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TheNutcracker

TheNutcracker's Journal
TheNutcracker's Journal
April 8, 2015

Letter to TampaBay Times from Vote on the Pier:The Misinfo Coming from the St. Pete Mayor's office.

Waveney Ann Moore
Tampa Bay Times

Waveney Ann –

Please let me be CLEAR. I NEVER agreed to any new and improved “process” – as the Mayor outlined to a few members of our group last April.

I really wish he would stop telling people that ALL groups agreed with his plan. That is a TOTAL material misrepresentation of the facts.

In FACT – when Mayor Kriseman called me about 4 days ahead of that presentation Mr. Kirby is referring to in your story of this afternoon – to ask if I would stand beside him at his photo-op down in SpaBeach Park last April – I told him there was NO WAY I was going to represent that I supported (just by being there) something that I ABSOLUTELY did not.

Among other reasons – our conversation centered in on our group’s STRONG opposition to using ANY of the Pier funding – to develop ANYTHING on the uplands – when ALL of the funds from the TIF Funding Agreement with the County – dating back to 2009 – were SPECIFICALLY to be used from the seawall eastward – for the refurbishment of the inverted pyramid building – and the replacement of the bridge leading out to it. PERIOD. Please refer to table 2-B in the original TIF Funding Agreement with the County.

He responded to me by stating – that IF he were to take potential development on the uplands (in particular – to begin on what is today the Pelican Parking Lot) off the table – he would also be forced to remove REFURBISHMENT – as an option in the new upcoming Pier Design RFQ and RFP Process.

I CLEARLY told him that one had ABSOLUTELY ZERO to do with the other. He disagreed.

He told me that he hoped I would reconsider. I told him that it was not likely – as I feel I have a commitment to the hundreds of hard working volunteers – that had worked tirelessly to complete the largest grass roots petition drive in the City’s history – collecting more that 23,866 valid petitions from City Voters – and an additional 2,900 from voters that were just outside the City limits – to stand firmly on our position – without compromise.

In addition – let’s remember that it was not even announced by Mayor Kriseman until late summer / early fall – who HIS hand picked committee members of HIS new “Pier Selection Committee” would be. Now really – do you think ANYONE from our group would have EVER supported or approved of Mike Connors (as just one example) to even be on that committee – let alone Mayor Kriseman appointing him as chairman? PLEASE.

Mike Connors has been STRONGLY in favor of demolishing that building for as long as anyone can remember – so it did not surprise me – from watching the entire 12 hours of nonsense from up here in Safety Harbor on Friday – HOW he planned to eliminate several other viable proposals – and even TRIED to convice other committee members to not allow the most publicly popular proposal (Destination St Pete Pier) to get anywhere beyond 3RD place ranking.

Then – LATER – he tried to get them to rank – by offering up Destination to be in 2ND place – behind ALMA.

He was SO ridiculously obvious – IT WAS DISGUSTING TO WATCH!

THEN – a couple of committee members openly asked Mike Connors what would happen – if Council rejects their #1 pick – and he reluctantly THEN explained to them – the whole process must start over. It was then – and ONLY then – a few members realized the magnatude of their decision. They realized there was a VERY GOOD chance that Council WOULD NOT accept ALMA – due to the Citywide support for Destination – that was blatantly and DELIBERATELY being misrepresented by Mike Connors to achieve his agenda – resulting in the whole entire process starting over.

A couple of members also realized ALL of their time and work would go the way of a power flush – thanks to one inappropriate vote by any one of them – as a potential result of the continual prodding of their Chairperson – Mike Connors.
This is when they realized they could not make a final ranking decision Friday evening.

What this has now culminated into:

The public is OUTRAGED AND DISGUSTED to NOW realize HOW BADLY they have been lied to – regarding the Mayor’s initial promises to “listen, learn and lead” when he was running for office of Mayor. He OBVIOUSLY was not (and still is not) listening – he OBVIOUSLY has not learned anything from the last Mayor’s bully tactics – when he closed the entire Pier on May 31, 2013 – putting more than 400 full and part time employees out of work unnecessarily – and fencing it off to ready it for demolition – to make his point: That if the community did not support the LENS proposal in the upcoming 8/27/13 referendum – they would be looking at a closed down Pier – well into / or after 2018.
Well – we can all see today – how well that all worked out for him. Voters decided it was time to fire him just a couple of months later.

A TOTAL BETRAYAL of trust (now, again) by this Mayor – as handed out to City residents by his corrupt partner in this newly created Citywide crisis – Mike Connors.
There is likely NOTHING he is going to be able to say or do at this point – that is going to “change” the embarrassing nonsense that seemed to be never ending - Friday in Council Chambers.

It was nothing short of a train wreck – led by two of the City’s least respected employees (Mike Connors & Chris Ballestra) – with the Mayor DIRECTLY responsible to City residents for their deplorable actions. Isn’t it just amazing how he was nowhere around for that entire deplorable circus? And even today – he is just nowhere around. He has “spokespeople” to cover for him while he tries to figure out what his next steps could be.

If this were any business – Mike Connors would have been FIRED immediately – for the damage he as caused – by making HIS favorite choice – and HIS least favorite choice – SO obvious. He even went on in a lengthly dissertation – as to how people need to move on from that building – and that it makes no sense to renew a building that HE believes is not worth investing the money on.

This was clearly HIS opinion – and it should NOT have been a part of trying to persuade others to support HIS position.

