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Florida Live: Sunday, Sept. 27, 2009

Felons in Child Care

Sometimes it's more than a mask
[Wikemedia Commons]

You might assume that Florida law requires all employees at child care centers, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and other places where children and elderly people are cared for are checked for criminal backgrounds. You’d be right. That doesn’t mean the checks are either thorough or effective. A South Florida Sun-Sentinel investigation reveals that “Thousands of people with criminal pasts that include violent felonies and hurting children have been hired to work in Florida's child-care centers during the past two decades.” More specifically: Since 1985, according to a statewide government database, at least 2,400 people already were employed in child care before checks turned up their criminal records. “A Tampa man had this disturbing note in his screening record: "EVIL DUDE—RAPE+KIDNAP+SEX ASLT.” One problem is lag time. It takes an average of 45 days for individuals to be backgrounded. In an industry with 50,000 employees and high turnover, it can take up to two months or more. So felons could be on the job for weeks before their background comes to the attention of their employers—if it does. About 4 percent of hires fail the background check. But employers can be so desperate for help that they don’t wait for the results before hiring someone. A bill introduced in the Legislature this year would have required electronic fingerprinting submissions for all child-care employees. It failed.

NRA For Illegal Guns

The NRA's Viagra
[Wikemedia Commons]

The National Rifle Association is taking its defense of illegal guns to the threshold of city halls. Mayors Against Illegal Guns is a national organization started by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg three years ago to lobby for stronger laws (and enforcement of existing laws) against illegal ownership of guns. (“Our Mission,” the organization announces: “Support the Second Amendment and Keep Illegal Guns Out of the Hands of Criminals.”) You’d think no one but mad men and criminals would oppose the idea. You’d be wrong. The NRA is championing criminal gun ownership by organizing a pressure campaign against the 450 mayors who are, or were, members of the organization. In a matter of weeks this summer, the NRA, mobilizing its members to fire off mass emails to their local mayors, managed to get more than 50 spine-challenged mayors to drop their membership. Several mayors in Florida have dropped their membership, among them John Bush, mayor of Winter Springs, the Orlando suburb. "The e-mails I received were very simple. They didn't tell me I wasn't an idiot or anything like that," he told the NRA’s Cam Edwards. Ormond Beach’s Fred Costello is also in the NRA’s scopes. So far Costello is holding firm (see the News-Journal editorial). Others, not so much. The NRA is achieving its aim, which is not merely to bump off a few mayors from the organization’s roster, but to prevent new ones from joining.

Drilling Sideshow

Advocates of renewed oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico celebrate every time health care or Afghanistan or football dominate the headlines. It all adds up to a free smokescreen for their drilling—not yet in new areas of the Gulf, but in the wall of resistance to new drilling. The wall is beginning to crumble, as the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports:

  • The U.S. Senate narrowly last Wednesday defeated a surprise proposal to force the Department of Interior to fast-track more drilling as ordered by President George W. Bush in his last days in office.
  • A key House committee has begun debate on a energy bill that would put Florida in a regional planning group with pro-drilling states like Texas and Louisiana to decide where drilling would be allowed in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said last week that more than 450,000 people filed comments over a proposed five-year plan to increase offshore drilling, including along Florida's Gulf Coast.

Drillers want to start extracting oil within 10 miles of Florida’s shores, ending the 225-mile no-drilling zone in place now. See the full story. Bob Rackleff warns in the Tampa Tribune: “Before Florida goes back into offshore oil drilling, let's consider the mess our state leaders created the last time they aspired to be another Texas or Louisiana.”


Incredible humps
[Miami New Times]

Wearing little more than fish tails and shimmery green body paint that made them look like incredibly sexy hulks without the muscle tone, five topless members of PETA, the dreaded People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, spent Sept. 23 and 25 lying dead (and standing up) on sidewalks in the heart of Miami’s and West Palm Beach’s shopping and chowing districts. Their aim: to protest against the cruelty of killing fish for food or sport. (Hear that, Swords and Deadliest Catch fans?) Other PETA members held signs that read “Fishing Hurts” and “Gutted Alive.” As PETA put it, “fish are intelligent, sensitive animals who experience stress and pain when they are cruelly hooked or hauled up from the deep in commercial nets.” The organization isn’t making things up about intelligence: trout have been known to differentiate between live and fake bait, and no one would, or should, dispute the acumen of sharks or dolphins. (“The Hidden Lives of Fish” is instructive.) But PETA’s latest attention hook got nowhere. As the Miami New Times put it, “In any other city we’re sure this would cause a commotion. In Miami, this sort of stunt gets you a blank stare. The only eventfully thing to happen was when Miami police showed up to tell the protesters they couldn't be lying down on the sidewalk.” Fish Empathy Day was set for September 26. For more on the hidden angst of fish, see the curiously interesting web site,

Tebow Overdose

The leading story of most Florida newspapers Sunday? Florida University quarterback Tim Tebow’s minor injury, which had him leave the game late in the third quarter, by which time the Gators were up by a tubfull of points. It wasn’t as if the guy was unconscious. He walked off the field. Plus, he has health care. That throwing up on the sidelines afterward? Unrelated. With that many points under his belt it wasn’t a world-ending moment for the team. The Florida Times-Union was slightly more narcissistic with its lead story: “What If We Lose the Jaguars?” (The team’s home opener drew just 46,000 fans.) The Miami Herald’s top three stories? Tebow, Viorginia Tech’s victory over the University of Miami, and a preview of the Dolphins-Chargers game on Sunday. Those are the top concerns of Florida editors and, seemingly, their readers. And we wonder why the media’s credibility is at an all-time low.

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