As Zika comes to Pinellas, Charlie Crist and David Jolly condemn congressional failure to deal with disease

U.S. Rep. David Jolly and former Gov. Charlie Crist don’t agree on much.

But Tuesday they agreed Congress’ failure to provide funding to combat the Zika virus is unconscionable. They were reacting to news released by Gov. Rick Scott that the Department of Health had confirmed a non-travel-related case of Zika in Pinellas County.

Crist, a Democrat who is running against Jolly for the Congressional District 13 seat, said, “For this virus endangering Floridians to now spread unabated to Pinellas County is inexcusable. Lives are in danger, particularly expectant mothers, children, and women planning to have children.”

Crist added: “We need clear solutions to this serious problem. First, [House] Speaker [Paul] Ryan must bring Congress back to Washington to do their job and pass a clean funding bill. Then, Florida must expand Medicaid to cover the 200,000 women in the coverage gap without access to affordable healthcare and who are at great risk.”

Jolly, a Republican who has long criticized Congressional inaction on the threat from the Zika virus, repeated his call for Congress to return to Washington, D.C., to pass a long-term Zika funding package.

“Florida is at risk and Washington is tone deaf,” Jolly said. “Today’s news of a locally transmitted case of Zika in Pinellas County is another alarm that should prompt leadership to call members back to D.C. to address this public health issue.

“As a representative of a frontline state dealing with the Zika outbreak, I fully understand the serious public health risk this virus presents. But we must address this issue now and responsibly and without playing politics. This is a public health issue, not a political issue.”

Jolly sent a letter to Ryan expressing the urgency of the problem for states like Florida. However, Congress failed to pass a Zika funding package before breaking for the district work period.

With Congress not scheduled to return to Washington, D.C. for two more weeks, Jolly supports an emergency session to address this health issue and quickly reach a bicameral, bipartisan consensus package that can be enacted into law immediately.

“The good news is nearly $100 million per month is currently flowing to combat Zika as a result of reprogramming Ebola funds. But we must pass a comprehensive funding package that will give health officials what they need to protect Floridians and others from the spread of Zika before this threat becomes a crisis,” Jolly said.

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Bob Buckhorn says Tampa will get aggressive in trying to combat Zika virus

Florida is the only state in the nation infected with native Zika, the mosquito-borne and sexually transmitted virus. On Friday, Governor Rick Scott announced that state health officials had identified five cases in Miami Beach, joining Miami’s Wynwood arts neighborhood as the two sites that have now reported locally transmitted cases in the U.S.

Bob Buckhorn doesn’t want Tampa to become next.

Standing in front of an empty pool in an abandoned home in Tampa’s Wellswood area on Monday, the mayor announced a plan to attempt to combat the chances that the virus will spread to the region.

“We’re going to be aggressive about going out and identifying in those areas and those circumstances and those situations where we can affect some change,” Buckhorn said. “These abandoned pools are one of these circumstances.”

The Zika virus is primarily spread through the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti mosquito. They tend to breed in standing water, which is why the city will begin utilizing all 45 of their code inspectors and 38 additional neighborhood enhancement personnel to locate areas around the city where standing water has accumulated.

Those inspectors will be equipped with 3,600 dunks to drop in those pools of water. These dunks contain BTI (Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis), a bacterium that naturally kills mosquito larvae before they can grow up to become flying, biting, disease-spreading adults. BTI is deadly to mosquito larvae, but it is harmless to people, plants, pets, fish, wildlife and beneficial insects.

Code Enforcement will distribute those dunks to residents, and also use them throw them into pools, retention ponds and other areas where they know standing water exists. They’re also available at Home Depot and Lowe’s for the general public.

“We need some help from the public, because they see houses like this, situations that we may not see,” said Sal Ruggiero, manager of Neighborhood Enhancement. He gave out a phone number (813-274-5545) for residents to call to give information on abandoned homes with swimming pools or other areas where water could build tip. Officials say that five years ago , there were more than 4,000 such abandoned homes.

Mosquito control is the domain of Hillsborough County, not the city, but Buckhorn said he wanted to “take things into our own hands” and act now.

