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FPL to add another 1,500 megawatts of solar over the next seven years

Florida Power & Light announced Monday that it will build another 1,500 megawatts of solar power plants over the next 7 years.

The new power plants are in addition to the eight new solar facilities expected to come online by early 2018 and FPL said the new plants could save customers more than $500 million.

The roadmap for the new facilities was filed with the Public Service Commission Monday as part of the company’s 2017-2026 Ten Year Site Plan, which included the first-ever projection that solar power will outpace coal and oil combined as a percentage of the company’s energy mix by 2020.

Details on where the newly announced plants will be located haven’t been finalized, though the company said a Miami-Dade plant looks promising for 2019.

“We’re currently building some of the lowest-cost solar ever seen in America, and our investments in more efficient natural gas technology are delivering enormous savings and environmental benefits for our customers and our state,” said FPL President and CEO Eric Silagy. “Our strategy of making smart, long-term investments in clean energy infrastructure is working, and we’re looking forward to keeping the momentum going with the major advancements announced today – which, combined, are expected to save customers more than half a billion dollars.”

The company said its expanded solar investment will come along with the closing of the coal-fired St. Johns River Power Park at the end of this year, which it says will save customers $165 million as well as eliminate more than 5 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually.

The old Lauderdale plant and building is also set to be phased out and replaced by a new Dania Beach Clean Energy Center, which the company said will reduce their natural gas use by 5 billion cubic feet a year.

FPL said it would roll out an average of nearly 300 megawatts of new solar annually from 2017 through at least 2023, for a total of nearly 2,100 megawatts of new solar capacity.

Gondolas could be Disney’s next new ride

A construction notice has given more fuel to the rumor that Walt Disney World is planning to build a gondola system connecting Epcot, three Disney resorts and Hollywood Studios.

An official notice of commencement filed in Orange County for the construction of “foundation and building infrastructure” at six different locations could be the gondola’s route, according to WDW News Today.

Walt Disney World remains mum on the rumor.

The proposed gondola would connect Epcot, Hollywood Studios and the Caribbean Beach, Art of Animation and  Pop Century resorts. It would help relieve an overloaded system of buses that transport guests around Walt Disney World Resort.

It’s believed that Disney is contracting with the Doppelmayr/Garaventa group, an Austrian-Swiss company whose chairlifts, cable cars, gondolas and urban people movers can be found in 89 countries around the world. The company’s 3S cable system consumes less energy, has a high passenger capacity and increased wind stability, important assets for Central Florida’s theme parks.

Doppelmayr is not new to Central Florida. It built the elevated train used as the Hogwarts Express between the two Harry Potter lands at Universal Orlando Resort.

Florida Blue Symposium to feature health care policy wonk Alan Levine

Alan Levine

While Republicans in Congress struggle with “repeal and replace” of the Affordable Care Act, a group of leading health care professionals look to the future of health care in America by asking “What’s next?”

“Affordable Care Act: Where Do We Go From Here – The Politics of health care” is the featured roundtable at the Florida Blue Foundation’s annual Community Health Symposium and Sapphire Awards held April 19-20 at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center in Kissimmee.

Among the featured speakers at the symposium is Alan Levine, president and CEO of the Mountain States Health Alliance, a 13-hospital health care system serving 29 counties in Tennessee, Virginia, Kentucky and North Carolina.

The two-day conference will host more than 400 Florida-based, regional and national health professionals to address a wide range of issues, including health issues, policy, reform and engagement. Executives on hand will be from a wide range of private sector, government, universities, nonprofit organizations and more.

As a former secretary for the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration under Gov. Jeb Bush, Levine brings more than two decades of hospital operations experience, including as chief executive officer of hospitals and health systems ranging from a small rural hospital to one of the largest public systems in America. Levine also served in the cabinet of Gov. Bobby Jindal as secretary of Louisiana’s Department of Health and Hospitals, as well as a senior health policy adviser.

Levine now sits on the board of governors of the State University System of Florida, which oversees Florida’s 12 public universities. He also acts as chair of audit and compliance and as a member of the finance and building committees. Before his tenure on the board of governors, Levine was on the board of trustees of the University of Florida, the state’s leading research university, as well as a member of the board of directors of the University of Florida Athletic Association, which directs the University of Florida’s athletic programs.

Levine also had roles on the board of directors of the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, and has been a strong advocate for issues of child literacy and mentorship.

Other highlights of the symposium include an April 20 panel discussion moderated by Dr. Daniel Dawes a leading health care strategist and attorney. Among the panelists are Tom Feeney, the president and CEO of Associated Industries of Florida; Dr. Antonia Novello the former U.S. Surgeon General; Jason Altmire, senior vice president of public policy and community engagement at Florida Blue; and Dr. Susan McManus, the distinguished professor of government and international affairs at the University of South Florida

Later that day, the symposium will conclude with the Sapphire Luncheon and Awards ceremony at 12:30 p.m. April 20. With Patrick Geraghty, the CEO of Guidewell Holding Company, as keynote speaker.

