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13 posts from February 12, 2013

February 12, 2013

First Lady invites to State of the Union 102-year-old North Miamian who waited 3 hours to vote

At age 102, it's possible Desaline Victor is the oldest guest ever to attend a State of the Union address.

But the North Miami woman, known as "Granny" among the city’s Haitian community, was chosen less for her age than what she stands for.

As a naturalized U.S. citizen who waited for more than three hours to cast her ballot on Nov. 6, say White House officials, Victor represents what President Barack Obama wants to highlight most in his second term. So Victor will sit in the First Lady’s box, along with military families, people who are championing immigration reform, and victims of gun reform.

"I know I’m going to sit with the president’s wife. I did not think I would get here," she said. "I am proud."

As an immigrant, former farm worker, and respected elder and minority from one of the poorest parts of South Florida, Victor and others like her stand to benefit most from the policies the president will discuss during his speech, say White House officials.

Victor came to the attention of the White House through the Advancement Project, which was tracking problems at the polls after Florida lawmakers cut early voting days.

The White House describes Victor as "a spirited and independent centenarian," who was born in Haiti in 1910 and arrived in the U.S. in 1989. She enjoys attending church services and cooking her own meals.

More from Erika Bolstad and Nadege Green here.

Ring: Property insurance dilemma is intractable, wants gov to seek multi-state compact

The sweeping Senate proposal to reduce the state’s liability under Citizens Property Insurance by raising the cost to consumers is going to lead to skyrocketing rates across the state, state Sen. Jeremy Ring, D-Margate, told his Democratic colleagues Tuesday.

That will undoubtedly lead to political repercussions in an election year, he said. “If this bill passes, my question is, will the governor have the guts to sign it?,’’ Ring asked. “It’s going to increase everyone’s [insurance rates] dramatically.”

He said he has concluded the issue is too big for Florida and instead wants the governor to take the lead and seek out a regional compact with other Gulf and Atlantic states. The Senate Democratic caucus then voted to draft a resolution to the governor seeking his attention.

“The only answer, and we can look at all the financial models in the world, is some compact across gulf states and Atlantic states,’’ he said, in which the region most vulnerable to wind storms share the risk. “This is not something the legislature can do other than some weak resolution.”

He said the only one who can resolve this is the governor, in conjuction with governors of other states. Florida may have the biggest risk but the northeastern states, after Hurricane Sandy, will soon understand the impacts.

“I do not believe there is a single piece of legislation that can come out of the State of Florida that will help this problem,’’ he said. “It will either exacerbate rates, or exacerbate risks.”

Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, said the bill does more than just reduce the coastal policies, including the reduction of the catastrophe fund. He noted that the 12-member committee is evenly represented with coastal members and non-coastal and it may be difficult to get this bill through. “They may be break it into pieces,”  he said.

Menendez pal Dr. Melgen's lawsuit about sex, money and a clothing shop

A politically connected South Florida eye surgeon under investigation by the FBI filed a lawsuit against his former lover in a case centered on a dispute about whether he gave her close to a million dollars for a joint business venture or, as she testified, because “he wanted me to live like royalty.”

In late January, federal agents raided the offices of West Palm Beach eye surgeon Salomon Melgen in an investigation about Medicare billing. The FBI is separately examining his relationship with U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez a New Jersey Democrat, and the trips they took on Melgen’s private plane to the Dominican Republic. Through his lawyers, Melgen has denied wrongdoing.

In 2000, after his love affair with Yudehiris Dorrejo ended, Melgen filed a lawsuit on behalf of his company, Vitreo-Retinal Consultants, against Dorrejo in an attempt to get his money back. A Palm Beach judge dismissed the case two years later, citing jurisdictional issues in the dispute that involved no written contract. Read more from the Miami Herald here about the business deal Melgen testified he struck while  in bed at the Ritz-Carlton.