Despite the calls from the governor on down to most members of the Florida congressional delegation, House Speaker Paul Ryan has insisted that there is no reason to call Congress back before their summer recess to address the issue of funding. President Obama has been holding out for a $1.9 billion package. The Senate failed to come to terms on a plan that would have provided $1.1 billion in funding. Health officials are resorting to using funds meant for other diseases in lieu of a funding package.

“I can’t tell you when Zika dollars are going to become available,” said Buckhorn. “All I can control is what I can control. And I can control this. So we’re not waiting for anybody else.”

U.S. health officials have concluded that Zika infections in pregnant women can cause microcephaly, a birth defect marked by small head size that can lead to severe developmental problems in babies. The connection between Zika and microcephaly first came to light last fall in Brazil, which has now confirmed 1,835 cases of microcephaly that it considers to be related to Zika infections in the mothers.

At his news conference on Friday, Governor Scott played down any fear that visiting Miami Beach might be dangerous, though some would argue it is for a pregnant woman at the moment. Buckhorn said that was the reason of being proactive, but he insisted that he wouldn’t wait for the state or federal government to intervene.

“The response to Zika is both an individual personal decisions and activities, and then a coordinated effort from the public,” said Doug Holt, director of the Division of Infectious Disease and International Medicine at the USF Morsani College of Law.

In addition to using dunks, the mayor also advised citizens to use bug repellant spray on their exposed parts of their body before they venture out into the outdoors, something that he says he does with his two daughters every morning.

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Barack Obama returning from summer vacation ready for busy fall

President Barack Obama is returning from vacation rested and ready for a busy fall, including pressing Congress for money to protect against the Zika virus and fending off lawmakers’ attacks over the administration’s $400 million “leverage” payment to Iran.

Obama also is expected to campaign doggedly to help elect Democrat Hillary Clinton as president.

Obama was due at the White House late Sunday after a 16-day getaway to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, with his wife, Michelle, and daughters Malia and Sasha.

His first order of business is a Tuesday trip to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to survey damage from flooding that killed at least 13 people and forced thousands into shelters.

Obama resisted pressure from Louisianans and others to interrupt his vacation to tour the ruins and meet with officials and flood victims. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump filled the void created by Obama’s absence, touring the ravaged area Friday with his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, and helping to unload a supply truck.

Obama planned to spend the rest of the week in meetings, largely to prepare for an upcoming, weeklong trip to Asia, his 11th and likely final visit to the region as president.

With Congress still on a seven-week break, Obama and aides probably will focus on what the White House can get from lawmakers before they leave town to campaign for re-election. Congress returns after Labor Day, and the House and Senate will have just a month to pass a catch-all spending bill by the Sept. 30 end of the federal budget year to keep the government operating.

Lawmakers plan to leave Washington again at the end of September, and not return until after the Nov. 8 elections.

The White House will continue to press lawmakers for money to help keep the mosquito-borne Zika virus from spreading and to develop a vaccine, now that Florida last week identified the popular Miami tourist haven of South Beach as the second site of Zika transmission on the U.S. mainland. A section of Miami’s Wynwood arts district was the first.

Obama asked Congress for $1.9 billion this year for Zika prevention. Republicans offered $1.1 billion and added provisions that Democrats objected to, including language on Planned Parenthood and other issues, leaving the matter in limbo before Congress adjourned in mid-July. Lawmakers could end up adding Zika money to the broader spending bill.

In turn, incensed lawmakers have promised to keep the heat on the administration over $400 million it delivered to Iran in January. Republicans say the money was ransom, paid to win freedom for four Americans who were being held in Iran. Questioned about the payment earlier this month, Obama said: “We do not pay ransom. We didn’t here. And we … won’t in the future.”

The president and other officials denied any linkage. But administration officials also said it made little sense not to “retain maximum leverage,” as State Department spokesman John Kirby put it last week, for the money long owed to Iran, to ensure the U.S. citizens’ release, given uncertainty about whether Iran would keep its promise to free them the day the money was to be delivered.

The explanations have failed to satisfy critics in and out of Congress. Trump has begun telling supporters at his campaign rallies that Obama “openly and blatantly” lied about the prisoners. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said Obama has set a “dangerous precedent” and owes the public a “full accounting of his actions.”

Obama opens the fall, and what’s expected to be a dogged effort to boost Clinton to the White House, in improved standing with the public, according to the Pew Research Center. His job approval rating stands at 53 percent, compared with 42 percent disapproval. That’s about the same as just before July’s political conventions.

