Where the Death Penalty Still Lives. In the U.S., 20 states and the District of Columbia have abolished capital punishment and four others have imposed a moratorium on executions. Of the 26 states that remain, only 14 handed down death sentences last year for a total of 50 across the country — less than half the number six years before. California, which issued more than one-quarter of last year’s death sentences, hasn’t actually executed anyone since 2006. A new geography of capital punishment is taking shape, with just two percent of the nation’s counties now accounting for a majority of the people sitting on death row. [more inside]
In March of 2011, 12-year-old Cristian Fernandez was taken into an interview room at a Jacksonville, Florida, police station and interrogated by Michelle Soehlig, a ponytailed female officer. Before Soehlig began questioning him, she told the child, “These are your constitutional rights,” and slid over a document listing the Miranda warnings, familiar to anyone who’s seen an episode of Law & Order. [more inside]
“High Times and Low Tide at Reefer Beach”
Forty years ago, six young, Florida beach boys and a shrimper named Bubba smuggled more Jamaican weed into America than the nation had ever seen. Until one night in 1973, when too much weed on too small a boat with too little tide beneath it resulted in a bust that sent them to federal prison. Today, writer, Jodi Cash, takes us down to St. Pete Beach to meet some old weed pirates - and the man who eventually made their way of life a thing of the past. (Photography by Ethan Payne)
If you lived or traveled through the Fort Pierce region of Florida in the late 1950s and throughout the 60s, you may have had the chance to buy a landscape painting from an African American man, with Upson board as the canvas and crown molding as a frame, and the paint might have still been wet. Unable to get their art into local galleries, this rough collective of 26 self-taught artists peddled their wares to local businesses, through neighborhoods and to tourists. Their style fell out of fashion into the 1980s, but some of the painters persisted. Their style gained new recognition in the 1990s, a handful continue to paint to this day. They are known as The Highwaymen, and their art captures the natural, and somewhat lost Florida of the past. [more inside]
Fifty people were killed and at least fifty-three more were injured in the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. According to ABC news, "The shooter has been identified by officials as Omar Mateen of St. Lucie County, Florida, an American-born citizen with Afghani parents." Mateen had previously been considered a person of interest by the FBI in 2013 and 2014. Mateen was shot and killed by police. [more inside]
Adam After Being Poisoned By A Manchineel Tree In Antigua, in which the amazingly upbeat Adam kills time on the trip to the doctor by documenting for posterity the effects of touching his face after picking up one of the fruits.
Manchineel trees and other spurges previously
Manchineel trees and other spurges previously
A Florida woman (unknown if there is a relation to Florida man) said state officials are making her give up her beloved pet alligator — a gentle giant named Rambo who is potty trained, understands sign language and loves to dress up in costumes — because he’s grown too big.
"He was a schemer who used the courts for profit and revenge. He was a paranoid, angry meth addict who had been arrested for battery and domestic violence seven times. He had been involuntarily committed, by his family’s count. And yet, in its report on Phoebe’s death, the Florida Department of Children and Families concluded, “There was nothing in the preceding several years that could have reasonably been interpreted as predictive of such an event.”
The site of the Tristán de Luna colony has reportedly been found in Pensacola: "'There were 1500 people there ... for about a two-year period' ... The colony lasted from 1559-61 and included 550 Spanish soldiers, about 200 Aztecs and an unknown number of African slaves ... The Luna colony is arguably the first European settlement and unquestionably the oldest multi-year European settlement" in the present-day United States. Just two years ago, the site of a 1567 fort built by the Juan Pardo expedition in western North Carolina [NYT] was confirmed as well. [more inside]
In 2007, the Pinellas County, Florida School Board abandoned integration, joining hundreds of US school districts in former Confederacy states that have resegregated since 2000. The Board justified the vote with bold promises: Schools in poor, black neighborhoods would get more money, more staff, more resources -- none of which happened. This past August, the Tampa Bay Times published an exposé, revealing how district leaders turned five once-average schools into Failure Factories. [more inside]
She had posted and removed the story twice before and no one cared. To garner more interest this time, she made it darkly funny while preserving the gist of what happened. And she has no regrets. "I made people who probably wouldn't want to hear a sex trafficking story want to be a part of it," she says, "because it was entertaining."Rolling Stone interviews and fact-checks Aziah "Zola" Wells, whose 158-tweet-long story about a trip to Florida (archived here) became an overnight sensation, receiving accolades from Selma director Ava DuVernay and Missy Elliot (quoted in the title), along with many, many others. The Washington Post has released its own report on the story. A movie is reportedly in the works.
