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Jeremiah Smith scores twice as Chaminade-Madonna breezes by American Heritage 28-16

South Florida Local News - Fri, 09/15/2023 - 22:44

PLANTATION — Jeremiah Smith, an Ohio State commit, scored twice within a two-minute span as Chaminade-Madonna jumped out to a 21-0 first-quarter lead and held off host American Heritage in a battle of two nationally ranked teams at Heritage Stadium on Friday night.

The Lions, bidding for a third straight state state title, extended their regular-season win streak to 19 games, with their last loss in the regular season a 26-24 defeat to American Heritage on Sept. 3, 2021.

“This has been great,” said Smith, whose team has knocked off two nationally ranked out-of-state teams and two nationally ranked teams from South Florida to open the season. “We get to play good competition each and every week.”

The Lions travel to Traz Powell Stadium Thursday to take on No. 5 ranked Miami Central (2-1), winners of four straight state championships.

“We got so much to clean up after tonight,” said Chaminade-Madonna coach Dameon Jones. “(American Heritage) is a good football team. The thing is, and I tell them every week, that nobody stops us, but us….we didn’t take our foot off the gas, we shot ourselves in the foot.”

“We play a tough schedule, and it is good to play every week,” Jones added. “We got Miami Central next week, and we just have to show up like we did these last four games. We got to put it all together. They are a good, physical football team. We usually get cooking game six or seven every year. We are priming up right now.”

After being stymied on its first offensive series, Chaminade-Madonna capitalized on the game’s first turnover when Curtis Janvier returned an interception 49 yards for a score off a deflected pass from Patriots’ quarterback Dia Bell just two minutes into the contest.

The Lions, ranked No. 6 in the nation, extended their lead to 14-0 when quarterback Cedrick Bailey capped a six-play, 70-yard drive with a 13-yard scoring toss to Smith.

The Lions scored on their next possession when Bailey and Smith teamed up again, this time from 26 yards out to give Chaminade-Madonna a 21-0 lead with 3:53 remaining in the first quarter.

Smith, who had a 68-yard punt return earlier in the contest nullified by a penalty, padded his county-leading scoring total with his seventh touchdown of the year. He finished the night with four catches for 56 yards and two TDs.

American Heritage’s defense stiffened, and it led to their only score of the first half. The Patriots’ Xavier Thomas intercepted an underthrown pass by Bailey and returned it 23 yards to set up a 25-yard field goal by Gavin Harvey to trim the lead to 21-3 with 10:41 remaining in the first half.

American Heritage’s DeAndre Desinor returned the second half kickoff 50 yards to set up a 1-yard plunge by Byron Louis to slice the advantage to 21-10 with 6:42 remaining in the third quarter.

On the next series, Bailey escaped disaster when the Patriots defensive back dropped what could have been a pick-six.

Chaminade-Madonna muscled its way to a 17-play, 86-yard drive to get some breathing room at 28-10 as Davion Gause scored from 7 yards out with 8:44 left in the game.

The Patriots, ranked 15th in the country, answered quickly on their ensuing drive on a 1-yard run around left end by Desinor with 6:05 remaining to cut the lead the 28-16 as Bell’s 2-point conversion pass was incomplete. Lewis, who finished with a game-high 17 carries for 114 yards, had a 40-yard run to spark the drive.

American Heritage held the Lions on downs and got the ball back with less than two minutes remaining, however, Bell’s pass in the end zone with 1:42 to go in the game was intercepted by Gavin Shepard and the Lions ran out the clock.

Patriots coach Mike Smith said his young team is going through expected growing pains.

“This is a process that we are going to have to go through,” Smith said. “We have a group of young kids and kids starting for the first time. The first two (wins) were smooth, but there will be some ups and downs here and they have to learn from it. We kind of needed this tonight.”

“We gave them momentum early with the pick six, but we kept battling,” Smith said. “They are an explosive team, and you can’t get down 21-0 with them. We put ourselves in a hole and battled back, but it was too much. We got to learn from this and get better.”

Week 4 scores

Chaminade-Madonna 28, American Heritage 16

King’s Academy 39, John Carroll 13

Boca Raton Christian 27, Berean Christian 0

Westminster Academy 42, Somerset Key 14

Inlet Grove 41, Somerset Prep 6

Glades Day 61, Marco Island Academy 6

Cardinal Newman 35, Catholic Memorial (Massachusetts) 2

Camden County (Georgia) 51, Somerset Canyons 7

John Curtis Christian (Louisiana) 55, Santaluces 21

Valdosta (Georgia) 54, Deerfield Beach 0

Calvary Christian Academy 42, Clewiston 7


University School 14. St. Andrew’s 6

Palm Beach Central 33, Pahokee 27 (F/OT)

Cardinal Gibbons 38, Northeast (St. Petersburg) 16

Benjamin 49, Gulliver Prep 0

Spanish River 28, Park Vista 20

West Broward 23, Dwyer 3

North Broward Prep 45, Northeast 0

American Heritage-Delray 23, Pine Crest 14

West Boca Raton 42, Port S. Lucie 3

Hollywood Hills 22, Nova 6

Atlantic 44, Boca Raton 14

Palm Beach Gardens 35, Glades Central 0

Jensen Beach 28, Stoneman Douglas 0

St. Thomas Aquinas 48, Western 22

Jupiter 49, Suncoast 0

Coconut Creek 36, Plantation 6

Lake Worth 24, Olympic Heights 8

Wellington 16. Royal Palm Beach 15

Seminole Ridge 34, Palm Beach Lakes 0

Miramar 50, Flanagan 0


Monarch 32, Piper 6

Pembroke Pines Charter 21, Taravella 0

Dr. Joaquín García 28, John I. Leonard 6

South Broward def. Hallandale (forfeit)

Prosecutors seek narrow gag order on Trump in federal election case after ‘inflammatory’ comments

South Florida Local News - Fri, 09/15/2023 - 19:46

By ERIC TUCKER (Associated Press)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal prosecutors are seeking an order that would prevent Donald Trump from making “inflammatory” and “intimidating” comments about witnesses, lawyers and other people involved in the criminal case charging the former president with scheming to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

Special counsel Jack Smith’s team said in a motion filed Friday that such a “narrow, well-defined” order was necessary to preserve the integrity of the case and to avoid prejudicing potential jurors.