But Obama’s standing among independent voters has reached positive territory for the first time since December 2012. Fifty-three percent of independents approve of Obama’s job performance, the center found, while 40 percent disapprove. Independents had split 46 percent to 46 percent on the question in June.

Obama won’t spend much time at the White House after a vacation during which he played golf or went to the beach almost daily.

After the Louisiana visit, the president heads to Nevada on Aug. 31 to discuss environmental protection at the Lake Tahoe Summit. The next day, he is scheduled to fly to Midway Island, in the north Pacific, for a climate change event before opening the Sept. 2-9 trip to China and Laos. Obama will become the first U.S. president to visit Laos.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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Donald Trump and new team have little time to execute new strategy

Donald Trump is on the clock.

He has about 80 days to reset and rally a presidential campaign that’s done little but stagger since the close of the Republican convention. The GOP nominee’s allies say the celebrity businessman and his new leadership team are “laser-focused” and ready to direct the billionaire’s venom against Democratic Hillary Clinton.

“This has been one of the best weeks the campaign has had,” said Sean Spicer, chief strategist at the Republican National Committee.

For much of the past year, Trump has ignored the tools of modern-day presidential campaigns. That’s a big reason why Trump’s Republican critics are skeptical their party’s nominee has the time or discipline to rescue his struggling White House bid.

“The Trump campaign is at a ludicrously high disadvantage,” said Dan Senor, a former adviser to 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. “The Democrats have something that the Republicans don’t: They have a nominee that’s built a real campaign organization.”

While Trump did bring in a new set of advisers in the past week, it appears all but certain his comeback strategy cannot benefit from the proven building blocks of winning campaigns, especially when compared with the structure Clinton has assembled.

Trump has few loyal staffers devoted to his election working in the tightly contested states that will decide the election; little early investment in the data operation needed to help ensure his supporters vote; and no significant effort to take advantage of early voting, which begins next month in some states.

If not for the Republican National Committee’s staff, Trump would have a skeleton presence in the most competitive states.

Only in the past week did Trump place his first round of general election advertising — nearly $5 million for TV commercials in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

By contrast, Clinton’s campaign has spent more than $75 million on ads in the weeks since she effectively locked up the nomination in early June, according to Kantar Media’s political ad tracker.

Out of time to build a campaign to match Clinton’s, the team at Trump Tower will by necessity focus on a broad messaging effort to capture the attention of voters and try to highlight Clinton’s shortcomings. For now, Trump finds himself behind Clinton in preference polls in nearly every battleground state.

“This new team will be very, very aggressive. They understand the nature of taking on the left,” said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Trump ally. “They will be on the attack.”

That team includes Stephen Bannon, a combative conservative media executive with no presidential campaign experience, and pollster Kellyanne Conway, who has known Trump for years. The campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, resigned on Friday amid scrutiny of his past work for Ukraine’s former pro-Russian political leaders.

Bannon and Conway will have money to work with. In July, Trump raised more than $80 million for his campaign and allied Republican Party groups, his campaign has said. That’s just shy of the $90 million that Clinton’s aides said the nominee collected in July for her campaign and fellow Democratic committees.

The goal for the Trump campaign’s leaders is not to tame the candidate’s passion, according to Trump’s allies, but refocus his attacks on Clinton. The hope is that Trump can avoid the missteps that have defined his campaign since the end of the conventions, including a public feud with an American Muslim family whose son was killed while serving in the military in Iraq.

“Unfortunately, it took them two months to figure out that Donald Trump is Donald Trump,” former Trump adviser Barry Bennet said of Manafort and his team. “He’s the bulldozer candidate. What you need to do is aim him at an immovable object, not try to change him.”

That approach was evident Friday. Trump began with a visit to flood-wreaked Louisiana and ended with a measured, but pointed rally in Michigan. He took on Clinton and her strong support among African-Americans, and contended that his rival would rather give jobs to refugees than American citizens. Trump accused Democrats of taking advantage of black voters while failing to offer them new jobs, better schools and a way out of poverty.

“It’s time to hold Democratic politicians accountable for what they’ve done for these communities,” he said, adding: “What do you lose by trying something new like Trump?”

Clinton had no intention of letting Trump’s messages pass politely. Within hours of his speech, she tweeted: “This is so ignorant it’s staggering.”

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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Martin Dyckman: Supreme Court nominees no reason to elect Donald Trump

Some Republicans to whom Donald Trump is the skunk at their garden party would have you elect him president nevertheless.

Mark Sanford is one. When last heard of, he was the governor of South Carolina, canoodling with a mistress in Argentina while his office pretended that he was hiking the Appalachian Trail.

Now he’s a congressman, and he had an op-ed in The New York Times last week (Aug. 14) strongly criticizing Trump for refusing to release his tax returns.

Trump’s obstinacy “will have consequences,” Sanford said. It “would hurt transparency in our democratic process, and particularly in how voters evaluate the men and women vying to be our leaders.

“Whether he wins or loses, that is something our country cannot afford.”

Hear, hear.

But Sanford also hedged his bets.

“I am a conservative Republican who, though I have no stomach for his personal style and his penchant for regularly demeaning others, intends to support my party’s nominee because of the importance of filling the existing vacancy on the Supreme Court, and others that might open in the next four years,” he wrote.

There you have it. To Sanford, keeping Hillary Clinton from appointing new justices is worth letting everything else go to hell. The government, the country, maybe the world and certainly the court.

Trump might even nominate his conspicuous Florida cheerleader Pam Bondi.

Sanford isn’t the only Republican who has sold out for fear of a liberalized Supreme Court. That’s probably a factor with Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and John McCain too.

Independents and die-hard Hillary-hating Democrats need to pay attention. If they don’t vote for her, they could have themselves to blame for making the Supreme Court a right-wing rat hole for another generation.

Republicans want a court that would uphold their state-by-state voter suppression schemes, shut its eyes to maliciously partisan gerrymandering, and make it impossible rather than merely difficult to sue people like Trump for consumer fraud, environmental pollution and other white collar crimes.

The Citizens United atrocity would continue to leave Congress in the grip of the Koch brothers and their allied oligarchs.

Clinton vows to appoint justices who would repeal that monumentally bad Supreme Court decision.

Trump doesn’t make that promise. He does, however, assure the religious right that his justices would repeal Roe v. Wade.

Exacting such commitments from future judges is another of those developments the Founders didn’t anticipate. They had the idealistic, if naive, view that integrity and competence would govern who got appointed.

But we have to take the world as it is, and there’s no shortage of capable lawyers who have declared that Citizens United was wrongly decided. Four of the justices at the time said so too.

The court has a history of renouncing prior decisions as wrongly decided or simply no longer applicable. It trashed two precedents in Citizens United.

Although Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion more or less rationalized that full disclosure would restrain corporate election spending, that hasn’t happened. Dark money by the billions is sinking the ship of state.

And in South Dakota, the Kochtopus is fiercely fighting a ballot initiative that would require public disclosure of donors to advocacy campaigns, create a state ethics commission and provide public financing of political campaigns.

Fortunately, there are Republicans who disagree that the court is reason enough to sacrifice everything else.

John Yoo and Jeremy Rabkin, law professors in California, are two of them. Writing in the Los Angeles Times Aug. 14, they described the dangerous world we live in and warned that a Trump presidency “invites a cascade of global crises.”

Moreover, they argued, conservatives should not take Trump’s word that he would appoint suitable justices or that the Senate would confirm them.

“Even if Trump were to win in November, it is in the legislative and executive branches that conservatives will have to win their most important battles,” they wrote. “Does Trump look like the man to lead them?”

Yoo’s opposition is really noteworthy. He was the deputy attorney general in the George W. Bush administration who wrote the notorious memos condoning extreme methods of interrogating terrorism suspects, including waterboarding. That’s a form of torture that Trump is salivating to resume.

If even Yoo can’t stomach Trump, what does that tell us?

___

Martin Dyckman is a retired associate editor of the newspaper now known as the Tampa Bay Times. He lives in suburban Asheville, North Carolina.

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Donald Trump makes first ad buys in battleground states, including Florida

With his new leadership team promising a sharper message, Donald Trump on Thursday moved to invest nearly $5 million in battleground state advertising.

The investment over the coming 10 days in Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania marks the Republican presidential contender’s first major general election expenditures in the swing states, which are considered critical to his narrowing path to the White House.

