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Last of drug-smuggling ‘Cocaine Cowboys’ arrested in Florida

Gustavo Falcon

The last of South Florida’s drug-smuggling “Cocaine Cowboys” has been arrested — some 26 years after he went on the lam — while on a 40-mile bike ride with his wife near the Orlando suburb where they apparently lived under assumed names.

The Miami Herald reports Gustavo “Taby” Falcon, 55, was booked into the Orange County Jail Wednesday evening and is charged with smuggling tons of cocaine into the United States in the 1980s along with his notorious brother, Augusto “Willie” Falcon.

He is expected at a first appearance hearing in Orlando on Thursday and likely will be transferred to Miami.

The organization was linked to dozens of murders and shootings. The 2006 documentary “Cocaine Cowboys” detailed suitcases full of cash, hit men with machine guns, drug-laden speedboats and nighttime drops of drugs in South Florida’s swamps.

Deputy marshals arrested Falcon and his wife, Amelia, at an intersection near Orlando during their bike ride, said U.S. Marshals Service spokesman Barry Golden. He said Falcon had obtained fake driver’s licenses for himself, his wife and their two adult children, using Miami addresses. Gustavo Falcon and his wife went by the names Luis and Maria Reiss.

Golden said marshals caught a big break when Gustavo Falcon was involved in a car accident near Orlando and used a fake driver’s license with a Miami address. That led marshals to trace him to his history in South Florida.

“We figured this all out a month ago,” Golden said. “We pulled his driver’s license and saw it was the same Gustavo Falcon.”

The family had been under surveillance by marshals at the home they were renting in Kissimmee, which is near Orlando. Golden said they’d been living in the Orlando area since 1999, which surprised marshals who thought Gustavo Falcon was hiding out in Mexico or Colombia.

He was last seen in South Florida in 1991. Gustavo Falcon’s brother and Salvador “Sal” Magluta were recognized as kingpins of the organization, which used their speedboats to haul loads of cocaine smuggled from Colombia. A 1991 federal indictment charged the two brothers, Magluta and several others with smuggling 75 tons of cocaine into the U.S. between 1978 and 1991.

Willie Falcon and Magluta were acquitted of the charges in 1996. Authorities later discovered they bought off witnesses and at least one member of the jury.

Magluta was retried and convicted of drug-related money laundering charges in 2002 and sentenced to 205 years in prison. That was reduced to 195 years in 2006. Willie Falcon then accepted a plea deal in 2003 on similar charges. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison and is scheduled for release in June.

Jail records don’t list an attorney for Gustavo Falcon.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Florida hospitals created 900K jobs, new economic impact study finds

Florida hospitals were responsible for creating more than 900,000 jobs in 2015, according to a new economic impact study.

The study, completed by the University of Florida and sponsored by the Florida Hospital Association, found Florida hospitals were responsible for creating 901,674 full- and part-time jobs in 2015. The report also found hospitals generated nearly $128.4 billion in total economic contributions during the same period.

“Hospitals are the largest employers in many communities across Florida,” said FHA President Bruce Rueben in a statement. “Our member hospitals constantly reinvest in their communities and train new generations of health care providers.”

According to the report, the Miami-Fort Lauderdale region had the most significant employment with 294,613 jobs in 2015, followed by the Orlando area with 215,321 jobs, and the Tampa-St. Petersburg region with 153,287 jobs.

Miami-Dade County also led the state in terms of hospital employment contributions, with 143,779 jobs in 2015, followed by Hillsborough County with 82,567, and Orange County with 81,984 jobs.

“Florida hospitals are stable and consistent employers across the state, and their impact continues to grow,” according to the report. “In 2015, the total employment impact of Florida hospitals was 2.65 percent higher than in 2013, and value added contributions were 0.83 percent higher in inflation-adjusted terms.”

The state’s 317 private hospitals, according to the report, paid more than $19.6 billion in employee wages, salaries and benefits in 2015.

The analysis was conducted using financial data from the Florida Agency for Healthcare Administration and the Florida Hospital Uniform Reporting System.

“The data clearly demonstrate that Florida’s hospitals are creating jobs and contributing to Florida’s economic growth. Since 2013, the number of full-time equivalent hospital employees has increased by 6.87 percent,” said Alan Hodges, the report’s primary author, in a statement.

