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Associated Press

Florida-Georgia water case official orders settlement talks

A court official on Tuesday ordered attorneys for Florida and Georgia to try again to settle a yearslong dispute over water use in the region.

Special Master Ralph Lancaster gave the states until Jan. 24 to meet and encouraged them to use a mediator. He also ordered the states to file a confidential report to him by Jan. 26 summarizing their efforts to reach a settlement.

The dispute focuses on a watershed in western Georgia, eastern Alabama and the Florida Panhandle. The Chattahoochee and Flint rivers flow through Georgia and meet at the Florida border to form the Apalachicola River, which flows into the Apalachicola Bay. Alabama isn’t directly involved in this case but has sided with Florida, encouraging a cap on Georgia’s use.

After Florida filed the suit against Georgia, Lancaster was appointed by the U.S. Supreme Court to make a recommendation. The Supreme Court has the final say. Lancaster has repeatedly urged the states to settle, particularly at the end of a monthlong trial held in November in his home city of Portland, Maine.

Representatives for Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal didn’t immediately respond Wednesday to requests for comment. Katie McCreary, a spokeswoman for Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, declined comment, citing the ongoing case.

Florida blames rapid growth in metropolitan Atlanta and agriculture in south Georgia for causing low river flows that have imperiled fisheries dependent on fresh water entering the area. Georgia has argued that Florida didn’t prove its water use is to blame for the low flows and says a cap will damage the state’s economy.

In Tuesday’s order, Lancaster said the states “should consider solutions that could alleviate both parties’ concerns, including importation of water from outside the ACF River Basin to supplement streamflow during drought periods.”

The area is commonly known as the “ACF River Basin.”

Lancaster was expected to issue a recommendation early this year but this week’s order continues his track record of urging the states to settle. At the close of the November trial, he reminded attorneys of the high stakes for residents that depend on the waterways in both states.

“Please settle this blasted thing,” Lancaster said at the time. “I can guarantee you that at least one of you is going to be unhappy with my recommendation — and perhaps both of you.”

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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Bill and Hillary Clinton to attend Donald Trump inauguration

Falling in line with tradition, Bill and Hillary Clinton plan to attend Donald Trump’s inauguration. It’s a decision that will put Hillary Clinton on the inaugural platform as her bitter rival from the 2016 campaign assumes the office she long sought.

The Clintons announced their decision to attend the Jan. 20 inauguration shortly after former President George W. Bush’s office said Tuesday he would attend along with former first lady Laura Bush.

The Bushes are “pleased to be able to witness the peaceful transfer of power — a hallmark of American democracy — and swearing-in of President Trump and Vice President Pence,” Bush’s office said in a statement.

It is traditional for former presidents and their spouses to attend the inauguration.

But the decision to attend was fraught for the Clintons, given Hillary Clinton’s bitter campaign against Trump. The 2016 Democratic presidential nominee has largely avoided public appearances since Trump defeated her in November.

Bush, too, has had a difficult relationship with Trump. His brother Jeb ran against Trump in the GOP primaries. George and Laura Bush let it be known they voted for “none of the above” for president rather than cast a ballot for Trump, but the ex-president did call to congratulate Trump after his victory.

Former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, earlier said they plan to attend Trump’s inaugural.

Former President George H.W. Bush, 92, and his wife, Barbara, do not plan to attend the inauguration due to the former president’s age and health, his office said.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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Golf club shows pitfalls of Donald Trump presidency

The decorative clock bearing the name of America’s incoming 45th president has yet to start at the Trump International Golf Club in Dubai, but the developers behind the project already are counting the money they’ve made.

The 18-hole course is likely to be the first Trump-connected property to open after his Jan. 20 inauguration as president, joining his organization’s projects stretching from Bali to Panama.

It also encapsulates the host of worries of possible conflicts of interest circulating around a president who is very different from America’s past leaders. While the Oval Office has always been home to the wealthy, Donald Trump represents the first franchise president.

Could foreign governments pressure or please Trump through his international businesses? Should projects bearing his name receive additional security? And how close should his ties remain to business executives operating in areas with far different opinions about human rights and justice?

“There has never been anything remotely like this — not even close,” said Robert W. Gordon, a legal historian and ethics expert who teaches at Stanford University. “Trump himself tends to treat his businesses and his public policy as sort of extensions of himself. He seems to be completely unembarrassed about scrambling up and conflating his business enterprise and the actions and policies of the U.S. government.”

