Florida Senior

‘He just lies’: Florida’s senior voters suddenly are in play – POLITICO

A poll worker assists a voter in Tallahassee, Fla. | Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida seniors, long an unflinching bloc of reliable GOP votes, are suddenly in play as President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus has his reelection campaign on the defensive.

The pandemic and anxiety about possible cuts to entitlement programs have eroded the GOP’s once-solid advantage with the battleground state’s retirees, recent polls show, a demographic Republicans have won by double digits in recent presidential races.

“I really got sick of him when he did not wear a mask, and he took the control totally away from the governors. It was a very bad situation,” said Joy Solomon, a 65-year-old from Boca Raton who voted for Trump in 2016 largely because that’s who her husband supported, but who has now turned against the president. “I want this place to come back to some sense of normalcy.”

“He just lies about everything,” she said.

Retirees have long flocked to Florida’s warm climate and white sandy beaches, where they’ve gained outsized political sway in the nation’s largest swing state. In the 2012 presidential election, voters 65 and older comprised 26 percent of all votes, a number that jumped to 30 percent in 2016.

Ryan Tyson, a Florida Republican pollster and founder of the Tyson Group, said Biden is running up against a ceiling of 38 percent with white voters that other Democrats almost always hit in Florida.

“Biden might be doing a point or two better than Hillary Clinton did in 2016,” Tyson said of the race for Florida’s senior vote. “But he is hitting the same ceiling with white voters that Hillary Clinton and [2016 Democratic gubernatorial candidate] Andrew Gillum did. If Democrats figure that out, they win the state. But they have not.”

To break out, Biden has put more than $700,000 into a Florida ad highlighting Trump’s “planned cuts to Social Security.” The ad references an August executive order from Trump that would temporarily suspend the collection of payroll taxes, which fund Social Security. It’s Biden’s seventh senior-focused ad.

In a Tampa Bay Times op-ed, Biden wrote about “Donna and Roger” from The Villages, a retirement community north of Orlando, and how Trump’s mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic left them unable to see their grandchildren.

“Jill and I feel the same way about not seeing our grandchildren as much as we want to,” Biden wrote. “Video calls are great, but they’re just not the same, especially after six months of being away from the ones you love the most at the time in your life you need them the most.”

Trump last week rolled out a package of health care-focused promises, including mailing $200 drug discount cards to retirees before Election Day to defray the cost of prescription drug co-pays, a push to end the practice of surprise medical billing, and a pledge to protect insurance coverage for people with preexisting conditions.

And, like Biden, Trump also is tapping into fear. One campaign ad contemplates a lawless future if Biden becomes president. The 30-second spot concludes with “You won’t be safe in Biden’s America”. Trump’s campaign has so far put $1.1 million behind the ad in Florida, of which more than $400,000 was spent in the Orlando media market, home to The Villages.

The Villages, home to some 130,000 retirees, for years has been a reliable feeder of Republican votes as conservative-leaning, white voters from the upper Midwest move to the community.

The region remains overwhelmingly Republican, but during the 2020 cycle Democrats have shown signs of life, putting together large parades of golf carts — the favored means of transportation — in support of Biden and building their ranks within The Villages Democratic clubs.

“For the longest time, Democrats would only whisper around this place. I’ve put a great deal of effort into trying to make us a bit louder,” said Chris Stanley, head of The Villages Democratic Club. “What really helped me, and it’s kind of ironic, was Trump. It’s really been over the past four years where Democrats have become more visible.”

Ed McGinty, who moved from the Philadelphia suburbs to The Villages in 2015, has become the poster child for a Democratic resonance in the conservative stronghold. He has gotten national attention recently of holding anti-Trump signs along the roadways and golf cart paths that run through the massive development.

He said the motivation came shortly after a neighbor physically threatened him because he was wearing a hat supporting Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

“He said if I keep wearing the hat, I should make sure my life insurance is good,” McGinty said of the exchange, which happened shortly after Trump’s 2016 win. “I’m just really not someone who takes threats well. So, I thought I’d show those mother f——.”

He said The Villages has always been political, but in the months leading up to the 2020 race, things have gotten worse.

“I’m the most hated man in The Villages, and I say that with all sincerity” he said. “But that’s OK.”