NOW – Mayor Kriseman OWNS this mess he created. It appears he must have had a lot more confidence in Mike Connors pulling off his plan for demolishing the inverted pyramid – by TRYING DESPARATELY to put STRONGLY DISLIKED – LAST PLACE ALMA into the #1 ranking – CLEARLY AGAINST the majority of City residents that took part in SEVERAL polls over the last few weeks.

So now here we are today.

I have enlisted the services of several good attorneys over the past weekend – to put the finishing touches on – you guessed it – our next petition – that we plan to actually launch in the next few days. A DRAFT Copy – Not For Circulation (until we are ready to launch) – is attached for your review. We are now also in the process of updating our entire website – and creating the online downloadable and printable version of the Petition for our website – and preparing our 18 petition drop boxes – for deployment across the City.

Unlike the earlier petition drive I started in November of 2010 – we are beginning this very important petition drive – with much more hard earned expertise and knowledge – in addition to having literally tens of thousands of really mad City residents at this time – many have even signed up over this past weekend – to assist us in completing our new petition drive very quickly.

We have already received offers to assist us financially to get things moving even quicker this time – which is encouraging.

While it was not my original plan to do another Citywide Petition – this new Mayor – and his staff of mostly the same “bad actors” – as leftovers from the Foster administration – have left us NO CHOICE – but to proceed forward – and put the VOTERS back in charge of their downtown waterfront – finally – and once and for all.

While I DO plan to do a formal Press Release in the next couple of days – I am just too busy right now – to compose that – or schedule any press conference.
I will announce plans for that – when I have the most important aspects of our new Petition drive completed and up and running.

That is my priority. I expect that to only take a few days.

It was just VERY important – as a priority – that I clarify directly to you – the misinformation that is now apparently flowing from Mayor Kriseman’s office – through his “spokespeople”.

It CLEARLY appears that Mayor Kriseman has now lost any credibility for either himself – AND his half-baked plan of trying to push the ALMA Pier design off onto City Residents – by trying to move ALMA – from LAST to FIRST position ranking with his committee - via his appointed Committee Chair – Mike Connors. While I DO NOT believe City Council will support ALMA moving forward – IF that is the way the Selection Committee recklessly decides to rank the remaining contestants – we will all just be in for another long and protracted fight – while the closed Pier sits their as a very obvious example of ignorance and stupidity of the last Mayor’s inability to listen to his constituents!

I WILL NOT BACK DOWN. I am tired of elected (and hired) City employees blatantly and repeatedly lying – in their reckless attempts to accomplish their objectives.

St. Petersburg, Florida is NOT a monarchy – and nobody elected Rick Kriseman King. The Pier does not belong to him – it belongs to every single taxpayer of the City – so it is only appropriate that City VOTERS should select the next Pier as the centerpiece of the City’s downtown waterfront for the next 100 years.

This entire “process” – under BOTH Mayors Foster and Kriseman – CLEARLY demonstrate why City electors need more say in the future of their downtown waterfront.

Our new Petition will provide exactly that.

HOW VERY SAD – we have to go through all of this again.

Thanks Waveney Ann -

Tom Lambdon
Founder & Chairman

Email: tom@voteonthepier.com
Website: voteonthepier.com

April 6, 2015

Barney Frank drops a bombshell: How a shocking anecdote explains the financial crisis

Barney Frank has a new autobiography out. He’s long been one of the nation’s most quotable politicians. And Washington lives in perpetual longing for intra-party conflict.

So why has a critical revelation from Frank’s book, one that implicates the most powerful Democrat in the nation, been entirely expunged from the record? The media has thus far focused on Frank’s wrestling with being a closeted gay congressman, or his comment that Joe Biden “can’t keep his mouth shut or his hands to himself.” But nobody has focused on Frank’s allegation that Barack Obama refused to extract foreclosure relief from the nation’s largest banks, as a condition for their receipt of hundreds of billions of dollars in bailout money.

The anecdote comes on page 295 of “Frank,” a title that the former chair of the House Financial Services Committee holds true to throughout the book. The TARP legislation included specific instructions to use a section of the funds to prevent foreclosures. Without that language, TARP would not have passed; Democratic lawmakers who helped defeat TARP on its first vote cited the foreclosure mitigation piece as key to their eventual reconsideration.

TARP was doled out in two tranches of $350 billion each. The Bush administration, still in charge during TARP’s passage in October 2008, used none of the first tranche on mortgage relief, nor did Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson use any leverage over firms receiving the money to persuade them to lower mortgage balances and prevent foreclosures. Frank made his anger clear over this ignoring of Congress’ intentions at a hearing with Paulson that November. Paulson argued in his defense, “the imminent threat of financial collapse required him to focus single-mindedly on the immediate survival of financial institutions, no matter how worthy other goals were.”

Whether or not you believe that sky-is-falling narrative, Frank kept pushing for action on foreclosures, which by the end of 2008 threatened one in 10 homes in America. With the first tranche of TARP funds running out by the end of the year, Frank writes, “Paulson agreed to include homeowner relief in his upcoming request for a second tranche of TARP funding. But there was one condition: He would only do it if the President-elect asked him to.”

http://www.salon.com/2015/03/31/barney_frank_drops_a_bombshell_how_a_shocking_anecdote_explains_the_financial_crisis/

April 2, 2015

Patrick Murphy is most conservative member of Congress, now running against Rubio

http://www.politifact.com/florida/article/2015/mar/23/fact-checking-patrick-murphy-democratic-hopeful-su/

Fact-checking Patrick Murphy, Democratic hopeful to succeed Marco Rubio

By Amy Sherman on Monday, March 23rd, 2015 at 8:00 a.m.