Benjamin Dixon writes about the death of Corey Jones, a Florida musician who was shot and killed by a plainclothes officer in Florida on Sunday morning, after Jones' car had broken down on the side of the highway. [more inside]
Having a bad day? At least a monkey isn't eating your mail. On second thought, maybe you'd better check your mailbox.
A video has emerged of a man serenading his wife of 73 years on her deathbed with a song she sang to him as he went to fight in the Second World War.
1.6 miles (2.56 km) west of the famous Borobudur, or Barabudur, Mahayana Buddhist Temple in Magelang, Central Java, Indonesia is a building in the shape of a giant bird with a crown (warning: unnecessary music). Though widely referred to as the Chicken Church ("gereja ayam" in Indonesian), the builder, Daniel Alamsjah designed it to be a dove-shaped house of prayer. [more inside]
After seeing a young friend struggle with body image and depression, Florida-based photographer Natalie McCain was inspired to start the Honest Body Project, a series of portraits of mothers showing their beauty and imperfections to their children, paired with their stories in their own words. “My goal with this project is to help mothers everywhere learn to love their bodies and wear them proudly in front of their daughters,” McCain says. “Stop calling yourself fat. Stop shying away from being in photos. Stop body-shaming. Learn to love your body, and in turn, set a good example and start conversations with your children about how women really look.” A small number of images may be NSFW or triggering. Further details within. [more inside]
Suzy Khimm, The New Republic: The Obama Gap - "Favorable demographics and a charismatic leader aren’t enough to make a majority party. A case study in electoral failure from Florida." [more inside]
He'd heard about this sort of thing down here, even on Culebra—drugs that had been tossed overboard or dropped from a plane, missing their target and washing ashore. It was almost funny. He'd been walking around the island for nine years now, looking for something to smoke, thinking, Okay, God, where's my bale? And here it was, perhaps: forty, fifty, sixty pounds. Think of how long it would last him! Still, it was wrapped so thoroughly in plastic and rubber, he couldn't tell for sure what he was dealing with. Weed, he hoped. But it could be coke, or something else. He wasn't certain it was worth the risk. In an effort to buy more time, he dragged the package up the beach, dug a depression near the rocks, and covered it with leaves and debris.
On the Rebirth of Orlando: A Vibrant Literary Scene, in the Shadow of the Mouse (Ryan Rivas, Literary Hub)
Samantha Bee of The Daily Show reports on women the effort to get legislature passed to protect rape survivors from seeing their rapists during custody visits (for rape survivors who bring their pregnancy to term) TRIGGER WARNING: Parenting with the Enemy. " [more inside]
Headgear Rule for Girls’ Lacrosse Ignites Outcry [New York Times]
Worried about the risk of serious head injuries in a sport where the players wield reinforced sticks and rifle shots with a hard, unyielding ball, Florida last month became the first state to require high school girls’ lacrosse teams to wear protective headgear.
The Equal Justice Initiative has released a report (pdf) on the history of lynchings in the United States, the result of five years of research. The authors compiled an inventory of 3,959 victims of “racial terror lynchings” in 12 Southern states from 1877 to 1950 -- documenting more than 700 additional victims, which places the number of murders more than 20 percent higher than previously reported. "The process is intended... to force people to reckon with the narrative through-line of the country’s vicious racial history, rather than thinking of that history in a short-range, piecemeal way." Map. [more inside]
Politico writes about the Terry Schiavo case and how it helps us understand Jeb Bush's mindset.
Treading Water by Laura Parker [National Geographic]
Phil Stoddard, in his third term as mayor of South Miami, is one of the few politicians willing to talk about when that time might come... He drew a graph with three lines that show population, property values, and sea level all rising. Then abruptly, population growth and property values plummet. “Something is going to upset the applecart,” he says. “A hurricane, a flood, another foot of sea rise, the loss of freshwater. People are going to stop coming here and bail.”[more inside]
Three Flordia counties are doing away with courthouse weddings. In response to the ban on the issuance of same-sex marriage licenses being lifted on Tuesday we've also seen county clerks threatened by the state while the Attorney General asks the federal judge to clarify that he didn't just mean the clerk named in the case.
