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General Daily Insight for September 22, 2023

Thu, 09/21/2023 - 17:26
General Daily Insight for September 22, 2023

What starts out as a potentially confusing day shouldn’t end that way. The Moon in adventurous Sagittarius begins with a conflicting square to mystical Neptune in Pisces and the Sun in Virgo, which could make it difficult to know how to proceed with any modicum of productivity. We should be able to organize ourselves once the Moon enters Capricorn at 4:20 pm EDT, bringing with it a sense of purpose. A lunar sextile to Saturn will help us make the most of what’s available.


March 21 – April 19

Your ambitions are burning extremely brightly, Aries. The Moon is marching into your 10th House of Career, so take a deep breath and let your inner conviction drive you onward! You’ve got extra strength invigorating your search for recognition and success. This house also rules mentorship, so it could be a good idea to ask a respected authority figure for some words of wisdom. They may know just the thing to help you work smarter, not harder — don’t hesitate to ask for advice!


April 20 – May 20

It’s a good day to break out of any ruts. Your sign can occasionally be guilty of falling into patterns a little too easily, but it’s time to change up the program as the Moon enters your 9th House of Expansion. Do something to bring a little novelty to your life, something that makes you feel adventurous and anything but predictable! If an opportunity arrives that seems outside your usual comfort zone, trust that the universe is sending it your way for a reason.


May 21 – June 20

Taking everything with a pinch of salt will make life much easier for you at present. The energy around you is prone to weighing on your mind as the Moon enters your extreme 8th house, but just because things feel that way doesn’t mean you need to let them overwhelm you. If testing moments arrive, do what you must do to keep your head above water. It’s okay — the cosmos isn’t sending you anything you can’t handle. Maintain a level approach.


June 21 – July 22

Whether you double up or double down, it’d be hard to go wrong with a plus-one by your side today. The Moon is moving into your 7th House of Partnerships, encouraging you to face the hardships of life as one of a team. Whether you’ve got a hectic day or nothing much to do, you’ll probably find it much more exciting with someone special by your side. There are no requirements about who this person is, as long as you enjoy yourselves.


July 23 – August 22

You can get on a very efficient track at the moment! Your 6th House of Routine is taking center stage as the Moon arrives there, motivating you to clean up your act and do whatever you need to be at your best. If you’ve been indulging in unhealthy habits, consider this your cosmic green light to get back on the bandwagon and pursue your best self. Whether it’s eating healthier, getting more exercise, or sleeping better, the Moon will push you in the right direction.


August 23 – September 22

A spark of fun is exactly what the doctor ordered. The Moon is dancing into your 5th House of Pleasure, so you can leave as many responsibilities behind as possible — instead, focus all your energy on enjoying yourself. Since this house is more about what you want than what others want, you may choose to fly solo in your search for satisfaction. Still, if other people are what brings you bliss, then round up the gang for whatever activities suit your fancy.


September 23 – October 22

Your roots are calling out for attention. Specifically, your personal history is highlighted as the Moon moves into your 4th House of Foundations, prompting you to ask yourself where you’ve been and where you’re going. By looking at what has come before — family history, personal battles, the journeys of your ancestors — you can gain a better sense and understanding of where you should head. Spend some time with those thoughts, and let them propel you forward to your next big adventure.


October 23 – November 21

It’s the perfect day to get out and say bonjour to people. You’re likely in the mood to explore your little town or big city or wherever you find yourself as the Moon zips into your 3rd House of Local Involvement. This transit wants to help you feel like a part of something, and that your voice is being heard and put to good use. If you’ve been sitting on an idea or important conversation, consider this your cue to finally dive in.


November 22 – December 21

You may feel the sudden urge to flash your cash around. There’s an emphasis on material security as the Moon arrives in your 2nd House of Wealth, so if something special catches your eye, it could be almost impossible to deny yourself a little treat. Make an effort to avoid anything frivolous by valuing quality over quantity, but as long as you don’t break the bank, then a small splurge probably won’t hurt. Then again, saving your money would hurt even less!


December 22 – January 19

It’s time to check in with yourself, Capricorn. The Moon is entering your personal 1st house, deepening your sense of clarity around your soul’s needs and desires. If you’ve been focused on everyone else or feeling dazed, this is your moment to snap out of it and return to center. You are so capable, but if you don’t tend to your internal requirements, you risk burning out as you chase after your goals. Make sure your needs are being met.


January 20 – February 18

The world is taking a turn for the fantastic! It’s easy to look at things with rose-colored glasses as the Moon arrives in your dreamy 12th house, so don’t worry too much about maintaining a strict sense of reality. Your intuition is especially heightened during this transit, so tune out all the outside noise and focus on what your mind and body are telling you. If you listen carefully, you may find lots to enjoy — but if you ignore them, you’ll feel adrift.


February 19 – March 20

You, Pisces, can truly be part of something larger than yourself. The Moon is entering your 11th House of Global Community, reminding you that no one person is an island! Humanity is stronger together than apart. This same sector deals with humanitarian efforts, so consider rounding up a few people to organize some community service, be it a clothing drive, food donation, or even a night of picking up trash in your area. A little bit of altruism will go a long way.

NSU president to step down in 2025. His successor is already set.

Thu, 09/21/2023 - 16:52

After more than a decade of serving as Nova Southeastern University’s president and CEO, Dr. George Hanbury will step down in January 2025, when Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Dr. Harry Moon will take over.

NSU’s Board of Trustees finalized and approved the succession plan at its Thursday meeting. Board members unanimously voted for Moon to become the seventh president and CEO, and the change will take effect Jan. 1, 2025, the university said in a news release.

Before Hanbury became president in 2010 and CEO in 2011, he served as the university’s executive vice president and COO for 12 years. He will continue to serve the university after stepping down, as chancellor and creator of a new Institute of Citizenship, Leadership, and International Affairs, the university said.

The South Florida Sun Sentinel reported in 2016 that the university had a goal for 2020, called Vision 2020, to be recognized by then for its excellence in innovation, teaching, research and service. Hanbury said Thursday night that NSU successfully met all aspects of that goal, and despite the pandemic, focused on Vision 2025, which includes the goal for NSU to be designated a preeminent research university.

Hanbury has been with the private university since 1998. He said he has known the end of his contract was approaching in January 2025 and has long kept that in mind with every new leadership hire, always searching for a mentee who could become a successor.

“It helps with stability, and the organization and the university and continuity, and when you help to create a single shared vision that everyone is in, it’s not dependent upon one individual, it’s dependent on culture,” Hanbury said.

Under Hanbury’s leadership, NSU became one of 59 universities nationwide to be designated a “high research activity” and a community-engaged university by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. NSU also became the third university to have two medical schools, and he oversaw the building of the $50 million NSU Guy Harvey Oceanographic Center, which opened in 2012.

“Somebody needs to be able to carry on the culture” within the university, Hanbury said, which is why he recommended an internal successor rather than a national search.

There will be a national search to fill Moon’s role, and current Chancellor Ray Ferrero Jr., the university’s fifth president, will be become president emeritus, the university said.

Moon, who is also the COO of NSU Health, became the COO and executive vice president in 2018. He held multiple executive positions for Cleveland Clinic Florida before his career at NSU and has a lengthy background in health care.

From 1997 to 2003, Moon served as the Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Cleveland Clinic Florida. Before becoming Cleveland Clinic Florida CEO, Moon was a staff physician, a Cleveland Clinic Florida Board of Governors member and a member of the Cleveland Clinic Foundation Board of Trustees.

“Where the university is at this point in time, I think some of the skills that I bring to the table, particularly in the health care part of the enterprise, it’s very much worth doing,” Moon said Thursday night of assuming the new role.

NSU’s Vision 2025 includes raising a total of $1 billion in outside research funding and philanthropic contributions since the 2010 fiscal year, of which the university has reached 87% of that goal, the news release said. Working toward the 2025 goal, the university has also earned specialized accreditation in medicine and business programs and a partnership with HCA Florida to create a teaching hospital near the NSU Fort Lauderdale campus.

Moon said another goal is to be designated an R1 university, a classification by the Carnegie Foundation for top universities with “very high research activity.” The only private university in Florida currently with that designation is the University of Miami, while the other five are public. NSU is currently one of five universities statewide to be ranked an R2 university, meaning high research activity.

“What we can accomplish in the next period of time, I think can be very important to the university, to the community and the state,” Moon said.

Information from Sun Sentinel archives was used in this report. 

Steve Geller is running for Broward sheriff. It’s not the Steve Geller you’ve heard of.

Thu, 09/21/2023 - 14:51

Steve Geller, a candidate with a well known name in the county, announced Thursday that he’s running for Broward Sheriff.

The newly announced candidate isn’t that Steve Geller.

Rather he’s the doppelganger of County Commissioner Steve Geller, who has won many primaries and general elections in Broward County since his first, in 1988.

“I think he’s got a good name,” said Geller (the commissioner.) He is “Steven A. Geller” on his campaign paperwork.

“I think we’re both doing our names very proud,” said Geller (the candidate for sheriff). He is “Steven Andrew Geller” on his paperwork.


Geller (the freshly minted candidate) brings decades of law enforcement experience — he started with the Plantation Police Department in 1991 — to his first-ever run for office, in which he’s challenging Sheriff Gregory Tony in the August 2024 Democratic primary.

Candidates don’t qualify for the Aug. 20, 2024, primary ballot until next spring. The paperwork he filed Thursday allows him to raise and spend money as a candidate. So far, Tony is running, as is David Howard, who also has a law enforcement background.

Broward is so overwhelmingly Democratic that winning the August primary is tantamount to winning the office. (In the last two elections, the Democratic candidate finished 40 points ahead of the Republican.)

“I am ready and eager to lead the Broward County Sheriff’s office into the future: the era of safety, accountability and trust. My campaign is built on the foundation of strong ethics and morals. As a lifelong advocate for justice and fairness I have dedicated my career to upholding the law and protecting the rights of all citizens,” Geller said Thursday outside the Broward County Governmental Center, immediately after he filed paperwork with the Supervisor of Elections Office.

“The principles of integrity, transparency and respect for human rights should guide all of law enforcement, ” he said. “I am committed to building a sheriff’s office that enforces the law, that fosters positive relationships in the community, an agency that helps those in their darkest hour.”

At the Plantation Police Department, Geller was a patrol officer, school resource officer at South Plantation High School, and a major case detective and a captain supervising a range of units. After retiring from the Police Department, he went to work as a special agent with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in 2020.

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His last day at FDLE was Sept. 5. Geller said the agency determined he couldn’t continue in the job while running for sheriff.