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Florida total

Florida’s total COVID-19 case count passes 700,000. South Florida reports no deaths – Miami Herald

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Florida Lagoa

Lagoa’s Role in Florida Will Be a Big Factor in Trump’s Supreme Court Pick – The New York Times

Judge Barbara Lagoa lacks some of the usual credentials of a Supreme Court justice, but her roots in the Cuban-American community could make her an attractive choice for President Trump.

Credit…Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

Patricia MazzeiAdam Liptak

MIAMI — As a young associate in a prestigious Miami law firm, Barbara Lagoa took on an unusual pro bono case, one without a supervising partner and against a formidable adversary: the Clinton administration.

Ms. Lagoa represented a relative of a 5-year-old boy found off the Florida coast after his mother had drowned trying to cross over from Cuba. His name was Elián González.

Federal agents would eventually seize Elián and return him to his father in Cuba, setting off political shock waves that arguably cost former Vice President Al Gore the 2000 presidential election when he lost Florida.

“After six months, countless briefs, a few all-nighters, two oral arguments and one midnight raid by armed commandos, we learned what it was like to lose,” Eliot Pedrosa, another lawyer on the team, said at a ceremony last year when Judge Lagoa joined the Florida Supreme Court. The experience of “watching armed federal agents use force to pre-empt process,” he said, was “seared into her soul.”

That formative episode helped shape Judge Lagoa’s career as a federal prosecutor and appellate judge and thrust her into South Florida’s political culture, dominated by Cuban-American Republicans.

It is an electoral dynamic that remains powerful two decades later and has helped Judge Lagoa, who now sits on the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, emerge as an attractive choice for President Trump as he considers whom he will name to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court.

“She’s highly thought of,” Mr. Trump, who is scheduled to travel to Miami this week, told reporters on Monday. “I’m getting a lot of phone calls from a lot of people. She has a lot of support. I don’t know her, but I hear she’s outstanding.”

Judge Lagoa, 52, does not have some of the traditional credentials for a justice. But as the U.S.-born daughter of Cuban exiles who has risen to the highest echelons of her profession, she embodies Miami’s longstanding version of the American dream.

The Cuban-American community admired her work on Elián’s case, taking issue with the federal government’s position that the boy’s father, Juan Miguel González, was his sole legal guardian and had the right to make the decision to have him returned to Cuba. Also playing a role was a young lawyer named Brett M. Kavanaugh, now a Supreme Court justice himself, who represented the boy’s Miami relatives when they needed someone to work on a federal appeal.

Almost all of Judge Lagoa’s judicial service has been on a midlevel state appeals court in Miami, where she heard mostly routine cases from 2006 to 2019. Asked to list her most significant opinions, she noted ones on employment discrimination, blood alcohol tests, car insurance, personal jurisdiction, statutes of limitations and arbitration.

In her next two judicial jobs, though, she participated in consequential cases on whether hundreds of thousands of people with felony convictions in Florida were eligible to vote. Lawyers for the former felons have argued that Judge Lagoa should have recused herself the second time around.

The 11th Circuit decision this month to uphold a law enacted by the Florida Legislature that requires former felons to pay court fines and fees before they can register “silenced hundreds of thousands of voters,” Desmond Meade, the executive director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, said in a statement.

“That decision demonstrated why we are fighting so hard for people’s lives to be placed over politics,” he added, “and the desire to put people over politics should be the attitude of anyone who aspires to serve on the highest court in the land.”

It is precisely a political calculation about how the president might secure his re-election by ensuring that he carries Florida that could bolster Judge Lagoa’s chances. Democrats have been struggling to match Hillary Clinton’s popularity among Hispanics in Miami-Dade County, where the election could be won or lost. The optics of Senate Democrats pressing hard against a Latina on national television would seem unlikely to help.

And while Mr. Trump’s standing with conservative Cuban-Americans is solid, nominating Judge Lagoa could still appeal emotionally to some voters, said José Félix Díaz, a former state representative and consultant with Ballard Partners, a lobbying firm.

“I think Cuban-American abuelos and abuelas will care,” he said. “It speaks to how well Cuban-Americans have assimilated to the United States. Every time there’s a new first, it’s seismic.”

Some on the political right, however, are troubled by the fact that Judge Lagoa does not appear to have a record on any abortion cases.