The Trump International Golf Club in Dubai — the sheikhdom in the United Arab Emirates home to a futuristic skyline crowned by the world’s tallest building — is due to open in February and be managed by Trump Organization employees.

The course sits along a road that begins near the sail-shaped Burj al-Arab luxury hotel and passes by a mall with its own artificial ski slope. The luxury continues onto the par-71 Trump course, designed by American golf architect Gil Hanse, where wrinkled fairways lead to putting greens made smooth with silica sand brushed in between micro-blades of grass.

It is set inside Akoya, a massive housing development of 2,600 villas and 7,000 apartments developed by Dubai-based luxury real estate DAMAC Properties. Another Trump-managed golf course is planned for another even larger DAMAC project under development further down the road.

Billionaire Hussain Sajwani, who founded DAMAC Properties in 2002, met Trump some 10 years ago and the two men hit it off over their real estate experiences, said Niall McLoughlin, a senior vice president for communications and marketing at the firm.

“When we approached them in 2013 about the golf course, he, of course, knew who DAMAC was,” McLoughlin told The Associated Press on a recent trip to the golf course. “They subsequently cemented the family relationship as well. … A lot of our dealings have been with Eric, a lot of our dealings have been with Ivanka. They have traveled here — and Donald Jr.”

Sajwani and his family also attended a New Year’s Eve party at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida, with the incoming president describing them from on stage as “the most beautiful people from Dubai.”

Trump received between $1 million to $5 million from DAMAC, according to a Federal Election Committee report submitted in May. It’s unclear how much the contract will be worth once the golf course opens and starts operating. McLoughlin declined to offer specific figures.

It is the first Trump venture in the Arab world. His first proposed project in Dubai, a 62-story tower with state-backed developer Nakheel, became a victim of the sheikhdom’s 2009 financial crisis.

By 2014, Trump knocked a golf ball down the fairway of what would become the golf course at Akoya. Sajwani called Trump a “great man” during the tour, and DAMAC later designed some 100 Trump-branded villas at the property, selling from 5 million dirhams ($1.3 million) to over 15 million dirhams ($4 million).

With Trump set to be sworn in as president, security analysts have suggested properties bearing his name could be targets. His campaign pledge calling for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the U.S., followed by his proposal to conduct “extreme vetting” of immigrants, also sparked regional anger. The Trump logos on the golf course even came down for a short time.

Still, the United Arab Emirates, a staunch U.S. ally in the war against the Islamic State group and host to some 5,000 American military personnel, remains a peaceful corner of the Middle East.

“Dubai is one of the safest cities in the world,” McLoughlin said. “Dubai has proved itself to be safe. We have no extra concerns about this golf course.”

Dubai police did not respond to a request for comment about security at the property.

Financial matters raise other questions.

DAMAC, a private company, purchased the property for Akoya from Dubai’s government in 2012 for around $350 million. Dubai’s government ultimately answers to the emirate’s hereditary ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who also is the UAE’s vice president and prime minister.

All services to the property — electricity, water, roads — come at the discretion of the government. The club’s bar will need government approvals to serve alcohol, not to mention other regulatory issues.

That could raise concerns about the so-called “emoluments clause” of the U.S. Constitution, which bars public officials from accepting gifts or payments from foreign governments and companies controlled by them without the consent of Congress.

Any negotiations involving the Trump brand at the least could create the appearance of impropriety, legal experts warn.

“He has so many properties that his business interests become an obvious target for both bribes and threats,” said Gordon, the Stanford law professor. “The dangers really come in two directions: One is that foreign powers will try to use Trump’s interests as a way of bribing him into public policies in a way that are friendly to them or use them put pressure on him.”

Trump has said he will step away from managing his business empire while in office, but has offered few details other than to say his executives “will run it with my children.”

Erik Jensen, a law professor emeritus at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, said that alone could pose problems.

“Turning over control to the kids just doesn’t do it. They clearly are going to be having holiday meals together, talking on the telephone,” Jensen said. “There’s going to be a lot of contact there.”

Even putting assets in a blind trust, like other presidents have, likely wouldn’t work since, for example, he would know the trust holds a golf course in Dubai. “You can put it in the trust, but the adjective ‘blind’ wouldn’t apply in that situation,” Jensen said.