As sheriff, he said he would emphasize proactive policing, intelligence-led investigations, community partnerships, and improved transparency and communication, and better training and supervision of deputies, firefighters, and 911 dispatchers.

“I’ve been there at night doing night patrols while people were sleeping, keeping people safe. I’ve done crisis response team roles in which I’ve been there for people who are going through mental health crises. I’ve served in many different capacities in law enforcement. I would put my attributes and my accomplishments up against anybody else,” he said.

Geller, 55, said he is a lifelong Democrat. He has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the State University of New York at Albany and a master’s in public administration from Florida Atlantic University. He and his wife live in Weston, and they have two adult children.

Steve Geller is cheered by family and friends as he announces his candidacy for Broward County sheriff on Thursday at the Governmental Center in Fort Lauderdale. He’s not the well-known elected official Steve Geller who will also be running for office in 2024. (Joe Cavaretta/South Florida Sun Sentinel) Tony and Israel

The sheriff is the highest-profile, most powerful elected official in Broward County — and the sheriffs have often been highly controversial.

Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed Tony in January 2019 at the same time he suspended then-Sheriff Scott Israel. Tony was elected to a full term the next year.

During the 2020 campaign, and since, Tony faced scrutiny for not divulging to DeSantis and on police applications that he shot and killed an 18-year-old man in 1993 when he was a teenager living in a tough neighborhood in Philadelphia. Tony said it was self-defense for which he was absolved of responsibility.

In proceedings that are pending, the Florida Commission on Ethics has found probable cause to pursue a case into Tony, finding that there were lies and omissions on forms that led him to his first police job in Coral Springs.

Based on the publicly known facts, Geller said DeSantis should suspend Tony. “Yes, I believe based on everything that I do know that, yes, he should be suspended.”

When DeSantis suspended Israel, a decision upheld by the Florida Senate, he cited incompetence and neglect of duty in connection with the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre and the 2017 shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

Geller said DeSantis shouldn’t have suspended Israel.

“I believe Sheriff Israel, if he were to be removed, it should have been by the public and the public only. I believe that the government intervention at that point was not necessary. I believe the community members should have made that decision,” he said.

The Geller name

The other Geller has been elected to the state House of Representatives, the state Senate, where he served as Democratic Party leader, and twice to the County Commission — usually winning by double digits. If he’s reelected next year, term limits would prevent him from running again.

The Geller who’s currently in elected office said he’s seen the other Geller at functions where “he introduced himself as, ‘Hi, I’m the other Steve Geller.”

If a Democrat challenges the commissioner in the August 2024 primary, both Gellers will be on the ballot at the same time.

“If I get an opponent, it could certainly have an effect on both of our races,” Geller said. “Nothing I could do to prevent it. He didn’t ask me, ‘Do you mind if I run?’ I don’t think he needs permission to use my name when it’s his name.”

With a few exceptions involving a few incumbents who he’s known for years and aren’t likely to have serious opposition, the commissioner isn’t making any primary endorsements — including in the sheriff’s race — until he knows if he’s going to have a contested primary of his own next year.

The sheriff candidate said having the same last name as the commissioner “will definitely be an asset to me. But I believe that it’s up to me to be sure that I make my own name for myself and that I differentiate the position that I’m running for so that an uneducated voter will know that there are two of us.”

Anthony Man can be reached at aman@sunsentinel.com and can be found @browardpolitics on Facebook, Threads.net and Post.news.


Book bans surged across the US in 2023. Florida was the blueprint.

Thu, 09/21/2023 - 14:44

The number of books banned in school districts across the U.S. reached a peak this year, a new report says, with Florida leading the way in more ways than one.

The state topped the country in the number of books banned alone, representing 40% of the country’s total cases, with over 1,400 books removed from libraries in the 2022-23 school year, according to a report issued on Thursday by PEN America, a free speech advocacy group. Across the country, over 3,000 books were removed.

But Florida’s influence also extends far beyond the number of books it has banned — the state’s conservative advocacy groups and legislation have helped pave the way for the rest of the country to follow suit.

“Florida is not an anomaly,” said Kasey Meehan, the lead author of the report, titled “The Mounting Pressure to Censor: The Drivers Behind Book Bans,” and the Freedom to Read Program Director at PEN America. “It’s almost like an incubator.”

A map provided by PEN America showing the total instances of book bans by state, from July 2022 to June 2023 Florida’s influence

One common theme emerged as researchers studied the success of book bans: The combined presence of conservative advocacy groups and state legislation.

Florida serves as an example of how those forces work together, as state laws allow for and respond to activist groups who challenge books on a local level. A school district’s proximity to a local chapter of such a group is associated with a greater number of bans, according to the report.

Its release comes days after the most recent effort by local chapters of one of the most prominent groups, Moms for Liberty, to recite explicit sections of books at school board meetings this week in Broward and Seminole counties with the goal of having them removed under a new state law, HB 1069. The law, in part, requires school boards to ban books from libraries if their language cannot be read aloud at a board meeting

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The group has close ties to Gov. Ron DeSantis, who signed the law in May. Earlier this month, he appointed one of the organization’s co-founders to the state Commission on Ethics.

Both Florida’s legislation and its advocacy surrounding books have served as an example for the rest of the country. Emerging in 2020 during the pandemic, Moms for Liberty now has close to 300 chapters in 44 states. Other states have used Florida’s legislation such as HB 1557, which went into effect in July 2022 and was dubbed by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, as a template, the report says.

“You can see the way in which similar tactics and strategies from groups in Florida are being applied in other states and other school districts,” Meehan said, “as well as the ways in which language and legislation are being copycatted.”

Books removed often discussed race, had minority or LGBT characters

The subject matter found within the banned books can be broken down into a few main themes: Violence and physical abuse in close to half of the books banned this year, topping the list, followed by books that discussed the health and wellbeing of students, and those that included sexual experiences between characters.

Close to a third of the banned books had characters who were minorities or discussed themes of race and racism, according to the report, like “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison and “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini, both banned in Broward schools.

And nearly a third of the banned books had characters who were LGBT.

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Groups like Moms for Liberty have argued that the removal of books from schools does not constitute a ban; rather, it places the power in the hands of parents.

“We’re not banning books, these books are not going to be banned from a parent deciding whether their child is going to read this or not,” Corie Pinero, the chair of the Broward chapter of Moms for Liberty, told the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “Most public libraries, these books are going to be available, and on Amazon, so if a parent decides their child is mature enough, they can go to the public library and check them out for free or purchase them.”

Oftentimes LGBT themes are considered pornographic, the PEN America report said, relying on “discriminatory tropes” that associate the community with sexuality.

Pinero argued that children should not read books with sexual content and included sexual orientation in that list.

“Children do not have the mental capacity and maturity to handle these contexts, rape, incest, homosexuality, heterosexuality,” she said. “So that’s really the issue we have.”

Book bans in South Florida

At least 1,406 book ban cases occurred in Florida during this school year, the report says, though the number of books no longer on shelves likely surpasses that.

South Florida has seen 43 cases during that time, according to PEN America’s index of book bans, with the greatest number in Palm Beach County at 23 books, followed by Broward with 12 and Miami-Dade with eight. Those numbers are far fewer than some districts, like Escambia in Florida’s Panhandle, which saw over 200. But they still reflect the influence of new state legislation that makes book challenges easier.

The numbers include books removed during the course of an ongoing investigation, which represent the majority of cases. Even though those books could return to the shelves, the process could take months or years, Meehan said, so PEN America counts those as bans.

The Florida Department of Education recently released its own data on book challenges, with lower numbers, counting 12 objections but only three removals in Broward, six objections and no removals in Palm Beach, and five objections and no removals in Miami-Dade.

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Though the book ban movement appears widespread, it doesn’t necessarily reflect public opinion. Many of the bans can be traced back to one activist group, and in some cases, one or two people.

The report cites a Tampa Bay Times article from August which found that two people had brought about the challenging of hundreds of books across Florida; meanwhile, a Washington Post article said that 11 people were connected to 60% of over 1,000 challenges.

Surveys of the general public, meanwhile, have found that most Americans do not support book bans; a May poll found that 65% of Americans oppose book bans by school boards, 69% opposing bans by lawmakers.

A small group of people are having “an outsized influence in getting books off library shelves,” Meehan said, while state legislation like Florida’s “empowers that small group of local actors in getting those books removed.”

Pinero disagreed. Moms for Liberty has a chapter in almost every county in Florida, she said, and over 100,000 members, “and we started just over two years ago.”

She’s hoping the group will continue to expand. Already, several chapters have opened in California, she said, the state “actually one of our most active.”

The PEN America report found that states that lean Democrat have fewer bans, while Republican-leaning states have the majority, accounting for 88% of book removals. But even in more liberal districts like Broward, the proximity of local chapters of conservative advocacy groups and state legislation still leads to book removals.

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“Whether you’re a Democrat or Republican district, you have nearly the same prevalence of some of the larger national groups that have chapters or local affiliates that have been driving for book bans,” Meehan said.

Contributing to the number of books taken off of shelves and placed under review is the vagueness of existing laws that Meehan says leads to confusion and overcompliance. School districts were told to “err on the side of caution” when it comes to removing books, she said.

Some districts removed books based on HB 1557, the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law; now, court motions have revealed that the law was meant to cover classroom instruction, not libraries.

She thinks Florida’s school districts could respond to some of those challenges by asking the state for more explicit guidance about what books must be removed. It’s possible the state could decide to explicitly ban books based on HB 1557, but Meehan thinks officials wouldn’t want to.

“I don’t know if you want to be the state that’s prohibiting books in libraries,” she said. “That’s undemocratic, it’s quite authoritarian. So to already have these types of prohibitions on instruction being challenged, but to extend that to a school’s public library collection, is a bit dystopian.”

Just as the number of bans does not necessarily reflect public opinion, it also does not necessarily represent the extent of the censorship itself. There are places in Florida where entire classroom libraries have been emptied under the new legislation, Meehan said. There’s no way to count all of the books lost.

The PEN America report also does not account for the other ways in which new legislation and challenges have already begun to limit the diversity of books districts are purchasing now or in the future.

“There are many ways in which the censorship movement we’re watching is playing out,” Meehan said, “some of which we can count, some which is likely beyond our counting.”

Florida families say school vouchers are unpaid, causing major disruption

Thu, 09/21/2023 - 14:35

Danielle Underwood is at wit’s end over the state-funded school voucher for her daughter, Aryana.

“I checked my (balance) an hour ago,” Underwood said Thursday afternoon. “It was zero.”

That meant her daughter’s small private school for students with special needs hadn’t received its first quarter installment for her voucher, despite it being due by law within 10 days of Sept. 1.