Prosecutors had foreshadowed for weeks their concerns about Trump’s verbal attacks, but Friday’s request marks the first time they have proposed formal action to rein in speech that they say risks tainting the case and causing court workers and witnesses to live in fear of being targeted. The motion lays out what prosecutors say is a pattern of “false and inflammatory” statements about the case as well as comments meant to intimidate or harass people he believes are potential witnesses against him.

“Since the grand jury returned an indictment in this case, the defendant has repeatedly and widely disseminated public statements attacking the citizens of the District of Columbia, the Court, prosecutors, and prospective witnesses,” prosecutors wrote. “Through his statements, the defendant threatens to undermine the integrity of these proceedings and prejudice the jury pool.”

They said Trump’s rhetoric has already had an impact, noting how jurors in the trial of a man convicted of participating in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol recently sent a note conveying concern that he might have information about their identity.

If the order is granted, Trump would be forced to dramatically limit the type of comments he makes about the case even as he seeks to turn his criminal woes — the Washington prosecution is one of four that he currently faces — to his political advantage while running to reclaim the White House in 2024. Still, it was not immediately clear what sanctions Trump could face if he fails to curb his speech or how the judge, Tanya Chutkan, might enforce even a limited gag order.

Trump showed no signs of toning down his words, complaining about the motion on Truth Social shortly after it was filed and repeating his claim that the FBI and Justice Department had been “weaponized.” He repeated his familiar refrains that President Joe Biden was “crooked” and that Smith was “deranged.”

“They Leak, Lie, & Sue, & they won’t allow me to SPEAK,” Trump wrote.

Speaking to the Family Research Council in Washington later Friday night, said Smith “wants to take away my First Amendment rights.”

“They want to see if they can silence me. So the media, the fake news, will ask me a question. ‘I’m sorry, I won’t be able to answer that.’ How do you think we do in that election? So we’re gonna have a little bit of fun with that, I think,” Trump said.

Trump’s lawyers also oppose the request, prosecutors wrote in their motion, and a Trump spokesperson said in a statement: “This is nothing more than blatant election interference because President Trump is by far the leading candidate in this race. The American people — the voters — see right through this un-Constitutional charade and will send President Trump back to the White House.”

Beyond the narrow gag order, prosecutors also asked for an order that would prevent the Trump team from contacting District of Columbia residents to conduct polling, jury studies and focus groups without the judge’s permission.

The efforts to weaken faith in the court system, the prosecutors wrote, mirror his attacks on the 2020 election, which he falsely claimed that he had won.

“The defendant is now attempting to do the same thing in this criminal case — to undermine confidence in the criminal justice system and prejudice the jury pool through disparaging and inflammatory attacks on the citizens of this District, the Court, prosecutors, and prospective witnesses,” they wrote.

Among the statements cited by prosecutors in their motion is a post on his Truth Social platform days after the indictment in which Trump wrote, in all capital letters, “If you go after me, I’m coming after you!” He has also repeatedly alleged on social media that the case against him is “rigged” and that he cannot receive a fair trial.

And he has attacked in personal terms the prosecutors bringing the case — calling Smith “deranged” and his team “thugs” — as well as the Chutkan, the judge presiding over the case.

The issue surfaced last week with the disclosure by the Justice Department that it sought to file a motion related to “daily” public statements by Trump that it said it feared would taint the jury pool. Chutkan on Friday granted permission to prosecutors to file a redacted motion publicly, with names and identifying information of individuals who say they’ve been harassed as a result of Trump’s attacks blacked out.

Also Friday, Smith’s team pushed back against the Trump team request to have Chutkan recuse herself from the case. Defense lawyers had cited prior comments from Chutkan that they say cast doubt on her ability to be fair, but prosecutors responded that there was no valid basis for her to step aside.


Follow Eric Tucker on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/etuckerAP

Workers strike at all 3 Detroit automakers, a new tactic to squeeze companies for better pay

South Florida Local News - Fri, 09/15/2023 - 19:22


DETROIT (AP) — Nearly one in 10 of America’s unionized auto workers went on strike Friday to pressure Detroit’s three automakers into raising wages in an era of big profits and as the industry begins a costly transition from gas guzzlers to electric vehicles.

By striking simultaneously at General Motors, Ford and Chrysler owner Stellantis for the first time in its history, the United Auto Workers union is trying to inflict a new kind of pain on the companies and claw back some pay and benefits workers gave up in recent decades.

The strikes are limited for now to three assembly plants: a GM factory in Wentzville, Missouri, a Ford plant in Wayne, Michigan, near Detroit, and a Jeep plant run by Stellantis in Toledo, Ohio.

The workers received support from President Joe Biden, who dispatched aides to Detroit to help resolve the impasse and said the Big 3 automakers should share their “record profits.”

Union President Shawn Fain says workers could strike at more plants if the companies don’t come up with better offers. The workers are seeking across-the-board wage increases of 36% over four years; the companies have countered by offering increases ranging from 17.5% to 20%.

Workers out on the picket lines said they hoped the strikes didn’t last long, but added that they were committed to the cause and appreciated Fain’s tough tactics.

“We didn’t have a problem coming in during COVID, being essential workers and making them big profits,” said Chrism Hoisington, who has worked at the Toledo Jeep plant since 2001. “We’ve sacrificed a lot.”

In its previous 88-year history, UAW had always negotiated with one automaker at a time, limiting the industrywide impact of any possible work stoppages. Each deal with an automaker was viewed as a template, but not a guarantee, for subsequent contract negotiations.

Now, roughly 13,000 of 146,000 workers at the three companies are on strike, making life complicated for automakers’ operations, while limiting the drain on the union’s $825 million strike fund.