The advertising plans, confirmed by Kantar Media’s political ad tracker, come a day after Trump announced another senior staffing shakeup. Weary Republican leaders hope the new leadership team can reverse the New York businessman’s struggles even as some worry it’s too little too late.

The Republican nominee tapped Stephen Bannon — a combative conservative media executive with no presidential campaign experience — to serve as CEO of his White House bid.

Pollster Kellyanne Conway, who has known Trump for years and gained his trust during her brief tenure working for him, will serve as campaign manager.

“I think we’re going to sharpen the message,” Conway told CNN. “We’re going to make sure Donald Trump is comfortable about being in his own skin — that he doesn’t lose that authenticity that you simply can’t buy and a pollster can’t give you. Voters know if you’re comfortable in your own skin.”

The Republican National Committee has already conceded it may divert resources away from the presidential contest favor of vulnerable Senate and House candidates if Trump’s standing does not improve in the coming weeks. RNC chief strategist Sean Spicer called Trump’s staffing changes the “healthy growth of the campaign at a senior level at a key point.”

He also urged caution as Trump’s new team contemplates whether the fiery populism and freewheeling style that won him the Republican nomination will give him a better shot at the White House than uniting his party and rallying moderate voters.

“I think people want him to be authentic,” Spicer said. “They appreciate he’s not a scripted politician, but there’s a recognition that words do matter.”

The staffing changes are aimed in part at marginalizing campaign chairman Paul Manafort, a longtime Republican operative who pushed Trump to moderate his tone and improve relations with skeptical Republican officials. In breaking with that approach, Trump appears set on finishing the race on his own terms — win or lose.

Trump’s divisive tone and weak poll numbers have triggered a rash of Republican defections in recent weeks. Party loyalists have grown increasingly frustrated with Trump’s inability to stay focused on Democrat Hillary Clinton amid a series of self-created distractions.

“I don’t care if Donald Duck is running the campaign,” said Henry Barbour, a Republican National committeeman from Mississippi. “If he can make this thing about Hillary Clinton’s record and getting the country back on track, that’s what’s going to win this election.”

Despite the new advertising investment, Trump is woefully behind: Clinton’s campaign has spent more than $75 million on ads in the weeks since she effectively locked up the nomination in early June, according to Kantar Media’s political ad tracker.

Trump frequently boasts that his rival is spending heavily while he’s put nothing into advertising, banking so far on free wall-to-wall media coverage to carry his message.

While his campaign has been silent through paid media, he’s had some assistance from outside political groups, Kantar Media shows. One, called Rebuilding America Now, has spent about $9 million in the past few weeks. The National Rifle Association’s political arm has also put more than $4 million into anti-Clinton messages.

But these amounts pale in comparison to the $31 million the pro-Clinton super PAC Priorities USA has spent on air since mid-June. And that’s just one of several groups helping her.

Rarely do presidential campaigns wait so long to advertise, or undergo such a level of leadership tumult at such a stage of the general election. The developments come less than three months before Election Day, and roughly six weeks before early voting begins.

Trump’s standing in the White House race plummeted throughout the summer and he now trails Clinton in preference polls of most key battleground states. He’s struggled to offer voters a consistent message, overshadowing formal policy speeches with a steady stream of controversies, including a public feud with an American Muslim family whose son was killed while serving in the U.S. military in Iraq.

Bannon’s website has been fiercely loyal to Trump for months and sharply critical of Republican leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan. Breitbart has also actively promoted false conspiracy theories about Clinton, and some have then made their way into Trump’s remarks.

“Trump is on his third campaign manager in three months. If this was a hot dog stand, conclusion might be there was a problem with the dogs,” Republican strategist Stuart Stevens, a frequent Trump critic, wrote on Twitter. Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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Donald Trump’s America on trial in modern day ‘Judgment at Nuremberg’

Above all, there was fear: fear of today, fear of tomorrow … fear of our neighbors, and fear of ourselves … Only when you understand that, can you understand what Hitler meant to us: “Lift your heads. Be proud to be German. There are devils among us: Communists, liberals, Jews, Gypsies. Once these devils will be destroyed, your misery will be destroyed.”

Those words are from the 1961 film Judgment at Nuremberg. They address an eternal question: Why do good people do terrible things?