On August 21, a federal judge in Florida ruled that that the state's ban on same sex marriage was unconstitutional, but the ruling was stayed until January 5. Although the state Attorney General appealed the ruling and asked for a further stay, both the 11th circuit, and os of last night the Supreme Court have denied the appeal, and Florida will become the 36th marriage equality state on January 6th. [more inside]
Tampa homeless program uses unpaid, destitute residents as steady labor force, revenue source [more inside]
Starbucks Is Testing a Drink That Tastes Like Guinness (Without the Alcohol) by Samantha Grossman (@sam_grossman), Time magazine:
The new drink, called the Dark Barrel Latte, is being tested at select locations across Ohio and Florida, Grubstreet reports. It doesn't contain any alcohol, but it supposedly contains the dark, toasty, malty flavors of Guinness. A BuzzFeed writer who got his hands on one in Columbus confirmed that it really does taste like stout. Several customers who've tweeted about the drink agree that it tastes like Guinness — but the jury's still out on whether or not that’s actually a good thing.[more inside]
When I asked a colleague who was born and raised in Dublin (Guinness's birthplace) how he felt about all this, he responded first with this GIF. Then, as he mulled it over a bit more, he added, "Holy hell. Worst." Then he posed a question: "American Guinness already doesn't taste like Guinness. So what will this taste like?" Then he barfed all over me and my stupid American ignorance.
In 1997, Smith retired from the police force. He needed a job to help cover his two daughters' college expenses, so he signed up as an investigator in the Broward County Public Defender's Office. He had little idea that he'd end up a key player in a bold experiment in criminal justice, one that aims to give tens of thousands of people who can't afford lawyers a fighting chance in a system stacked against them. It's an effort that suggests new ways for court-appointed attorneys to get at the truth, despite their insane caseloads. And a big part of it is getting former cops to police the police.
On Friday, 32 guards who were employees of the Florida Department of Corrections were fired; all were accused of being associated with the deaths of inmates at four state prisons. [more inside]
This a little story 'bout this one time, we got booked to play a show, right? It was down in the Keys, we wuz makin' our way - and we ran into the Tiki Bar
“Funk cruises through the Caribbean picking up Afro sounds from Cuba and Puerto Rico. Reggae meets rock in a head-on collision. Jazz and electro hook up for a sidewalk makeout session. Hip-hop seems to hum from the very pavement, and R&B drifts in on the night wind. Suenalo reaches to far-flung corners and retrieves all these, takes them and mashing them together, marrying them—disparate players melded into a somehow harmonious blend.[more inside]
A federal judge has struck down Florida's state constitutional ban against gay marriage. Four state justices have previously struck down the ban, but U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle became the first federal judge to rule the Sunshine State's ban unconstitutional. [more inside]
"There's something different about being told you’re dying when you’re 10 years old: You’re not a grown-up, but you’ve thought about what you’ll be like when you’re 30, when you’re old. You’re not a baby anymore — you know what cancer is. People start feeding you pills and poking you with needles. You make a bucket list your mother worries she won’t be able to help you complete. You want to get your ear pierced, but you can’t risk the infection. You know what sex is, but you’re told you’re not ready. You want to try new things, but you need permission first. You never lose hope for a miracle, because you’re still a kid, and kids aren’t supposed to die." Ethan Alexander Arbelo-Maldonado: Little Man and the Pursuit of Happiness [more inside]
In the records of human conflicts, there are at least three Chicken Wars. Two left little mark on the world at large, and the third resulted in some strange work-arounds for heavy tariffs. The first was Wojna kokosza, the Chicken or Hen War of 1537, when an anti-royalist and anti-absolutist rokosz (rebellion) by the Polish nobility resulted in near-extinction of local "kokosz" (an egg laying hen), but little else. The second was an odd spin-off of the more serious War of the Quarduple Alliance that lasted from 1717 to 1720. Though most of the activity happened in Europe, there were some battles in North America. The Texas manifestation was the capture of some chickens by French forces from a Spanish mission, and a costly overreaction by Spanish religious and military men. The third Chicken War was a duel of tariffs during the Cold War, with the only lasting casualty being the availability of foreign-made light trucks in the United States. [more inside]
True Lies is a 1994 action comedy film directed by James Cameron and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Tom Arnold. The film was a huge hit, and is noteworthy in that it featured visual special effects considered impossible only a few years prior. It's been 20 years since it was released. Time for a revisit, then. [SPOILERS if you haven't seen this movie.] [more inside]
How to Eat Like a Cuban
"It wasn't until I was adopted into an enormous Cuban-American family, thanks to my fiancé , that I learned how to spot the Cubans—and now that I can, I see them everywhere. In three years, my extremely white self has gone from not being able to pronounce dulce de leche (don’t match those ch sounds—that’s a basic move) to knowing that I like my arroz con pollo asopao (a soupier preparation that ends up almost risotto-like).[more inside]
Some of the stereotypes are true: Cubans love to party, and they can eat. Backyard pig roasts are the traditional way to celebrate pretty much any special occasion—this is a country whose two greatest exports (if they could export them) are cigars and sugar.