If the contract negotiations drag on — and the strikes expand to affect more plants — the costs will grow for workers and the companies. Auto dealers could run short of vehicles, raising prices and pushing customers to buy from foreign automakers with nonunionized workers. It could also put fresh stress on an economy that’s been benefiting from easing inflation.

The new negotiating tactic is the brainchild of Fain, the first leader in the union’s history to be elected directly by workers. In the past, outgoing leaders picked their replacements by choosing delegates to a convention.

But that system gave birth to a culture of bribery and embezzlement that ended with a federal investigation and prison time for two former UAW presidents.

The combative Fain narrowly won his post last spring with a fiery campaign against that culture, which he called “company-unionism,” which he said sold out workers by allowing plant closures and failing to extract more money from the automakers.

“We’ve been a one-party state for longer than I’ve been alive,” Fain said while campaigning as an adversary to the companies rather than a business partner.

David Green, a former local union leader elected to a regional director post this year, said it’s time for a new way of bargaining. “The risks of not doing something different outweigh the risks of doing the same thing and expecting a different result,” Green said.

During his more than two-decade career at General Motors, Green saw the company close an assembly plant in Lordstown, Ohio, that employed 3,000 workers. The union agreed to a series of concessions made to help the companies get through the Great Recession. “We’ve done nothing but slide backward for the last 20 years,” Green said, calling Fain’s strategy “refreshing.”

Carlos Guajardo, who has worked at Ford for the past 35 years and was employed by GM for 11 years before that, said he likes the new strategy.

“It keeps the strike fund lasting longer,” said Guajardo, who was on the picket line in Michigan Friday before the sun came up.

The strikes will likely chart the future of the union and of America’s homegrown auto industry at a time when U.S. labor is flexing its might and the companies face a historic transition from building internal combustion automobiles to making electric vehicles.

The walkouts also will be an issue in next year’s presidential election, testing Biden’s claim to being the most union-friendly president in American history.

The limited-strike strategy could have ripple effects, GM CEO Mary Barra said Friday on CNBC.

Many factories are reliant on each other for parts, Barra said. “We’ve worked to have a very efficient manufacturing network, so yes, even one plant is going to start to have impact.”

Citing strike disruptions at its Wayne plant, Ford told about 600 non-striking workers at the plant not to report to work on Friday, Ford spokeswoman Jennifer Enoch said.

Even Fain has called the union’s demands audacious, but he says the automakers are raking in billions and can afford them. He scoffs at company claims that costly settlements would force them to raise vehicle prices, saying labor accounts for only 4% to 5% of vehicle costs.

In addition to the wage increases, union negotiators are also seeking: restoration of cost-of-living pay raises; an end to varying tiers of wages for factory jobs; a 32-hour week with 40 hours of pay; the restoration of traditional defined-benefit pensions for new hires who now receive only 401(k)-style retirement plans; and pension increases for retirees, among other items.

Starting in 2007, workers gave up cost-of-living raises and defined benefit pensions for new hires. Wage tiers were created as the UAW tried to help the companies avoid financial trouble ahead of and during the Great Recession. Even so, only Ford avoided bankruptcy protection.

Many say it’s time to get the concessions back because the companies are making huge profits and CEOs pay packages are soaring.

Looming in the background is the historic transition to electric vehicles. The union wants to make sure it represents workers at joint-venture electric vehicle battery factories the companies are building so that members have jobs making vehicles of the future.

Top-scale assembly plant workers make about $32 per hour, plus large annual profit-sharing checks. Ford said average annual pay including overtime and bonuses was $78,000 last year.

The Ford plant that’s on strike employs about 3,300 workers. The Toledo Jeep complex has about 5,800 workers, and GM’s Wentzville plant has about 3,600 workers.

The union didn’t go after the companies’ big cash cows, which are full-size pickup trucks and big SUVs.

Automakers say they’re facing unprecedented demands as they develop and build new electric vehicles while at the same time making gas-powered cars, SUVs and trucks to pay the bills. They’re worried labor costs will rise so much that they’ll have to price their cars above those sold by foreign automakers with U.S. factories.


Seewer reported from Toledo, Ohio, while Householder reported from Wayne, Michigan.

General Daily Insight for September 16, 2023

South Florida Local News - Fri, 09/15/2023 - 19:22
General Daily Insight for September 16, 2023

We’ve all got extra firepower pushing us along today. The Moon is making its monthly conjunction to warrior Mars at 3:53 pm EDT, this time in fair-minded Libra, so we can accomplish even more if we pair up for progress, rather than flying solo. It will be simpler than usual to get along when the Moon sextiles Venus in Leo, bringing out our playful side, while a final lunar quincunx to Jupiter will help us end things on an enjoyable note.


March 21 – April 19

One person could have a major impact on you today. There is a potent conjunction between the Moon and your ruler Mars in your 7th House of Collaboration, so it wouldn’t be shocking if someone you’re currently involved with (be it romantically, professionally, or platonically) hastily appears on the scene to change up the program. You could also meet an entirely new person who will be part of your life for a long time to come for one exciting reason or another.


April 20 – May 20

You’ve got a million things to do, but you’re more than capable of handling them all. The Moon is syncing up with action planet Mars in your 6th House of Productivity, so regardless of whether you’re on the clock or not, you’ll probably have plenty of things on your plate. Don’t get daunted by the number of tasks, because Mars will galvanize you with all the energy you need to plow through each responsibility with measurable efficiency. Roll up your sleeves, Taurus!


May 21 – June 20

Denying yourself anything may be all but impossible in a moment like this. There is a fabulous alignment between the Moon and Mars in your pleasure-loving 5th house, so you likely won’t be interested in tending to chores or boring matters. Instead, you may have your heart set on enjoying yourself! Mars sharpens your ability to do just that. Still, try not to go overboard in your search for excitement, because that can be easily done if you don’t stay mindful.


June 21 – July 22

There’s something potent simmering within your abode today. The Moon and Mars are conjoining in your 4th House of Domestic Life, turning the energy there all the way up. You can put this to good use by plowing through any chores, whether you’ve just noticed them or have been putting them off. It also makes for a lovely time to work on a few DIY projects. Mars can occasionally bring stress, however, so be wary of overexerting yourself in the name of home improvement.


