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April 19, 2015

DOC scrubs testimony from prison whistle-blower for allegedly violating HIPAA

Doug GlissonThe Department of Corrections concluded that the name of an inmate should be erased from the video testimony of an whistle-blower at a Senate committee because of federal HIPAA privacy laws, an agency spokesman told the Herald/Times.

Doug Glisson, an inspector with the DOC’s Office of Inspector General, testified under oath at the March 10 meeting of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee that the agency covered up potentially negligent medical care, criminal activity and sabotaged investigations to protect high ranking officials within the organization.

Among the examples Glisson cited was the case of inmate Quintin Foust, whose death was listed as “suspicious” by the medical examiner. Glisson said Foust was “undergoing medical care” at Jefferson Correctional Institution but did not provide any details about his medical condition or ailments. He said Foust “started having seizures” and “wound up dying.”  

Glisson said he and his investigator believed that a criminal investigation should have been conducted of Foust’s death but was told by “upper management at the Office of Inspector General to close that criminal case” because of a “conversation he had had with the state attorney’s office and that we would run that case administratively.” 

Foust's cause of death is now listed as "natural" on the DOC web site. 

Some time after the Senate hearing, DOC concluded that Glisson’s testimony violated the federal HIPAA privacy rule, which protects individuals from disclosure of identifiable health information, said McKinley Lewis, DOC spokesman.  

Lewis then provided the time codes from the video to The Florida Channel and asked them to scrub the name references from the audio. 

"The department notified The Florida Channel that some of the information released violated federal HIPAA law,’’ Lewis said. “We have a responsibility to protect the personal health information of all inmates and staff.” 

Glisson has been under fire at the agency since he sought and was denied whistle-blower protection from Gov. Rick Scott’s chief inspector general, Melinda Miguel. Glisson attempted to alert Miguel of cover-ups within the Office of the Inspector General but she denied him whistle-blower protection. 

Lewis told the Herald/Times that Glisson was was stripped of his investigative post in February. He now has no access to DOC records and is also being investigated for violating agency rules, possibly including the alleged HIPAA violation. 

Continue reading "DOC scrubs testimony from prison whistle-blower for allegedly violating HIPAA" »

April 18, 2015

The Onion riffs on Marco Rubio

From The Onion satirical website:

Following similar announcements by Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) has become the third GOP candidate to declare his bid in the 2016 presidential race. The Onion breaks down what you should know about Rubio:

  • Campaign Slogan: “Laying the groundwork for 2020”
  • Campaign Strategy: Leverage Latino voter base, large-scale grassroots movement, death of Jeb Bush
  • Vision: Ready for America to reclaim strong conservative values held by 38 percent of its populace
  • Birthplace: Closed-door conservative think tank strategy session in 2010

More here.

Floridians can't believe Jeb Bush is being called moderate, according to Jeb Bush

@PatriciaMazzei

NASHUA, N.H. -- Florida remembers Jeb Bush as governor. And Bush knows it.

So the fact that he now has to defend his Tallahassee record across the country as a likely 2016 presidential candidate is amusing, he told Republican activists gathered Friday in New Hampshire. 

"The liberals in Florida are angry that people don't see me as a conservative outside of Florida," Bush said. He rattled off a list of his achievements -- cutting taxes, reducing the size of the workforce, boosting financial reserves -- and pushed back when a woman in the audience said the GOP isn't looking for someone who is "Republican in name only."

Bush asked her to "absorb" his record. "It's an I'm-not-kidding conservative one," he said.

Professor Marco Rubio makes New Hampshire appearance

IMG_4467

@PatriciaMazzei

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Professor Marco Rubio knows his way in front of a classroom full of college students.

So when Presidential Candidate Rubio made his way Friday to Manchester Community College in New Hampshire, he was ready to make quips and ask questions of students who, in at least some cases, had no idea who he was.

"I actually feel right at home," said Rubio, who teaches politics at Florida International University in Miami.

He gave a snippet of his fledgling stump speech, advocating for a higher-education system more flexible for working parents and more attention to vocational and technical education. Universities should tell students in advance how much they can expect to make once they graduate, he added, so graduates don't face student-debt sticker shock.

"That's something I'm very sensitive to, because I actually owed over $100,000 after I finished my education," Rubio said. "And I never would have paid it off had it not been for a book I wrote -- which you can get in paperback," he joked.