Also, DAMAC’s Sajwani has had dealings with the U.S. government. He credits some of his fortune to contracting work his companies did in supplying U.S. forces during the 1991 Gulf War that expelled Iraqi forces from Kuwait. Over the past decade, his companies have been awarded at least $1 million in contracting work, according to U.S. government records reviewed by the AP.

McLoughlin did not respond to a query regarding whether DAMAC would continue to seek U.S. government contracts.

DAMAC stock traded after the election at near a yearlong low of 2.02 dirhams (55 cents) a share, in part due to the company announcing an 11.7 percent fall in third-quarter profits as Dubai’s housing market has slowed in 2016.

Stock then rebounded, reaching 2.53 dirhams (69 cents) just before New Year’s Eve, as the company began handing over properties at Akoya.

Sajwani’s business dealings have drawn international scrutiny in the past. After Egypt’s 2011 Arab Spring protests, a local court sentenced him to five years in prison and a $40.5 million fine over a 2006 land deal. Egypt and DAMAC later reached an undisclosed settlement in international arbitration and Sajwani never served prison time.

DAMAC, which competes against largely state-backed developers in Dubai, focuses on flashy projects, like offering homes built around luxury Bugatti sports cars. But when it comes to building the projects, it like other companies relies heavily on subcontractors who largely employ low-paid laborers from Asian countries like India and Pakistan.

There have been no formal complaints by workers alleging the Trump golf course or the larger DAMAC project mistreats laborers.

However, that alone shouldn’t be taken as a sign that everything is fine, said James Lynch, who focuses on Gulf labor issues for Amnesty International.

The Emirati government and local businesses remain sensitive about their image in regards to the millions of workers employed in the country, something Lynch knows all too well as he was barred from entering the UAE in 2015 to discuss laborers’ rights.

“Under international standards, construction companies in the Gulf are not only responsible for how they treat their direct employees,” Lynch said. “They have a responsibility to put in place measures to ensure that their subcontractors do not abuse the rights of people working for them.”

The Trump Organization and his transition team did not respond to AP requests for comment. McLoughlin of DAMAC did not respond to a request for comment regarding labor issues.

For now, workers manicure the golf course’s empty greens. Others put the finishing touches on a clubhouse that will feature a bar, a water-pipe tobacco lounge and restaurants for those paying the course’s dues, which start at around $10,000 a year.

While DAMAC’s contract with Trump allows them to use his image in advertising the course, McLoughlin said the company would be “tasteful” in its promotions. However, he said at least some of Trump’s children likely would be on hand for the opening of the course.

“It’s their baby,” McLoughlin said.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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New law prohibits Florida minors from buying cough syrup

Minors won’t be able to buy some cough syrup brands over the counter as a new law to curb youth substance abuse took effect.

The News-Journal reports Senate Bill 938 took effect Monday. It’s a measure prohibiting manufacturers, distributors and retailers from selling medicines containing dextromethorphan to those under 18, and requiring anyone who appears under the age of 25 to provide identification upon checkout.

The ingredient is a cough suppressant, and is used in many over-the-counter medicines, but has been misused particularly by young people aiming to get high.

Former State Rep. Doug Broxson, who will take office this week as state Senator, sponsored the bill after hearing about the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s issues with the ingredient, particularly as it related to deaths of minors.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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For Donald Trump, the 1980s still hold relevance

Bobby Knight. Don King. Sylvester Stallone.

Many of President-elect Donald Trump‘s cultural touchstones, which he’d frequently name-drop at campaign rallies and on Twitter, were at their peak in the 1980s — the decade Trump’s celebrity status rose in New York, Trump Tower was built, “The Art of the Deal” was published and he first flirted with running for public office.

The “Go Go 1980s” of New York were spurred by Wall Street’s rise. It was a brash decade in which excess was the norm and ostentatious displays of wealth and power were celebrated in pop culture and among Manhattan’s elite. And while much of what defined the 1980s has since gone out of style, Trump has seemingly internalized its ethos, which is reflected in the decor of the Trump Tower lobby and the celebrities he stood alongside during the campaign.

An outer-borough New York developer trying to prove himself across the East River, Trump always sought approval of Manhattan’s ruling class and was eager to make a name for himself, according to those who tangled with him during that formative decade.