U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, a Democratic political newcomer who ousted GOP firebrand Allen West in 2012, announced Monday morning that he will run for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Republican Marco Rubio. Murphy plans to run regardless of whether Rubio makes a presidential bid or not.

"I’m running for the U.S. Senate for the same reason I ran for Congress in 2012 – Washington is full of hyper-partisan politicians who can’t, or won’t, get anything done, and Florida deserves better," Murphy said in a prepared statement. "I’m a consensus-builder who is working to boost the economy by cutting waste in government, raise the minimum wage, strengthen Social Security and Medicare, and protect the Everglades. I’ve done all of this by being an independent voice for Florida, and that’s what the Senate needs more of right now."

With Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston and former Gov. Charlie Crist both announcing that they won’t seek the seat, the only other big Democratic name known to be weighing a run is U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson of Orlando.

On the Republican side, there is a long list of Republicans who are prepared to potentially run if Rubio steps aside to seek the presidency. They include state CFO Jeff Atwater and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera.

Murphy took a swipe at Rubio in his statement: "For years, Senator Rubio has put the needs of Floridians behind his presidential ambitions. We need a leader in the Senate whose eyes are firmly fixed on the people of Florida by working together to get things done. In the coming months, I look forward to meeting Floridians across the state to listen, earn their trust, and ask for their support."

Murphy, 31-year-old of Jupiter, represents Florida’s Treasure Coast, which includes parts of Palm Beach, Martin and St. Lucie counties. It’s one of the only districts in the state in which registration is closely matched between the parties. In 2012, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney won the district with 52 percent of the vote in 2012.

Murphy has built a reputation as a middle-of-the-road Democrat who’s willing to join the GOP on certain votes, including backing the Keystone XL Pipeline, which has been opposed by President Barack Obama. Congressional Quarterly determined that Murphy voted in support of Obama’s positions 49 percent of the time in 2014, and National Journal ranked him among the most conservative House Democrats. Still, he has faced attacks from GOP groups and received a 20 percent rating by the American Conservative Union.

Murphy, a Miami native and certified public accountant who worked at his father’s Coastal Construction firm, first announced he would take on tea party favorite West in 2011 when he was just 28. Murphy had switched his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat earlier that year.

West initially represented a swing district in Broward and Palm Beach, but after the district was redrawn, he decided to run in a more conservative district to the north, and Murphy followed him there. Murphy beat West by less than a percentage point, then beat former state Rep. Carl Domino with ease in 2014.

Here’s a look at fact-checks we’ve done involving Murphy (Here is Murphy’s overall Truth-O-Meter record.):

Attacks on Murphy’s voting record

In 2013, the National Republican Congressional Committee said Murphy "voted to keep the scandal-ridden IRS in charge of enforcing Obamacare."

It is true that Murphy joined most Democrats in opposing a bill called the "Keep the IRS Off Your Health Care Act of 2013." The measure would have prevented the IRS from enforcing any portion of Obamacare.

While the IRS is playing a major role in enforcing elements of the Affordable Care Act, it goes too far to say the agency is "in charge" of enforcing the health law. States, the federal Department of Health and Human Services, and other agencies play key roles in enforcing and implementing various aspects of the law. We rated the NRCC’s claim Mostly False.

Meanwhile, Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group that opposes the Affordable Care Act, said Murphy voted for Obamacare in 2010 yet "reversed himself and voted to delay" the employer mandate and the individual mandate.

The problem with that claim was that Murphy wasn’t a member of Congress until 2013. AFP later acknowledged that it had confused Murphy with a similarly named Democratic member of Congress, Rep. Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania.

On the campaign trail in 2012, Murphy had said he supported the health care law, but also thought it could be improved. He criticized some of the requirements on businesses, such as the requirement for filing complicated 1099 forms which was later repealed.

Attacks on Murphy’s college days

In the bare-knuckled West-Murphy race, a West campaign ad said Murphy was trying to "hide his drunken assault of a police officer." The ad was referring to a 2003 incident in which Murphy was a 19-year-old freshman at the University of Miami. Murphy and a friend were fighting and disrupting others at a Miami Beach bar, Club Crobar, and were escorted out by security. An officer asked Murphy for his I.D., but he refused to turn over a fake New Jersey driver’s license.

Murphy was arrested for disorderly intoxication and possession of a stolen driver’s license.

When PolitiFact Florida analyzed the ad’s claims, we saw no evidence in the officer’s narrative or court records that Murphy physically assaulted a police officer. Also, Murphy wasn’t convicted -- the charge was quickly transferred to traffic court and was dismissed within months. We rated the ad’s claim Mostly False.

West also claimed that after the charges were dropped, "Murphy’s father gave the prosecutor a huge campaign donation. That referred to campaign donations made by Patrick’s father Thomas P. Murphy and his construction businesses to Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle.

After the 2003 case against Murphy was dropped, his father’s companies gave $1,500 to Fernandez Rundle’s re-election campaign. Murphy’s father also gave $500 to Fernandez Rundle in 2000. But it was a stretch to call either donation "huge," particularly for his father’s firms which had given five-figure donations to the Republican Party of Florida in the past. We rated that claim Mostly False.

Murphy’s fundraising

Democrats are encouraged by Murphy’s past fundraising prowess.

more at link above!
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I hope for Alan Grayson to run. Why work for someone who opposes the democratic President more than half of the time??? And votes for Keystone??????? This is the FL Dem Party trying to get out in front, with their DINO.
April 2, 2015

Parliment speaker on Westminster Government Pedophile hearing

#t=85

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Kick for exposure, and ACCOUNTABILITY!
March 30, 2015

Rise in government insurance rates to mirror rising waters, flood debt


By Darryl Fears March 28 

At her small beach house that sits in a flood zone, Nancy Loft-Powers worries. The prospect of rising water, she said, isn’t what bothers her. It’s the expected rise in the cost of her $7,500 yearly flood insurance.

