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16 posts from April 8, 2013

April 08, 2013

Reuters: Jay-Z, Beyonce Cuba trip was "fully licensed." But questions remain


UPDATE: Click here for a fuller explanation of Jay-Z, Beyonce, Cuba and U.S. sanctions

Pop star Jay-Z and Beyonce's fifth wedding anniversary trip to Cuba was "fully licensed" and therefore was legal, a source told Reuters.

But beyond that, it's unclear just what kind of permission they got.

And Miami's Republican U.S. representatives, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, say they want to know more about the case. On Friday, they openly called for details of the trip by the R&B stars who happen to also be big-time backers of President Obama.

Many celebrities have visited Cuba, but this trip drew more attention because it was billed in the press as a purely tourism-driven trip, said Diaz-Balart, and that's not legal.

Under federal law, American citizens traveling to Cuba generally need United States Treasury Department permission to spend U.S. currency on the communist island because U.S. money is technically property of the federal government. Licenses are often granted for journalistic, academic, religious, academic or cultural reasons.

Assuming the performers were given a license on cultural grounds, did their mothers, body guards and other members of their retinue receive a license to travel to Cuba? Also, the performers stayed at a hotel reportedly costing $149 a night. And under many licensing arrangements, we're told, many U.S. citizens are limited to spending about $140 daily. Did this apply to Jay-Bey?

Developing.... more later


Candidate says Haitian Vodou being used to get her to drop out of North Miami mayoral race

via @NadegeGreen

A North Miami mayoral candidate has asked for prayers from three different countries because, she said, someone is trying to use sinister sorcery and threatening phone calls to get her out of the race.

Anna Pierre, one of eight candidates running for mayor, said unknown persons left chicken feathers, food scraps and candles at her office doorstep over the past three months. She believes the items are tied to mystical rituals in the Haitian Vodou religion.

“I found little dolls with needles in it. They put a lot of pennies at front of my office door,” she said. “I’m from Haiti I know what it is.”

Pierre, a nurse and singer, said her popularity in the Haitian community is a threat to whoever is trying to curse her. Pierre is well-known for her 1990s Creole-language hit “ Suk Su Bon Bon.” In the song, she demands that her husband put sugar on her “cookie” or else she will leave him.

She said the threats are not just of the spiritual nature.

Pierre said an anonymous person has been using a blocked number to call her phone. The voice on the other line told her to drop out of the race.

“I have people in Haiti, Canada, and the U.S. praying for me,” she said. “I have Jesus with me.”

More here.

Rep. Santiago welcomes his "Miami-Dade constituents"

Rep. David Santiago had some unexpected guests during Dade Days in Tallahassee.

The Republican lawmaker was stunned when South Floridians streamed into his tenth-floor office last week. The visitors from Miami said they were simply following signs posted around the Capitol inviting Santiago's "Miami-Dade constituents" to swing by.

One minor detail: Santiago doesn't have any Miami-Dade constituents. He's from Deltona.

The signs were a prank orchestrated by Danny Martinez, a fellow tenth-floor denizen and legislative aide to Rep. Manny Diaz Jr., of Hialeah. 

Santiago often gets mistaken for a member of the Miami-Dade Delegation.

"People think I'm Cuban and from Miami," he said, laughing. "I'm actually Puerto Rican and from New York."

Santiago, who considers himself an adopted member of the Dade Delegation, welcomed the South Floridians into this office anyway, he said.

"It was all in good fun," he said. "You have to have some fun during the process."

Miami Dolphins, Miami-Dade mayor reach 'framework' for stadium renovation deal


The Miami Dolphins and Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez have agreed to a “framework” for a deal to provide some county funds to a nearly $400 million renovation of Sun Life Stadium, according to Gimenez.

“I think we have a framework for an agreement,” Gimenez told The Miami Herald on Monday morning. “There’s still one or two items to be resolved.”

Gimenez, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and team CEO Mike Dee met Sunday at the Miami Gardens stadium and settled the general terms of the agreement, the mayor said, with attorneys for the football team and the county still gathered to hammer out the details.

“They’ve been working on it literally through the night,” Gimenez told the Herald.

Gimenez and Dee met at County Hall again Monday morning. When the mayor stepped out to go to another meeting, he told reporters a deal “needs to be done by today” in order to hold a special election before NFL owners begin a two-day meeting May 21 to award the 50th and 51st Super Bowls.

Gimenez said he hopes to deliver a written package outlining the deal to county commissioners by the end of the day so that they can set a special meeting Wednesday. The commission needs to sign off on holding a May 14 referendum for Miami-Dade voters to weigh in on the plan.

Gimenez, who had indicated in recent weeks that he could negotiate a deal but not give it his full-throated support, said he will back the final agreement.

“The deal that will come out of here is something I can vote for,” he said. “Because it’s something that I think is reasonable.”

More on this developing story here.

Marc Caputo: Misunderstanding Marco Rubio: immigration politics and DC spin


The request from the liberal Campaign to Reform Immigration for America was simple — but strange.

“Ask Marco Rubio to support a pathway to citizenship,” a caller from the group said.


“Marco Rubio already supports a pathway to citizenship,” I said when I answered my home phone Wednesday. “I don’t understand.”

“He doesn’t support a pathway to citizenship,” the caller shot back.

Me: “Umm, yes he does.”

Caller: “No. He only supports a system of temporary work permits…”

Me: “I really think you have your facts wrong. Where are you getting them?”

The caller hung up.

Count this little back and forth as one of the myriad examples of why immigration reform might not pass Congress despite a strong bipartisan push.

The interest groups on the right and the left might spread just enough propaganda, just enough falsehoods, just enough passion to make immigration reform just another partisan issue.

If immigration reform dies, then activist groups on all sides of the political spectrum live to fight again. In Washington, there can be a perverse disincentive for a real resolution.

And for some in the Beltway, there’s a disincentive to understand what Rubio’s about. Some unwittingly don’t understand Rubio, or they intentionally don’t understand him.

More here

Five things to look for in Monday's legislative session

Week six of the Florida Legislative session kicks off Monday and, while some bills are dying off quietly, a number are starting to pick up speed en route to a floor vote. Things are pretty quiet in the House, but the Senate is in full swing.

 The Senate Criminal Justice Committee will hear SB 634, which repeals law that bans overly loud music in cars. A Florida Supreme Court decision in December sided with two Pinellas County men who had challenged citations they had received for playing music too loudly. The court found the law unconstitutional.


A bill to change the unpopular “nuclear cost recovery” law gets its first stop in the Senate committee on Communications, Energy & Public Utilities. SB 1472 would tighten the law, which critics say has allowed utilities companies to charge ratepayers for the construction of plants that might not be built.

 In the Senate Judiciary Committee, a ban on texting while driving (SB 52) sees its last committee stop before reaching the Senate floor.

 The Senate’s Criminal Justice Committee hears a fetus-protection bill in SB 876, which states that  anyone who commits a crime killing or injuring an unborn child can be prosecuted for the act specifically based on the offense to the child.

On a related note, pro-life groups and Planned Parenthood, which opposes SB 876,  will hold a summit in Tallahassee on Monday.

 The Commerce and Tourism Committee in the Senate has a sports-focused agenda, hearing a bill that makes it easier for people to resell their events tickets (SB 394) and a bill that would provide tax breaks for the renovation of the Daytona International Speedway (SB 1394).

- Toluse Olorunnipa (Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau)