Fla. Gov. to appoint task force to review "Stand your Ground" law

Published: Friday, March 23, 2012 @ 8:58 AM
Updated: Friday, March 23, 2012 @ 8:58 AM

An Orlando-area state lawmaker helped Florida Gov. Rick Scott choose a new state attorney in the case of slain teen Trayvon Martin.

Florida State Sen. Gary Siplin said he worked closely with Scott and others to make sure that the prosecutor on the case was far removed from any ties to the Sanford Police Department.

"I got so many calls about justice. They felt that the current prosecutor who had a relationship with the Sanford Police Department would not be fair. There may be an appearance of conflict of interest," Siplin said.

The news was announced as a rally for Martin began Thursday evening, along with demands for the arrest of vigilante George Zimmerman.

Zimmerman shot and killed Martin, who was unarmed and returning home from a 7-Eleven, on Feb. 26.

Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi worked together to appoint Angela B. Corey (of the 4th Judicial Circuit) as the newly assigned state attorney in the investigation into the death of Martin. Scott and Bondi reached out to State Attorney Norman Wolfinger, and after a conversation, Wolfinger decided to step down from the investigation and turn it over.  

Scott also announced the formation of a task force, which will convene following the conclusion of the investigation by Corey.

Scott and Bondi said they have full faith in the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the U.S. Department of Justice and in Corey that a full and thorough investigation will be conducted.

"We're honored to serve the governor, and we're going to get right on it," said Corey.

Orlando TV station WFTV legal analyst Bill Sheaffer said he believes the tough prosecutor from Jacksonville will get it right.

"She's a no-nonsense prosecutor. The governor could not have asked any other prosecutor better that her to oversee this investigation and present this case to the grand jury," said Sheaffer.

Scott is taking steps to make sure a death like Martin's doesn't happen again. He issued a statement on Thursday night calling for "a task force on citizen safety and protection to investigate how to make sure a tragedy such as this does not occur in the future."  (Read Scott's full statement)

Scott said he has plans to appoint a task force to review Florida's "Stand your Ground" law.

The"Stand your Ground" has become a hot topic across the country in response to Martin's death.

GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich gave his opinion about the law and the case.

"Apparently, the man, the shooter, was following the young man. Now that's not a 'Stand your own Ground,' that's a 'chase the other person into their ground,'" said Gingrich.

Gingrich said he thinks the law as it's meant to be interpreted does not apply to the Martin case.

Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee announced that he has temporarily stepped down as chief, during a press conference outside of Sanford City Hall on Thursday.

"I must temporarily remove myself from the position of police chief for the city of Sanford," Lee said. "It's apparent my involvement in this matter is overshadowing the process, therefore I must temporarily remove myself as police chief."

Two captains will lead the department while the city searches for an interim chief.

The NAACP and people in the community have called for Lee to be fired.

WFTV learned that Lee will likely be off the job until the State Attorney's Office finishes its investigation, and he will continue to collect his $102,000 annual salary in the meantime.

Civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton led the rally Martin at Fort Mellon Park in Sanford Thursday evening, calling for Zimmerman's arrest.

"Arrest Zimmerman now!" shouted Sharpton.

Zimmerman claimed he acted in self-defense, and the lack of his arrest has prompted outrage from civil rights activists, local leaders and people from around the country.

More than 10,000 people gathered at the park, asking for justice in the case.

"No justice, no peace!" shouted the crowd.

"We can't allow a legal precedent to be established in this city that tells us it is legal for a man to kill us, tell any story he wants, and walks out with the murder weapon," said Sharpton.

Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton, also spoke to the crowd and was overwhelmed with emotion as she read a verse from the Bible.

"Trust the Lord with all your heart and lean not until your understanding. I stand before you today, not knowing how I'm walking right now, because my heart hurts for my son," Fulton said. 

Martin's father, Tracey Martin, also addressed the crowd.

"I pledge I will not let my son die in vain, making sure George Zimmerman pays for what he did to our son," Tracey Martin said.

A town hall meeting at the Civic Center is scheduled for Monday night.