Baseball has been very, very good to Airbnb

Apparently there’s nothing like a home-away-from-home for baseball fans wanting to take in Florida spring training.

Airbnb, the leader in marketing vacation rental home, announced Wednesday that all 12 Florida cities that host spring training camps and stadiums for Major League Baseball teams saw remarkable spikes in bookings during the baseball spring training that ended last week.

And the company’s surveys show most of that spike was due to baseball fans, coming down to catch a few spring training games and to watch big-league players and prospects work out and train.

All the cities saw significant increases in Airbnb vacation home rental bookings during the five-week spring training, Feb. 23-March 31, compared with the previous five weeks.

Smaller cities such as Jupiter (64 percent Airbnb spike), Lakeland (82 percent), Port St. Lucie (95 percent), Dunedin (205 percent) and Port Charlotte (78 percent all benefitted significantly from local Airbnb hosts helping to expand lodging capacity and welcome more visitors during spring training, the company claimed in a press release.

Yet bigger cities with large, year-round tourist industries such as Sarasota and Kissimmee also saw considerable spikes, the company noted. Sarasota’s Airbnb bookings were up 91 percent, and Kissimmee’s 46 percent.

In 10 of the 12 Florida cities, residents of the MLB team’s home state accounted for the top supply of Airbnb guests during spring training. For example, Dunedin, home of the Toronto Blue Jays, saw a 1,860 percent increase in guests from Ontario, Canada, while Jupiter, home to the St. Louis Cardinals, saw a 3,400 percent increase in guests from Missouri.

“Spring Training represents a foundational component of the local economies for these 12 Florida cities,” Tom Martinelli, public policy director for Airbnb Florida, stated in the release. “By expanding lodging capacity for regions with limited hotel inventory, Airbnb hosts helped welcome more families and baseball fans to their cities while serving as ambassadors for their local communities.”

oranges

Citrus forecast generally holds steady, USDA says

The bad news in citrus: “Grapefruit production declined.” The good news: “Florida orange production remained steady.”

That’s the upshot of the latest forecast by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, according to the Florida Department of Citrus (FDOC).

“The April report projects the state’s orange crop to stay at 67 million boxes for the 2016-17 season,” a Tuesday news release said. “The grapefruit crop was reduced by 800,000 boxes to 8.1 million.”

The industry has been savaged by a citrus greening epidemic. The so-far incurable disease is attacking fruit, causing it to turn green and bitter, and eventually killing the tree. Florida’s famous oranges are most at risk.

“It’s a tough hit for Florida’s grapefruit growers who have been so committed to fighting pest and disease to maintain this staple of Florida’s economy,” said Shannon Shepp, FDOC’s executive director.

The department, funded mainly through box taxes paid by the state’s citrus growers, serves as the chief marketing, regulation and promotional arm of the industry.

“Florida grapefruit is, by far, what world consumers seek out for its unique flavor profile, sweetness and juiciness,” Shepp added.

In a separate statement, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said the latest forecast “represents a more than 70 percent collapse in production of our state’s signature crop” since the 1997-98 season.

“Until a long-term solution is discovered, which some of our state’s brightest minds are working on, we must support Florida’s multi-billion dollar citrus industry and the more than 60,000 jobs it supports,” he said.

Greening is caused by a jumping plant louse and the bacteria it hosts. The tiny bugs feed on citrus leaves and infect the trees with the bacteria as they go. Researchers have been looking into ways to cure the disease or to grow a strain of citrus resistant to the bacteria.

Florida’s growers and industry groups have sought approval from the federal government to use antimicrobial treatments to fight greening.

Putnam “issued a crisis declaration in 2016 regarding their application to the Environmental Protection Agency, which allowed the immediate use of these treatments,” his release said.

Chinese composer Du Yun stunned by Pulitzer win

The Latest on the Pulitzer Prizes in journalism and the arts (all times local):

6 p.m.

When Chinese composer Du Yun heard she won the Pulitzer Prize for music, she thought it was a prank.

Yun had just returned from a day of panels at The Culture Summit in Abu Dhabi, and her librettist texted her the good news, which arrived close to midnight for Yun.

Thirty-nine-year-old Yun won the prize Monday for “Angel’s Bone,” about a financially struggling couple who set out to nurse two battered angels, but instead kept the angels captive and exploited them for wealth and personal gains.

The Pulitzer board called the operatic work “bold” and said it “integrates vocal and instrumental elements and a wide range of styles into a harrowing allegory for human trafficking in the modern world.”