Leading anti-abortion activists say they would support Judge Lagoa’s nomination, but they favor Judge Amy Coney Barrett because of her clearer record on Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion. They worry a nominee whose jurisprudence on the issue is unknown could jeopardize a decades-long campaign to end the right to abortion, which now appears finally within their reach.

Though she is lesser known in Washington than Judge Barrett, Judge Lagoa has been someone to watch for veteran Florida lawyers for years.

A graduate of Columbia Law School, where she was an editor of The Columbia Law Review, Judge Lagoa worked at various Miami law firms, including Greenberg Traurig, before joining the United States attorney’s office for the Southern District of Florida in 2003. Three years later, Gov. Jeb Bush, a Republican, named her to the Third District Court of Appeal.

Judge Lagoa is married to Paul C. Huck Jr., a partner at the Jones Day law firm and a fellow member of the Federalist Society. Mr. Huck served as general counsel to former Gov. Charlie Crist and as deputy attorney general of Florida. The couple has three daughters, including fraternal twins. Judge Lagoa’s father-in-law, Paul C. Huck, is a senior federal judge in the Southern District of Florida, appointed by President Bill Clinton.

Last year, in his second day in office, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, a Republican, elevated Judge Lagoa to the state’s Supreme Court. He announced his nomination in downtown Miami at the Freedom Tower, a building steeped in exile symbolism, where many Cubans first entered the United States. Speaking in Spanish, Judge Lagoa thanked her parents, noting that her father’s unrealized dream in Cuba was to become a lawyer.

Eight months later, Mr. Trump nominated her to the 11th Circuit, where she quickly encountered for a second time the question of the former felons’ voting rights. Legal experts were divided over whether Judge Lagoa’s failure to disqualify herself ran afoul of ethics rules.

“This is a clear case in which recusal is necessary to preserve public confidence in the fairness and impartiality of the judiciary,” said Deborah L. Rhode, an authority on legal ethics at Stanford Law School. “Failing to recuse herself creates both the fact and appearance of impropriety.”

Lawrence J. Fox, who teaches legal ethics at Yale Law School, was more tentative. “This situation presents a serious example of the appearance of impropriety, if not impropriety itself,” he said.

Bruce A. Green, an expert in legal ethics at Fordham Law School, said that Judge Lagoa had explained her position in ruling on a recusal motion from the former felons.

“Judge Lagoa issued a detailed, well-considered opinion, supported by case law, explaining why she did not have to recuse herself,” he said. “The opinion seems pretty convincing, and in any case, it certainly was not a slam dunk for recusal.”

The two cases concerned a 2018 ballot measure that amended the state’s Constitution to end the disenfranchisement of people convicted of felonies, except for murder and sexual offenses, “upon completion of all terms of sentence, including parole or probation.”

The next year, the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature enacted a law that defined that phrase to include the payment of fines, restitution, costs and fees.

Judge Lagoa was an active participant when the case on former felons was argued before the Florida Supreme Court on Nov. 6, 2019. But she said she took her recusal obligations seriously.

“The impartiality of judges, and the appearance of impartiality, are key to ensuring public confidence in our courts,” she had told the Senate Judiciary Committee in October.

She was confirmed to the 11th Circuit two weeks later.

The Florida Supreme Court issued its decision in January, ruling against the former felons. Judge Lagoa did not participate in the decision.

In the meantime, a separate federal suit challenging the state law under the federal Constitution was moving forward.

In July, though, the full 11th Circuit agreed to hear the case, and lawyers for the former felons asked Judge Lagoa and two other judges to recuse themselves.

Judge Lagoa and another former Florida Supreme Court justice, Judge Robert J. Luck, rejected the motion.

“We did play a role, we were involved in, and we did participate in the advisory opinion to the governor proceeding,” they wrote in a 25-page decision. “We sat during oral argument, and we asked questions to the lawyers appearing before that court.”

But the state case, they said, “was a separate proceeding involving different persons, different issues and different courts.”

This month, by a 6-to-4 vote, with Judges Lagoa and Luck in the majority, the 11th Circuit ruled against the former felons. Had they recused themselves, the appeals court would have deadlocked, a victory for the former felons.

For the people trying to promote her nomination in South Florida, though, Judge Lagoa’s life story as the daughter of immigrants matters just as much as her record.