The speaker, Ernest Janning, played by Burt Lancaster, is a former German judge on trial before an Allied tribunal for crimes he committed in service to the Third Reich.

He had been a decent man, widely respected for his legal acumen and his integrity.

Now, over the objection of his defense attorney, he insists on testifying for the prosecution.

He is explaining why he conducted a show trial of an elderly Jewish man falsely accused of sexual relations with a Gentile woman, and why he determined to convict him and sentence him to death even before hearing any testimony …

It was because the future of Germany was at stake. And if a few minorities had to suffer, so be it.

The screenplay was closely modeled on actual events, including a Nazi show trial, and on the excuses that “good” Germans gave for their participation.

Turner Classic Movies showed the film the other night (Aug. 11). Whether the scheduling had to do with the current election campaign I don’t know. But the timing couldn’t have been better.

Comparisons with Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany should be made rarely lest they trivialize those monstrosities.

But there is much — too much — about Donald Trump and his campaign that resembles them.

Only the targets of Trump’s demagoguery are different. The methods are the same.

He cannot tell a truth if there’s a lie to be told. He peddles fear and capitalizes on hate. He whips his crowds into froths of rage against Hillary Clinton and against reporters whose lives, too, he puts in danger by targeting them at his rallies. The Secret Service had to see to the safety of one of them.

All across our country — in schools, on streets, at public meetings, and even from pulpits — Trump’s venom is being echoed in denunciations and harassment of Americans because of their religious faith. In New York City Saturday, an imam and his assistant were murdered execution-style on a city street. The motive remains unknown, but it would surprise no one if it turns out to be a hate crime.

The message of Judgment at Nuremberg is not that such things happen. It is, rather, in the question that Ernest Janning asks during his confession:

“What of those of us who knew better? We who knew the words were lies, and worse than lies. Why did we sit silent? Why did we take part? Because we loved our country …

“And then, one day, we looked around … and found that we were in an even more terrible danger.”

We should take that scene as a parable for what’s happening in the United States of America right now.

We are in terrible danger — though it appears to be diminishing — of debasing our country and endangering the world with the most unprepared, unsuited and unworthy person who has ever sought the presidency.

“I think he’s mentally unstable., I think he’s dangerously unqualified,” says former Sen. Gordon Humphrey of New Hampshire, the latest prominent Republican to put country above party.

That’s what John McCain should be doing too.

But McCain still pretends that Trump is fit for the presidency.

If Trump’s death threat against Clinton didn’t shock McCain’s conscience, what could?

Surely McCain knows better. Surely, so do Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and other Republicans who have mortgaged their reputations to the delusion that Trump would be better than Clinton.

Or is it just because they crave to share in the power of a Trump presidency? Do they miscalculate, as so many Germans once did, that they could control the monster they are making?

If the polls are correct, Trump will lose. But the dangerous hatreds he deliberately inflames will continue to fester.

We will all be the losers for that.

And those who know better but who continue to support him, with endorsements or money or even with just their silence, will have lost more than an election.

They will have forfeited the respect of people who once admired them.

___

Martin Dyckman is a retired columnist and editorial writer for the newspaper now known as the Tampa Bay Times. He lives in suburban Asheville, North Carolina.

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In Tampa, Alan Grayson says a Senate victory for him is the chance “to take our govt. back”

“All rise!”

Those were the first words that Alan Grayson uttered in jest while entering a conference room at the Seminole Heights Library in Tampa on Thursday night.

The Orlando area U.S. Representative and U.S. Senate candidate then gave a sarcastic shoutout to the “trackers” who follow his every move in public, before setting in for the next hour-and-half- to take questions from approximately 80 people at the town-hall meeting.

Gun control, the environment, restoring the voting rights to ex-felons, and even his run-in with a POLITICO reporter during the Democratic National Convention were all fodder for discussion, as well as the de rigueur slamming of his main opponent in the Senate race, Jupiter Congressman Patrick Murphy.

“My opponent has taken more money from Wall Street than any other Democrat … or any other Republican other that that of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy,” he said. “He’s taken more money from Wall Street than the Chairman of the Banking Committee (Texas Republican Jeb Hensarling). How do you do that?” he asked.

He then answered his own question.