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5:05 p.m.

Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter David Fahrenthold of The Washington Post says getting a call from President Donald Trump was “an emotional high point” in his reporting.

As for winning the prize, he said it’s “pretty overwhelming.”

Fahrenthold won the Pulitzer for national reporting for a series of stories exposing issues with Trump’s claimed charity giving and a story about a videotape where Trump made crude comments about women.

His path to Pulitzer victory involved trying to find veterans groups who had gotten $1 million Trump had promised of his own money. Fahrenthold used Twitter to publicize his efforts, tagging Trump’s Twitter account in his posts so Trump could see what he was doing.

Ultimately, Trump called to tell him that he was giving away $1 million to the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation, a charity run by a friend.

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4:15 p.m.

A 3,000-circulation newspaper that publishes twice a week has won the Pulitzer Prize for taking on powerful agricultural organizations after a water utility sued the paper’s home county and two others over farm pollution.

The Storm Lake Times of Iowa and writer Art Cullen won for a series of editorials that challenged powerful agricultural interests in the state. Judges said Cullen’s editorials were fueled by “tenacious reporting, impressive expertise and engaging writing.”

Cullen owns the newspaper with his brother and says his editorials were about government transparency.

The counties sued by the Des Moines Water Works secretly received money from agriculture groups to fight the lawsuit, and the newspaper pushed in its reporting to lift the veil of secrecy on who was paying to fight the lawsuit.

Cullen says he feels vindicated that the information was released.

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4 p.m.

The New York Times has won three Pulitzer Prizes, for international reporting, breaking news photography and feature writing.

The awards were announced at Columbia University on Monday, several hours after the Times appeared to signal their wins by publishing an announcement promoting a Facebook Live event with its Pulitzer Prize winners. A Times spokeswoman called the notice “a mistake, combined with a little bit of hopeful thinking.”

The Times staff won the international reporting award for a series of reports on Vladimir Putin‘s efforts to project Russia’s power abroad. Daniel Berehulak won for photographs that documented a violent campaign in the Philippines. And C.J. Chivers won in the feature category for a magazine piece on a veteran of the war in Afghanistan who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

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3:50 p.m.

The Charleston Gazette-Mail has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting for exposing the unchecked flow of opioids into depressed West Virginia counties.

Gazette-Mail reporter Eric Eyre documented how drug wholesalers flooded the state with 780 million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills over six years at a time when 1,728 West Virginians fatally overdosed on those two painkillers.

The winners were announced Monday afternoon at Columbia University in New York City.

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3:45 p.m.

Colson Whitehead has won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for his novel “The Underground Railroad,” which combined flights of imagination with the grimmest and most realistic detail of 19th-century slavery.

No work of fiction was more honored in 2016. Whitehead’s novel, which told of a runaway slave and a very real train to freedom, was given rave advance reviews and upon publication immediately jumped to the top of best-seller lists when Oprah Winfrey chose it for her book club. Last November, it won the National Book Award.

Whitehead told The Associated Press on Monday: “I think the book deals with white supremacy as a foundational error in the country’s history and that foundational error is being played out now in the White House.”

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3:40 p.m.

“Olio” by Tyehimba Jess has won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry.

The Pulitzer board said Monday that the work melds performance art with poetry “to explore collective memory and challenge contemporary notions of race and identity.”

Finalists in the category were “Collected Poems: 1950-2012” by the late Adrienne Rich and “XX” by Campbell McGrath.

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3:38 p.m.

The East Bay Times in Oakland, California, has won the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news reporting for coverage of a warehouse fire that killed 36 people.

Judges said the staff of the newspaper received the award for relentless coverage of the Ghost Ship fire in December and for reporting after the tragedy that exposed the city’s failure to take actions that might have prevented it.

The winners were announced Monday afternoon at Columbia University in New York City.

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3:35 p.m.

Matthew Desmond’s “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City” has won the Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction.

Set in Milwaukee, Desmond’s book was among a wave of works that explored poverty, race and the class divide, themes that had special resonance as Republican Donald Trump campaigned on restoring the American Dream for “forgotten” Americans. Last month, Desmond won a National Book Critics Circle award.

The finalists for the nonfiction Pulitzer were “In a Different Key: The Story of Autism,” by John Donvan and Caren Zucker; and Micki McElya‘s “The Politics of Mourning: Death and Honor in Arlington National Cemetery.”