“They have not gotten their first quarter funding yet for any of their students,” said Underwood, a former Hernando County parent activist who lives in Palm Beach County. “The school is faced with closing its doors. … We’ve never had this problem before.”

It’s a situation being played out across Florida, as private schools and families scramble to make ends meet amid the growing pains of the state’s expanded voucher program. Lawmakers lifted the eligibility requirements for the system, leading to a doubling of participation this fall to more than 400,000 children.

The disruption appears to have affected thousands of students, while parents and school officials say they have been unable to get answers from those in charge of the $4 billion voucher system.

“This year it’s been the worst,” said Maria Preston, who runs Diverse Abilities Center in Fort Lauderdale.

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Preston said representatives from about 150 private schools held a Zoom conference call late Wednesday to discuss how to deal with the lack of funding.

Some have tapped into personal funds to pay their bills, she said, while one spoke of getting an eviction notice.

At her school, which serves about 50 children with intense therapeutic needs, some services have been canceled because they can’t pay the providers — despite the requirements of student individual education plans.

“That’s illegal,” Preston said, adding that she had sent a complaint to the federal Office of Civil Rights regarding the situation.

Calling Step Up For Students, the organization that manages about 98% of all vouchers, and the Florida Department of Education has made no difference. Parents have posted on social media examples of generic responses they’ve received from Step Up, many of which suggest they call for more specifics.

“When you call them, you’re on hold four, six, eight hours,” Underwood said.

And if they do say something, it’s usually along the lines of “it’s coming,” she said.

When asked about late payments to schools a week ago, Scott Kent of Step Up For Students told the Tampa Bay Times that funding was not late.

“All Unique Abilities scholarship funds for which we have received funding from the Florida Department of Education have been applied to eligible student accounts, with the exception of about 5% where additional verifications are being made,” Kent said via email on Sept. 14, referring to the voucher program for students with disabilities. “As we announced on our website and in social media, some portions of our system will be unavailable for a couple of days while scholarship funds are processed for scholarships other than the Unique Abilities students.”

A week later, families and schools said Step Up keeps extending the deadlines.

Kent deferred all questions Thursday to the state Department of Education.

Department spokesperson Cailey Myers did not provide specifics on why some schools and parents have yet to see their voucher money six weeks into the academic year.

”It remains important that the Department of Education, as well as Step Up For Students, conducts its due diligence and exercise the proper controls to ensure that taxpayer funds are expended both expeditiously and appropriately,” Myers said via email.

The situation has caught the attention of some state lawmakers, including Rep. Angie Nixon, a Jacksonville Democrat who opposed the expansion.

Nixon said she and others predicted problems would occur because of the major growth, but that shouldn’t be the focus now.

“We are trying to help the parents of these kids,” Nixon said, noting she has gotten calls from many families, many of whom are lower income and minority.

She said answers have been few and far between. Into the void have surfaced rumors, including that the scholarship funding organizations ran out of money or that they’re sitting on cash to collect the interest.

“It’s a mess,” Nixon said.

For parents like Underwood, it’s a scary proposition. Many signed contracts with their schools putting themselves on the hook to pay tuition they can’t necessarily afford if the vouchers don’t arrive.

They also count on their schools to provide services that district schools often can’t.

“We don’t know what to do,” Underwood said.

Preston said the private school operators are organizing to press for action.

“We’re about to converge on Tampa Bay soon if things don’t get better,” she said, referring to the home of Step Up officials such as president Doug Tuthill. “And Mr. Tuthill can’t hide.”

©2023 Tampa Bay Times. Visit tampabay.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

State football leaving Fort Lauderdale as FHSAA announces all title games will be held in Tallahassee

Thu, 09/21/2023 - 14:09

After contesting the state’s larger-classification football championships the past two years at Fort Lauderdale’s DRV PNK Stadium, the FHSAA announced that it would be returning to Tallahassee, with Florida A&M’s Ken Riley Field at Bragg Memorial Stadium the host of all nine games from Dec. 7-9.

In 2020, all the state championship games also were hosted in Tallahassee, though at Florida State University.

St. Thomas Aquinas and Miami Central are each gunning for a state-record fifth consecutive state championship, with the first title of those runs being won in Daytona Beach, and then followed by FSU and the past two in Broward County.

Last year, the new FHSAA football classifications of 2M (Miami Central), 3S (Lake Wales), 3M (St. Thomas Aquinas), 4S (Lakeland) and 4M (Miami Columbus) had champs crowned at Inter Miami CF’s stadium.

The recent movement since 2019 follows a decade of consistency when all of the then-eight title matchups were played in Orlando, a natural central location, from 2007-18.

There have never been nine Florida state championship games held at the same site, much less on a single weekend. Before 2020, the most recent time Tallahassee had hosted the large-school title games had been in 2002

Since the FHSAA began playing title matchups at predetermined sites in 1989, Miami-Dade County has hosted for all classes in two years (2005-06), and Broward has hosted five of the classifications the past two years.

The games times haven’t been announced, though it would be reasonable for there to be three games a day in the 1 p.m., 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. windows on Thursday, Dec. 7 through Saturday, Dec. 9.

Tallahassee is in the Eastern time zone.

Coastal storm moves north, but still sends rain to South Florida into the weekend

Thu, 09/21/2023 - 14:06

It’s going to be wet over the next several days in South Florida: The rain will be intermittent, but possibly intense at times.

The primary factor in the hit-or-miss soggy weather is a low off Florida’s east coast that is expected to form into a tropical storm while it nears the coast of North Carolina starting Friday. The storm has a trajectory that will take it into North Carolina, Virginia and possibly Delaware, prompting tropical storm warnings in all those states, and storm surge forecasts that sent 3 feet of surge well into Chesapeake Bay.

Though the system is moving north, it will continue to send wet weather toward our region for the next several days, said National Weather Service Miami meteorologist Donal Herrigan on Thursday.

Just over 1 inch of rainfall was recorded Thursday at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and about 1.5 inches at the Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport, according to NWS Miami preliminary data.

Evening thunderstorms on Thursday in southern Broward County were capable of creating funnel clouds, possible hail and gusty winds. The rainfall caused a flood warning to briefly go  into effect, including Pembroke Pines and Sawgrass Mills, about 6:30 p.m. Wind gusts between 42 and 70 mph were recorded about that time in several parts of the county.

The weather service said that the total rainfall over Friday, Saturday and Sunday in the region would be from 1 to 2 inches. The bursts of rain will be staggered by drier air moving in from the northwest.

In a worst-case-scenario prediction, NWS Miami said rainfall amounts through Saturday could be between 2 and 3 inches in Palm Beach County, 1.5 to 2 inches in Broward and 2 to 3 inches in Miami-Dade.

Intense rainfall could produce some nuisance flooding, Herrigan said.

In a release Thursday afternoon, the weather service said strong north to northeast winds and swells are expected to bring deteriorating beach and boating conditions to the waters off Palm Beach and Broward counties beginning late Friday and lasting over the weekend. Forecasters anticipate rough surf, waves of 4 to 6 feet, and dangerous rip currents.

Forecasters said that temperatures will reach the mid-80s to lower-90s. Temperatures could drop to the 70s overnight.

Harrigan said heat indices will be slightly lower as a front from the north moves in, lowering humidity. Rain chances will drop a bit Saturday as well. Tropical moisture will return Sunday and Monday, however, increasing the odds of heavy rains.

Go Long for Luke flag football fundraiser promotes autism acceptance

Thu, 09/21/2023 - 13:43

The eighth annual Go Long for Luke flag football charity fundraiser recently took place at Caloosa Park in Boynton Beach to raise awareness for individuals with autism and to create opportunities for the community to get involved and support the cause.

The fundraiser happened in Boynton Beach for the first time with over 250 people as well as a DJ and food truck. The event attracted children and teens from sixth through 12th grade to participate in flag football and promote the acceptance of all individuals with autism.

The Go Long for Luke nonprofit organization was created in 2013. Sophie Greenfield’s twin brother, Luke, has faced ongoing challenges with autism, a neurological and developmental disorder that affects brain function and the ability to interact and communicate with others. Sophie, at age 9, was inspired to start the charitable organization with Cole and Jesse Faller after meeting them at an integrated after-school program at East Hills School in  Roslyn, New York.

The Go Long for Luke flag football fundraiser has raised awareness for individuals with autism created by the Greenfield family, from left, Sophie, Sandi, Luke and Scott. (Sophie Greenfield/Courtesy)

“I thought the program in elementary school would be a fun way to meet other kids and help kids with disabilities,” Sophie said. “We have a big special needs community where we used to live. Cole and Jesse instantly made a connection with Luke and he loved them. We wanted to create an event for Luke.  We wanted to do it in the fall and Luke loves football. We had to organize the first event quickly and it exceeded our expectations. We were able to get more people and raise more money each year.”

The charitable organization previously held seven flag football fundraisers, including four events in Roslyn and three in Atlanta to provide a platform for children to advocate and raise awareness for other children with autism. Sophie’s parents, Sandi and Scott, recently relocated with Luke to Boca Raton. Sophie, now 19, attends the University of Miami.

“We are here and ready to make an impact on the South Florida community,” Sophie said. “We have bigger plans and want to expand our network and continue to make connections to help individuals with autism and special needs. We are looking for support and donations to affect change.”

The Go Long for Luke nonprofit organization was created in 2013. Sophie Greenfield’s twin brother, Luke, has faced ongoing challenges with autism. (Sophie Greenfield/Courtesy)

The proceeds from the flag football fundraiser in Boynton Beach will be donated toward Els for Autism, a foundation established in 2009 that serves families and offers in-person programs and services at The Els Center of Excellence campus in Jupiter. Ernie Els, a professional golfer, has a son, Ben, who is impacted by autism spectrum disorder.

“We wanted to contribute and support Els For Autism and their foundation,” Sophie said. “They have a great program and we want to partner with them in the future.”

As children with autism reach age 21 and transition out of school, they are faced with limited options for support. Go Long for Luke has partnered with Delray Beach residents Josh and Nicole Ruderman in a mission to construct a group home for individuals with autism. Josh and Nicole have a daughter, Alex, who is on the autism spectrum. Luke and Alex previously were classmates and became friends in Roslyn.

The Greenfield and Ruderman families are determined with their shared pursuit of creating opportunities and providing support for individuals with autism. They purchased a lot in Jupiter in 2022 to build a future group home for both genders, which will be designed for age 22 and older. They envision the property to be about 6,500 square feet with seven bedrooms and seven bathrooms and it will incorporate a daily recreational program. The individuals will have the opportunity to participate in several activities, including interacting with each other on an outside basketball court and playground as well as learning with computer programs and puzzles. They anticipate the group home will be ready by 2027.