Online agenda, registration and information on the location and special group hotel rates are available online. The Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center is at 6000 W. Osceola Pkwy. in Kissimmee. To make reservations by phone, call 877-491-0442.

Blake Dowling: New ransomware kicks it up a notch

Meeting this week with one of our national security partners, SonicWall, we had a fantastic luncheon with some local media partners, clients and Aegis staff.

A big topic of conversation — ransomware.

A SonicWall firewall can certainly help minimize risk, but there is no 100 percent protection from the constantly changing landscape of cyber threats.

Say you are a successful lobbyist, and legislation you want to pass is passing; you keep tweets clean, your email is in a secure cloud, your hardware is under warranty, with a solid backup, password-protected wireless network, two factor authentications for financial institutions, solid anti-virus, anti-spam protection firewall, and so on.

You rock through Session, rolling in a Maserati or other fly ride, feeling confident, successful — think Vince Vaughn in Swingers — confident. Then an intern clicks a link in a bogus ransomware email they thought was from the bank.

Now the game has changed; suddenly all your files are encrypted.

You are hosed.

Making things even worse is that this particular variation of ransomware not only encrypts files, but — if you do not pay the ransom — publishes your data on the web. That could include sensitive client info, financials, browsing history, everything.

This is happening, like a Cary Pigman late-night DUI. It’s not pretty, but it is a reality.

Let’s say; perhaps you spent the past three days logged on to Vegasinsider.com (or streaming episodes of Days of Our Lives), your clients and the whole wide world will know.

QuickBooks files? Yup. All of it.

Over the past few years, ransomware threats (like CryptoLocker) have hauled in over $325 million, with growth that more than doubles each year. How? Why?

Side note, why was Chris Kattan on Dancing with the Stars, what a spectacle. Even worse, why am I admitting to watching? Talk about shame.

Anyway; the “why” is indeed Intriguing.

The business model of ransomware cons is awesome (the crime is not awesome, but it is a classic pyramid scheme).

Go on the dark web and buy a ransomware tool kit for next to nothing; “they” show you how to launch ransomware campaigns via the web and they want half the cut (usually of any of the profits you make).

One variation is particularly devious.

After infection, they will send you the encryption keys to your files, but only if you get two other people you know to click on the same email. They also encourage you to send it to people you don’t like.

Wow. Talk about preying on fears and weak spots.

The threats are real, so keep your Maserati clean, and keep the intern off the internet.


Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies and writes for several organizations. He can be reached at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com

Death row inmate who killed Florida deputy to be resentenced

The Florida Supreme Court is ordering a new sentencing hearing for a death row inmate convicted of fatally shooting a Brevard County deputy during a traffic stop.

The ruling Thursday is because the jury that recommended death for Brandon Lee Bradley was not unanimous.

Deputy Barbara Pill pulled over Bradley in March 2012 shortly after a Melbourne motel owner reported he stole pillows, sheets and an air conditioner from a room.

A dashboard camera showed Pill told Bradley to get out of the car more than 20 times and he refused. She then reached into his car to try to turn off the ignition when Bradley fired eight shots, striking Pill five times.

Jurors voted 10-2 for the death penalty. Bradley will receive life without parole if a new jury doesn’t unanimously recommend death.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Disney moves Magic Kingdom metal detectors to ticket center

Walt Disney World is moving its metal detectors to an earlier entry point at its most popular park, Magic Kingdom.

The Orlando Sentinel reports that the detectors will now by located at the Transportation and Ticket Center starting next Monday. Visitors staying at three resorts along the monorail route, meanwhile, will go through security at the monorail stations there.

The metal detectors currently are located at the entrance to Magic Kingdom. Visitors typically park at the Transportation and Ticket Center and then take a monorail or ferry to the park.

The Sentinel quotes Disney officials as saying that the change is an effort to improve the arrival process for visitors.

Orlando’s other major theme parks, Universal and SeaWorld, also have metal detectors.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Citizens Insurance lost $27.1 million during 2016; first loss in a decade

Citizens Property Insurance Corp. lost money for the first time in a decade because of water loss claims, assignment of benefits abuse, and rising litigation costs, the company said Wednesday.

Staff at Florida’s insurer of last resort told its board of governors that they expect to post a $27.1 million loss for 2016.

“Every year, we rely on standardized, accepted actuarial principles to set our rates,” chairman Chris Gardner said in a press release.

“Last year, the same principles that provided rate decreases to our customers in recent years translated into hikes for 84 percent of our policyholders. Without legislative changes, that trend will continue,” he said.

Citizens is seeking legislation this year attacking assignment of benefits, or AOB, abuse.