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3:32 p.m.

David A. Fahrenthold of The Washington Post has won the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting for campaign reporting that cast doubt on Donald Trump’s assertions of generosity toward charities.

The award was announced Monday at Columbia University in New York City.

Among Fahrenthold’s findings was that Trump spent $20,000 that belonged to his charity on a 6-foot-tall portrait of himself.

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3:30 p.m.

“The Return: Fathers, Sons, and the Land in Between” by Hisham Matar has won the Pulitzer Prize for autobiography.

The Pulitzer Prize board said Monday that Matar’s memoir about his native Libya “examines with controlled emotion the past and present of an embattled region.”

Finalists in the combined category of autobiography and biography included “In the Darkroom” by Susan Faludi and “When Breath Becomes Air” by the late Paul Kalanithi.

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3:25 p.m.

“Angel’s Bone” by Du Yun has won the Pulitzer Prize for music.

The Pulitzer Prize board on Monday called the operatic work “bold” and said it “integrates vocal and instrumental elements and a wide range of styles into a harrowing allegory for human trafficking in the modern world.”

Finalists in the category were “Bound to the Bow” by Ashley Fure and “Ipsa Dixit” by Kate Soper.

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3:20 p.m.

The gripping “Blood in the Water: The Attica Uprising of 1971 and its Legacy” by Heather Ann Thompson has won the Pulitzer Prize for history.

The book examines the events that unfolded starting in Sept. 9, 1971, when nearly 1,300 prisoners took over the Attica Correctional Facility in upstate New York to protest years of mistreatment. The work reveals the crimes committed during the uprising and its aftermath, who committed them and how they were covered up.

Last year’s history prize was won by “Custer’s Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America” by T.J. Stiles. Other past winners include Charles Warren, Arthur Meier Schlesinger, Dean Acheson and Richard Hofstadter.

The award is for “a distinguished and appropriately documented book on the history of the United States.” It includes a $15,000 prize.

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This story has been corrected to show that the prize is now $15,000, not $10,000.

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3:15 p.m.

The New York Daily News and ProPublica have won the Pulitzer Prize for public service for a series on how officials are using a nuisance abatement law to evict people from their homes, even if they haven’t committed a crime.

The award was announced Monday at Columbia University in New York City.

The reporting came from the review of 516 residential nuisance abatement actions from Jan. 1, 2013, through June 30, 2014. It found 173 of the people who gave up their leases or were banned from homes were not convicted of a crime, including 44 people who appear to have faced no criminal prosecution whatsoever.

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3:10 p.m.

“Sweat” by Lynn Nottage, which explores working-class resentment, has won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for drama.

The play that explores how the shutdown of a Pennsylvania factory leads to the breakdown of friendship and family and a devastating cycle of violence, prejudice, poverty and drugs.

The play marks Nottage’s Broadway debut. She is the writer of “Intimate Apparel,” ”By The Way, Meet Vera Stark” and “Ruined,” which also won the Pulitzer Prize.

The drama award, which includes a $15,000 prize, is “for a distinguished play by an American author, preferably original in its source and dealing with American life.”

Previous playwrights honored include August Wilson, Edward Albee, Eugene O’Neill, Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams. Recent winners include Annie Baker‘s “The Flick,” Ayad Akhtar‘s “Disgraced,” Stephen Adly Guirgis‘s “Between Riverside and Crazy,” and Lin-Manuel Miranda‘s “Hamilton.”

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This story has been corrected to show that the prize is now $15,000, not $10,000.

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1:45 p.m.

The New York Times says it mistakenly published an announcement promoting a Facebook Live event with its Pulitzer Prize winners, hours before the winners were announced.

Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy wouldn’t confirm it had advance word that it had won any Pulitzers. She says the notice was “a mistake, combined with a little bit of hopeful thinking.”

Published on Page 2 of Monday’s print edition of The Times, it read: “How does it feel to get a Pulitzer Prize? Ask The Times’s recently announced 2017 winners yourself — they’ll be taking questions live today at 4:30 p.m. E.T.”

Although the prizes are confidential, news organizations sometimes manage to learn of Pulitzer wins before the official announcements. The winners of the 2017 Pulitzers were to be revealed at 3 p.m. Monday.

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9:20 a.m.