Her friends mention her modest upbringing in the blue-collar city of Hialeah. She rode her bike and roller skated around the neighborhood. Her parents saved up to send her to Catholic school. It was a big deal when she went away to New York for law school.

“In the country my parents fled, the whim of a single individual could mean the difference between food or hunger, liberty or prison, life or death,” Judge Lagoa said last year, when she was nominated to the Florida Supreme Court. “Unlike the country my parents fled, we are a nation of laws — not of men.”

Patricia Mazzei reported from Miami, and Adam Liptak from Washington. Elizabeth Dias contributed reporting from Washington.

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Florida woman

A Florida woman was attacked by a 10-foot alligator while trimming trees – CNN

(CNN)A Florida woman is recovering from injuries she received when she was attacked by a 10-foot, 4-inch alligator while trimming trees in Fort Myers.

The 27-year-old woman was trimming by the edge of a lake near a country club in Fort Myers on September 10 when the alligator bit her.
She was taken to Lee Memorial Hospital and treated for injuries to both legs, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
The alligator was later caught by a contracted nuisance alligator trapper and taken to an alligator farm, according to the commission
The FWC said it is are still investigating the incident.
A few days later on September 13, a man suffered injuries to his leg when he was bitten by an alligator while walking his dog along a residential canal in Port St. Lucie, FWC said. The 8-foot, 3-inch alligator that bit him was removed and transferred to an alligator farm.
CNN affiliate WPTV reported that Mark Johnson, 61, said the alligator clamped onto his leg and was trying to drag him under water. When Johnson poked the alligator in the eye, the reptile let go, he said.
“I kind of slide and my foot is stuck in the mud, and the next thing I know, I see the lunge,” Johnson told WPTV. “He starts clamping down pretty tight and he started to pull, and the next thing I do, I instantly, here’s my fingers, I poke through the eye.”
Johnson received 62 stitches and his dog was unhurt, WPTV reported.
Alligator bites are serious, but injuries caused by the massive reptiles are rare in Florida, according to the FWC.
“FWC places the highest priority on public safety and administers a Statewide Nuisance Alligator Program (SNAP),” FWC said in a statement to CNN. “The goal of SNAP is to proactively address alligator threats in developed areas, while conserving alligators in areas where they naturally occur.”
SNAP uses contracted nuisance alligator trappers across Florida to find and remove alligators who may pose a threat to people or pets.

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Court Florida

Florida can bar ex-felons from voting if they owe court payments, appeals court rules – CNN

Washington (CNN)Florida can bar ex-felons from voting if they owe court fines or fees associated with their convictions, even if they are unable to pay, a federal appeals court ruled Friday.

The 6-4 ruling by the full 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court’s ruling blocking the law.
The law, Chief Judge William Pryor wrote in the majority opinion, doesn’t constitute a poll tax. Instead, “it promotes full rehabilitation of returning citizens and ensures full satisfaction of the punishment imposed for the crimes by which felons forfeited the right to vote.”
“That criminal sentences often include financial obligations does not make this requirement a ‘capricious or irrelevant factor,'” Pryor wrote. “Monetary provisions of a sentence are no less a part of the penalty that society imposes for a crime than terms of imprisonment. Indeed, some felons face substantial monetary penalties but little or no prison time.”
The ruling, issued less than two months before the presidential election, marks another chapter in the extensive court battle over the law in a state President Donald won in 2016 by less than 113,000 votes over Hillary Clinton, or 1.2% of the vote.
Earlier this year, the US Supreme Court said Florida can enforce the law while the legal case over its constitutionality plays out, meaning the rule would likely be in place for the November elections.
Friday’s ruling overturns a decision from US District Court Robert Hinkle, who had said the Florida law, in respect to those people who are unable to pay, violates the Constitution. Hinkle called the state’s procedure an “unconstitutional pay-to-vote system.”
Convicted felons in Florida had their voting rights restored with a constitutional amendment that passed in November 2018. Amendment 4, which allowed convicted felons who complete “all terms of sentence” the right to vote, passed with nearly 65% of the vote, exceeding the 60% threshold required.
After Amendment 4 went into effect in January 2019, the GOP-led Florida Legislature passed, and Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed, a bill that clarified “all terms of sentence” to include legal financial obligations such as fines, fees and restitution.
Multiple groups, including the Campaign Legal Center and American Civil Liberties Union, filed a flurry of legal challenges arguing the new law was unconstitutional and amounted to a “poll tax.”
Paul Smith, vice president at the Campaign Legal Center, called Friday’s decision “deeply disappointing.”
“While the full rights restoration envisioned by Amendment 4 has become less likely to be realized this fall, we will continue this fight for all Florida voters, so the full benefits of Amendment 4 will someday be realized,” Smith said in a statement, adding that “nobody should ever be denied their constitutional rights because they can’t afford to pay fines and fees.”