The students needed a little prodding to get going with questions. One of them, in wearing sweatpants and a sweatshirt, apologized for his casual attire. Rubio, wearing a suit, didn't miss a beat: "I want to apologize for how I'm dressed!"

On his way out the door, he thanked history professor Ben Hampton for letting him interrupt his class. Hampton, as it turns out, hails from Fort Lauderdale and knows Spanish.

"Hasta luego, señor," Hampton said.

"Muchas gracias, profesor," Rubio responded.

DOC now reassigns prison whistle-blowers, targets them for investigation, has audio scrubbed


Doug GlissonOne month after the Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones told the Senate Appropriations Committee that she had asked the governor's chief investigator to look into the claims the whistle-blowers that DOC Inspector General Jeffery Beasley impeded their investigations into suspicious inmate deaths,  three of the officers have not been interviewed by anyone looking into the matter, according to the attorney for the three.

Instead, the inspectors, who risked their careers by going public, now face intense scrutiny. 

The Miami Herald has learned that two of the DOC inspectors who testified last month before state lawmakers — Doug Glisson and John Ulm — have been stripped of their investigative posts and slapped with a pile of internal affairs complaints.

A third inspector, David Clark, who did not testify but publicly alleged Beasley tried to sabotage cases, has also been transferred, DOC officials confirmed Thursday. They are among nine inspectors currently under investigation, according to department spokesman McKinley Lewis.

Meanwhile, the archive of Glisson's sworn testimony before the Senate Criminal Justice Committee on March 10 has been scrubbed of some of his audio as blank gaps now exist as he discusses cases in which he is alleging cover-ups and wrongdoing. 

Glisson, a supervisor who has a 20-year career in law enforcement, had a spotless history with the agency, according to his attorney, Steven Andrews. All three have been moved to DOC headquarters in Tallahassee and assigned to offices with no access to DOC records. For the most part, Andrews said, they’ve been given busy work to pass the time.

“This is the clearest case of retaliation I’ve seen in my 37 years of practicing law,’’ said Andrews, who represents Ulm, Clark and Glisson.

Jones told Senate Committees in March and again in April that she had asked Inspector General Melinda Miguel to investigate "every single accusation that they made" to determine if there was any wrongdoing by the inspector general, any rules violations or any evidence of employees being put under undue pressure.

More here.

Miami Herald special report: Life in Florida without Medicaid expansion

For two years, Florida legislators have refused to expand Medicaid as envisioned under the Affordable Care Act. Their decision left an estimated 850,000 Floridians without healthcare insurance in the "coverage gap." Those caught in the gap earn too much to receive Medicaid, but not enough to qualify for subsidies to buy a plan through the federal marketplace. The Miami Herald looks at how these Floridians are coping and what other states are doing to close the gap.

Read the special report by Daniel Chang (@dchangmiami) here.

 

In 1960, CIA stopped Miami Herald scoop about Bay of Pigs invasion

via @glenngarvin

There were a lot of bad days during the Cold War, but 54 years ago this weekend was one of the worst, at least for the United States. President John F. Kennedy sent an army of anti-Castro exiles backed by the CIA onto the beach at Cuba’s Bay of Pigs to suffer bloody, catastrophic defeat. It was “the beating of our lives,” the despondent Kennedy would say a few days later as he wondered aloud why nobody had talked him out of it.

One of the piquant questions of Cold War history is, could the Miami Herald have done that — talked him out of it? In a little-known collision of journalism and national security, the Herald, seven months before the Bay of Pigs, had prepared a news story saying that the United States was planning to launch a military operation against Cuba. But the paper’s top management killed the story after CIA Director Allen Dulles said publishing it would hurt national security.

“It’s hard to know these things,” says Peter Kornbluh, a senior analyst at the National Security Archive, which has published several books on the Bay of Pigs. “But could a bold, dramatic story that the United States was planning an invasion have stopped the Bay of Pigs? I think the answer might be yes.”

The tale of the Herald’s Bay of Pigs scoop and its subsequent capitulation to the CIA has mostly been shrouded in mystery for the past five decades. It was explored briefly in Anything but the Truth, a book by Washington reporters William McGaffin and Erwin Knoll that was published in 1968 and quickly disappeared.

It all started with some kids throwing firecrackers over a fence in Homestead.

More here.

 

Obama to visit Everglades to speak about climate change

@PatriciaMazzei

President Obama will travel Wednesday -- Earth Day -- to the Florida Everglades to speak about the threat of climate change.

In his weekly radio address Saturday, the president said, "there is no greater threat to our planet than climate change."