Only WFTV spoke to the family of the boy who was with Martin the day he was killed.

They said detectives never interviewed Martin's friend, 14-year-old Chad Joseph Jr.  He was hanging out with Martin the day of the shooting, watching the NBA All-Star game at Joseph's mother's house.

His family said that Joseph Jr. was the one that wanted candy during the game, which prompted Martin to venture out of the Retreat at Twin Lakes complex to the 7-Eleven.

"He asked Chad, 'What do you want back?' And Chad told him, 'Hey, I'll take a pack of Skittles.' The Skittles he had on him," said Chad Joseph Sr.

Joseph Sr. said his son didn't even know Martin was dead until after school the next day.

The Sanford Police Department did not reply to WFTV's messages about whether the teen was interviewed.

Also on Thursday, Seminole State College kicked out Zimmerman, who remains silent and in hiding.

Sanford police reportedly know where he is, and only Zimmerman's father has spoken publicly on his behalf. His father wrote a letter, claiming Zimmerman is Hispanic, with many black family members and friends, and the racist media portrayal is not true.

Family bitten by bed bugs on nine hour international British Airways flight

Published: Sunday, October 22, 2017 @ 3:42 PM

What You Need to Know: Bed Bugs

A British Columbia woman and her daughter described a harrowing tale of being bitten by bed bugs on a British Airways flight from Vancouver to the United Kingdom.

>> Read more trending news

Heather Szilagyi was on the  nine-hour international flight with her fiance and her 7-year-old daughter when she said she saw the insects crawling around on the seat in front of her.  

“To actually see them pouring out of the back of the TV on the seat, that was actually really gross,” she told National Post.

Szilagyi took a series of photos that show the nasty bites that the creatures left on her daughter. She worked in hotels for years and said she recognized the insects immediately.

>> Related: Orkin report shows Atlanta bed bugs creeping up in national rankings

A British Airways spokesperson said in a statement that bed bugs on flights are extremely rare, but added, “Nevertheless, we are vigilant and continually monitor our aircraft. The presence of bed bugs is an issue faced occasionally by hotels and airlines all over the world.”

>> Related: His girlfriend woke up with bites all over — when he flipped over the mattress, he discovered the awful cause

Szilagyi told CTV that they had trouble getting in touch with somebody from the airline until they finally posted about the incident online.

“I’m not asking for money, I’m not asking for anything,” she said, but on their way home, the airline flew them first class, and she noted that there were no bed bugs on that trip.

Donald Trump: Only modern president without pets in the White House

Published: Sunday, October 22, 2017 @ 10:45 PM

WASHINGTON - MARCH 15:  U.S. President Barack Obama greets his dog Bo outside the Oval Office of the White House March 15, 2012 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Martin H. Simon-Pool/Getty Images)
Pool/Getty Images
WASHINGTON - MARCH 15: U.S. President Barack Obama greets his dog Bo outside the Oval Office of the White House March 15, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Martin H. Simon-Pool/Getty Images)(Pool/Getty Images)

The Trump White House is likely to become known for many things, but cute and cuddly is apparently not one of them. Breaking from tradition, the First Family has not welcomed pets into their lair.

>> Read more trending news

"There are no plans at this time" to add animals to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Communications Director Stephanie Grisham told CNN. That would make the Trumps "the only first family in modern presidential history without a pet," CNN says.

Ivanka Trump wrote about her ex-husband's ambivalence toward her poodle, Chappy, in her memoir, Raising Trump. Chappy "had an equal dislike of Donald," she was also quoted as saying.

In recent times, dogs have been the most common furry friend at the White House. Who doesn't remember the Portuguese water dogs, Bo and Sunny, who frolicked with the Obamas, or the many mutts of the Bush presidents. George W. Bush's dog, Spot, was born at the White House, the offspring of Millie, during George H.W. Bush's administration. George W. and Laura also had terriers, Miss Beazley and Barney, famous for his "Barney Cam" videos.

But the history of First Family pets is also full of unusual sidekicks, from James Buchanan's elephants to Martin Van Buren's tiger cubs, according to CNN. Though unconfirmed, legend has it that John Quincy Adams had an alligator.