The winners of the Pulitzer Prizes in journalism and the arts are set to be announced in New York City.

This is the contest’s 101st year. The winners are being revealed Monday afternoon at Columbia University.

The Pulitzer Prizes will recognize the best journalism of 2016 in newspapers, magazines and websites. There are 14 categories for reporting, photography, criticism and commentary.

In the arts, prizes are awarded in seven categories, including fiction, drama and music.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Political talk helping ‘The View’ to comeback

The unquenchable thirst for chatter about President Donald Trump has changed the dynamics of a fierce daytime television competition much as it has in late-night TV.

“The View” has spent more time talking politics with the arrival of a new administration, stopping the momentum of its rival “The Talk,” which sticks to pop culture. It’s a turnabout similar to Stephen Colbert supplanting Jimmy Fallon as the new king of late-night, only it has received little attention in comparison.

“It’s a testament to the enduring appeal of what Barbara Walters created 20 years ago — a show where women can have a real vigorous debate about the issues of the day and can discuss the things that matter,” said James Goldston, president of ABC News, which supervises “The View.”

In some circles, “The Talk” was seen as a knockoff of “The View” when it began seven years ago. But it became a more pleasant place to visit, to the point where it regularly topped its older rival in ratings starting in May 2015.

Since the beginning of this year, the average audience for “The View” has increased by 1 percent over 2016 while “The Talk” is down 6 percent, the Nielsen company said. “The View” regularly beats its rival now.

Both shows share a format: five women on a set inviting viewers to have a cup of coffee and talk about what’s on their minds, with celebrities often stopping by.

One recent day illustrated how their focuses diverged, however. “The View” opened with a discussion on “America’s national nervous breakdown,” pivoting to the White House visit of Republican U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, then chairman of the House probe into Russia’s influence on the presidential campaign. Next, a talk about Trump’s effort to roll back some of his predecessor’s climate change regulations.

At “The Talk,” the show started with the story of actor Russell Crowe gaining weight.

The “hot topics” segment on “The View,” where the hosts begin with a freewheeling discussion anchored in the day’s headlines, often stretches to take up most — if not all — of the day’s show. Celebrities are sometimes coaxed into political talk. Guests like Democratic U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, the lead Democrat on the Russia committee, were recently interviewed via satellite.

In truth, “The View” was a hot mess two years ago. There was the failed return of Rosie O’Donnell, a revolving door of cast members and gossip column items about backstage bad blood. ABC’s news division was put in charge in 2014, taking over from entertainment, and the show finally seems stable. Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar are the tart-tongued lead regulars, with Jedediah Bila, a former Fox News contributor, taking the role of put-upon conservative.

The newsier focus simply evolved, said Hilary Estey McLoughlin, a talk show veteran who is senior executive producer. She assembled a producing team with Candi Carter, a veteran of Oprah Winfrey’s operation, and Brian Teta, who worked on David Letterman’s “Late Show.”

“We wanted to make the show more relevant, and talk about news and politics was at the lead of that because it was the most compelling conversation to be having,” McLoughlin said.

The current climate can sometimes make “The Talk” seem frivolous and out-of-touch. But it wouldn’t be wise to shift gears so the hosts are talking about things they’re not accustomed to discussing and the audience isn’t used to hearing, said Angelica McDaniel, head of daytime programming for CBS.

The show will stick with what has worked for seven years, she said.

“We offer a place for viewers to come where they know they can escape the politics,” McDaniel said. “Why not come and have a respite? Why not come to a place where you know your best girlfriends are and you can just laugh and have a good time for an hour every weekday?”

McLoughlin believes that misreads what the audience wants.

“Some people watch daytime TV shows to escape,” she said. “They’re not interested in politics and they’re not interested in news. But we’re finding more and more that they are, and that’s why we’re growing.”

Bill Carroll, a consultant and expert on TV’s syndication market, notes the similarities in what is happening with Colbert and Fallon. But he wonders: “Is this something that’s the beginning of a shift or is it an indication of where the attention is right now?”

That question will be answered in the coming months.

Blake Dowling: Making a good first (or millionth) impression on Twitter

Twitter is an interesting beast, created in 2006 by Jack Dorsey, Noah Glass and others.

Within six years, 100 million users were on the platform — cranking out 300 plus million tweets a day.