"And on Earth Day, I’m going to visit the Florida Everglades to talk about the way that climate change threatens our economy," Obama continued. "The Everglades is one of the most special places in our country. But it's also one of the most fragile. Rising sea levels are putting a national treasure -– and an economic engine for the South Florida tourism industry –- at risk."

 

Marco Rubio tries to raise candidacy's profile in New Hampshire

IMG_4501

@PatriciaMazzei

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Seven years ago, Marco Rubio trekked to New Hampshire so invested in another politician’s presidential campaign that a cop almost wrote him a ticket for darting through traffic as he shoved Florida oranges into bewildered drivers’ hands.

He returned to the nation’s first primary state on Friday, this time as a Republican presidential candidate himself. He brought no citrus. He stopped no cars.

Marco Rubio’s first day campaigning directly to voters since announcing his candidacy Monday in Miami was a far more dignified affair than his now-distant 2008 trip. He drew a flock of curious reporters. He wore a body microphone so the professional camera crew trailing him — presumably to produce future television ads — could record his every word.

And he confronted the formidable task of introducing himself to voters outside Florida.

“I didn’t know his name, actually,” said Joseph Biladeaux, a 20-year-old welding student.

More here.

Jeb Bush wrestles with family shadow in New Hampshire

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via @LightmanDavid

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- The shadow of his brother and father followed Jeb Bush on the campaign trail Friday, leaving him torn whether to follow them or inch away.

He was peppered with questions from reporters in New Hampshire about how he differed with President George W. Bush’s foreign policy. Not relevant, Jeb Bush insisted. The previous night, a voter asked him to explain why another president should come from the Bush family.

At the same time, the Bush name, and more important, its financial and political network, provide a huge advantage in the early going.

Bush is well aware he can’t escape. When he spoke at a breakfast Friday, staring right at him from the opposite wall was a big picture of his brother. Photos of his father were also plastered on the wall of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, where Bush appeared. “Brings back really fond memories,” he laughed.

More here.

April 17, 2015

PolitiFact looks at Hillary Clinton's claim about her grandparents

Hillary Clinton this week became the latest example of a politician flubbing her family’s ancestry while making the case for her presidency.

Clinton was speaking at a business roundtable inside an Iowa produce store when she related her personal family heritage to the struggles of undocumented immigrants trying to work in the United States.

"I think if we were to just go around this room, there are a lot of immigrant stories," Clinton said, according to a video of the event. "All my grandparents, you know, came over here, and you know my grandfather went to work in a lace mill in Scranton, Pa., and worked there until he retired at 65. He started there when he was a teenager and just kept going. So I sit here and I think well you’re talking about the second, third generation. That’s me, that’s you."

BuzzFeed’s Andrew Kaczynski quickly pointed out that Clinton was wrong, primarily using census and military records from Ancestry.com

Turn to PolitiFact for the rest of this fact-check by Katie Sanders and see our full Truth-O-Meter file for Clinton.

Miami-Dade transportation board under siege for being too large

Mpo

@doug_hanks

A county transportation board is the subject of a Tallahassee fight over how many people should get to run it. 

Miami-Dade's 23-member Metropolitan Planning Organization can be controlled by the County Commission, since the 13 elected commissioners make up a majority of MPO's membership.

A state bill backed by Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, Miami City Commissioner Francis Suarez and others would cut membership down to 12, mainly by reducing county-commission seats to four.

The mayor of Miami-Dade would get a vote for the first time, and Miami-Dade's six largest cities would retain their seats. One seat would still belong  to the county's toll authority.

But seats reserved for the school board, an at-large elected municipal official, and a civilian from the suburbs would each go away. 

The proposed changes haven't sat well with county commissioners. Chairman Jean Monestime, who also serves as chair of the  MPO, wrote the sponsor of the proposal, Rep. Jeanette  Nuñez  of Miami, a letter this week urging her to rewrite her plan. 

"By dramatically reducing the number of officials serving on the MPO, you would significantly erode the breadth of representation and the very legitimacy of this federally certified planning body," Monestime wrote. The "theory that fewer members will result in better outcomes does not apply in this instance."

 Nuñez wrote back: "Clearly, the status quo has not worked and I do not believe that the MPO will reorganize itself, absent my proposal."

Continue reading "Miami-Dade transportation board under siege for being too large" »

Gift ban anything but in Tallahassee

@mikevansickler

The chief advocate of a 2005 gift ban prohibiting Florida lawmakers from having meals, drinks and trips paid by special interests now has meals, drinks and trips indirectly paid by special interests.