July 23 – August 22

It’s one thing after another today! The Moon is coordinating with Mars in your 3rd House of Multi-Tasking, so prep your mind for your schedule to fill up when least expected. If you’ve already got a million things on your plate, do your best to stay organized, because it would be simple to let things fall through the cracks on a day like this. Keeping your eye on the ball will certify your chance to knock it out of the park.


August 23 – September 22

The money in your pocket could burn a hole right through it at any moment. The Moon and Mars conjoin in your 2nd House of Values, which could stir up fresh chances for you to improve your net worth — but could provide you with a dozen different things to throw your hard-earned money at just as quickly. Attempt to avoid unnecessary spending, although that may be difficult; focus on necessities and then see what’s left at the end of the day.


September 23 – October 22

You’ve got more energy than you may know what to do with right now. There is a gorgeous alignment between the Moon and Mars in your very own fantabulous sign, so resting on your laurels probably isn’t an option. Set yourself attainable goals, because without a strategy of some kind, this energy risks leading you all over the place — but nowhere important. You’ll be more satisfied with the results if you channel all that firepower into a more meaningful journey.


October 23 – November 21

Your energy levels could rise and fall at the drop of a hat. The Moon in your sleepy 12th house is teaming up with aggressive Mars at the same degree, which could leave you spinning your wheels and unsure what to do. It’s not easy to make use of Mars in this hidden sector, so remind yourself that the less you carry with you, the lighter you’ll feel in the long run. What balls can you drop in order to keep juggling your vital responsibilities?


November 22 – December 21

Everyone wants a piece of you, Sag! You’re impacted by the potent combination of the Moon and Mars meeting up in your 11th House of Humanity, so without warning, your phone may begin ringing off the hook. It’s possible that there is so much on offer that you genuinely don’t have time for all of it, but don’t stress yourself out by trying to appease others. Only commit to what you know you can handle, and politely decline excess invitations.


December 22 – January 19

It’s a major day on the professional front for you. The Moon and Mars are syncing up in your 10th House of Recognition, giving you an extra push up the ladder of success. Mars often requires you to exert energy and control, so a boss or VIP may request this of you. Brace yourself for a big opportunity that will require definite effort to see your desired results. Don’t let this cow you; you’re more than capable of coming out on top.


January 20 – February 18

Your world is becoming much, much wider. There is an inspiring conjunction between the Moon and Mars in your high-minded 9th house, which is encouraging you to explore beyond your usual limitations. You’ll never know how much fulfillment could be found if you don’t reach out! The chance to travel or further your education may arise, but don’t sit around waiting for opportunities to land in your lap. You create your own luck — and a small amount of effort should net amazing results.


February 19 – March 20

Life is about to give you a little push — or a big one. The Moon in your 8th House of Intimate Power is conjoining red-hot Mars, and you’ll have a hard time missing this powerful combination. You may encounter situations that require you to be the bigger person, but the universe is asking you to display mastery and maturity even at difficult moments. You’re earning good karma right now, so don’t drop the ball when you can score a major goal.

Arraez’s two home runs, Stallings’ three-run double in seventh key as Marlins rally to top Braves

South Florida Local News - Fri, 09/15/2023 - 19:00

MIAMI — Luis Arraez homered twice and Jacob Stallings had two doubles, the second a go-ahead line drive with the bases loaded in the seventh, and the Miami Marlins beat the NL East champion Atlanta Braves 9-6 on Friday night.

In their first game since winning the division title Wednesday, the Braves lost star slugger Ronald Acuña Jr. after 7 1/2 innings because of right calf tightness. Acuña went to his position after grounding into a double play to end the top of the eighth but left before a pitch was thrown in the bottom half.

“I feel good, it just felt like a cramp,” Acuña said through a translator. “Let’s see how I come in (Saturday) and I’m feeling and if I can play.”

Jake Burger and Garrett Hampson each had two hits for the Marlins, who began Friday a half-game from the third NL wild-card spot.

“Coming back against a team like that just shows you the growth of our team and the belief they have in there,” Marlins manager Skip Schumaker said. “They really believe they can do this. Whatever happens, I’m super proud of the fight that they have.”

Down 6-4, the Marlins rallied with a five-run seventh against relievers Pierce Johnson and Brad Hand (4-2). Arraez’s solo shot off Johnson cut it to 6-5 for his first career multi-homer game. Jazz Chisholm Jr. hit a two-out single against Hand and scored from first on Hampson’s tying single to deep center. After Hand walked pinch-hitter Yuli Gurriel and hit Xavier Edwards, Stallings drove in three runs with a shot to the corner in left.

“I just kind of had a feeling I was going to get it done,” Stallings said. “It’s just really cool to come through for the guys. Obviously a huge game for us.”

Acuña said he initially felt the discomfort while chasing Chisholm’s hit in the seventh. The 25-year-old Acuña sustained a season-ending knee injury on the same field two seasons ago and missed the Braves’ 2021 World Series championship run.

“Every game gives me anxiety because I try to be one of those players that plays every single day,” Acuña said of any unease about another possible health setback occurring on the same field.

A.J. Puk (6-5) struck out three in 1 1/3 innings of relief for the win. Andrew Nardi pitched a scoreless eighth and Tanner Scott worked a perfect ninth for his ninth save.

“It seems like someone is coming through every day,” Schumaker said. “But Arraez set the tone at the top. He’s had an incredible year.”

The Braves erased an early four-run deficit and went ahead 6-4 on Ozzie Albies’ two-run single off reliever David Robertson in the sixth.

Albies completed a 10-pitch at-bat with a soft line drive up the middle that scored lead runner Orlando Arcia. Acuña sprinted home from first as he ran on the pitch and beat Chisholm’s throw to the plate.

Braves starter Bryce Elder settled down after a difficult first two frames and completed five innings of four-run ball. Elder gave up nine hits and struck out six.