“My insurance is more than my mortgage,” Loft-Powers said in a phone interview from her year-round home in Deerfield Beach, Fla., near Fort Lauderdale. “I live by the beach in an old neighborhood. I pay [too much] insurance for a crap house that’s not great.”

This April Fool’s Day, when a congressional act that revised federal insurance premiums goes into effect, coastal homeowners such as Loft-Powers say the joke will be on them. The government is slowly phasing out subsidized flood insurance for more than a million Americans with houses in flood zones who, in some cases, pay half the true commercial rate.

Some owners say they are angry because their houses near lakes, rivers, bays and oceans were much more affordable with cheap rates that will now increase by as much as 25 percent each year until the premiums equal the full risk of settling down on property mapped as a flood zone.

Congress ordered a rate increase because the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency is $24 billion in debt. It reached that historic amount because revenue from the discounted premiums could not cover payments on flood claims, particularly after two devastating hurricanes, Katrina and Sandy, on the Gulf and Atlantic coasts.

A large crowd gathered on the corner of King and Union Streets in Old Town Alexandria in anticipation of very high flood waters after Hurricane Sandy. (Tracy A. Woodward/The Washington Post)

Ninety percent of disasters in the United States result from flooding, according to NFIP statistics, and coastal homeowners with discounted policies are getting little sympathy from conservationists and advocates for taxpayers who think they should pay dearly for that risk.

Rising sea levels from climate change make coastal living even more dangerous, conservationists say. And the flood-insurance program that went into the red paying flood claims is deep in debt to a U.S. treasury funded by taxpayers, advocates say.

“Realistically it’s not great for people,” said Shannon Hulst Jarbeau, assistant director of a nonprofit group called Wetlands Watch in Norfolk, a low-lying city that struggles with flooding from sea-level rise. But the rate in­creases are “not so horrible either,” she said.

“These reforms need to happen. The rate increases drive an interest in adaptation to sea-level rise. It makes people start to understand the value of reducing flood risk because it hits them right in their pockets.”

[D.C. and Maryland are grappling with a scary future, up to three feet of estimated sea level rise by 2050]

A Government Accountability Office report last year said FEMA’s debt to taxpayers is so large that the agency can only afford to pay on its interest. It hasn’t made a principal payment in years. The NFIP collected about $4 billion in premiums in 2013 while insuring property worth nearly $1.5 trillion, the GAO said.

As the seas rise by a few millimeters each year, storm surge from hurricanes will only worsen. A study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration last year said long-term sea-level rise has made tidal flooding a near-daily event in many cities, as opposed to 1950, when it happened about once every two years.

The cost of bailing out the victims of Katrina and Sandy was so overwhelming that Congress passed the Biggert-Waters Act of 2012 that increased flood-insurance policies by 25 percent across the board for people living in flood zones. Much of it would be phased in, but new buyers of homes in the zones would absorb the full increase.
But that get-tough measure set off a panic in the real estate industry as home sales fell through because lenders refused to back prospective buyers because they couldn’t afford the insurance.

Deborah Baisden, president of the Virginia Association of Realtors in Richmond, said 1,300 real estate transactions a day were delayed when Biggert-Waters went into effect, threatening the housing recovery.
Loft-Powers, a chiropractor who wanted to invest in real estate, said she was forced to sell two homes she owned in Deerfield Beach at a greatly reduced price because she couldn’t cover the insurance payments in a state where four hurricanes — Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne — hit over six weeks in 2004.

Under Biggert-Waters, her rate was set to increase about 25 percent with her yearly renewal. “I was devastated. I couldn’t take it. I had to short-sell a house. I didn’t make money,” Loft-Powers said in a stream of punctuated shouts.

[Congress waded into the flood debate in 2012, and lawmakers quickly discovered they were in over their heads]
It was exactly the kind of negative reaction insurance experts warned against before Congress passed the law, said J. Robert Hunter, director of insurance for the nonprofit Consumer Federation of America and a former federal insurance administrator who helped set government ­flood-policy rates in the 1970s.

After finally getting the message, it passed the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014 that revised the increase. Of the million Americans with subsidized flood insurance, about 800,000 primary owners live in their homes year-round, and 200,000 secondary owners rarely occupy their homes.
Businesses and nonresidential dwellings such as churches and farm buildings round out the remaining 100,000, according to FEMA.

Under the new law that goes into effect Wednesday, primary homeowners would see an average yearly 10 percent increase. Loft-Powers would pay an extra $750. To make up for slowing the revenue stream meant to pay FEMA’s debt to the U.S. treasury, primary residents living like her would pay an extra $25 yearly surcharge.

Secondary owners of vacation houses and condominiums will see about an 18 percent rate increase, along with a $250 yearly surcharge. Businesses and farms will also shoulder that increase.

Homeowners can also lower their insurance costs with upgrades to their houses such as stilts and brick elevations that make them less vulnerable to flooding. But the costs, $30,000 in many cases, can be steep.

Baisden said the revision allows primary homeowners to breathe easier, but some critics say their burden should be heavier.

Tidal flooding in D.C. was rare. Now it happens every day. Here’s why]

“In general it’s a move in the right direction,” said Eli Lehrer, president the R Street Institute, a conservative Washington think tank, but doesn’t go nearly far enough to fix a program that’s broken.