“You cut the law into little pieces and you sell it to the highest bidder,” Grayson said, adding somewhat ominously that a vote for him was “the last chance to say that you can either work for the people, or work against the people? You can either do the greatest good for the greatest number, or you can be a toady for special interests. That’s really what this election is all about. It’s a referendum on our system of government. One last chance to take our government back.”

The crowd – some of them wearing Bernie Sanders T-shirts – seemed totally in his corner. A couple of citizens said they didn’t know much about him before hand, but were impressed by what they were hearing.

One of those people was East Hillsborough activist Michelle Williams, who said her major issue was the restoration of voting rights for ex-felons. Grayson informed her that it was an issue that he cared a lot about.

There was one moment that could have gone sideways during the discussion. One citizen said there were “three troubling issues” that he hoped Grayson could speak to. One was his support for his wife, Dr. Dena Grayson, over his former staffer, Susannah Randolph, in the race to succeed him in Florida’s 9th Congressional District.

Grayson swatted that question away easily, espousing the virtues of having a doctor elected to the House of Representatives, especially in the time of Zika.

The second question was about the House Office of Congressional Ethics report that alleged that there was a “substantial reason to believe” that Grayson broke federal and House ethics rules in connection with his offshore hedge fund. And the third question was about the “admittedly ambushed interview” he had last month in Philadelphia with a POLITICO report, as well as “the larger issues pertaining to that.”

Those “larger issues” were the allegations by Grayson’s ex-wife that he had physically abused her.

Grayson said he would answer “all of the questions you have,” but added that “the things you refer to actually touch the lives of no one in this room, except possibly me.”

But, in fact, he did not answer at all answer the questions regarding the hedge fund or those “larger issues,” and instead simply focused on his confrontation with POLITICO reporter Edward-Isaac Dovere.

“In the NBA, if you want to take a charge, you have to stop moving your feet,” the congressman began, as he started to shuffle his own feet to demonstrate what he meant. “He went here, and there, and everywhere and consistently tried to block me, leading the room with his chest. I’ll tell you, I’ve never gotten that treatment, even from Republican trackers.”

Grayson went on to say that that he kept on telling Dovere that “you are blocking me.”

“Is that my fault? I don’t think so. I think it’s a strange thing that just because you’re a U.S. congressman running for a Senate seat that somebody would do anything like that,” he said, before apologizing to the rest of the room because he said it had nothing to do with their lives.

In response, Dovere tells FloridaPolitics that, “I’m not sure why the Congressman wants to keep discussing this, but there is a video on our site showing what happened — including his pushing me while claiming I was pushing him. As he said in that video, he attended a public event, and he is a public official. I was attempting to ask him questions about the serious allegations of domestic abuse by his ex-wife.”

Grayson has made frequent appearances in Tampa as he vies for the senate bid. Patrick Murphy hasn’t made as many visits, but his office did announce on Friday that he will be coming to Tampa on Monday to visit Tampa Bay Wave.

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David Jolly latest Florida lawmaker calling for Congress’ return to D.C. for Zika funding

As health officials report more than 400 travel-related and 22 locally transmitted cases of the Zika virus in Florida, U.S. Rep. David Jolly becomes the latest Florida lawmaker calling on Congress to return to Washington and pass a bill to fund the growing health crisis.

“With Congress not scheduled to return to Washington, D.C. for nearly four weeks, I support calls for an emergency session to address this health issue and quickly reach a bicameral, bipartisan consensus package that can be enacted into law immediately,” the Pinellas County Republican wrote on his Facebook page Thursday.

In making his request, Jolly joins a growing list of Republicans and Democrats in the Florida congressional delegation who have been calling on lawmakers to return to the nation’s capital to address the issue. Gov. Rick Scott also called on Congress to go back to D.C. to pass a bill earlier this week, as did Charlie Crist, who Jolly will likely be facing in November,

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that one of the 22 Zika cases that health officials in the Wynwood area of Miami are dealing with is the first known pregnant woman likely infected in the U.S. by a mosquito bite, rather than from travel or sexual intercourse. The Florida Department of Health says it has identified 18 positive cases so far from the Wynwood area.

“In recent weeks, we have worked through some of the concerns with the President’s proposal, and while I still prefer a package introduced by both U.S. Senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson, the debate has gone on too long. We cannot let our differences lead us to inaction, “Jolly writes.