“Luke and Alex have very similar interests,” Sophie said. “We always envisioned doing something together with their family. This is our No. 1 priority and it’s going to take time to raise the funds needed so we can build this group home for boys and girls with autism who age out of school.”

The Go Long for Luke flag football fundraiser has been held in New York, Georgia and Florida. (Espouse Productions/Courtesy)

Luke, who is limited in his speech, enjoys technology and loves being on the computer and iPad. He enjoys learning and watching programs, including “Dora & Diego” and “Sesame Street.” He also enjoys sports, including playing basketball and football with his family.

“Luke can say a few words in his vocabulary and he has a good routine,” Sophie said. “He is very good at typing to communicate with us. It’s amazing because he is so fast at typing. He is perfect at writing, spelling and with his punctuation. He understands and comprehends so many different languages. He loves to film videos on his phone and iPad. He has a big passion for filmmaking. It’s something he would love to do.”

Visit golongforluke.org.

How to choose a mattress topper for every type of sleeper

Wed, 09/20/2023 - 23:02
Picking the right mattress topper for you

Mattress toppers can help you get better quality sleep when your mattress is worn, too firm or doesn’t offer enough support, but you don’t have the budget for a whole new mattress. The right mattress topper for you will vary depending on what type of sleeper you are.

While side sleepers need fairly soft mattresses to avoid pressure points, back sleepers need firmer mattresses to offer even support. Once you learn how to choose a mattress topper for your type of sleeping pattern, you can more easily pick the best option for you and sleep more soundly.

How to choose a mattress topper for side sleepers

People who primarily sleep on their sides at night put pressure on their shoulders and hips and can wake up with a dead arm or joint pain. Choosing the right mattress topper will diffuse the pressure and help you have a more comfortable night’s sleep.

What to look for in mattress toppers for side sleepers

When buying a mattress topper for side sleepers, you want a fairly soft option that the sleeper will sink into to avoid too much pressure on the arm, shoulder and hip. Memory foam is a great choice as it’s designed to relieve pressure points, though some buyers like a soft down alternative if their mattress offers adequate support. On the firmness scale, look for soft or medium-soft options.

Soft mattress toppers may not be supportive enough for some users. If the mattress below is supportive and still in good shape, however, it shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

Best mattress toppers for side sleepers

Lucid Dream Collection Memory Foam Mattress Topper ]

Measuring 4 inches thick, this topper provides plenty of padding for side sleepers to sink into. It’s made from memory foam to help relieve pressure points.

Lucid Down Alternative and Gel Memory Foam Mattress Topper ]

This mattress topper combines a pressure-relieving memory foam base with a pillowy down alternative top for sleepers to sink deep into.

How to choose a mattress topper for back sleepers

Individuals who sleep on their back need plenty of support for their back, neck and shoulders. Mattresses or mattress toppers that aren’t supportive enough can lead to pain on waking, especially in the lower back. Luckily, back sleepers’ weight is more spread out, so they don’t tend to experience pain from pressure points or numbness in the arms.

What to look for in mattress toppers for back sleepers

Back sleepers need plenty of support in the heaviest parts of the body — generally the midsection — so they need mattress toppers that are medium-firm to firm. Down alternative pillow top mattress toppers simply don’t offer enough support. Memory foam, latex foam or gel foam are all good options. Latex foam and gel foam are better than standard memory foam for anyone who tends to sleep hot.

Best mattress toppers for back sleepers

Tempur-Pedic Tempur Supreme Medium Firm Mattress Topper ]

Tempur-Pedic is one of the biggest names in memory foam mattresses, and this topper is of the quality you’d expect from the brand. Despite being medium-firm, it’s extremely soft and comfortable to sleep on.

Novilla 4-inch Foam Mattress Topper ]

The medium-firm density makes this an ideal choice for anyone who sleeps on their back, with twin to king options. You can choose between 2, 3, and 4-inch thicknesses, depending on how much extra padding you require.

How to choose a mattress topper for front sleepers

Although you might think that front sleepers need a soft mattress that they can sink into, people who sleep on their stomachs actually need plenty of support. Without ample support, the pelvis and hips will sink into the mattress topper and cause the spine to curve while sleeping. This kind of improper spinal alignment can lead to back pain and more serious back problems over time.

What to look for in mattress toppers for front sleepers

Front sleepers should opt for either firm mattress toppers or toppers on the denser end of medium-firm. Down alternative mattress toppers don’t offer anywhere near the amount of support front sleepers need, so look for any type of foam mattress. Stomach sleepers can feel too hot at night because the whole front of the body is in contact with the mattress. Gel foam or latex foam mattress toppers may be a better choice, as these sleep cooler than standard memory foam.

Best mattress toppers for front sleepers

BedStory Memory Foam Mattress Topper ]

Front sleepers will do well with the 4-inch version of this memory foam topper, which is medium-firm to firm, while the thinner alternatives are softer. It’s also gel-infused for a cooler sleep.

Pure Green Firm Natural Latex Mattress Topper ]

Not only is this topper firm, offering optimal support, but it’s also made from natural latex, which is cooler to sleep on than memory foam.

How to choose a mattress topper for combination sleepers

Combination sleepers shift between various sleeping positions during the night. You might also want to choose a mattress topper for combination sleepers if you share a bed with a partner who has a different sleeping position from you. Unfortunately, there isn’t a single mattress topper that can perfectly meet the needs of a combination sleeper, so it’s a case of finding a happy medium.

What to look for in mattress toppers for combination sleepers

The ideal mattress topper for combination sleepers is one of medium firmness. It will provide a decent amount of support while sleepers are on their backs or front but has enough give to avoid pressure points while side sleeping. If you sleep on your front more often than your side, try a medium-firm mattress. This offers more support for front sleeping, though it can feel overly firm for side sleeping. It’s best to sacrifice some softness for support in this case in order to avoid possible back problems from lack of support.

Best mattress toppers for combination sleepers

Tempur-Pedic Tempur-Adapt and Cooling Mattress Topper ]

This premium medium-firm mattress topper with a cooling cover to help anyone who tends to sleep hot is an extremely comfortable choice worth the investment.

Linenspa 2-inch Gel-infused Memory Foam Mattress Topper ]

This affordable medium mattress topper is great for buyers on a budget. A range of sizes are available in 2-inch and 3-inch options.

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Lauren Corona writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.

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How to pack the perfect tech travel kit

Wed, 09/20/2023 - 23:02
 Our tech expert weighs in on packing a tech travel kit

Electronics can enhance your vacations and business trips, but you must be prepared if you want to make the most of them while traveling. Planning is essential, whether you’re considering what to bring, how you’ll protect your electronics or what you need to keep them charged. To learn more about packing the perfect tech travel kit, we interviewed our tech expert, Jaime Vazquez.

What to consider when packing a tech travel kit Which electronics should you bring with you?

How to keep your electronics organized

Consider bringing along a backpack with numerous storage compartments. Keeping your electronics separated is an excellent way to avoid scratched screens and tangled cables. Reducing the number of cords and items you bring is another way to keep your tech travel kit organized.

Per Vazquez, “My secret weapon for travel is a set of packing cubes. I pack half my tech in my carry-on and the other half in my checked luggage with packing cubes.”

Other tech travel tips from our expert

Tech travel kit FAQ Can you have lithium batteries in your checked luggage?

A. Per the Federal Aviation Administration, devices containing lithium batteries are best kept in your carry-on luggage. Still, you can pack them in your checked baggage if they are turned off and packed in a way that protects them from damage. Uninstalled lithium metal and lithium-ion batteries are not allowed to be packed in your checked luggage.

How many laptops are you allowed to pack?

A. There are no quantity limitations on laptops, although you may find it easier to travel with a tablet. You’ll often be asked to place each laptop in a separate bin before your items are screened.

Do portable chargers work with all phones?

A. Most portable chargers have numerous inputs, allowing them to work with nearly any phone. If you buy a portable charger that isn’t compatible with your phone, you can usually buy a converter to make it work.

Are noise-canceling headphones better for your ears?

A. Noise-canceling headphones are an excellent way to enjoy music and movies in a crowded environment, but they don’t protect your hearing from the noise around you.

Best tech travel gear

USAMS 4-foot Multi-charging Cable ]

This cable includes USB-C, micro USB and lightning connections. Each one is color-coded, making it easy to find what you need. The cable is braided for added durability. Many love that they light up when they’re connected.

Lowepro ProTactic Modular Backpack ]

This is tough and contains modular compartments to keep your electronics separated. It features a sleek black design and is available in numerous styles.

Amazon Fire HD 10-inch Tablet ]

This affordable device is ideal for traveling with your family. It’s available in black, denim, lavender and olive. It’s compatible with numerous entertainment apps and lasts 12 hours on a single charge. It has Alexa-voice-command capabilities.

Apple 12.9-inch iPad Pro ]

This is available with up to 512 gigabytes of storage. It is incredibly fast, thanks to the top-notch Apple M1 Chip. The 12-megapixel rear-facing camera takes great photos, and the battery lasts through the day.

Veken Packing Cubes ]

This set includes six packing cubes in multiple sizes. It’s available in 12 colors and prints. Many were impressed with the quality and durability of the fabric. The packing cubes have clear windows that let you see what’s inside.

Osprey Packing Cube Set ]

This three-piece set has convenient top handles and side zippers. They feature a stylish black design. They’re lightweight and have plenty of space.

Apple AirPods Max ]

These feature a comfortable design and are available in five colors. The audio quality is impressive. They are made from durable aluminum. The noise cancellation and transparency features are excellent.

Sony MDRZX110NC Noise-canceling Headphones ]

These wired noise-canceling headphones are more affordable than most. The battery lasts up to 80 hours. They fold down, making them easy to take on the go.

Anker PowerCore 10000 Portable Charger ]

This charger supports QuickCharge 3.0 and features a lightweight design. It’s available in black, red, white and blue.

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Cody Stewart writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.

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Injuries keep piling up on Marlins as Burger exits in third inning of loss to Mets

Wed, 09/20/2023 - 19:16

MIAMI — Mark Vientos had his first career multi-homer game, Brandon Nimmo hit a home run, double and single, and the New York Mets beat the Miami Marlins 8-3 on Wednesday night.

Kodai Senga threw six innings of two-run ball while Brett Baty also went deep for the Mets, who clinched the three-game series against the playoff-contending Marlins. Miami remains one-half game behind the Cubs — who also lost Wednesday — for the third NL wild-card spot.

Senga (12-7) gave up seven hits, struck out three and walked two. The rookie from Japan has allowed two runs or less in his last eight starts.