Bottom line: If you find some real Cubans, it's in your best interest to make friends, fast. Here's what you need to know to keep up without looking like a chump."
This is what a dying sport looks like. For decades, the Miami fronton was known as the “Yankee Stadium of jai alai,” a temple to the game, the site of the largest jai alai crowds in American history. Since the 1920s, the best players in the world have gathered here every winter. Jai alai used to be a very popular spectator sport in this country, with frontons up and down the Eastern seaboard. Presidents watched jai alai with their wives. Ernest Hemingway bragged about getting to hang out with jai alai players. In fact, during World War II he concocted a scheme in which jai alai players would somehow lob grenades down the open hatches of unsuspecting German U-boats. Now, the sport seems like a relic, a vision into the past. It’s vestigial, like an appendix.
The small town of Hampton, Florida (pop. 477), is facing disincorporation after a state audit discovered massive irregularities in its finances and records. The audit was triggered by the excessive ticketing practices linked to the town's notorious speed trap on a corridor of U.S. 301. As The New York Times reports, between 2011 and 2012 the Hampton police (many of whom were essentially irregular volunteers) issued 12,698 speeding tickets to motorists on the 301 corridor. [more inside]
Freddie Lee Hall, as a child, had been classified as "mentally retarded"; he is illiterate, cannot cook for himself, bathe independently, clean his clothes, and is unable to handle his own finances. Halll was sentenced to death for murdering Karol Hurst, a 21-year-old pregnant woman who was abducted leaving a Leesburg, Fla., grocery store in 1978. His guilt is not at issue; what is at issue, before the Supreme Court this morning, is whether the Florida Supreme Court's definition of mental retardation (having an IQ of 70 or less) was correctly applied to Hall, who has tested at an IQ of 71. [more inside]
"Adjusting for time of year, and after checking and measuring 1,275 different trophy fish, she found that in the 1950s, the biggest fish in the photos were typically over 6 feet — sometimes 6 feet 5 inches long. By the time we get to 2007, when Loren bought a ticket on a deep sea day cruise and snapped this picture ...... the biggest fish were averaging only a foot, or maybe a little over. That's a staggering change. The biggest fish on display in 2007 was a shark, and sharks, Loren calculated, are now half the size they used to be in the '50s. As to weight, she figured the average prizewinner dropped from nearly 43.8 pounds to a measly 5 pounds — an 88 percent drop. Radiolab reports on how the average trophy fish caught at Florida's Key West has shrunk considerably since the fifties." [more inside]
The following represents a sample of Zora Neale Hurston music from the Folklife Collection.
Above is a compilation of all of the known Zora Neale Hurston sound recordings* created while she worked for the WPA in the 1930s. Today, the original recordings are housed at the Library of Congress. Hurston made recordings for the WPA in 1935 and again in 1939.[more inside]
'One trainee, 70-year-old Eric Raits, has now caught three pythons while working as a tour guide at Shark Valley Tram Tours in Everglades. Once, lacking a bag into which to deposit the snake, he simply held on to the 9-foot python for the remaining half of the two-hour tour. “I was sitting in the backwards-facing seat with the snake coiled up around my arm,” he says. “Unsurprisingly, no one sat in the two rows closest to me. They were all in the back, sitting on each other’s laps.” ' [more inside]
Hart Crane was a poet, one who was known by and friends with other notable poets. The poet e. e. cummings claimed that "Crane’s mind was no bigger than a pin, but it didn’t matter; he was a born poet" (Google books preview). Tennessee Williams said he could "hardly understand a single line" but insisted he wanted to be buried at sea at the "point most nearly determined as the point at which Hart Crane gave himself back." Crane had his critics — Marianne Moore and Ezra Pound come to mind, and William Carlos Williams wrote "There is good there but it’s not for me" — but Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg used to read "The Bridge" together, John Berryman wrote one of his famous elegies on Crane and heavyweight Robert Lowell included his “Words for Hart Crane” in "Life Studies." Science/Fiction author, James Tiptree, Jr. (Alice Sheldon) also wrote that "nobody seems to have noticed that Hart Crane really was the first space poet," quoting lines from his epic The Bridge in the story Mother in the Sky with Diamonds. Those are all words by other people, why not read a few from Crane? [more inside]
Beware of Gangsters Filing Tax Returns. Florida gangbangers have found a new path to illicit riches: tax refund fraud.