In the House, an AOB bill has passed its first committee test. Senate legislation is scheduled for a committee hearing next week.

Citizens and other insurance and business interests blame surging non-weather-related water claims, particularly in South Florida, and attendant litigation by contractors armed with AOBs, which give them the right to sue without policyholder approval.

According to Citizens, litigation raises claims by an average $20,000.

“The tragedy here is that the ultimate loser is the policyholder,” Gardner said. “Higher insurance costs simply make it more difficult for more Floridians to own a home.”

Citizens’ explanation drew push-back from Chip Merlin of the Merlin Law Group, a plaintiffs’ firm. He blamed Citizens “depopulation” policy of lowering its risk pool by sending policies to private insurers.

The policy allows those private insurers to “cherry pick” the best risks, Merlin said.

“Now, Citizens management has its claims department take a tougher line to keep claims payments down so it can break even,” he said. “Litigation goes up when claims are not paid.”

New rankings show healthiest and least healthy counties in Florida; St. Johns the healthiest

Which counties were the healthiest and most unhealthy throughout the Sunshine State?

St. Johns County ranked first in both key indexes used by the seventh annual county health rankings by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which partners with the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute to work with communities around the country to take a  snapshot and learn how our environments affect us.

It was St. Johns County’s six consecutive year taking both the “health outcomes” category, which accounts for length and quality of life, and “health factors,” a complex metric comprised of lifestyle habits, access to medical care, area socioeconomics and the physical and the physical environment around us.

Collier, Sarasota, Seminole and Martin counties round out the top five health outcomes. In health factors, Sarasota, Martin, Seminole and Collier round out the top five in that index.

So those are the healthiest.

Which are the unhealthiest?

Gadsden and Union counties are at or near the bottom again.

The rankings use self-reported information, factoring in natural and unnatural deaths — both intentional and unintentional. Smoking, traffic, car accidents, alcohol consumption and much more are used in the data.

The biggest surprise, said Aliana Havrilla, a community coach with County Health Rankings and Roadmaps? Deaths of younger generations are on the rise.

“Drugs are a big factor in the category,” Havrilla told FloridaPolitics.com Tuesday. “This is a key trend we’re seeing right now.”

Havrilla said that what their researchers are learning is that where we live definitely has an influence on us.

The 2016 rankings examined the differences between rural and urban influences on how humans live.

“The rankings help to see where the counties are doing well and where improvements are needed,” the community coach said.

All resources used in the rankings are available online at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation website.

ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex celebrates 20 years

Amateur and professional athletes have played more than 70 different sports at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, which celebrates its 20th anniversary today.

Since it opened in 1997 the story of the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort has been written through the athletes who have competed on its fields, courts and diamonds.

The grand opening of the sports complex featured the Atlanta Braves as they defeated the Cincinnati Reds, 9-7, in front of a sellout crowd of more than 10,000 at a spring training game.

Each year the complex hosts more than 100 annual athletic events. It has become a place where athletes challenge themselves, push their limits and make their sports dreams come true.

Michelle Obama spoke to hundreds of children and their parents about the importance of healthy living during the Let’s Move! health initiative February 11, 2012, at the complex. Orlando City Soccer played its full regular soccer season there in 2014. More than 500 wounded, ill and injured military personnel competed in 10 sporting events during the 2016 Invictus Games led by Prince Harry.

Family affair: Chris Hart, family open home decor and design firm

Chris Hart

Chris Hart is getting back to business, and this time it’s a family affair.

Hart, the former president and CEO of Enterprise Florida, and his wife, Amy, recently opened The Hare & The Hart, a home décor and design firm in Tallahassee.

The family-owned company specializes in toile with a hometown twist.

“As a tribute to the town I’ve called home for a good part of three decades, I have designed a toile that shows some of its iconic sites and scenes,” wrote Amy Hart on the company’s website. “Depicting venues running the gamut from the new amphitheater at Cascades Park to the 1600’s-era Mission San Luis, I’ve brought my sketches together in a design that tells the love story of a town full of history, canopy roads, magnolias, rolling hills, beautiful architecture, gardens, and hip new hangouts.”

The Hare & The Hart debuted its toiles during the spring edition of French Country Flea Market. During an interview on ABC 27 earlier this month, Amy Hart said the toile was designed to “celebrate our town.”

While toile is traditionally a fabric, The Hare & The Hart has several options for people looking to get their hands on the scenes, including wallpaper and mugs. The company also has a Woodland Creature series, designed by the Harts’ daughter Maddie.

“At The Hare & The Hart, we live a life that is English at heart with a Southern soul (and a French twist!), and we are thrilled to debut or toiles and other lines that embody all three,” wrote Amy Hart on the company’s site.

A former state legislator, Chris Hart took over the helm at Enterprise Florida in January. Two months later, he announced his resignation, citing ongoing differences with Gov. Rick Scott over the future of the agency.

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