Sen. Tom Lee, who vowed that his ban would change the behavior of legislators, has received more in personal reimbursements from his political committee than any other state senator since 2013.

The Brandon Republican's committee, called The Conservative, raised $1.8 million over the past two years from corporate interests such as Anheuser-Busch, U.S. Sugar, Duke Energy and Walt Disney. Exploiting a loophole, The Conservative paid Lee $15,511 in a series of reimbursements during the same period, according to state Division of Elections records.

Lee is just one example of how powerful lawmakers in both parties still get special interests to cover personal expenses — even after the gift ban and a subsequent reform in 2013.

Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, was personally reimbursed more than $9,000 the past two years by his PAC, Florida's Future. But tally up all reimbursements by his staff, including his committee treasurer, and total reimbursements jumped to $42,674, nearly three times more than any other legislator.

The committees set up by Smith, Lee and others are legally allowed to reimburse their host lawmakers for expenses — as long as they can show it's related to the political mission of their committees.

But a Times/Herald review of 84 committees operated by 75 state legislators shows that a handful of politicians routinely used their committees for reimbursements that could not easily be explained:

More here.

AFP releases new anti-Medicaid expansion ad

 

As the gridlock over Medicaid expansion continues in Tallahassee, the conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity is making its position known with a new ad.

The ad ties Senate expansion plan to the politically charged Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. It claims that arguments for expansion are "spinning out of control."

"Florida Senators have been engaged in a game of political spin," AFP State Director Chris Hudson said in a statement. "Instead of focusing on how to reduce the overall cost of health care and instill real reform, the Florida Senate led by President Andy Gardiner has been claiming that expanding a broken and jammed system will somehow solve the healthcare crisis, create jobs and save money, and improve access to care for the most needy. That's simply not true."

AFP has been advocating for other health care policies, including telehealth and measures that would broaden the scope of practice for nurses and other health care professionals.

PolitiFact looks at Marco Rubio's record on federal marriage amendment

Sen. Marco Rubio’s fledging 2016 campaign got a lesson in presidential politics when he drew fire for potentially contradicting himself on whether he had ever supported a nationwide ban on gay marriage.

"I’ve never supported a federal constitutional amendment on marriage," Rubio told MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt during an April 11 interview.

But in an article on its website, the network pointed to a 2010 voter guide from the Christian Coalition that asked Rubio and his opponents Charlie Crist and Kendrick Meek their stance on several issues. Next to the topic "Federal Marriage Amendment to prevent same sex marriage," Rubio’s position is listed as "Supports."

What set PolitiFact’s bells ringing is that the voter guide is the only place we can find where Rubio apparently said he supported an amendment to the country’s constitution banning same-sex unions. That’s going to keep the statement off our Truth-O-Meter, because we don’t want to weigh in here when we can’t definitively confirm or debunk the position.

The Christian Coalition, which didn’t return our phone call or email, told MSNBC it stood by its voter guide. A spokeswoman said the guide was compiled from a survey Rubio filled out in 2010. The guide was then checked against candidates’ past statements and votes (VoteSmart.org did the same thing, for example, because Rubio would not answer the question about same-sex marriage directly). The group told the network they couldn’t find the survey without looking through their archives.

Turn to PolitiFact Florida for the rest of this article.

Commission approves $58K in fines for former state representative David Rivera

Without any debate, members of the state ethics commission on Friday agreed that former U.S. Rep. David Rivera should pay $57,821.96 for improperly accepting state money for travel when he served as a state representative.

It will now be up to the Florida House to decide whether to penalize its former member.

Rivera, who was in Tallahassee Friday but did not attend the ethics hearing, declined to comment on the final order from the ethics commission. But his attorney Leonard Collins called it "expected," and said he planned to appeal to the First District Court of Appeal.

"This is a really unfortunate case," Collins said, raising a host of concerns about how the ethics commission handled Rivera's case.

More here.

'It is what it is,' Jeb Bush says of Marco Rubio's candidacy

Bush Friday

@PatriciaMazzei

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Jeb Bush isn't thrilled that Marco Rubio is running for president.

"It is what it is," Bush said Friday in New Hampshire, after scrunching up his face at a reporter's question about Rubio's campaign launch earlier this week.

Bush, the former Florida governor, called Rubio, the former Florida House speaker, a "good, close friend." But his answer made it clear that it pains Bush somewhat that he's being asked about what a reporter referred to as betrayal from his onetime protégé.