“When it comes to today, it’s all about the defense,” Senga said through a translator. “The defense helped me. If it weren’t for them, I probably would have been out of the game a lot sooner.”

Marlins infielder Luis Arraez missed his second straight game because of a left ankle sprain. Arraez, who leads the major leagues with a .354 batting average, stepped on a baseball during pre-game infield drills on Tuesday.

Vientos, a graduate of American Heritage in Plantation, gave New York an early lead with his solo shot in the second, driving a slider from Eury Pérez (5-6) over the wall in left.

“That’s the game. You have your rough stretches then the good times,” Vientos said. “Now I’m feeling really good. I just want to take it to the end of the season.”

Nimmo scored from first on Ronny Mauricio’s single and two Miami throwing errors for a 2-0 lead in the third. Jesús Sánchez’s throw from right-field got past third baseman Jake Burger. Burger retrieved the ball then threw errantly to home plate. Mauricio reached third and raced home on Pete Alonso’s sacrifice fly.

Burger exited because of right quad tightness while fielding Sánchez’s errant throw.

After scoring 36 runs in a three-game sweep of NL East champion Atlanta, Miami scored seven and made six errors against New York.

“We didn’t play really well this series. That’s just the bottom line,” Marlins manager Skip Schumaker said. “Bad timing. It wasn’t lack of effort. They played hard, maybe too hard at times and tried to force some plays. Just another tough game.”

Vientos, who grew up in nearby Plantation and had family and friends attend the series, hit another solo shot off reliever George Soriano in the sixth.

“I told a couple of people that I needed at least one in this city,” Vientos said. “I got two so that’s nice.”

The two homers increased Vientos’ total in September to four.

“It is always known he can impact the ball,” Mets manager Buck Showalter said. “He did that tonight twice.”

Josh Bell hit a solo homer for Miami in the sixth.

Baty and Nimmo hit solo blasts against off Johnny Cueto in the eighth and ninth. It was Baty’s first game back after missing six because of a left groin strain.

Pérez’s outing ended after three innings. The 20-year-old rookie gave up three runs (two earned), three hits, walked three and struck out two. He remains winless in eight starts since his second call-up from the minors Aug. 7.


Senga faced the minimum in the fifth around two hits aided by two outfield assists from Jeff McNeil. Jorge Soler singled and raced to third on Jazz Chisholm Jr.’s single to right. Chisholm attempted to extend it into a double but McNeil initiated a relay throw that cut him down at second. McNeil caught Xavier Edwards’ fly ball to short right and threw Soler out at home.


The Marlins activated veteran left-handed reliever Matt Moore and designated right-hander pitcher Chi Chi González for assignment. Moore was claimed off waivers from Cleveland on Tuesday.


Marlins: C Nick Fortes has responded well to treatment after getting hit by a pitch on his right hand in the ninth inning Tuesday.


Marlins: Have not announced a starter for the opener of a three-game home set against Milwaukee on Friday. The Brewers will go with RHP Corbin Burnes (9-8, 3.56).

Messi returns, but departs with injury early as Inter Miami rout Toronto; superstar will miss Sunday’s game in Orlando

Wed, 09/20/2023 - 19:01

FORT LAUDERDALE — Lionel Messi returned to Inter Miami’s lineup on Wednesday night. It was a short-lived comeback, however, and now he’s sidelined again.

Messi was subbed off in the 37th minute of Inter Miami’s match against Toronto, after spending a few minutes laboring with what appeared to be a leg issue. Miami came up big without him, winning 4-0 to move within five points of the final playoff spot in Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference.

Robert Taylor, who came on for Messi, had two goals and an assist. But Messi’s status overshadowed everything, and Inter Miami coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino said after the game that the Argentine star will miss Sunday’s game at Orlando.

“He had an old injury that had been bothering him,” Martino said, as relayed through a team official who translated his remarks from Spanish to English.

In an earlier answer that was not translated, Martino said Messi would miss at least one more match. The 36-year-old Messi had missed two matches — one for club, the other for country — in recent days, after sitting out Argentina’s World Cup qualifying win at Bolivia on Sept. 12, and Inter Miami’s 5-2 loss at Atlanta United this past Saturday.

Fatigue was cited in both cases, and the team did not provide any diagnosis of what is troubling the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner now. The game was scoreless when Messi was subbed out.

It was the second big injury blow for Inter Miami on Wednesday. Jordi Alba — another celebrated midseason addition — had to leave in the 34th minute, shortly before Messi’s night was over. Alba will not play Sunday, either.

“We had to step up,” Taylor said.

Facundo Farias and second-half sub Benjamin Cremaschi had the other goals.

“It shows the depth that we have on our team,” goalie Drake Callender said.

Messi had a couple of chances Wednesday, and appeared to stop running somewhat abruptly after carrying the ball deep into the Toronto box in the 33rd minute. He was barely engaged after that, leaning forward at one point as if to stretch the back of his legs, then eventually took off his captain’s armband — actually trying a long pass while holding the armband — before waiting for play to stop so he could depart.

Messi didn’t even wait to come off the field before unlacing his cleats, lowering his socks and removing his shin guards. He placed the captain’s band onto the arm of DeAndre Yedlin — who was Inter Miami’s captain before Messi began his stint with the team in July — and now it’s anyone’s guess when Messi will wear it again. The team would likely want him to play in the U.S. Open Cup final on Sept. 27.

Martino, per the team’s translation, said Messi was removed from Wednesday’s game “to be safe.”

“We don’t think it’s a muscular injury. That’s also from a conversation that I just had with him,” Martino said via the translation, even though Messi was stretching in a manner that suggested otherwise before leaving the field. “But we have to continue being careful and we’ll look at him the next few days.”

Wednesday’s match was the first of what will be six for Inter Miami in a span of 17 days. The team plays at Orlando on Sunday, then will host Houston in the U.S. Open Cup final on Sept. 27. That will be followed by three more MLS matches in short order: against New York City FC on Sept. 30, at Chicago on Oct. 4 and playing host to Cincinnati on Oct. 7.

The daunting stretch will be even tougher if Messi isn’t around. Miami entered Wednesday seven points behind D.C. United for the final playoff spot in the East, with two matches in hand. D.C. United picked up a point by tying Atlanta on Wednesday, so Inter Miami’s three points for its win cut the deficit to five.

Despite its place in the standings, Inter Miami now controls its postseason destiny. Win out in MLS matches, and a team that was at the bottom of the conference before Messi arrived will be in the playoffs.

The Atlanta game halted what had been a 12-match unbeaten streak for Inter Miami since Messi debuted for the team against Mexican side Cruz Azul in the Leagues Cup on July 21. Inter Miami had gone 8-0-4 in those 12 matches, with three of those games that ended as ties being outcomes for the team to celebrate after advancing on penalty kicks — two in the Leagues Cup, including the final against Nashville for the Miami club’s first-ever trophy, and another in the U.S. Open Cup semifinals.

Messi has now appeared in 12 matches over two months for Miami, most of them in Leagues Cup and U.S. Open Cup competition. He ha 11 goals and eight assists, and one goal and two assists in four MLS matches.

General Daily Insight for September 21, 2023

Wed, 09/20/2023 - 17:26
General Daily Insight for September 21, 2023

There’s an underlying current of potency to the day, potentially carrying us all away. The Sun is making one of its two annual trines to Pluto at 1:21 am EDT, and despite its diminutive size, Pluto can bring out our most intense selves. It could be hard to hold back when the Moon in garrulous Sagittarius squares Mercury! Thankfully, once Luna sextiles Mars and trines Venus, one right after the other, we should be able to smooth any ruffled feathers with ease.


March 21 – April 19

Your ambitions are reaching an all-time high. The Sun in your 6th House of Daily Work is making a harmonious trine to alchemical Pluto in your 10th House of Career Goals, so you’re more than ready to put in the effort in order to see massively impressive results. An important mentor or other VIP could be especially helpful in boosting you up the ladder, so don’t be shy about asking for whatever it is you want. The squeaky wheel gets the grease!


April 20 – May 20

There’s pleasure to be found in even the most far-flung destinations. Cosmic doors are opening, inviting you to discover what’s on the other side as the Sun in your 5th House of Joy trines intense Pluto in your 9th House of Expansion. The sky is the limit, but you are ready to go all the way to space to get your heart’s desire! The main thing you should keep in mind? Try not to go overboard in your search for satisfaction.


May 21 – June 20

You may be called upon to go above and beyond for the sake of someone else. The Sun in your 4th House of Foundations is cooperating with Pluto in your 8th House of Transformation, which is one of the more intense sectors of the zodiac, albeit also a rewarding one. You may have to get down to brass tacks with a particular person, but thanks to the friendly nature of the planets’ alignment, the effort should be well worth it — and potentially financially rewarding.


June 21 – July 22

Important connections are the order of the day. There is a potent trine between the Sun in your communications sector and transformative Pluto in your relationship sector. Whether you meet someone brand new while out and about or interact with an old partner you’ve known for years, you could be dealing with major issues — that said, what seem like problems can help you progress to an improved stage in your connection. Being open about what you want is necessary in order to get it.


July 23 – August 22

Getting your money’s worth takes on extra importance today. The Sun in your financially focused 2nd house is trining Pluto in your responsible 6th house, and they want to make sure you’re being properly compensated for your time and effort. If you feel you’ve been shorthanded, then it could bubble over. Still, make an effort to balance your emotions and maintain a sense of calm when you negotiate for what you want. Your behavior can make all the difference right now.


August 23 – September 22

Nothing is going to stand between you and your pleasure! The Sun in your own sign is aligning with powerhouse Pluto in your fun-loving 5th house, so the urge to do as you please is going to be more than a desire: it’s practically a necessity. This is also a very creative sector of your chart, so Pluto could help you unearth inspiration that drives you to bring forth an amazing work of art. Follow your heart and see where it takes you.


September 23 – October 22

You’re drifting along at a different pace than everyone else, Libra. It’s easy to feel out of it while the Sun moves through your sleepy 12th house, but your soul may take on an abrupt emotional depth as the Sun trines Pluto in your foundational 4th house. A sudden wave of waterworks could overtake you without even knowing why, but think of it as a release rather than a reaction. Sometimes a good cry is exactly what the doctor ordered.


October 23 – November 21

Everyone wants to be leader of the pack at this time. Power struggles are easy to encounter as the Sun and Pluto connect across your social sectors, stirring up complicated interactions that will require you to be at your most diplomatic. That isn’t to say that difficulties are guaranteed, simply that it is a bit easier than usual to stick your foot in your mouth — or in someone else’s. Watching your words is the best way to come out on top.