Discounted insurance is “expensive for taxpayers and encourages people to live in harm’s way,” Lehrer said. “Stupid, rich people who want to should be allowed to build wherever they want to as long as taxpayers don’t have to bail them out.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/rise-in-government-insurance-rates-to-mirror-rising-waters-flood-debt/2015/03/28/8f9f17c6-d316-11e4-ab77-9646eea6a4c7_story.html
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sorry if this is a dupe. Needed or not, it's going to affect the real estate market, again.
March 29, 2015

Martin O'Malley nails it all - out of the park! on George Step ABC This Week!

Waiting for a link......He was FABULOUS!!!!!!!

March 26, 2015

US Military’s Child Rapes Not Newsworthy to US News Outlets

Colombian Report
http://fair.org/blog/2015/03/26/colombian-report-on-us-militarys-child-rapes-not-newsworthy-to-us-news-outlets/

by Adam Johnson

RT report on US troops' sexual abuse in Colombia.

An 800-page independent report commissioned by the US-friendly Colombian government and the radical left rebel group FARC found that US military soldiers and contractors had sexually abused at least 54 children in Colombia between 2003 and 2007 and, in all cases, the rapists were never punished–either in Colombia or stateside–due to American military personnel being immune from prosecution under diplomatic immunity agreements between the two countries.

The report was part of a broader historical analysis meant to establish the “causes and violence aggravators” of the 50-year-long conflict between the government and rebels that’s presently being negotiated to an end. As Colombia Reports (3/23/15) would spell out:

In his report, the historian [Renan Vega] cited one 2004 case in the central Colombian town of Melgar where 53 underage girls were sexually abused by nearby stationed military contractors “who moreover filmed [the abuse] and sold the films as pornographic material.”

According to Colombia’s leading newspaper, El Tiempo, the victims of the sexual abuse practices were forced to flee the region after their families received death threats.

Other Americans stationed at the Tolemaida Air Base allegedly committed similar crimes, but possibly also never saw a day in court due to an immunity arrangement for American soldiers and military contractors agreed by Washington and Bogota.

One case that has called most attention in Colombian media was that of a 12-year-old who in 2007 was raped by a US Army sergeant and a former US military officer who was working in Melgar as a military contractor.

Colombian prosecutors established that the girl had been drugged and subsequently raped inside the military base by US sergeant Michael J. Coen and defense contractor Cesar Ruiz.
However, prosecution officials were not allowed to arrest the suspected child rapists who were subsequently flown out of the country.

Telesur report on US military's sexual abuse in Colombia Thus far, however, these explosive claims seem to have received zero coverage in the general US press, despite having been reported on Venezuela’s Telesur (3/23/15), the British tabloid Daily Mail (3/24/15) and Russian RT (3/25/15).
But why? These aren’t fringe claims, nor can the government of American ally Colombia be dismissed as a peddler of Bolivarian propaganda. Indeed, the Miami Herald (9/3/09) documented the case of US Sgt. Michael Coen and contractor César Ruiz in 2009:

The US government has made little effort to investigate a US Army sergeant and a Mexican civil contractor implicated in Colombia in the raping of a 12-year-old girl in August 2007, according to an El Nuevo Herald investigation.

The suspects, Sgt. Michael Coen and contractor César Ruiz, were taken out of Colombia under diplomatic immunity, and do not face criminal charges in the United States in the rape in a room at Colombia’s Germán Olano Air Force Base in Melgar, 62 miles west of Bogotá.
So why no coverage? Certainly one of Washington’s stanchest Latin American allies co-authoring a blistering report about systemic US military child rape of a civilian population should be of note–if for no other reason than, as the report lays out, it undermined American military efforts to stop drug trafficking and fight leftist rebels:

However, prosecution officials were not allowed to arrest the suspected child rapists who were subsequently flown out of the country.

The case has caused major indignation among Colombians for years….
The special envoy will possibly have to deal with the role of the US military and its members in the alleged victimization of Colombians.

Yet here we are, over 72 hours since the Colombian and foreign press first reported on the allegations, and there’s a virtual media blackout in America over the case. Nothing on CNN, nothing on MSNBC,
nothing in the New York Times or Miami Herald. Nothing in Huffington Post. Nothing in Fusion or Vice.

Why?

As UK authorities and NATO officials stress the importance of clamping down on “false Russian” narratives in the media, perhaps our own media could stop providing a shining example as to why such anti-Western narratives are so often the only outlet for certain ugly truths.
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Please, this is not about the source RT.

March 24, 2015

William Ballard letter delivered to St. Pete City Hall re Pier Process

Here is the letter delivered by William Ballard to become part of the public record:

William C. Ballard
1255 Brightwaters Blvd.
St. Petersburg, FL 33704
727-827-5021
wballard12@verizon.net

March 23, 2015

Michael J. Connors, P.E.
Chair, Pier Design Team Selection Committee
Municipal Service Building
St. Petersburg, FL 33701

Dear Mr. Connors:

This letter is primarily intended as a wakeup call to our Mayor and City Council. Your committee is stuck in the middle. The fig leaf of “select the most qualified design team” is inadequate cover for the real task – making the choice between two highly disparate conceptual plans which have attracted highly different levels of public acceptance. That choice should be made by our city’s elected leaders. Your committee could then confine itself to its proper task, the selection of the most qualified design team to implement a specific project concept which the governing body has chosen. The process to date has not been a loss. It has produced two worthy conceptual choices, either of which could reward us greatly if implemented on a scale sufficient to make them successful. They are, alphabetically, the Alma and Destination St. Pete.