Many of these more unusual animals were gifts. First families with young children often went more traditional, taking full advantage of the benefits of living at America's most famous residence.

The Kennedy White House included a pony, horses, hamsters, dogs, parakeets, a canary, a rabbit and a cat. Pets "help create an atmosphere of the White House as a family, a lived-in place and not just a stiff museum, but a place where a family lives and plays and enjoys each other's company," the chief historian at the White House Historical Association, Ed Lengel, told CNN.

But it's not like the Trump administration is bereft of pet-lovers. Vice President Mike Pence and Karen Pence keep a menagerie at their nearby home at the U.S. Naval Observatory.

Their rabbit, Marlon Bundo, is a social media star with his own Instagram account. One of their longtime cats, Oreo, recently passed away but they've since added a new kitten, Hazel, who joins another feline, Pickles. The family's beloved 13-year-old beagle, Maverick, died days before the election. But an Australian shepherd puppy, Harley, has happily joined the family. 
More famous First Family pets 
• Thomas Jefferson: A mockingbird and several bear cubs.
• Woodrow Wilson: A flock of sheep and a ram, who grazed the White House lawn.
• William Taft: A Holstein cow named Pauline.
• Warren Harding: Laddie Boy, an Airedale terrier who had his own chair in the Roosevelt Room for Cabinet meetings.
• Calvin Coolidge: First Lady Grace Coolidge had an opossum and a raccoon, which she walked on a leash.
• Theodore Roosevelt: Nearly 30 pets, including his bulldog, Pete, famous for tearing the pants off the French ambassador.
• Richard Nixon: Checkers the cocker spaniel.
• Jimmy Carter: Daughter Amy had a Siamese cat named Misty Malarky Ying Yang. 
• Ronald Reagan: Rex, a King Charles spaniel.
• Bill Clinton: Socks the cat.

Vegetables sold at Walmart, Trader Joe's recalled for Listeria

Published: Sunday, October 22, 2017 @ 9:43 PM

Recall: Listeria Concerns In Vegetables Sold At Walmart, Trader Joe's, Target

Mann Packing is voluntarily recalling various vegetable products sold at Walmart, Trader Joe's and Target over concerns of Listeria monocytogenes, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

The company said “a single positive” test result in random sampling by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency sparked the decision to issue the recall notice. Listeria infection can cause fever, diarrhea, flu-like symptoms and even miscarriages.

"As an owner of this company and a mom, providing safe and healthy foods to our consumers and their families is always our top priority," Gina Nucci, director of corporate marketing, said in a release.

The recall includes Brussels sprouts, broccoli and vegetable medley products distributed throughout the United States and Canada with “best if used by” dates from Oct. 11 to 20.

Affected items include:

  • Walmart 12-oz. bags of broccoli cauliflower florets, broccoli florets and stir fry medley, 32-oz. bags of broccoli florets, 16-oz. bags of broccoli slaw, 10-ounce bags of cauliflower florets and super blend, 6/16-oz. bags of cauliflower and 2-lb. bags of vegetable medley.

  • Trader Joe's, 10-ounce bags of kohlrabi salad blend.

  • Archer Farms 12-oz. bags of broccoli slaw, broccoli cauliflower florets, broccoli medley and brussels sprouts, 9-oz. bags of shaved brussels sprouts and 10-oz. bags of cauliflower florets.

Aldi supermarkets also issued recall notices for Mann products.

Echoing Reagan, Trump pushes Congress to act swiftly on tax reform

Published: Sunday, October 22, 2017 @ 10:05 PM

Pushing the House to take another step this week on the road to major tax reforms, President Donald Trump used an op-ed in USA Today to argue that GOP tax plans will “ignite America’s middle class miracle once again,” as he channeled former President Ronald Reagan, saying with “tax reform, we can make it morning in America again.”

“Revising our tax code is not just a policy discussion — it is a moral one, because we are not talking about the government’s money – we are talking about your money, your hard work,” the President wrote.