I joined the Twitter Army in May 2009 and 3,881 tweets later, I am still at it. It is a great way to launch our company Newsletter, POLITICO factoids, Crucial Gator Madness, Tech Industry news, Rando Band/Music info and the columns that I write.

I had a column retweeted from the maker of a personal delivery device that was featured in the column, Starship Technology. They were at the Florida State Capital this week displaying for lawmakers in attendance their artificially charged delivery machines, which could transform the way delivery services work. (CS/HB 601: Personal Delivery Devices)

You can also check out my February 2017 column showcasing that kind of tech.

@StarshipRobots has about the same ballpark number of followers that I do, so the retweet doubles the number of impressions.

If I really wanted to get stir crazy I could launch a paid Twitter campaign via the “Tweet Activity” function in Twitter.

However, I have no Pryor and Wilder feelings today so I will leave it at that.

I recently wrote a column about Russian hackers and wove my college acquaintance, present day comedian @BertKreischer into the mix (see the Machine story).

Because he has 200K followers, the number of impressions on that tweet were high. That tweet was not only featuring my company brand but the brand of FloridaPolitics.com and a lot of new folks were exposed to the site, in theory. Pretty cool.

Same with the band @SisterHazel, I tweeted about their Memphis show (which they retweeted) and quite a few folks saw it, as they have close to a million followers.

Blake Dowling @AegisSales: “A guy I knew in college named @bertkreischer is a comedian. He is in my new column @Fla_Pol on Russia. Enjoy http://floridapolitics.com/archives/231563-blake-dowling-russian-hackers-coming” (Impressions: 15,556 times people saw this tweet on Twitter).

I certainly am not claiming to be a Twitter master; not by any stretch of the imagination.

If I were, however, I would be like Logan Paul, hauling in six-figure afternoons with my crazy videos and other content that his 7 million followers slurp up like nickel beer night at the Palace Saloon.

According to 60 Minutes, Logan was indeed paid almost $200k for one day’s work for Dunkin’ Donuts.

He got their message out to just as many people as a prime-time TV ad with nowhere close to the cost.

If you are not using Twitter, take the plunge.

It can give you some interesting branding opportunities, and there is more to it than getting celebs to retweet your stuff click here for a guide on how to get started.

if you are in the middle like me don’t forget to use hashtags to tighten up your messaging, follow those that you want to engage and keep your content SFW, no matter if you work at the White House or McDonald’s.

If you are past beginner status, let’s close with some tips.

— Pin a compelling tweet at the top of your profile.

— Add a period or exclamation point to your mentions and that will send them as tweets to all your followers.

That’s it for today, cache you ousside, tweet about that.

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Did you hear that this person is getting a TV show, it could be a sign of the apocalypse.

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

Florida may pay millions to homeowners for lost citrus trees

Florida may end a long-running battle and pay millions to homeowners whose healthy citrus trees were torn down in a failed attempt to eradicate citrus canker.

The Florida House has $66 million in its proposed budget to pay lawsuits filed on behalf of homeowners in Broward, Lee and Palm Beach counties. There are also lawsuits ongoing in Orange and Miami-Dade counties.

Rep. Carlos Trujillo, the House budget chairman, said the payments should be made because courts have already ruled against the state in those counties.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam says the state should wait until the lawsuits reach the Florida Supreme Court.

So far Senate Republicans have not included the payments in their budget.

Canker damages citrus trees. From 2000 to 2006, the state removed citrus trees within 1,900 feet of an infected tree.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Authorities: Woman chokes teen for blocking view at Disney

Authorities in Florida say a woman is accused of child abuse after choking a teenager who refused to sit down during a fireworks display at Disney’s Magic Kingdom.

An Orange County Sheriff’s arrest report says 41-year-old Tabbatha Kay Mature of New Baltimore, Michigan, was sitting with her family Wednesday night, waiting for the nightly fireworks display. The teen, who was visiting the park with friends, stood up when the show started, blocking the Mature family’s view.

The Orlando Sentinel reports Mature “became aggravated” when they wouldn’t sit down. The girl and her friends decided to leave. Deputies say she told Mature, “You can take our spot.”

That’s when deputies say Mature wrapped her hands around the girl’s neck and squeezed. She wasn’t injured.

Mature was released from jail on a $2,000 bond. Records don’t list a lawyer for Mature.

Reprinted with permission of the Associated Press

Rappers becoming fixtures on food scene

Rapper Snoop Dogg furiously stirred flour into a creamy béchamel sauce, a whisk in one hand and a microphone in the other during a cooking demonstration with chef Guy Fieri.