This pause in your committee’s deliberations gives our city leaders the opportunity to confront reality. A $50 million project budget, originally intended for reconstruction of the Municipal Pier in 2010, now diminished to $46 million, will not permit the construction of a project with a primary draw as recommended by the 2010 Pier Advisory Task Force. That task force, armed with economic studies, concluded that every successful recreational pier needs a primary draw, and that for St. Petersburg that element should be provided by a restaurant based program; specifically, 26,000 square feet of space to accommodate multiple restaurants. None of the 2015 design concepts could even half way meet this requirement in the context of 2015 construction costs. The recent economic study you mentioned, if I heard you accurately, concluded that none of the seven design concepts will provide the economic impetus for our city that the pier project was expected to provide.

The balance of this letter assumes nobody grabs the helm and your committee has to stay on its present course.

The Alma project puts its major restaurant structure on the uplands. This core choice has direct operational benefits. The Alma pier solution is a thousand foot long skinny pedestrian pier terminating at a 150 foot high, narrow observation tower featuring a snack bar and a small ballroom. As for the tower, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. The Alma pier is a reminder that you get what you pay for, rarely much more.

The RFQ does not list a ballroom as a program element. Has a need for a ballroom ever been mentioned by any pier committee? Don’t music groups require large buses and trucks to transport themselves and their equipment? Are long walks out in the elements or tram rides part of a sought after ballroom dancing experience? The Coliseum, at which the public presentation of the pier design concepts was made, is a large city owned ballroom with excellent street access and abundant off street parking surrounding it? My take is that the Alma tower ballroom was an attempt to give an art object the appearance of having utility. The available money does not support both a worthy pier head structure and the bridge to get to it if the primary draw is sited on the upland. I have a bias towards Destination St. Pete, but I also firmly believe that there is great merit in the Alma concept’s focus on the uplands.

The Destination St. Pete concept re-uses the Inverted Pyramid as the primary draw plus a light dining facility and other enhancements in the Spa Beach area. The bridge is less than half the width of the old pier bridge with bump outs to accommodate loading and unloading vehicles. A wider bridge would appear to provide a better experience. This design preserves the intangible benefits associated with this landmark structure. I like it. Of far greater importance, is what the people of this city want their pier project to provide them.

The St. Pete Polls’ March 19th scientific (as opposed to self selected) survey of city voters disclosed 62.6% approval and 25.2% disapproval of the Destination St. Pete concept. This was the highest ranking of all concepts. The same survey disclosed Alma had 21.3% approval and 62.8% disapproval among the survey respondents, the worst among all seven concepts. In 2013, St. Pete Polls predicted with near exactitude the outcome of the referendum in which over 60% of the voters chose termination of the Lens design agreement. A substantial majority of the people of St. Petersburg want their inverted pyramid shaped gem cleaned and placed in a new setting. They want their dining at the pier head. They are the client. As long as what they want is legal, buildable and not likely to bankrupt their city, who is to deny them? The St. Petersburg Design Group possesses a unique professional qualification among all contestants; they have provided the design concept most desired by the people who will use the project and pay for the project.

The environmental argument against automobile access the pier head, as proposed to some extent in the Destination St. Pete concept, is weak. The runoff water from our streets and parking lots near the waterfront runs into Tampa Bay. My guess is that the Grand Prix in three days this week will put more burnt rubber and petroleum particulate into Tampa Bay than the automobile traffic on the pier did in the last two decades. Particulate emission from road use automobiles has been greatly reduced thanks to good environmental legislation and great engineering. I hope each of the committee members has revisited the drawings for Destination St. Pete and noted the bump outs which will keep traffic moving during vehicle unloading and loading.

I publicly and tangibly supported the Greenlight Pinellas public transportation initiative. It failed. Our pier is to be built for the transportation culture that exists today and will likely persist for the next decade or two. This is not nostalgia; this is reality. Vehicular access to the pier can be controlled inexpensively and easily to balance all needs. For example, there are hydraulic barriers available which may be controlled by electronic cards. These barriers can be used to control vehicular access to a restricted roadway or plaza without on duty personnel.

You and your committee members are not jurors in a murder trial. You are not sequestered. You can receive information and talk to anyone other than other selection committee members and representatives of the contestants. What is the best design for this city? Which design will do the most to bring our community together? Destination St. Pete has already proven that it will serve that important community healing purpose. Which design best utilizes and preserves the icon that has served our city in the amazing burst of economic development of the last decade? Destination St. Pete.

Some committee members don’t like the inverted pyramid. Fine; it was and is controversial - but, it is noticed. One of the committee members is plainly resentful that architect Michael Maltzan’s work was “submarined” by politics. The politics in the case of the Lens was citizens exercising their rights under the city’s charter. There was nothing sneaky about this exercise; it was a daylight, surface attack. Architects do not rule. Clients rule. What happened with the Lens was no different than what happens whenever an architect delivers to a client a proposed plan that the client does not like, does not want to live with and does not want to pay for. The plan goes on the shelf.

I have said little about Pier Park. A great deal of thought must have gone into that design. It does offer dining at the pier head. It looks like a fun place. My concern is that there are so many landscaping elements to be tended and maintained, so many thousands of square feet of floating dock which are not protected from storm swell and which cannot survive without a program of periodic removal from the water for scraping, repair and recoating, and so many activities to be managed, that this design will be a money pit. All that kayak activity, as bright and fun as it appears in renderings, can better and more safely be done off Spa Beach, North Shore Beach, Weedon Island, Pinellas Point (on the flats) and Fort DeSoto. Kayaks are not compatible with the heavy powerboat traffic in and out of our now successful, revenue positive yacht basins. For these reasons I have assumed that the issue at this time is the selection of a first choice between Destination St. Pete and Alma.