Rubio, the insurgent candidate among the Florida Republican establishment, said Monday at Miami's Freedom Tower that some people think he "should step aside and wait my turn."

"But I cannot," he insisted. (Bush said Thursday he hadn't watched Rubio's speech.)

In a series of news interviews later, Rubio suggested his friendship with Bush would remain untouched. "We'll remain friends throughout this process," he told The Today Show.

But Bush's tone Friday was more measured, and perhaps more realistic.

"We'll all sort out -- look, this is -- I'm not a candidate," Bush said. "And if I am a candidate, this is a long journey. And one of my objectives would be to maintain the friendships I have with the people that may be asipiring to the same thing. I think it's possible."

Could a Marco Rubio/Jeb Bush ticket happen?

The links between Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio have some talking about a Bush/Rubio ticket in 2016. But is it even possible?

The day after Rubio announced he was running for president, liberal MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell was already looking ahead to what happens if Rubio’s campaign falls short.

"Marco Rubio looks like one of the best possible vice presidential candidates in the Republican field," O’Donnell said on his show on April 14, 2015. "But the one person who can’t choose him is Jeb Bush, because the president and vice president can't be from the same state."

While we're still waiting for Bush to make his candidacy official, O'Donnell's claim that "the president and vice president can't be from the same state," got our heads spinning. If correct, that would rule out a Florida ticket of Bush/Rubio, or a Texas ticket of Rick Perry and Ted Cruz for that matter, or any combination that includes Bush, Rubio and two other Florida residents and possible contenders -- Ben Carson and Mike Huckabee.

So is it true?

See what Jon Greenberg of PunditFact found and here is PolitiFact's full Truth-O-Meter file for Bush and Rubio

April 16, 2015

Jeb Bush treats himself in New Hampshire

@PatriciaMazzei

CONCORD, N.H. -- He's said no to pizza. He's turned down barbecue sauce. But Jeb Bush couldn't resist a slice of blueberry pie Thursday.

He couldn't, really, not at an event titled "Politics and Pie" where he had shown up with two key lime pies from Joe's Stone Crab in Miami Beach to contribute to the spread.

So Bush, whose paleo diet (and personal trainer) have become famous for helping him slim down remarkably, broke the rules and dug in. He hadn't had pie since December, he said, and added that key lime is his favorite but he would "save that for the people of New Hampshire."

Then he went for the blueberry.

"To hell with the diet!" Bush proclaimed before a throng of cameras trained on his first bite.

"Slow news day," he added.

Bush pie

Jeb Bush: Feds, Tallahassee should 'try to forge a compromise' on Medicaid expansion, hospital funding

Politics and Pie

@PatriciaMazzei

CONCORD, N.H. -- He's been traversing the country building the foundations a juggernaut 2016 presidential campaign, but former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush still keeps an eye on Tallahassee.

Bush commiserated with Republican voters -- and enjoyed a piece of blueberry pie, breaking his ongoing paleo diet -- Thursday evening at a clubhouse on the outskirts of New Hampshire's state capital. Then he took questions from reporters, including one about what how the Florida Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott might overcome a stalemate over funding hospital charity care and expanding Medicaid. 

The standoff has effectively halted the annual lawmaking session, with no state budget deal in sight. Scott said Thursday he intends to sue the Obama administration over its threat to withhold federal funds for hospitals that treat the poor.

Bush hadn't heard of the yet-to-be-filed lawsuit, but suggested all sides sit down and find a solution.

"The feds and the executive branch and representatives from the House and Senate ought to get together and try to forge a compromise," he said. 

But would such a compromise involve expanding Medicaid, as proposed under the Affordable Care Act and rejected by the GOP-controlled Florida government in the past?

"I don't know," Bush said. "That's their job, frankly. Expanding Medicaid without reforming it is not going to solve our problems over the long run." Bush's spokeswoman told the Miami Herald on Friday that he opposes Medicaid expansion.

On Thursday, Bush touted reforms begun while he was governor that turned over control of Florida's Medicaid program to managed-care companies. He told voters gathered for a "Politics and Pie" event that the federal government should allow states to innovate on Medicaid to better fit their needs.

"We need to reform Medicaid, and there's a plan to do that in Florida that's a pretty good one, so if it was part of that, and there are trade-offs and all that stuff -- that's how you get past an impasse," he later told reporters.

This post has been updated to include Bush's spokeswoman.