Mr. Trump meanwhile used a conference call with House Republicans on Sunday to make much the same argument – that now is the time for action on tax reform.

Here is where things stand on Capitol Hill when it comes to GOP plans to move legislation on tax reform.

1. The budget comes first for the GOP. Before they can focus solely on tax reform, Republicans must approve a non-binding budget outline for 2018, which would authorize expedited action on a tax bill – without the threat of a Senate filibuster. The Senate approved their plan last Thursday, and now the House seems ready to accept that this week, though the budget details are sure to give some GOP fiscal hawks some heartburn, as the plan would not ensure a balanced budget within ten years. But GOP leaders are basically telling rank and file Republicans that now is the time for tax reform, and that there is no use in getting caught up in a battle over budget cuts. Look for the House to vote later this week.

2. But ‘what if’ the House refuses to go along? If enough Republicans refuse to vote for the Senate-passed budget, then there would have to be formal House-Senate negotiations, which could take some time to hash out a deal on the budget resolution for 2018. That would obviously delay work on tax reform, and make it that much more difficult to swiftly get a tax bill moving on Capitol Hill. It seems unlikely that will happen, as more conservative lawmakers have been assured they will get votes on measures dealing with budget savings. But it is safe to say that the ‘normal’ Republican focus on budget deficits has melted away now that the GOP is in charge of the White House and Congress. Here is the sales pitch being made by the Republican Study Group, which says Speaker Paul Ryan has promised votes on some budget-related bills.

3. Let’s assume the House approves the budget – then what? If the House heeds the advice of President Trump, and votes for the Senate-passed budget outline this week, then the focus will shift to the tax-writing committees of the House and Senate – the House Ways and Means Committee, and the Senate Finance Committee, as they produce an actual tax reform bill. Remember – we don’t have a bill as yet from the White House – just some bullet points. In 1985, President Reagan sent Congress an actual 489 page bill as a starting point. President Trump’s bullet points are just a small piece of a much larger bill that is expected to be released by Republicans, as the scrums of reporters grow each day for key lawmakers, like Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

4. What’s the possible timing on tax reform? Ask veterans of Capitol Hill what they think about a GOP tax plan, and they cannot imagine it getting done this year (or even at all). But the White House and GOP leaders in Congress keep talking about doing it fast, maybe having a vote in the House before a Thanksgiving break, and a Senate vote in December. If we go back and look at the tax reform timeline in the Reagan Administration, it took a lot longer. The House Ways and Means Committee started work on a draft bill in late September 1985 – it took two months to finish. The deal almost fell apart in December, as the House voted to approve that plan just before Christmas. In the Senate, it took six months to get the bill out of committee and to a vote, in June 1986. In other words, Republicans think they can move at legislative warp speed compared to thirty one years ago in the Congress.

5. Remember, there are a lot of details involved. If you are going to do just tax cuts, that’s pretty straightforward. But if you are going to try to do sweeping tax reform – for both the individual and corporate sides – that is very complicated. Just look back at 1986, and you can see that bill is filled with rifle-shot provisions intended to help just one company or group. Back then, there was no way to get this out to the voters. But with the internet and social media, these types of provisions will get a lot of attention and scrutiny.

6. One more thought on timing – from 1986. As I write this on October 22, it is 31 years to the day that President Reagan signed the Tax Reform Act into law. But I clearly remembered the final agreement being struck in August – and the vote taking place soon after Labor Day. My memory was correct. So, why did it take another month for the President to sign the bill into law? For one, there were a number of errors in the final agreement, which needed to be fixed. So, on September 25, 1986, the House passed H. Con. Res. 395, to make “technical and clerical” corrections in the final bill. The Senate took that up a few weeks later, and made some changes, which were sent back to the House. The House made a few more changes. But no final resolution was agreed to, as the Congress adjourned for the year on October 18, 1986. So, four days later, the President signed the bill into law anyway. Want to do some more reading about what happened in 1986? Here you go:

And by the way, that explanation of the 1986 Tax Reform Act runs almost 1,400 pages. Happy reading!