The city’s elected leaders may decide to let your committee’s process run its course. If the committee ranks the design team which offered the Alma concept number one, Council will have the option to reject the committee report. If that occurs, Council could adopt whatever resolution or ordinance may be required to select the Destination St. Pete concept as the pier project they wish to have built and to direct the issuance of an RFQ for design services to implement that specific project. A mirror image of this scenario is also possible. Whatever happens, I will stand by what I said to the committee last Thursday regarding its diligence and the excellent quality of its discussion.


Very truly yours,


William C. Ballard


Cc:
Selection Committee Members
Mayor Rick Kriseman
Council Members
Public Distribution

March 24, 2015

Innacurate info coming from Mayor Kriseman's "SPOKESPERSON" Ben Kirby re Pier process

To Waveney Ann Moore
Tampa Bay Times

Waveney Ann –

Please let me be CLEAR. I NEVER agreed to any new and improved “process” – as the Mayor outlined to a few members of our group last April.

I really wish he would stop telling people that ALL groups agreed with his plan. That is a TOTAL material misrepresentation of the facts.

In FACT – when Mayor Kriseman called me about 4 days ahead of that presentation Mr. Kirby is referring to in your story of this afternoon – to ask if I would stand beside him at his photo-op down in SpaBeach Park last April – I told him there was NO WAY I was going to represent that I supported (just by being there) something that I ABSOLUTELY did not.

Among other reasons – our conversation centered in on our group’s STRONG opposition to using ANY of the Pier funding – to develop ANYTHING on the uplands – when ALL of the funds from the TIF Funding Agreement with the County – dating back to 2009 – were SPECIFICALLY to be used from the seawall eastward – for the refurbishment of the inverted pyramid building – and the replacement of the bridge leading out to it. PERIOD. Please refer to table 2-B in the original TIF Funding Agreement with the County.

He responded to me by stating – that IF he were to take potential development on the uplands (in particular – to begin on what is today the Pelican Parking Lot) off the table – he would also be forced to remove REFURBISHMENT – as an option in the new upcoming Pier Design RFQ and RFP Process.

I CLEARLY told him that one had ABSOLUTELY ZERO to do with the other. He disagreed.

He told me that he hoped I would reconsider. I told him that it was not likely – as I feel I have a commitment to the hundreds of hard working volunteers – that had worked tirelessly to complete the largest grass roots petition drive in the City’s history – collecting more that 23,866 valid petitions from City Voters – and an additional 2,900 from voters that were just outside the City limits – to stand firmly on our position – without compromise.

In addition – let’s remember that it was not even announced by Mayor Kriseman until late summer / early fall – who HIS hand picked committee members of HIS new “Pier Selection Committee” would be. Now really – do you think ANYONE from our group would have EVER supported or approved of Mike Connors (as just one example) to even be on that committee – let alone Mayor Kriseman appointing him as chairman? PLEASE.

Mike Connors has been STRONGLY in favor of demolishing that building for as long as anyone can remember – so it did not surprise me – from watching the entire 12 hours of nonsense from up here in Safety Harbor on Friday – HOW he planned to eliminate several other viable proposals – and even TRIED to convice other committee members to not allow the most publicly popular proposal (Destination St Pete Pier) to get anywhere beyond 3RD place ranking.

Then – LATER – he tried to get them to rank – by offering up Destination to be in 2ND place – behind ALMA.

He was SO ridiculously obvious – IT WAS DISGUSTING TO WATCH!

THEN – a couple of committee members openly asked Mike Connors what would happen – if Council rejects their #1 pick – and he reluctantly THEN explained to them – the whole process must start over. It was then – and ONLY then – a few members realized the magnatude of their decision. They realized there was a VERY GOOD chance that Council WOULD NOT accept ALMA – due to the Citywide support for Destination – that was blatantly and DELIBERATELY being misrepresented by Mike Connors to achieve his agenda – resulting in the whole entire process starting over.

A couple of members also realized ALL of their time and work would go the way of a power flush – thanks to one inappropriate vote by any one of them – as a potential result of the continual prodding of their Chairperson – Mike Connors.
This is when they realized they could not make a final ranking decision Friday evening.

What this has now culminated into:

The public is OUTRAGED AND DISGUSTED to NOW realize HOW BADLY they have been lied to – regarding the Mayor’s initial promises to “listen, learn and lead” when he was running for office of Mayor. He OBVIOUSLY was not (and still is not) listening – he OBVIOUSLY has not learned anything from the last Mayor’s bully tactics – when he closed the entire Pier on May 31, 2013 – putting more than 400 full and part time employees out of work unnecessarily – and fencing it off to ready it for demolition – to make his point: That if the community did not support the LENS proposal in the upcoming 8/27/13 referendum – they would be looking at a closed down Pier – well into / or after 2018.
Well – we can all see today – how well that all worked out for him. Voters decided it was time to fire him just a couple of months later.

A TOTAL BETRAYAL of trust (now, again) by this Mayor – as handed out to City residents by his corrupt partner in this newly created Citywide crisis – Mike Connors.
There is likely NOTHING he is going to be able to say or do at this point – that is going to “change” the embarrassing nonsense that seemed to be never ending - Friday in Council Chambers.