The Marlins struck quickly with a three-run first. Arraez hit a leadoff homer, Bryan De La Cruz had a run-scoring single and scored on Jesús Sánchez’s RBI triple. Burger’s double preceded De La Cruz’s hit for a team cycle in the inning.

Burger made it 4-0 with a run-scoring single in the second.

“I just came out flat, wasn’t very sharp and wasn’t executing pitches,” Elder said. “I was kind of pleased with the last couple of innings but the first was just kind of sloppy and paid for it.”

Atlanta cut the deficit on Michael Harris II’s leadoff shot and Austin Riley’s RBI single off Miami starter Johnny Cueto in the third.

Sacrifice flies from Acuña in the fourth and Eddie Rosario in the fifth tied it at 4.

Cueto was lifted after four innings. The veteran right-hander gave up three runs and seven hits and struck out two.


Atlanta’s Matt Olson and Miami’s Jorge Soler, the clubs’ respective nominees for the 2023 Roberto Clemente Award, were allowed to wear jersey No. 21 in the tribute throughout the major leagues honoring the late Hall of Famer on Friday.


Braves: RHP Jesse Chavez (left shin microfracture) struck out the side in a perfect inning during his second rehab outing with Triple-A Gwinnett on Thursday.

Marlins: De La Cruz left after the third because of right ankle discomfort. … Soler (right oblique strain) hit off the machine for the second consecutive day Friday. … RHP Sandy Alcantara (right forearm flexor strain) continues to play catch and is being evaluated daily.


Neither club has announced a starter for the second game of the series Saturday.

Swamp sellouts on the rise for Florida football

South Florida Local News - Fri, 09/15/2023 - 16:08

Sellouts in the Swamp, once a given, have become more commonplace again following a decade when packed houses were increasingly rare at Florida football games.

Saturday night’s visit from Tennessee marked the the fifth capacity crowd during nine home games under Billy Napier, or one more than Dan Mullen during three seasons excluding the 2020 played amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reasons for the shift in fan interest vary.

The pandemic changed attitudes, a head coaching change created new hope and an ever-improving game day experience gave fans more reasons to leave behind their HDTV, AC and convenience of home.

The Gators have sold out five of the past nine games under coach Billy Napier. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel)

“There’s no one thing. A lot of factors go into it,” athletic director Scott Stricklin told the Orlando Sentinel. “It also speaks to how special the Gator Nation is and the connection it has to this place.”

Stricklin said students have led the charge back to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

The group has purchased more than 20,000 season tickets for 2023. Several years ago UF decision-makers reduced the ticket allotment to 17,500 from 21,000 for the students and band.

“Our students are driving a lot of the energy post-COVID,” Stricklin said. “I don’t know if this is unique to UF, but our student support is at a much different level now than it was pre-pandemic. The student section has been packed every game since we came back for the most part.”

An upset of Utah to begin his first season at Florida led to a spike in attendance in 2022 despite a 6-7 record for coach Billy Napier. (James Gilbert/Getty Images)

To play the 2020 season safely and avoid spreading the virus, UF allowed just a maximum 20% capacity, or 17,710 people, at the Swamp — a venue that can seat up to 88,548. The changes helped maintain social distancing guidelines for fans entering and exiting the stadium, using bathrooms or purchasing concessions.

Tailgating was not be permitted and masks were required for all who entered the stadium.

When restrictions were lifted in 2021, many fans realized what they had missed.

Under Mullen, UF sold out one game each in 2018 (LSU) and 2019 (Auburn) despite going 21-5, and two games in 2021 (Alabama and Florida State) even though he was fired amid a 6-7 season.

“There was a recognition that these are pretty special experiences, game day in the Swamp,” Stricklin said. “You want to take advantage of every time you can.”

Dusk falls on Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, which drew an average of 89,626 during four SEC contests, the best since 2015, in 2022. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel)

The best games understandably draw the best crowds.

In 2022, UF averaged 89,626 during four SEC contents, the best since 2015. The Gators’ season-opening upset of No. 7 Utah drew a reported 90,799, the season high in attendance just ahead of LSU (90,585) on Tom Petty Night.

At the end of the third quarter, fans honor the late Petty, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member from Gainesville, by singing, “I Won’t Back Down.” The tribute began Oct. 7, 2017 against LSU, five days after his death, and follows the longstanding tradition of signing, “We Are The Boys from Old Florida.”

“There’s certain things you only get to do in that environment a few times a year,” Stricklin said. “In addition to watching the team play.”

Edgar Thompson can be reached at egthompson@orlandosentinel.com

Jury clears 3 men in the last trial tied to the plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

South Florida Local News - Fri, 09/15/2023 - 16:02

By ED WHITE (Associated Press)

A jury acquitted three men Friday in the last trial connected to a plan to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a scheme that was portrayed as an example of homegrown terrorism on the eve of the 2020 presidential election.

William Null, twin brother Michael Null and Eric Molitor were found not guilty of providing support for a terrorist act and a weapon charge. They were the last of 14 men to face charges in state or federal court. Nine were convicted and now five have been cleared.

The Nulls and Molitor were accused of supporting leaders of the plan by participating in military-style drills and traveling to see Whitmer’s vacation home in northern Michigan. The key players, Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr., were convicted of a kidnapping conspiracy last year in federal court.

In the latest trial, the jury heard 14 days of testimony in Antrim County, the location of Whitmer’s lakeside property, 185 miles (297 kilometers) north of the state Capitol.

There were gasps in the courtroom as the jury foreperson announced the verdicts, first for each brother and then Molitor. Deliberations began Thursday morning and lasted a few more hours Friday. The men cried as they hugged their lawyers and supporters.

“You gentlemen are free to leave,” Judge Charles Hamlyn said.

Outside the courthouse, a juror approached Molitor and “said he was very sorry for all he had gone through,” defense attorney William Barnett told The Associated Press. “The man shook his hand and gave him a hug.”

Barnett said jurors privately told the judge the evidence simply did not add up to “material support” for a kidnapping plot, a key phrase in the charge.