November 22 – December 21

A step in the right direction could pay off handsomely. There is a potent trine between the Sun in your 10th House of Ambition and Pluto in your 2nd House of Income, so you’re primed to prove your worth. Don’t be shy about taking the lead, even if you don’t normally consider yourself comfortable being in charge. People will probably be impressed by your abilities, perhaps wanting to put you in positions of power. Fresh opportunities could arrive with a nice paycheck.


December 22 – January 19

The world could feel barely big enough to contain you today. The Sun in your adventurous 9th house is trining powerful Pluto in your own sign, which compels you to spread your personal philosophies far and wide. Look for ways to expand your interactions with the world or engage with unheard-of ideas that could prove useful down the line. Pluto is amping up your own intensity, so do your best to avoid coming on too strong in your search for adventure.


January 20 – February 18

Everywhere you look, there are riddles to solve. Your subconscious energy is at an all-time high as the Sun in your private 8th house trines Pluto in your mystical 12th house, so reading between the lines will be too tempting to ignore. It’s fine if you are actually uncovering important information or revelations, but avoid creating drama or mysteries where there aren’t any. The last thing you should do is incite more problems for yourself and for the people around you.


February 19 – March 20

An important relationship may shift a bit without warning. Your closest connections are highlighted as the Sun tours your 7th House of Partnerships, and that takes on more weight when the Sun trines alchemical Pluto in your 11th House of Social Networks. Perhaps you realize that people outside your bond have more opinions about it than you ever imagined, or you’re impacted by gossip going around. It may not be all bad, but there’s a risk of things getting cast in a negative light.

Under pressure over border, Biden administration to protect hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans

Wed, 09/20/2023 - 17:23


WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration said Wednesday that it was granting temporary legal status to hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans who are already in the country — quickly making them eligible to work — as it grapples with growing numbers of people fleeing the South American country and elsewhere to arrive at the U.S. border with Mexico.

The move — along with promises to accelerate work permits for many migrants — may appease Democratic leaders who have pressured the White House to do more to aid asylum seekers, while also providing grist for Republicans who say the president has been too lax on immigration.

The Homeland Security Department plans to grant Temporary Protected Status to an estimated 472,000 Venezuelans who arrived in the country as of July 31, 2023, making it easier for them to get authorization to work in the U.S. That’s been a key demand of Democratic mayors and governors who are struggling to care for an increased number of migrants in their care.

That’s in addition to about 242,700 Venezuelans who already qualified for temporary status before Wednesday’s announcement.

The protections for Venezuelans are significant because they account for such a large number of the migrants who have been arriving in the country in recent years.

Venezuela plunged into a political, economic and humanitarian crisis over the last decade, pushing at least 7.3 million people to migrate and making food and other necessities unaffordable for those who remain. The vast majority who fled settled in neighboring countries in Latin America, but many began coming to the United States in the last three years through the notoriously dangerous Darien Gap, a stretch of jungle in Panama.

Venezuelans who arrive in the U.S. after July 31 of this year will not be eligible for the protection. Those who are now eligible have to apply to get it.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas granted the expansion and an 18-month extension for those who already have temporary status due to “Venezuela’s increased instability and lack of safety due to the enduring humanitarian, security, political, and environmental conditions,” the department said in a statement.

The administration said it would accelerate work authorizations for people who have arrived in the country since January through a mobile app for appointments at land crossings with Mexico, called CBP One, or through parole granted to Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans who have financial sponsors and arrive at an airport. It will aim to give them work permits within 30 days, compared with about 90 days currently.

The promise of accelerated work permits does not apply to people who cross the border illegally and seek asylum, who, by law, must wait for six months to receive work permits.

Mayors and governors have been clamoring for President Joe Biden to figure out a way to get newly arrived migrants to be able to work legally, so they can support themselves.

Democratic officials in New York , Massachusetts, Chicago and elsewhere have complained about the strain that newly arrived migrants are putting on their resources, especially in New York, where the government is required to provide housing for anyone who needs it. The city is currently paying to house about 60,000 newly arrived migrants.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a statement late Wednesday that she was “grateful the federal government has acted so speedily to grant one of our top priorities: Temporary Protected Status to Venezuelan asylum seekers and migrants who have already arrived in this country.”

The city’s mayor, Eric Adams, has been especially critical of the Biden administration. But Adams on Wednesday praised the decision to grant protections to Venezuelans and thanked the administration for listening to the city’s concerns.

The number of migrants trying to cross the southern border is rising. That poses a severe challenge for the administration, which has struggled to show it is in control of the border in the face of Republican criticism. The city of Eagle Pass, which borders Mexico along the Rio Grande in southern Texas, announced a state of emergency Wednesday due to a “severe undocumented immigrant surge.”

According to Maverick County Sheriff Tom Schmerber, about 2,700 migrants crossed into Eagle Pass on Tuesday and about 3,000 Wednesday.

The administration also said Wednesday it was also using Defense Department forces to support Homeland Security staff on the border. Homeland Security already uses about 2,500 National Guard troops to help Customs and Border Protection. In the news release, Homeland Security said up to 800 new active-duty troops would also be detailed to the border; they would be used for things like logistics to free up Customs officials for more front-line responsibilities.

Homeland Security said it was also taking other steps to deal with immigration, such as scaling up a process started in May to quickly remove families who are found to have no basis to stay in the country. The agency said it has also beefed up holding capacity along the southern border.

And it said it has increased the number of people expelled from the country. Since May 12, the agency said it has removed 253,000 people to a little over 150 countries around the world. That compares with 180,000 removed during the same period in 2019 — before the pandemic drastically alerted the government’s ability to expel migrants.


Spagat reported from San Diego. Valerie Gonzalez in McAllen, Texas contributed to this report.

Fort Lauderdale sends $1.2 million to phishing scammer, city says

Wed, 09/20/2023 - 17:01

Fort Lauderdale was the victim of a phishing scam that tricked the Accounts Payable department into making a payment of $1.2 million to a scammer pretending to work for a local construction firm, City Manager Greg Chavarria confirmed on Wednesday night.

Chavarria sent out an alert to city officials by email at 5:51 p.m. Wednesday.

“Someone sent a request for an (electronic funds) payment pretending to be (a local construction company),” he wrote. “The scammer filled out the paperwork and had a blank check attached. Accounts Payable checked the names and they matched corporate records.”

The city’s bank is working to get the money back, but it will take at least a week, Chavarria said.

The Fort Lauderdale Police Department is working with city officials in IT and Finance to handle the incident, Chavarria said.

Mayor Dean Trantalis was taken aback when a South Florida Sun Sentinel reporter called to get his reaction.

“This is news to me,” he said. “I guess we have to be as cautious as we can.”

Trantalis said he was hopeful the city would get its money back.

“Because it was caught so quickly, the bank should be able to recapture that money,” he said. “Wire transfers take awhile to settle from bank to bank.”

The Sun Sentinel contacted a spokesperson for the construction company, which declined to comment Wednesday night.

Susannah Bryan can be reached at sbryan@sunsentinel.com. Follow me on X @Susannah_Bryan

Moms for Liberty read ‘porn’ hoping to ban books in Florida

Wed, 09/20/2023 - 16:46

Moms for Liberty, the conservative group founded in Florida and now a force in national politics, tried this week to get books pulled from school libraries by reading aloud at school board meetings passages they said amounted to “porn.”

The group’s Seminole chapter, following a playbook used successfully in recent weeks in Indian River and Pinellas counties, urged supporters to read “potty” words and the “worst of the worst,” with the hope they’d get cut off by the School Board. They weren’t.

In Broward, the chapter chairwoman of Moms for Liberty was among five speakers who read explicit passages at a Broward School Board meeting Tuesday and did get cut off by the chairwoman — because the readings were unrelated to the topic being discussed at the meeting.

A new state law signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in May heightens scrutiny of school books and says if school boards prevent parents from reading aloud books that have been objected to, those books must be removed from the shelves.

“Just make sure that you get shut down, that’s the goal,” Jessica Tillmann, the group’s Seminole chapter chair posted on Instagram Monday.

The Seminole County School Board on Tuesday night, however, listened without interruption as Moms for Liberty members and supporters read short book excerpts, in almost all cases without naming the book or the author.

The comments in Seminole came during a period where public speakers were allowed to talk on any topic. Broward held a special meeting Tuesday where all speakers were instructed to speak only to items on the agenda.

Several Broward speakers first said they were speaking on a decision to give employees represented by the Broward Teachers Union and other labor groups bonuses funded by a 2022 voter-approved referendum. But they abruptly pivoted to reading passages of books they found objectionable.

“I think the money needs to be allocated to areas in need like more campus security,” Sabrina Artiles, chairwoman of the Moms for Liberty Broward chapter, said during public comments Tuesday. “We can also provide proper training for librarians, teachers and staff on what material is allowed according to state statutes. For example, ‘A Court of Mist and Fury’ is in five high schools.”

She then started reading sexually explicit passages from the Sarah Maas novel before being interrupted by School Board Chairwoman Lori Alhadeff.

“Excuse me, hold on. Stop a second. Please speak to the agenda item,” Alhadeff told Artiles.

“I am,” Artiles responded.

“No, you’re not. This is your warning,” Alhadeff told her.

After Artiles continued reading from the book, Alhadeff said, “Please remove from the microphone. Inappropriate.”

At that point Brenda Fam, a socially conservative board member who has championed parents’ rights to challenge books, told Alhadeff, “I’d like a copy of the name of that book, just to see where she was reading from and attach that to the record. I’d like to know if it’s in any of our libraries, because I’m glad you declared it inappropriate.”

Several other speakers started reading passages from other books, including “Forever” by Judy Blume and “Milk and Honey” by Rupi Kaur. Alhadeff cut off all of them.

Alhadeff told the South Florida Sun Sentinel on Wednesday she stopped the speakers only because they were off topic, not because the readings were inappropriate for any meeting.

“I would allow it if it’s within the topic of the item or during a (non-agenda) public comment, as long as it adheres to School Board policy,” she said, citing a policy that asks speakers to “refrain from obscene or vulgar conduct, slanderous remarks, or statements that tend to incite violence or the breach of the peace.”

The new state law (HB 1069) makes challenges to school books easier and, if the concern is sexual content, requires the books to be removed from the shelves within five days and remain inaccessible to students while being reviewed.

It also says that if books cannot be read aloud at board meetings, “the school district shall discontinue the use of the material.”

John Sullivan, spokesman for Broward schools, said for the law to apply, the speaker would have to file a formal objection to the book and the comment would have to be made when the topic is discussed or during non-agenda speakers.

The Broward School Board holds monthly regular meetings where time is set aside for the public to speak to items not on the agenda. The School Board has also had several workshops on the topic of school library materials.