It was nothing short of a train wreck – led by two of the City’s least respected employees (Mike Connors & Chris Ballestra) – with the Mayor DIRECTLY responsible to City residents for their deplorable actions. Isn’t it just amazing how he was nowhere around for that entire deplorable circus? And even today – he is just nowhere around. He has “spokespeople” to cover for him while he tries to figure out what his next steps could be.

If this were any business – Mike Connors would have been FIRED immediately – for the damage he as caused – by making HIS favorite choice – and HIS least favorite choice – SO obvious. He even went on in a lengthly dissertation – as to how people need to move on from that building – and that it makes no sense to renew a building that HE believes is not worth investing the money on.

This was clearly HIS opinion – and it should NOT have been a part of trying to persuade others to support HIS position.

NOW – Mayor Kriseman OWNS this mess he created. It appears he must have had a lot more confidence in Mike Connors pulling off his plan for demolishing the inverted pyramid – by TRYING DESPARATELY to put STRONGLY DISLIKED – LAST PLACE ALMA into the #1 ranking – CLEARLY AGAINST the majority of City residents that took part in SEVERAL polls over the last few weeks.

So now here we are today.

I have enlisted the services of several good attorneys over the past weekend – to put the finishing touches on – you guessed it – our next petition – that we plan to actually launch in the next few days. A DRAFT Copy – Not For Circulation (until we are ready to launch) – is attached for your review. We are now also in the process of updating our entire website – and creating the online downloadable and printable version of the Petition for our website – and preparing our 18 petition drop boxes – for deployment across the City.

Unlike the earlier petition drive I started in November of 2010 – we are beginning this very important petition drive – with much more hard earned expertise and knowledge – in addition to having literally tens of thousands of really mad City residents at this time – many have even signed up over this past weekend – to assist us in completing our new petition drive very quickly.

We have already received offers to assist us financially to get things moving even quicker this time – which is encouraging.

While it was not my original plan to do another Citywide Petition – this new Mayor – and his staff of mostly the same “bad actors” – as leftovers from the Foster administration – have left us NO CHOICE – but to proceed forward – and put the VOTERS back in charge of their downtown waterfront – finally – and once and for all.

While I DO plan to do a formal Press Release in the next couple of days – I am just too busy right now – to compose that – or schedule any press conference.
I will announce plans for that – when I have the most important aspects of our new Petition drive completed and up and running.

That is my priority. I expect that to only take a few days.

It was just VERY important – as a priority – that I clarify directly to you – the misinformation that is now apparently flowing from Mayor Kriseman’s office – through his “spokespeople”.

It CLEARLY appears that Mayor Kriseman has now lost any credibility for either himself – AND his half-baked plan of trying to push the ALMA Pier design off onto City Residents – by trying to move ALMA – from LAST to FIRST position ranking with his committee - via his appointed Committee Chair – Mike Connors. While I DO NOT believe City Council will support ALMA moving forward – IF that is the way the Selection Committee recklessly decides to rank the remaining contestants – we will all just be in for another long and protracted fight – while the closed Pier sits their as a very obvious example of ignorance and stupidity of the last Mayor’s inability to listen to his constituents!

I WILL NOT BACK DOWN. I am tired of elected (and hired) City employees blatantly and repeatedly lying – in their reckless attempts to accomplish their objectives.

St. Petersburg, Florida is NOT a monarchy – and nobody elected Rick Kriseman King. The Pier does not belong to him – it belongs to every single taxpayer of the City – so it is only appropriate that City VOTERS should select the next Pier as the centerpiece of the City’s downtown waterfront for the next 100 years.

This entire “process” – under BOTH Mayors Foster and Kriseman – CLEARLY demonstrate why City electors need more say in the future of their downtown waterfront.

Our new Petition will provide exactly that.

HOW VERY SAD – we have to go through all of this again.

Thanks Waveney Ann -

Tom Lambdon
Founder & Chairman

Email: tom@voteonthepier.com
Website: voteonthepier.com

March 22, 2015

Letter from University of Virginia School of Nursing, on violent arrest of student


Dear Alumni and Friends,

By now, you have seen the upsetting image of a UVA undergraduate classmate, bloodied from a State Department of Alcohol Beverage Control Officer slamming his head into the Corner pavement when attempting to take him into custody. While the details of the situation are still being uncovered, many are responding to the appearance of racially-charged use of excessive force and brutality. There are ongoing meetings and gatherings of students, administration, faculty, and staff to see that this horrific incident is properly investigated and handled. We, at the School of Nursing, abhor acts of violence toward anyone in our midst and call for the compassionate and respectful consideration of all.

Yesterday the student, Martese Johnson, made a statement saying: "I still believe in our community. I know this community will support me during this time. I trust that the scars on my face and head will one day heal. The trauma from what the ABC officers did will stay with me forever. I believe we as a a community are better than this. We cannot allow the actions of a few officers to ruin the community of trust we have worked so hard to build."

In the meantime, many of us need a place to process the distress that this causes to us as individuals and as a community. Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) and the Minority Rights Coalition (MRC) co-sponsored an 'Empowering Students of Color' group yesterday and this group will be ongoing on Thursdays, 3:15-4:30pm in Newcomb PAC 164H. For individual help, we urge our students and community to call CAPS. Finally, there are two wonderful resources right here at the SON. Susan Kools, Director of Inclusion, Diversity and Excellence and Theresa Carroll, Assistant Dean for Academic and Student Services, are both available to talk to students and concerned community members.

We are all in this together,

Dorrie K. Fontaine
Sadie Heath Cabaniss Professor of Nursing and Dean

Susan Kools
Madge M. Jones Professor in Nursing
Director of Inclusion, Diversity and Excellence

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