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Antifa Florida

Florida man known as ‘the Antifa hunter’ sentenced to more than three years over racist threats – The Hill

A Florida man known as “the Antifa hunter,” who launched online harassment campaigns against those who disagreed with white supremacy, was sentenced on Monday to three years and five months in prison. 

A federal judge in Virginia sentenced Daniel McMahon, 32, of Brandon, Fla., after he admitted to using social media to threaten a Black activist to stop him from running for office and threatening to sexually assault a female activist’s autistic daughter, The Associated Press reported

McMahon pleaded guilty to cyberstalking and bias-motivated interference with a candidate for elective office in April. 

The FBI recovered his computer and several loaded guns from McMahon’s home that he shared with his parents, prosecutors said, with the computer showing evidence of his harassment campaigns and of his interest in racially motivated killings. 

McMahon operated his cyberstalking through the name “Jack Corbin,” an alias under which he convinced activist Don Gathers against running for the City Council of Charlottesville, Va. Prosecutors said he alleged Gathers had attacked a white supremacist group member and called for a “diversity of tactics” to be used against him, according to the AP. 

After Gathers was informed of the threats, he announced that he wouldn’t run for office.

Following McMahon’s arrest, a woman told prosecutors that he had threatened her and her daughter, an autistic minor, over Facebook and attempted to get information from her about another protester. 

McMahon said he would sexually assault the daughter “all in the service of his self-assigned ‘mission’ to hunt down and silence anyone who spoke out against white supremacy,” prosecutors said. 

“The defendant’s conduct is reprehensible, and it served a despicable purpose. And in the process, his victims suffered real harm,” the prosecutors wrote, according to the AP. 

Law enforcement found 35 gigabytes of data on McMahon’s computer that he weaponized against his online targets. Prosecutors said they found folders including one dedicated to photos of dead Black men as well as others that had information about those he was harassing. 

McMahon’s defense attorney Jessica Phillips requested her client be sentenced to a year and a half and for his time in custody since his Sept. 18, 2019, arrest to count. She said McMahon made “bad choices” but regrets them and takes full responsibility, attributing the actions to a mental health disorder, alcohol abuse and a “lack of social stability,” according to the AP. 

“While he did not realize the impact of his words at the time, he certainly does now,” Phillips wrote in a court filing.

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Florida mosquitoes

Florida mosquitoes: 750 million genetically modified insects to be released – BBC News

Aedes aegypti mosquitoes

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

The aim is to reduce the population of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes

Local officials in Florida have approved the release of 750 million mosquitoes that have been genetically modified to reduce local populations.

The aim is to reduce the number of mosquitoes that carry diseases like dengue or the Zika virus.

The green-lighting of a pilot project after years of debate drew a swift outcry from environmental groups, who warned of unintended consequences.

One group condemned the plan as a public “Jurassic Park experiment”.

Activists warn of possible damage to ecosystems, and the potential creation of hybrid, insecticide-resistant mosquitoes.

But the company involved says there will be no adverse risk to humans or the environment, and points to a slate of government-backed studies.

The plan to release the mosquitoes in 2021 in the Florida Keys, a string of islands, comes months after the modified mosquitoes were approved by federal regulators.

In May, the US Environmental Agency granted permission to the British-based, US-operated company Oxitec to produce the genetically engineered, male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which are known as OX5034.

Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are known to spread deadly diseases to humans such dengue, Zika, chikungunya and yellow fever.

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

A biologist in Brazil releases mosquitoes to combat a Zika outbreak

Only female mosquitoes bite humans because they need blood to produce eggs. So the plan is to release the male, modified mosquitoes who will then hopefully breed with wild female mosquitoes.