At the Seminole meeting, the majority of those who packed into the board’s room for a more than four-hour meeting urged board members not to ban books nor give into the “theater” of the read-aloud.

Making the counterpoint

Stop Moms for Liberty Seminole and Defense of Democracy Seminole helped organize a counter-point and were joined by statewide groups and residents from Polk, Sarasota and Volusia counties.

They waved red sheets of paper to show their opposition to speakers and green to show their approval, including for Rain Johnson of Lakeland, who held and read briefly from a copy of “The Handmaid’s Tale” to show her opposition to book bans.

They said a loud minority should not be able to dictate what other people’s children can choose to read.

Rain Johnson reads from “The Handmaid’s Tale” as green cards are waved to show support during the public comment portion of a meeting of the Seminole County School Board in Sanford on Tuesday evening. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel)

They also questioned how the board could act if the books were unnamed and said out-of-context passages should not be considered when deciding whether books meet the legal definition of pornography.

“A book is far more than an isolated passage or two,” said one.

“For the sake of the children, please don’t give into this theater,” said another.

“Some bad actors are here to disrupt the meeting with requests to ban books from public school classrooms, reading lists, and media centers,” said Oviedo resident Franklin Perez.

All students deserve to read a variety of books, Perez said, and the board should trust teachers and media specialists to pick appropriate titles for their libraries.

In Seminole County, the school board took no action after listening to about 80 speakers.

“There is no action to be taken from the reading of excerpts as they were allowed to make their public comments without interruption,” said school district spokeswoman Katherine Crnkovich, in an email Wednesday. “We would encourage any individual or group with concerns about a book or curriculum to follow the process in place to address their concern.

Red cards of dissent are waved as a speaker gestures during the public comment portion of a meeting of the Seminole County School Board in Sanford on Tuesday. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel)


Seminole School board members said the district would follow state law and its policies to address any concerns about books and other instructional materials.

Republican lawmakers said the new law was passed to make sure pornography and books that depict sexual activity are kept from children.

But critics say the effort has wrongly labeled many books pornographic, when state law says, in part, that books with sexual content or nudity are considered pornography only if they are “without serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.”

They also say the law is being used to do end runs around district policies for book challenges, which typically start at the school and require reviews by educators and parents.

In Indian River at a meeting in late August, the school board’s chair stopped many speakers from reading aloud explicit passages and then the board voted to remove at least 20 books from its libraries.

This month, that district said more than 120 books are under review after challenges by the local Moms for Liberty group, Treasure Coast Newspapers reported.

And this week, the Pinellas County school district said it would remove five books, some of which were read aloud at an earlier meeting in August, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

200 at the meeting

At Seminole’s Tuesday night meeting, which drew more than 200 people, Sandra Gonzalez said there were 342 inappropriate words in one book she looked at, and she did not understand why it would be in an SCPS school.

“Why should a child be exposed to pornography?” she asked.

“Who’s accountable?” said Chas Barber, a Casselberry resident, who read an excerpt from a book. “Please consider the law and your responsibility to uphold it.”

But others argued sex scenes do not equate to pornography and that the effort aimed to get rid of books about tough topics, such as rape and child abuse, and books that featured LGBTQ characters or characters who were not white.

Library books that describe a range of experiences are important to students, perhaps making them feel less alone or making them empathize with others, they said.

“Books help students learn about the vast world,” said Sandy Stenoff, another Casselberry resident, who urged the board not to pull books.

Dolphins’ Tua says he wants to deliver for title-hungry South Florida sports fans, with home opener next

Wed, 09/20/2023 - 16:01

MIAMI GARDENS — It’s only Week 3. And all the Miami Dolphins are right now is 2-0, albeit an impressive 2-0 with road wins against the Los Angeles Chargers and New England Patriots.

With the team’s home opener next, the Dolphins will play a regular-season game at Hard Rock Stadium for the first time since they were clinching a playoff berth in last season’s finale against the New York Jets.

Thinking about playing in front of his home fans against the Denver Broncos Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium had quarterback Tua Tagovailoa openly expressing his desires to deliver a championship for South Florida when he spoke to the media Wednesday.

“We feel that the city of Miami has been waiting, and they’re ready for a championship,” Tagovailoa said. “You look at the Heat. You look at the Florida Panthers. I mean, all those guys were able to make it to the final dance. And they were able to do special things throughout their season. We’re kind of trying to trot along that line and sort of follow the lead of those guys.”

Tagovailoa has to have an extra degree of appreciation for running out for pregame introductions on his home field after his last game there was one that sidelined him for the remainder of the season due to a second diagnosed concussion.

“That moment’s going to be special,” he said. ‘It’s not something that we take for granted. This game comes and goes, and nothing’s ever promised. Any time that we get to run out there and play for our families, play for each other and play for the fans, it’s a blessing.”

Tagovailoa is taking a lot fewer hits these days. Through two games, he has only been sacked once and hit four times. That’s second-lowest in the NFL.

A Miami offensive line that’s received its share of criticism in Tagovailoa’s time with the Dolphins has held up strong, even with Pro Bowl left tackle Terron Armstead missing the first two games.

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“That should tell you all you should know with the guys we have up front,” Tagovailoa said. “There’s been a lot of naysayers. I know our guys in the O-line room hear what everyone’s saying, as well. That’s the way they’re able to shut the haters up, basically.

“To me, it’s nothing new. Those guys have been working their butts off this entire offseason. OTAs, training camp, they’ve been working their butts off, so this is nothing surprising for me.”

And there are other factors that are keeping Tagovailoa off the ground.

“Having Tyreek (Hill) and (Jaylen) Waddle,” he said, “having fast guys also helps me get the ball out quicker to be able to distribute that and throw off timing for the rushers, as well. That’s been a big key to that.”

Tagovailoa has also utilized a quick release when he drops back.

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“That’s just understanding pre-snap where we need to go with the ball and then also, post-snap, adjusting and making that adjustment quick,” he said.

It’ll be a potential key against the Broncos defense and coordinator Vance Joseph, who has been top five in blitz rate with Denver and previously with the Arizona Cardinals.

“They present a lot of challenges,” Tagovailoa said. “You got to understand where those blitzes are coming from. You got to understand where you got to protect them. There’s a lot of things. We’re going to have to find out, if they’re blitzing from here, where the opening’s going to be. We got to figure out how we want to attack them in that sense.”

The Dolphins quarterback could also be down one of his top pass catchers for beating the blitz. Waddle missed Wednesday’s practice as he is in concussion protocol coming of the hit to the head he took in last Sunday night’s win over the Patriots.

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Tagovailoa showed how coach Mike McDaniel’s humor might be rubbing off on him in his response to a question about potentially being without Waddle.

McDaniel, earlier Wednesday, quipped: “I think I’m just going to go home.”

After practice, Tagovailoa’s response: “I was going to be funny. I was going to say, ‘I might as well stay home.’ ”

He added: “It’s tough. … I would say the rest of the guys in that room, they’re ready to step up. They’re ready to play. Doesn’t change how I prepare.”

Tagovailoa enters Sunday with a record-tying streak of beating Super Bowl-winning head coaches. His win last Sunday over Bill Belichick put him at nine, and he gets another opportunity this Sunday against Denver’s Sean Payton.

“It’s a team sport,” he said. “You win games as a team. I’ve been very fortunate to have great teammates. We’re just in here day in and day out trying to do everything we can to win.”

Payton, before returning to coaching this season, made critical comments about Tagovailoa last year while working as an TV analyst.

“I think at some point we’ll see Tua [benched] in Miami,” Payton told Fox Sports early last season. “I think at some point — and they played well [Sunday] with Tua — but Teddy Bridgewater, I’ve had before, he’s an outstanding player.”

Now, Tagovailoa gets a crack at Payton and the Broncos in the Dolphins’ home opener Sunday.

  • Miami Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel talks with WR Braxton Berrios during practice at Hard Rock Stadium on Wednesday, September 20, 2023. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun Sentinel)

  • Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and WR Tyreek Hill during practice at Hard Rock Stadium on Wednesday, September 20, 2023. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun Sentinel)

  • Miami Dolphins WR Tyreek Hill stretches during practice at Hard Rock Stadium on Wednesday, September 20, 2023. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun Sentinel)

  • Miami Dolphins WR Jaylen Waddle stretches during practice at Hard Rock Stadium on Wednesday, September 20, 2023. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun Sentinel)

  • Miami Dolphins LB Bradley Chubb stretches during practice at Hard Rock Stadium on Wednesday, September 20, 2023. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun Sentinel)

  • Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa warms up during practice at Hard Rock Stadium on Wednesday, September 20, 2023. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun Sentinel)

  • Miami Dolphins LB Andrew Van Winkle during practice at Hard Rock Stadium on Wednesday, September 20, 2023. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun Sentinel)

  • Miami Dolphins LB Jaelan Phillips stretches during practice at Hard Rock Stadium on Wednesday, September 20, 2023. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun Sentinel)

  • Miami Dolphins WR Tyreek Hill catches a ball during practice at Hard Rock Stadium on Wednesday, September 20, 2023. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun Sentinel)

  • Miami Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel talks with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa during practice at Hard Rock Stadium on Wednesday, September 20, 2023. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun Sentinel)

  • Miami Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel talks to the media at Hard Rock Stadium on Wednesday, September 20, 2023. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun Sentinel)

  • Miami Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel talks to the media at Hard Rock Stadium on Wednesday, September 20, 2023. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun Sentinel)

  • Miami Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel talks to the media at Hard Rock Stadium on Wednesday, September 20, 2023. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun Sentinel)

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Federal appeals court asked to halt execution of Florida killer

Wed, 09/20/2023 - 15:22

TALLAHASSEE — With convicted murderer Michael Duane Zack scheduled to be put to death in less than two weeks, his attorneys have asked a federal appeals court for a stay of execution because they say he was “shut out” of a clemency process that could help spare him.

Zack’s attorneys filed a 26-page emergency motion Tuesday at the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, after federal district Judge Robert Hinkle last week rejected the clemency arguments.

In part, the issue centers on a diagnosis that Zack suffered Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. His attorneys wrote that the “medical community now recognizes FAS (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome) as identical to intellectual disability.”

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that it is unconstitutional to execute people with intellectual disabilities. But Zack’s attorneys argue that his clemency interview was in 2014 and that he has not been able to provide medical evidence that has emerged since then about Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

“Thus, through no fault of Zack or his counsel, no clemency decision-maker has contemplated the significant new understanding of Zack’s disability, which places him in the category of persons exempt from execution,” the motion said.

The motion also said Zack is”not attempting a second bite at the apple. The compelling information he seeks to present was not available in 2013-2014.”