“They went after three peoples’ lives and destroyed them for three years,” Barnett said of the attorney general’s office. “I’m just lost for words. This is an emotional moment.”

Authorities said an attack on Whitmer began to simmer at a regional summit of anti-government extremists in Dublin, Ohio, in summer 2020. Fox, Croft and William Null were in attendance while an FBI informant also inside the gathering secretly recorded profanity-laced tirades threatening violence against public officials.

The disgust was also fueled by government-imposed restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to recordings, text messages and social media posts introduced as evidence at trial.

Jurors were repeatedly shown images of the Null brothers and Molitor bearing guns and “kitted up” in body armor at state Capitol protests and elsewhere in 2020, though there was nothing illegal about those actions.

Whitmer’s chief of staff, JoAnne Huls, said Friday’s verdicts were disappointing and would “further encourage and embolden radical extremists trying to sow discord and harm public officials or law enforcement.”

State Attorney General Dana Nessel, in a written statement, said the “verdicts are not what we hoped for.” Her spokesperson did not respond to a request for an interview with Nessel.

Molitor, 39, and William Null, 41, testified in their own defense, admitting they had attended gun drills and taken rides to see Whitmer’s property. Molitor was in a pickup truck with Fox and had recorded a brief video of the house.

But William Null said he and his brother broke away when talk turned to getting explosives. Molitor said Fox was “incredibly dumb” and wouldn’t pull off a kidnapping.

During closing arguments Wednesday, prosecutor William Rollstin urged jurors to not be swayed.

“If you help in whole or even in part you’ve satisfied that element” of the crime, he said. “Was he helping him to plan? Was he helping him prepare? The answer is absolutely.”

Michael Null, 41, did not testify and his lawyer took the unusual step of declining to question any witnesses during the trial. Tom Siver told jurors that Michael Null did nothing wrong.

“A stroke of genius,” Barnett said of Siver’s strategy of silence.

Informants and undercover FBI agents were inside the group for months before arrests were made in October 2020. Whitmer was not physically harmed.

Nine men were previously convicted in state or federal court, either through guilty pleas or at three other trials. Shawn Fix and Brian Higgins pleaded guilty in Antrim County and had agreed to cooperate but were never called as prosecution witnesses at the last trial.

Patrick Miles, a former U.S. attorney in western Michigan, said it was “mixed bag of results” for prosecutors with five acquittals in state or federal court.

“I still think that these were legitimate cases that needed to be brought,” Miles said. “It’s very dangerous for our democracy when there’s these kinds of threats with actual planning, training and scheming.”

After the plot was thwarted, Whitmer blamed then-President Donald Trump, saying he had given “comfort to those who spread fear and hatred and division.” Out of office, Trump called the kidnapping plan a “fake deal” in 2022.


Associated Press writer Joey Cappelletti in Lansing, Michigan, contributed to this report.


Follow Ed White at http://twitter.com/edwritez

UCF wraps up nonconference schedule vs. Villanova

South Florida Local News - Fri, 09/15/2023 - 16:00

UCF, coming off a thrilling win at Boise State last weekend, returns home for a nonconference game Saturday.

Kicker Colton Boomer connected on four field goals, including a walk-off 40-yarder, to keep the Knights undefeated start to the season.

Villanova, a Football Championship Subdivision program, is off to a 2-0 start for the second consecutive season. The Wildcats are looking for the first win over a Football Bowl Subdivision school since defeating Temple in 2018.

“I’m good with playing anybody, to be honest with you,” said UCF coach Gus Malzahn. “We need to play good football and it doesn’t matter who we’re playing. That’s our mindset. It just so happens we’re playing a high-level Division I-AA program with a high-level coach.”

Said fifth-year offensive lineman Lokahi Pauole: “I’m aware that Villanova is an up-and-coming team … We just have to focus on our game and do our thing. They’ve gotten off to a great start this season and I’m glad for them, but we’re ready to play.”

The last time UCF lost to an FCS program was in 2015, a bewildering 16-15 decision to Furman at the Bounce House. Previously, the Knights had won 20 straight against Division II schools.

UCF’s Colton Boomer is confident in his kicking, faith

Coaches: Malzahn, 3rd season at UCF, 20-9 (97-47 overall); Mark Ferrante, 7th season at Villanova, 37-26 (37-26 overall)

Quick slant: This is the second overall meeting between the programs, with UCF knocking off the Wildcats, 35-16, on Sept. 2, 2006, at the Citrus Bowl. Steven Moffet threw three touchdown passes — two to receiver Mike Walker — and Kevin Smith rushed for 86 yards and a score for the Knights. … A win over Villanova would give UCF its first 3-0 start since 2019.

About UCF (2-0, 0-0 Big 12): For the second consecutive week, UCF leads the nation in total offense (626 yards) and rushing offense (323 yards). The Knights also are 36th overall in scoring (37 points). … Receiver Xavier Townsend is third on the team with 192 all-purpose yards (67 rushing, 87 receiving, 5 punt returns, 34 kick returns). … UCF’s defense has allowed just 22 points through the first two games; only 16 teams in the FBS have allowed fewer points, including Georgia (10), Michigan (10) and Ohio State (10).

About Villanova (2-0, 0-0 CAA): Quarterback Connor Watkins became the first Villanova player to throw for at least 300 yards on fewer than 10 completions when he went 8 of 11 for 310 yards with two touchdowns during the Wildcats’ 42-9 win over Colgate last weekend. … Receivers Rayjuon Pringle and Jaylan Sanchez are the team’s top targets, combing for 361 yards on 10 receptions with three touchdowns. … Villanova ranks fourth in the FCS in rushing defense, allowing an average of 55 yards with one touchdown through the first two games.

Here’s hoping UCF’s John Rhys Plumlee — a leader and role model — gets well soon | Commentary

3 things to watch

Timmy time: Backup Timmy McClain takes over starting quarterback duties with John Rhys Plumlee out for several weeks with a leg injury from the Boise State win. The redshirt sophomore appeared in 12 games (nine starts) during his freshman season at USF before transferring to the UCF at the start of the 2022 season. His last career start was against the Knights at FBC Stadium on November 26, 2021.