However the males carry a protein that will kill off any female offspring before they reach mature biting age. Males, which only feed on nectar, will survive and pass on the genes.

Over time, the aim is to reduce the population of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in the area and thereby reduce the spread of disease to humans.

On Tuesday, officials in the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District (FKMCD) gave final approval to release 750 million of the modified mosquitoes over a two-year period.

The plan has many critics, including nearly 240,000 people who signed a petition on slamming Oxitec’s plan to use US states “as a testing ground for these mutant bugs”.

According to Oxitec’s website, the company has found positive results conducting field trials in Brazil. It also plans to deploy them in Texas beginning in 2021 and has gained federal approval, but not state or local approval, according to reports.

In a statement denouncing the project, environmental group Friends of the Earth said: “The release of genetically engineered mosquitoes will needlessly put Floridians, the environment and endangered species at risk in the midst of a pandemic.”

But an Oxitec scientist told AP news agency: “We have released over a billion of our mosquitoes over the years. There is no potential for risk to the environment or humans”.

The Aedes aegypti is invasive to southern Florida, and are commonly found in urban areas where they live in standing pools of water. In many areas, including the Florida Keys, they have developed a resistance to pesticides.

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Florida weekly

Florida’s weekly unemployment recovery slowest in the United States – WFLA


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TAMPA, Fla (WFLA) – Florida has struggled in handling unemployment since the coronavirus arrived, and a new study shows that the recovery from unemployment may be just as difficult.

In a new report, WalletHub researchers identified which states were recovering the fastest from the 16.3 million Americans who are currently unemployed in the wake of the pandemic.

WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across three metrics based on changes in unemployment claims.

Florida was last on the list, with a 1,003.71% change in unemployment last week alone, compared to the same time frame last year.

The state also experienced a 2,511.66% increase in unemployment claims since March, compared to 2019.

Things seemed to take a positive turn last week when new claims in Florida were reported to be 55,106, but the number was later revised to 61,584.

One of many problems the state is having is getting its hospitality and tourism employees back to work, an industry that is suffering and makes up a significant portion of the state’s revenue.

Connecticut, Oregon, and New Jersey topped the list of states with the fastest unemployment recovery since the start of the pandemic, making dents in unemployment by helping residents get back to work.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, 57.4 million new unemployment claims have been filed, with an average of 135,000 per week, the Department of Labor reports.


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Florida release

Florida to release genetically modified mosquitoes, detractors blast ‘Jurassic Park’ experiment – Fox News

Local authorities on Tuesday gave final approval to release 750 million genetically modified mosquitoes in the Florida Keys over a two-year period, starting in 2021, with the hope of preventing diseases such as the Zika virus but has faced blowback and comparisons to a Steven Spielberg thriller.

The Monroe County Mosquito Control District signed off on the proposal that had already won state and federal approval. It will be the first time genetically modified mosquitoes will be released in the U.S.

The plan has not been universally accepted and has received backlash from residents and environmental advocacy groups.

“With all the urgent crises facing our nation and the State of Florida —  the Covid-19 pandemic, racial injustice, climate change —  the administration has used tax dollars and government resources for a Jurassic Park experiment,” said Jaydee Hanson, policy director for the International Center for Technology Assessment and Center for Food Safety in a statement released Wednesday.


“Now the Monroe County Mosquito Control District has given the final permission needed. What could possibly go wrong? We don’t know, because EPA unlawfully refused to seriously analyze environmental risks, now without further review of the risks, the experiment can proceed,” he continued.

The Florida Keys Mosquito Control District considered the plan as a way to restrict the breeding of the Aedes aegypti, a type of mosquito said to spread dengue, Zika, and other diseases — while showing resistance to pesticides. The project had received approval from the EPA back in May to release the mosquitos engineered by British company Oxitec.

The genetically modified male mosquito, named OX5034, was altered with a special gene that inhibits the survival of their female offspring when they mate with wild female mosquitoes. The males feed on nectar and aren’t a carrier for diseases. Only the female mosquito bites for blood, which she does before maturing her eggs.

When the new males grow up, they mate with more females, which would decline the number of Aedes aegypti.

The mosquitos were already released by Oxitec for trails in Brazil. Studies by the company and scientists reportedly found that the program resulted in significant population declines for the disease-carrying insect and was a cost-effective alternative to potentially harmful pesticides.

Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are seen inside Oxitec laboratory in Campinas, Brazil

Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are seen inside Oxitec laboratory in Campinas, Brazil
(Copyright Reuters 2016)


“We have shown that the release of mosquitoes in a neighborhood results in 95 percent suppression compared to areas with no release,” said Nathan Rose, director of regulatory affairs at Oxitec, according to UPI.

Community members and environmental groups, however, criticized the potential impact on the mosquitos would have on humans and animals. They added how there was a “lack of data demonstrating that Oxitec’s mosquitoes will be safe and effective”

“The release of genetically engineered mosquitoes will needlessly put Floridians, the environment, and endangered species at risk in the midst of a pandemic,” said Dana Perls, food and technology program manager at Friends of the Earth. “This approval is about maximizing Oxitec’s profits, not about the pressing need to address mosquito-borne diseases.”


The U.S. project is designed to further test the effectiveness of genetically engineered Aedes aegypti mosquitoes and see if they are a viable option to pesticides. A similar project was approved in Harris County, Texas, beginning in 2021, the company said.

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dangerous Florida

Rare and dangerous MIS-C appearing again in Florida children’s hospitals – South Florida Sun Sentinel

South Florida’s children’s hospitals are seeing more cases of a rare COVID-related illness that attacks children and teens.

Ronald Ford, chief medical officer for Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital, said his hospital has treated 18 children with the rare multisystem inflammatory syndrome — seven of them since Aug. 1.

Ford says he saw the increase coming when the state’s positive infection rate rose — and he expects more cases in the next few weeks. The syndrome tends to come on fast and attack children who were exposed to COVID-19 three to four weeks earlier.

“Some arrive in shock-like states,” Ford said.

The most pervasive symptoms are persistent fever and abdominal pain, shortness of breath, vomiting and sometimes a rash or pink eye. All 18 of the children with MIS-C at Joe DiMaggio had antibodies for COVID-19, indicating an earlier rather than current infection.

“Over the last several days we are seeing children with MIS-C coming more regularly and staying in hospital longer, and they are also quite sick,” Ford said. “They are requiring ICU level of care.”

Ford said he and his colleagues at South Florida’s children’s hospitals had been anticipating the burst of new cases.

“What will drive MIS-C is the number of positive children in the state. That’s why we predicted this,” he said. “We saw the rise in new infections in July. It’s still rare, but the sheer numbers of children infected has gone up.”

The illness, in which multiple body parts — the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, gastrointestinal tract, skin or eyes — can become inflamed, has cropped up in children and young adults under the age of 21.

Along with MIS-C, Ford said Joe DiMaggio also has been treating more children sick with the new coronavirus. While the vast majority of children with COVID-19 have a mild or asymptomatic infection, Ford said Joe DiMaggio has treated some who have pneumonia-like symptoms.

The differentiation tends to be how quickly MIS-C comes on and the intense symptoms such as persistent fever.

“While we have learned how to treat MIS-C, there is still a lot to be learned,” Ford said.

Dr. Keith Meyer, pediatric specialist at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami, said his hospital is seeing a similar number of children with MIS-C. However, children have been steadily coming into the Miami hospital with the illness since July.

“All the children we have treated have gotten better,” he said. “Most are in and out within a couple of days.”

Meyer urges parents to stay vigilant in monitoring for symptoms. “This should be on their radar if their children appear sick.”

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On Thursday, Florida’s Department of Health dashboard reported 43,828 children are infected with COVID-19 statewide — a large increase from earlier in the summer. In mid-June only 3,407 children had tested positive.

The dashboard also shows 30 children with MIS-C in Florida, a number that appears outdated, with nearly 30 cases in two South Florida hospitals.

“I would like to see real-time data coming out from the Department of Health,” Ford said.

Ford said it is important for parents, pediatricians and doctors at urgent care centers to recognize the signs of MIS-C and get young people evaluated at a children’s hospital.

As of Aug. 6, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had confirmed 570 cases of MIS-C across 40 states and the District of Columbia, including 10 deaths. While the syndrome affects young adults, too, the average child with the illness is 8 years old.

Connect with health reporter Cindy Krischer Goodman at or 954-304-5908.

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