He tossed herbs into the mac and cheese and spicy wing dishes with the dramatic flair of Emeril Lagasse, raising his hands in the air, spinning around after taste tests and occasionally singing lines from songs like “Drop It Like It’s Hot” as a crowd cheered wildly.

Wearing black shades, his dreads in a ponytail, the pioneering rapper rushed off the cooking stage and emerged 20 minutes later at a nearby beachside DJ booth, also part of the recent South Beach Wine & Food Festival, spinning tunes, including many of his own, while a stagehand passed out joints to the sweaty, enthusiastic crowd.

Snoop may seem an unlikely guest for a festival where highbrow foodies come for $500-a-plate dinners to mingle with chefs like Jose Andres and Daniel Boulud, but it’s emblematic of the widening intersection between food and music that Snoop and other rappers and hip-hop stars are capitalizing on, where unlikely pairings form shows like VH1’s “Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party” and rappers like 2 Chainz drop cookbooks along with their albums. Mobb Deep rapper Prodigy, who served time in prison, recently came out with the cookbook “commissary kitchen: my infamous prison cookbook,” which includes a recipe that mixes Ramen noodles and Doritos. You can even buy Rap Snacks, honey jalapeño potato chips with Fetty Wap‘s face on the bag.

On a recent episode of Snoop and Martha Stewart‘s VH1 show, she roasted a whole pig, proclaiming the new way to eat pork was “nose to tail.”

“Nah, nah, nah. In the ‘hood we say from the rooter to the tooter,” says Snoop, who helped Stewart make a Cuban mojito, busting out a quippy rhyme before toasting the audience.

Earlier this month, Miami rapper Rick Ross tapped Stewart to announce the debut of his new album on Twitter. The queen of homemaking also included a photo of her holding a cake with Ross’ album cover on top.

Rev Run of the rap group Run-DMC has also become a fixture on the food scene with the Cooking Channel’s “Rev Run’s Sunday Suppers.” The father of six told The Associated Press that cooking is more about family time and less about the creative process for him.

“Music, like food, has no language barriers. When people hear music or eat tasty food, all of a sudden we have something in common,” he said.

Marketing experts say Stewart and the Food Network, which sponsors the South Beach festival, are using the partnerships to stay fresh and relevant.

“Some of the folks in the food industry are trying to appeal to a younger audience and associate their brands with that,” said Darren Seifer, food and beverage industry analyst for the NPD Group.

But it’s not all about inking new business deals. Some artists were busy in the kitchen long before they started making music.

Rapper Flava Flav grew up cooking in his family’s soul food diner. Before bursting onto the music scene with the group Public Enemy, he went to cooking school and says he once was the head chef at the Nassau County Courthouse in New York.

“It’s like music — you’re always creating different tastes, different flavors,” he said in a phone interview.

He’s had several restaurants, mostly centered on his fried chicken, that have closed due to “poor management,” he said. Rockhouse Las Vegas is currently featuring his grub and he said he hopes to another restaurant.

Rapper 2 Chainz, whose hits include “Champions,” dropped a cookbook with one of his albums, featuring recipes for beer-steamed snow crab legs and herb-crusted lamb chops. But he’s struggled in the food business after the Department of Health recently gave his Atlanta tapas restaurant a dismal inspection.

Action Bronson often rhymes in culinary speak. The rapper, whose first album included tracks titled “Jerk Chicken,” ”Shiraz” and “Brunch,” went to culinary school for a year before dropping out and pursuing music.

In an episode of his profanely titled Viceland show, he prepares chicken cutlets with a sesame panko crust that he serves with Mexican chocolate sauce, ice cream, flambéed Hennessey bananas and torched marshmallows, calling it “a fat guy sandwich.”

R&B singer Kelis, whose music intersected with hip-hop and is perhaps best known for “Milkshake,” went to Le Cordon Bleu after hitting the charts, leading to a cookbook, a pop-up restaurant in London and an album titled “Food,” with songs like “Jerk Ribs,” ”Cobbler” and “Biscuits n’ Gravy.”

“I love working with my hands and getting to create something,” said the singer, who is planning to open a restaurant in Los Angeles later this year. “It’s very different than music … you can’t really control what you hear. They have to hear it, whereas food is a choice.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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