“He would relentlessly promote himself in the newspapers or on TV. He knew how to get press and squash his enemies,” said Geoge Arzt, press secretary for former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, who served from 1978 to 1989. The me-first attitude that defined the 1980s “has long been a part of who Trump is,” Arzt added.

In the 1980s, as Trump came of age as a public figure, he opened up a refurbished Grand Hyatt on 42nd Street, took over the long-stalled renovation of Central Park’s ice skating rink and purchased the New York-area team in the fledgling United States Football League.

He fashioned himself into a regular in the gossip pages, playing the city’s tabloids off each other as he promoted his personal brand. He also took his first steps onto the national media stage, making his debut on “60 Minutes” in 1985. The long-running news magazine broadcast has continued to hold a special place in his heart. Several times at rallies, Trump invoked a “60 Minutes” segment he had just watched and he gave his first post-election interview to the show last month. That show was at its apex in the ratings in the 1980s.

Time Magazine, which also wielded significant clout in the 1980s, also has remained an obsession for Trump.

The celebrity businessman, who complained in recent years that he wasn’t named the magazine’s Person of the Year, received the award in 2016. He called it a “very, very great honor.” That marked his eighth time on the cover this year alone — something that Trump would brag about during campaign rallies. He has taken to giving out autographed copies of the cover to visitors, including rapper Kanye West.

But while West is a current megastar, Trump mostly chose to trot out 1980s celebrities during his campaign, even if many of them had seen their star fade in the ensuing 30 years.

Knight, the former Indiana University basketball coach who captured college basketball national titles in 1981 and 1987 but was later fired for attacking a student, became a favorite sidekick. He first appeared with Trump during the spring’s Indiana primary and reappeared at rallies in the Midwest during the general election stretch run.

“One of the reasons I won: Bobby Knight! That’s the gold standard, right?” Trump exclaimed in August.

King, the flamboyant boxing promoter who hyped Mike Tyson‘s 1980s fights, was also saluted by Trump as “a phenomenal person” despite a conviction for manslaughter. King appeared with Trump in September at a Cleveland church and stood with the president-elect last week while Trump was answering questions from the press at his Palm Beach resort.

Trump has been drawn to other 1980s stars. Tyson endorsed the celebrity businessman. Actor Scott Baio, an outspoken Trump supporter, reached the zenith of his fame in the 1980s with the shows “Happy Days” and “Charles in Charge.” And on Saturday, actor Sylvester Stallone — who starred in three “Rambo” movies and two “Rocky” sequels in the 1980s — was a star guest at Trump’s New Year’s Eve bash at Mar-a-Lago, the lush Florida estate Trump bought in 1985 two years after he opened Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in New York.

Much of Trump’s political philosophy was formed in the 1980s too. In 1987 as he first floated running for president, he took out a full page ad wondering why the U.S. was “paying to defend countries that can afford to defend themselves.” His frequent depictions of inner cities as dangerous and crime-ridden seem to harken to the crack-plagued life of urban areas in the 1980s, more than the largely safer big cities of today.

In “The Art of the Deal,” he voiced positions on trade he still holds today. That book, which made him a household name when it was published in 1987, also holds many of the principles that guided Trump’s business career — and, decades later, his bombastic campaign for the White House.

“I play into people’s fantasies,” he wrote. “People may not always think big themselves, but they can still get very excited by those who do. That’s why a little hyperbole never hurts. People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular.”

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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Keys plan field trial for bacteria-infected mosquitoes

Officials plan to release lab-reared, bacteria-infected mosquitoes in the Florida Keys in March.

The Citizen reports that the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District and the privately owned, Kentucky-based company MosquitoMate are still reviewing locations for the field trial of Wolbachia-treated Aedes aegypti mosquitoes.

MosquitoMate founder Stephen Dobson says the Wolbachia inhibits the mosquitoes’ ability to breed. In the field trial, male mosquitoes would be released to pass on the bacteria to wild female mosquitoes during mating.

The district has been exploring new ways to suppress Aedes aegypti populations. The mosquito species lives among people in urban environments and can spread diseases such as Zika and dengue fever.

Officials also are considering locations for a separate test of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes genetically modified to produce offspring that die outside a lab.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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Officials: Tampa airport evacuation triggered by false alarm

Authorities say the evacuation of a terminal at Tampa International Airport was caused by a false alarm.

Airport officials said on Twitter that the false alarm was triggered by a bag in a screening device.