Turnovers: UCF ranks 116th out of 133 FBS teams in turnover margin (-3) after allowing five turnovers through the first two games. All five turnovers were credited to Plumlee (four interceptions/fumble). The defense, meanwhile, has two interceptions (DeJordan Mask, Corey Thornton) through the first two games.

Red zone efficiency: While UCF features the nation’s top offense, the team has struggled inside the opponent’s 20-yard line, scoring on just 67% (8 of 12) opportunities with seven touchdowns and one field goal. The Knights were 2 of 5 in the red zone at Boise State last week with two interceptions and a turnover on downs. The only missed opportunity in the previous game against Kent State was an interception.

Where: FBC Mortgage Stadium

When: 6:30 p.m.

TV: Big 12 Now on ESPN+; Radio: ESPN FM 98.1/AM 850 WRUF, Sirius/XM 84

Weather: 73 degrees, 23% rain chance

Favorite: N/A

Email Matt Murschel at mmurschel@orlandosentinel.com or follow him on X at @osmattmurschel.

Colombian painter and sculptor Fernando Botero, known for his inflated forms, has died at age 91

South Florida Local News - Fri, 09/15/2023 - 15:39

By MANUEL RUEDA (Associated Press)

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — Renowned Colombian painter and sculptor Fernando Botero, whose depictions of people and objects in plump, exaggerated forms became emblems of Colombian art around the world, has died. He was 91.

Lina Botero told the Colombian radio station Caracol that her father died Friday morning in Monaco of pneumonia complications.

Botero depicted politicians, animals, saints, and scenes from his childhood in an inflated and colorful form that was instantly recognizable. During his lifetime the artist attained global fame and influence, despite his humble origins, and his paintings were exhibited in museums globally, while his imposing bronze sculptures can be found in the parks and avenues of many European and Latin American capitals.

“His success was truly immense” Botero’s son Juan Carlos, wrote in a biography of his father, published in 2010. “Fernando Botero has created a unique style, that is original and easy to recognize.”

Botero’s paintings fetched millions of dollars at international auctions, and the artist was highly esteemed in his native Colombia, not just because of his success abroad, but due to the generous donations he made to his home country, including 23 statues, that are now in a park in downtown Medellin, and have become one of the city’s most visited attractions.

Botero also donated 180 paintings to Colombia’s Central Bank which were used to create the Botero Museum in Bogota. His sculpture of a white, chubby pigeon, standing proudly on a pedestal became an emblem of Colombia’s efforts to make peace with rebel groups and is currently placed in a prominent gallery inside the nation’s presidential palace.

Many Colombians appreciated Botero’s art because it evokes nostalgia for the country as it was in the early 20th century. His characters wear bowler hats, and sport neatly trimmed mustaches. They move around in a colorful universe of green hills and lush trees, where homes are made with clay roof tiles.

“The painter of our traditions and our defects, the painter of our virtues has died,” President Gustavo Petro wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, on Friday. “He painted violence and peace. He painted the pigeon that was rejected one thousand times, and put one thousand times on a throne.”

Botero was born on April 19, 1932 in Medellín, Colombia. As a child he was enrolled by an uncle in a bullfighting school that he soon left, but it was a world captured later in his paintings. Botero decided at age 14 to dedicate his life to the arts, after managing to sell some sketches of bullfights to fans outside the city’s bullfighting arena. His mother supported the decision, but told him he would have to pay for his studies.

As a teenager, Botero participated in a group exhibition in Bogota, and had his first individual exhibition there in 1951. In the following year, he went to Madrid to study at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando.

From Europe, he traveled to Mexico to study the work of Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco.

During his travels, Botero married Gloria Zea, with whom he had three children, Fernando, Lina and Juan Carlos. Returning to Bogotá in 1958, he was appointed professor at the School of Arts of the National University. He later divorced and took up residence in New York in 1960, where he arrived with just a few hundred dollars in his pocket.

In the 1960s Botero began experimenting with the volume of objects and people in his paintings. His original and plump creations attracted the attention of art critics and, by then, the painter had created hundreds of drawings as well as some 1,000 paintings.

Botero remarried in 1964 with Cecilia Zambrano, who he also later divorced. In 1970 they had a son, Pedro, who died four years later in a car accident in Spain. Botero captured the pain of his son’s death in the painting “Pedrito” that depicts his son riding a toy horse and wearing a blue police officer’s uniform. He also donated 16 works to the Museum of Antioquía, in Medellín, to honor the boy and in turn the museum named a room in memory of “Pedrito Botero.”

In the 1970s, Botero put aside painting and began to experiment with sculptures in bronze, marble and cast iron, which brought him great success. In 1978 Botero returned to painting, and then alternated between the two disciplines.

In his paintings, the artists depicted scenes of daily life, such as a family picnic or a party in an early 20th century ballroom. But he also tackled political subjects, like the death of drug dealer Pablo Escobar, or the emergence of rebel groups.

In 1995, his bronze sculpture “The Bird,” weighing more than 1.8 tons and displayed in a park in Medellín, was dynamited by unknown attackers, causing the death of 22 people and injuring more than 200.

In 2005, Botero created a series of 79 paintings that depicted U.S. soldiers torturing Iraqis at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, just a year after the incident came to light. The artist struggled to get the paintings shown in U.S. museums, but they were eventually exhibited at the University of California Berkeley, which still houses some of the paintings.

“I was moved by the hypocrisy of the situation” Botero said of his Abu Ghraib series in a 2007 interview with Semana Magazine. “A country that presents itself to the world as a model of compassion and as a defender of human rights, ended up torturing people in the same prison where Sadam Hussein tortured people.”

Botero said he would paint every day from morning until night, and in absolute silence, so as not to allow anything to distract him.