House Speaker Paul Ryan would be the man to call the House of Representatives back to Washington to approve a package, but he tweeted last week that “Here’s the #Verified truth: the #Zika crises has been hijacked by #Democrats for political gain.”

In Miami on Wednesday, Hillary Clinton called on Republicans to “pass the bipartisan bill in the Senate or come up with a new compromise that does the same.”

House Republicans did vote to approve a Zika funding bill in May, but the White House vowed to veto it, and Democrats opposed the measure because it pulled about half of the $622 million in the bill from efforts to fight Ebola.

In June, Senate Democrats blocked a bill that would have provided $1.1 billion in funding to fight Zika, accusing Republicans of filling the bill with unrelated and politically charged provisions like restrictions on Planned Parenthood, the women’s health organization.

Democrats have since pushed for a “clean” Zika funding bill, but Republicans have accused them of not being willing to pass the two measures they proposed.

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Donald Trump to try to steady campaign with economic speech

Donald Trump is trying to shift from a disastrous stretch of his presidential campaign to one focused on policy and party unity. But even as his allies speak of lessons the political newcomer has learned, two of his staunchest Republican critics warn that he could be heading for losses in a pair of battleground states.

Trump is set to deliver an economic speech on Monday to the prestigious Detroit Economic Club in his effort to step past his spats over the past 10 days with the Muslim-American parents of a slain Army captain and the leaders of a Republican Party he has promised to unite.

“Mr. Trump on Monday will lay out a vision that’s a growth economic plan” that will focus on cutting taxes, cutting regulation, energy development and boosting middle-class wages, campaign chairman Paul Manafort said in remarks broadcast Sunday on Fox Business. “When we do that, we’re comfortable that we can get the agenda and the narrative of the campaign back on where it belongs, which is comparing the tepid economy under Obama and Clinton, versus the kind of growth economy that Mr. Trump wants to build.”

What came before Monday’s speech, Manafort suggested, doesn’t count in the race to Election Day on Nov. 8. “It’s a three-month campaign,” he said.

Trump may have done irreversible damage in two critical states, Arizona and Ohio, with an approach to immigration reform that some say is divisive, two fellow Republicans say. Trump wants to build a wall between the United States and Mexico and now says he wants to suspend immigration from “terror countries” — though he has yet to say what those are.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who lost the Republican nomination to Trump, has not endorsed the billionaire and skipped the party’s convention in Cleveland, said Trump faces a difficult climb in a state that’s a must-win for Republican presidential candidates.

“He’s going to win parts of Ohio, where people are really hurting. There will be sections he will win because people are angry, frustrated and haven’t heard any answers,” Kasich said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” ”But I still think it’s difficult if you are dividing, to be able to win in Ohio. I think it’s really, really difficult.”

In an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., said, “Yes, it is possible” that Democrat Hillary Clinton could beat Trump in his state, noting that Bill Clinton won Arizona in 1996 and that Hispanics represent about a third of the Arizona population.

“You can’t just throw platitudes out there about a wall or about Mexico paying for it and then be taken seriously here,” Flake said.

Clinton is expected to deliver her own economic plan to the Detroit Economic Club on Thursday.

That’s who Republicans want to see Trump fighting — the former senator and secretary of state, not Republicans and others. It’s a message furious senior members of the party carried to Trump privately and publicly in the days after Trump last week refused in a Washington Post interview to endorse the re-election bids of House Speaker Paul Ryan, Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire. The trio had strongly disapproved of Trump’s fight with Khizr and Ghazala Khan, Muslim-Americans whose son, Capt. Humayun Khan, was killed in Iraq in 2004.

On Friday at a Wisconsin rally not attended by Ryan or Gov. Scott Walker, Trump reversed course and endorsed all three lawmakers, saying, “We have to unite.”

“If you look at the last few days, I think he’s gotten the messages,” former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said on “Fox News Sunday.” ”It’s very tricky if you’ve never run for public office, to jump from being a businessman to being one of the two leaders fighting for the presidency, and he’s made some mistakes.”

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said on ABC’s “This Week” that Trump’s endorsements show he “has the ability and the understanding to realize that there are going to be disagreements and you’ve got to be able to reach out to the entire party.”

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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