Zack, 54, is scheduled to be executed Oct. 3 in the 1996 Escambia County murder of Ravonne Smith during a crime spree that also included killing another woman. Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a death warrant on Aug. 17.

The issue of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome places a key role in Zack’s federal-court appeal and a separate pending appeal at the Florida Supreme Court. The motion filed Tuesday said Zack was exposed to alcohol during his mother’s “heavy gestational drinking” but that Fetal Alcohol Syndrome was not diagnosed until 1997.

While Zack had a clemency interview in 2014, his attorneys wrote that he “heard nothing for over nine years,” until clemency was denied last month as the death warrant was signed.

But U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle on Friday rejected a stay of execution.

“The state officials involved in the clemency process, including the governor and other members of the clemency board, were not obligated to somehow anticipate — without being notified by Mr. Zack — that he might have new information he wished to present,” Hinkle wrote. “That he did not raise the issue is understandable; if the file was being ignored, any execution was being delayed. But understandable or not, it was Mr. Zack, not clemency officials, who possessed any new information and asserted there were new grounds for clemency. Nothing prevented him from presenting the information.”

Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office had not filed a brief as of late Wednesday afternoon at the Atlanta-based appeals court.

Court documents said Zack met Smith, an employee of Dirty Joe’s bar, on June 13, 1996. They wound up going to Smith’s house, where evidence indicated Zack hit her in the head with a beer bottle and sexually assaulted her, the documents said.

Zack then was accused of pursuing Smith into a bedroom, where he beat her head against a floor, before stabbing her in the chest, the documents said. He stole a television, a video-cassette recorder and Smith’s purse and was arrested days later after trying to pawn the television and VCR in Panama City.

Furniture-style dog crates are an excellent way for pet owners to save space. Here are the 11 best

Tue, 09/19/2023 - 23:14

Many dogs thrive on the safe feeling provided by crates, helping them to deal with short periods of separation or other stressful situations. However, they take up a fair amount of room, which is why multipurpose furniture-style dog crates are such a good idea.

Depending on where you position them, furniture-style dog crates can act as end tables, sideboards or nightstands, saving you space. You can find them in many styles and finishes to work with most decor.

Dog crate sizes

It’s important to choose the right size crate for your dog. It should be able to sit, stand, lie down and turn around easily. However, the crate shouldn’t be too big or your dog may feel unsafe — or choose to use one end of the crate as a bathroom. To find the right size, you’ll need to measure your canine companion.

Add 2 to 4 inches to these measurements, and this will tell you what length and height of crate you need. The width is in proportion to the height and the length, so as long as those two measurements are correct, the width should be right too.

Colors and finishes

Among the main reasons to choose dog crate furniture over a standard crate is because it looks better in your home. Therefore, you should choose a color or finish that you’re happy with.

You’ll find dog crates in a wide range of wood finishes, from dark espresso to pale pine, plus painted wood or laminate veneer finishes in colors such as gray and white. You might want to find a close match to other wood furniture in your home or opt for a neutral color, such as white, that works with a range of wood finishes.


Crates should be well-ventilated to keep your dog with a steady supply of fresh air so it doesn’t get too hot inside. As such, you should look for crates with bars or wire mesh covering a large proportion of all four sides. This also lets your dog see out of their crate, which many dogs prefer.

Two-door design

Two-door designs make it easier to get your dog in and out of the crate without issue. It’s also good for dogs who have free access to their crates, rather than being shut in, because they can come and go as they please and won’t feel trapped. Having multiple doors also gives you more options for positioning your crate. Even if one door is up against a wall or another piece of furniture, you can still use the other one.

Ease of cleaning

Ideally, furniture-style dog crates should be made from smooth, varnished wood or wood composite that’s easy to wipe clean. Some have removable trays in the base to make cleaning inside easier.

Best furniture-style dog crates

Unipaws Furniture Style Dog Crate ]

With a choice of attractive gray, rustic wood and walnut finishes, this stylish crate looks great as a sideboard, end table or nightstand. It has a slide-out plastic tray in the base for easier cleaning.

Merry Pet 2-in-1 Configurable Pet Crate and Gate ]

You can configure this dark wood option as a crate that doubles as a table or take the top off and unfurl it into a pet gate. The plastic tray in the base protects your floor and makes cleaning it a breeze.

Zoovilla Dog Crate ]

Available in black or white, this sleek crate has a neutral style that works with classic or contemporary decor. You can choose from small, medium and large options to fit most dogs.

PawHut Dog Crate Furniture ]

This crate is perfect for small dogs, thanks to its compact design, and doubles nicely as an end table. You have a choice of black, white and dark brown finishes.

Casual Home Wooden Pet Crate ]

This sturdy crate is suitable for dogs from roughly 25 to 40 pounds and features a secure latch and a tabletop weight capacity of 120 pounds. You have a choice of four finishes: walnut, espresso, black and white.

Penn-Plax Modern and Sophisticated Dog Crate ]

With a gorgeous gray driftwood finish, you don’t have to choose between style and function with this crate. It includes a cozy crate pad with washable cover and has two doors for easy entry and exit.

New Age Pet Ecoflex Dog Crate ]

Made from a recycled plastic-wood polymer composite, it’s a durable and long-lasting choice that won’t warp or split over time — and it looks just like wood at first glance. It’s available in four finishes: russet, gray, espresso and antique white.

Snimoy Heavy-duty Dog Crate ]

Not only is this crate extremely rugged and well-made, but it has a cool industrial look that fits right in with contemporary decor. It has two doors for easy access, and cleaning it is a breeze, thanks to the removable trays in the base.

Rehomerance Rustic Heavy-duty Dog Crate ]

With a black metal body and a dark wood top, this crate won’t look out of place next to trendy furniture. It is well-ventilated and has two doors so dogs can easily enter and exit.

Feandrea Dog Crate Furniture ]

Just as stylish as a side table as it is practical as a crate, it’s a good choice for small and medium dogs, and there are two sizes available. You have your pick of either rustic brown or “greige” finishes.

Dwanton Dog Crate Furniture ]

The choice of four sizes means you can find an option to fit most dogs, although there isn’t anything big enough for giant breeds. It works well as a side table or end table with adjustable feet to keep it level.

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Which 144-hertz laptop is best for gaming?

Tue, 09/19/2023 - 23:14

Reaction times in video games are crucial if you want to get the highest score or the fastest lap. But it doesn’t always come down to your internal hardware. While a powerful central processing unit can help, the frame rate of your display is a significant factor.

A higher frame rate moves the pixels across the screen faster, letting you see what’s happening before an opponent with a slower frame rate. Fortunately, there are several 144-hertz laptops that have frame rates optimized for gaming.

Why a higher refresh rate is better

Any content on a laptop’s screen, whether a video game or a Hollywood blockbuster, is made up of pixels. These tiny specks produce the visuals by changing their colors quickly. In conjunction with that, content is made at a certain frame rate, which is measured in frames per second.

For example, a video game coded to use 60 frames per second (and thus a refresh rate of 60 hertz) changes frames twice as fast as a game that is 30 frames per second. It makes the visuals much smoother because more frames and detail are displayed. More frames mean you have more time to react to in-game actions.

Refresh rate vs. response time

The frame rate measures how quickly the entire scene changes, but it’s not solely up to the hertz to produce that. An often overlooked aspect is the display’s response time, which indicates how quickly each pixel can change color.

A lower response time is always the best, as you want your pixels to change color in one or two milliseconds. But you’ll get ghosting effects or color blurring if the response time can’t keep up with the lightning-fast frame rate. The two display technologies must work together to create the best possible visuals. Having a fast refresh rate but a slower response time is counterproductive.

The display’s resolution

The display’s refresh rate is responsible for smooth graphics, but the resolution shouldn’t be taken for granted. Bigger is usually the best, but it gets tricky when involving 144-hertz or higher displays.

Generally, most gaming laptops with high refresh rates have a display resolution of 1080p (Full HD), as it provides enough detail while the components don’t need to be stressed to the maximum.

Upgrading the graphics card in a laptop isn’t easy or affordable, so many gaming laptop makers stick to 1080p visuals. On the other hand, you can achieve higher resolutions, such as 2K or 4K at 144 hertz, but you’ll need a more powerful graphics card.

What you need to buy for gaming on a 144-hertz laptop

MSI GV15 15.6-inch 144-hertz Gaming Laptop ]

In addition to the 15.6-inch 144-hertz display, this gaming laptop has an Intel 11th-generation Core i5 processor with a maximum clock speed of 4.5 gigahertz. It has 8 gigabytes of DDR4 RAM and a 256GB hard drive. The biggest drawcard, however, is the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 graphics card, providing excellent visuals to the full-HD screen. But all that power generates a lot of heat, and the fins underneath help to dissipate it.

ASUS TUF Gaming F17 Gaming Laptop ]

This 17.3-inch gaming laptop is powered by an Intel Core i7-11800H processor, 16GB of DDR4 RAM and a generous 1-terabyte hard drive. The 144-hertz visuals are provided by the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 graphics card with 16GB of DDR4 onboard memory, and you’ll have no connectivity issues with the built-in Gigabit Wi-Fi 6 component. It comes pre-installed with the latest version of Windows 11.

Razer Blade 15 Gaming Laptop with NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 Ti ]

This laptop is the best option for gamers who demand the best visuals possible. The 144-hertz 4K display is powered by the excellent Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti graphics card, 32GB of DDR5 RAM and a 12th-generation Intel Core i9 processor with a maximum clock speed of 5.3 gigahertz. This laptop has more exhaust fins and quieter fans than previous Blade models as well as a larger liquid cooling capacity.

Lenovo Legion Y540 15.6-inch Gaming Laptop ]

Perfect for power gamers on the move, this Legion Ultimate S laptop has 16GB of RAM and an Intel Core i7 processor with a maximum clock speed of 5 gigahertz. It has a 256GB solid-state hard drive and comes pre-installed with Windows 10. Visuals are provided through the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660Ti graphics card with 6GB of onboard memory.

Acer Nitro 5 AN515-55-53E5 Gaming Laptop ]

Pre-installed with the latest Windows operating system, this gaming laptop has a 144-hertz display powered by an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 graphics card, 10th generation Intel Core i5 processor and 8GB of RAM. It has a 256GB solid-state hard drive and backlit keyboard keys.

Asus ROG Strix G17 ]

This gaming laptop is the ultimate in top-tier entertainment. In addition to the massive 2TB hard drive and 17.3-inch display, it has 64GB of RAM and uses an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 graphics card. It has a backlit keyboard and comes with a complimentary 32GB USB thumb drive.

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Charlie Fripp writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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