The Tampa Bay Times reports that the airport’s Airside F was evacuated for about an hour Sunday afternoon. When the area was cleared, passengers had to go back through security screenings to board their planes.

It was unclear how many flights were delayed because of the evacuation. The terminal serves international flights through American Airlines, British Airways, Cayman Airways, Copa Airlines, Eastern, Edelweiss Air and Lufthansa.

The rest of the airport continued operations during the evacuation.

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7-month-old boy’s death under investigation in Pinellas

Tampa Bay-area authorities are investigating the death of a 7-month-old boy.

According to a statement from the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, Mayson Wirth was found unresponsive early Saturday at his St. Pete Beach home.

Detectives said 41-year-old Michelle Wirth woke her son around 2 a.m. to administer an Albuterol breathing treatment and put him back to bed. When Wirth came to wake Mayson for another treatment at 6 a.m., he was not breathing.

The sheriff’s office said Wirth called 911. Paramedics took Mayson to a hospital, where he died Saturday afternoon.

Detectives said Mayson had no obvious signs of injury or trauma. According to the sheriff’s office, Mayson had been treated Thursday at a hospital for a respiratory issue.

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Florida State running back Dalvin Cook declares for NFL draft

Florida State running back Dalvin Cook has announced he will enter the NFL draft, less than 24 hours after the Seminoles defeated Michigan in the Orange Bowl.

Cook, who is expected to be a first-round pick, made the announcement Saturday via video on Instagram. He says he made the decision after much consideration but was doing it after discussions with his family.

The Miami native wrapped up his collegiate career by being named Orange Bowl MVP after rushing for 145 yards along with three receptions for 62 yards in No. 10 FSU’s 33-32 win.

He is Florida State’s all-time leading rusher with 4,464 yards. He is also the first running back in Atlantic Coast Conference history to rush for 4,000 yards in three seasons.

Republish with permission of The Associated Press.

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Palm Beach locals: More security, traffic when Donald Trump visits

Local officials and residents in Palm Beach say they’re seeing changes around town when President-elect Donald Trump is at his Mar-a-Lago estate.

Palm Beach Town Manager Tom Bradford says he’s been inundated since before the election with inquiries from residents and reporters about Trump, who is a part-time resident in the town of 8,612 people.

“I could spend my entire day answering people’s questions about the president and the impact and I wouldn’t be able to get any work done,” Bradford told The Palm Beach Post  .

The Post reports that Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office vehicles are now regularly stationed along the road leading to Mar-a-Lago and outside its closed gates. A sheriff’s office watch tower also overlooks the estate.

Bicyclists, pedestrians and a heavy flow of seasonal traffic can still make their way past the area, and a nearby beach and parking area remain open to the public.

On the Intracoastal Waterway, however, Coast Guard vessels shadow boats near a newly designated restricted zone and through a causeway drawbridge. Alan Emery, an attendant at Palm Beach Docks, said the Coast Guard quickly makes contact with any yachts that appear to veer toward Mar-a-Lago.

Palm Beach County Mayor Paulette Burdick has asked the county’s Congressional delegation for help in getting reimbursed for providing security for Trump’s holiday visits.

“As an example of the escalated expenditures, over the four-day Thanksgiving holiday the County incurred a cost of $250,000 as a result of security protection of the President-elect,” Burdick wrote in a Dec. 20 letter. “It is our expectation the President-elect will frequent his home in Palm Beach for a substantial amount of time during the Christmas and New Year holiday season, and it is anticipated that significant future travel will continue to the area by the President, Cabinet officials, and executive office staff, as well as other dignitaries from around the world that require heightened security detail.”

Some residents complain that road closures near Palm Beach International Airport, where Trump’s jet lands and departs, can tie up traffic for a half-hour or more.

“I know he’s going to be hanging out a lot,” said Lynn Lopez, who lives in neighboring Cloud Lake. “We have to cope with it, I guess.”

In Glen Ridge, another community bordering the airport, Pedro Rodriguez said he doesn’t mind the traffic delays.

“That’s my neighbor. I’m happy,” he said. “It’s OK. It’s the president.”

People traveling through the airport likely won’t experience any disruptions, Transportation Security Administration regional spokesman Mark Howell. Airports Director Bruce Pelly said he has begun talking with the Secret Service about keeping air traffic away from Mar-a-Lago when Trump is in town.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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