members and members of...

VA is taking first steps toward offering gender-confirmation surgeries, McDonough announces

ORLANDO, Fla. — The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is taking the first step toward providing gender-confirmation surgeries through its health care network, Secretary Denis McDonough announced at a Pride Month event in Orlando Saturday — a historic move he said is simply “the right thing to do.” Vowing to create a “safe and caring” environment for all veterans, McDonough cited the need to overcome a “dark history” of discrimination against LGBTQ military service members. The rule-making process needed to fully approve and implement coverage of gender-confirmation surgery can take two years...

Armed at Disney World: More tourists caught with concealed guns during pandemic

ORLANDO, Fla. — Planning to go to a firing range later, Mustafa Alameen, an Iraqi immigrant, said he forgot he had 100 rounds of ammunition and a handgun in an otherwise empty stroller when he arrived at Disney Springs this year. The 21-year-old stepped through the security detector and when an alarm went off, he realized his mistake. But it was too late, and he was arrested. Disney World, the biggest theme park resort on the planet, has seen a spike of people arrested and charged with carrying concealed firearms over the past year, despite being closed for months and operating at reduced capa...

DeSantis’ much-touted Florida EVerify immigration law snares no one

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Private employers in Florida have been required to use E-Verify, a federal system for checking the legal status of a potential hire, since the start of the year. But there have been no complaints made to the state agency in charge of enforcing the law in the five and a half months it’s been in effect. A Department of Economic Opportunity spokeswoman told the Orlando Sentinel there have been no complaints and no enforcement measures taken against any employers since the provisions affecting private businesses took effect Jan. 1. The lack of tangible enforcement within the ne...

Demings needs to punch back against Rubio to win, experts say

ORLANDO, Fla. – The 2022 U.S. Senate campaign in Florida will be one of the most-watched races in the country, and Democrats are hoping they have a strong candidate in Val Demings who can overcome Marco Rubio’s advantages as a two-term incumbent in an increasingly GOP-leaning state. Demings, whose official Senate announcement was first reported in the Orlando Sentinel on Wednesday, has acknowledged she faces a tough task in unseating Rubio next year. Rubio’s South Florida base of Cuban Americans is a demographic that surged towards Republicans in 2020, giving former President Donald Trump a se...

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