“Fernando Botero is one of the most disciplined people you can meet. His friends and family affirm that he works every day of every year. For Botero there are no rest dates, no holidays, no weekends,” his son, Juan Carlos Botero, wrote in his book. At Christmas, “he is painting. On his birthday, he is painting. On New Year’s, he is painting.”

His daughter, Lina, told Colombian radio station Blu on Friday that Botero had been working at his studio in Monaco regularly, until last weekend. “He couldn’t work on oil paintings” she explained, because he was too weak to stand and hold larger brushes. “But he was experimenting with water paintings.”

What’s at stake as 13,000 workers go on strike at major US auto makers

South Florida Local News - Fri, 09/15/2023 - 15:39

By TOM KRISHER (AP Auto Writer)

DETROIT (AP) — About 13,000 auto workers have walked off the job at three targeted factories after their union leaders couldn’t reach a deal with Detroit’s automakers.

The United Auto Workers union is seeking big raises and better benefits from General Motors, Ford and Stellantis. They want to get back concessions that the workers made years ago, when the companies were in financial trouble.

A small percentage of the union’s 146,000 members walked off the job at a GM assembly plant in Wentzville, Missouri; a Ford factory in Wayne, Michigan, near Detroit; and a Stellantis Jeep plant in Toledo, Ohio, at 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Thursday.

Shawn Fain, the combative president of the UAW, says the targeted strikes will give the union leverage in contract talks and keep the auto companies guessing about its next move.

It could also make the union’s $825 million strike fund last much longer.

Both sides began exchanging wage and benefit proposals last week. Though some incremental progress appears to have been made — General Motors made a new, richer offer just hours before the strike deadline — it was not enough to avoid walkouts. The strike could cause significant disruptions to auto production in the United States.

Here’s a rundown of the issues standing in the way of new contract agreements and what consumers could face in a prolonged strike:


The union is asking for 36% raises in general pay over four years — a top-scale assembly plant worker gets about $32 an hour now. In addition, the UAW has demanded an end to varying tiers of wages for factory jobs; a 32-hour week with 40 hours of pay; the restoration of traditional defined-benefit pensions for new hires who now receive only 401(k)-style retirement plans; and a return of cost-of-living pay raises, among other benefits.

Perhaps most important to the union is that it be allowed to represent workers at 10 electric vehicle battery factories, most of which are being built by joint ventures between automakers and South Korean battery makers. The union wants those plants to receive top UAW wages. In part that’s because workers who now make components for internal combustion engines will need a place to work as the industry transitions to EVs.

Currently, UAW workers hired after 2007 don’t receive defined-benefit pensions. Their health benefits are also less generous. For years, the union gave up general pay raises and lost cost-of-living wage increases to help the companies control costs. Though top-scale assembly workers earn $32.32 an hour, temporary workers start at just under $17. Still, full-time workers have received profit-sharing checks ranging this year from $9,716 at Ford to $14,760 at Stellantis.

Fain himself has acknowledged that the union’s demands are “audacious.” But he contends that the richly profitable automakers can afford to raise workers’ pay significantly to make up for what the union gave up to help the companies withstand the 2007-2009 financial crisis and the Great Recession.

Over the past decade, the Detroit Three have emerged as robust profit-makers. They’ve collectively posted net income of $164 billion, $20 billion of it this year. The CEOs of all three major automakers earn multiple millions in annual compensation.


The automakers have moved closer to the UAW’s demands on wages, but a big gulf remains.

On Thursday, GM said it boosted its offer to a 20% wage increase, including 10% in the first year, over four years. CEO Mary Barra said in a letter to employees, “We are working with urgency and have proposed yet another increasingly strong offer with the goal of reaching an agreement tonight.”

Ford is also offering a 20% boost in pay. The last known offer from Stellantis (formerly Fiat Chrysler) was 17.5%, but the company has since made another.

Fain has dismissed these proposals as inadequate to protect workers from inflation and reward them for building the vehicles that have made the Detroit Three so profitable.

The companies have rebuffed the union’s demands as too expensive. They say they will spend vast amounts of capital in the coming years to continue to build combustion-engine vehicles while at the same time designing electric vehicles and building battery and assembly plants for the future, and can’t afford to be saddled with significantly higher labor costs.

They also contend that a lavish UAW contract would force up the retail prices of vehicles, pricing Detroit automakers above competitors from Europe and Asia. Outside analysts say that when wages and benefits are included, Detroit Three assembly plant workers now receive around $60 an hour while workers at Asian automaker plants in the U.S. get $40 to $45.


Fain said there will be no negotiations Friday because union leaders will join rank-and-file workers on picket lines.

The union could pick more plants to strike in the coming days, and it all depends on progress — or lack of it — at the bargaining table, the UAW president says.

“If the companies continue to bargain in bad faith or continue to stall or continue to give us insulting offers, then our strike is going to continue to grow,” Fain said. The union’s strategy, he said, “will keep the companies guessing” about how the union might escalate the fight.


Eventually. GM, Ford and Stellantis have been running their factories around the clock to build up supplies on dealer lots. But that’s also putting more money into the pockets of UAW members and strengthening their financial cushions.

At the end of August, the three automakers collectively had enough vehicles to last for 70 days. After that, they would run short. Buyers who need vehicles would likely go to nonunion competitors, who would be able to charge them more.

Vehicles are already scarce when compared with the years before the pandemic, which touched off a global shortage of computer chips that hobbled auto factories.

Sam Fiorani, an analyst with AutoForecast Solutions, a consulting firm, said the automakers had roughly 1.96 million vehicles on hand at the end of July. Before the pandemic, that figure was as high as 4 million.

“A work stoppage of three weeks or more,” Fiorani said, “would quickly drain the excess supply, raising vehicle prices and pushing more sales to non-union brands.”


Yes, if it’s long and especially in the Midwest, where most auto plants are concentrated. The auto industry accounts for about 3% of the U.S. economy’s gross domestic product — its total output of goods and services — and the Detroit automakers represent about half of the total U.S. car market.

If a walkout occurs, workers would receive about $500 a week in strike pay — far short of what they earn while they’re working. As a result, millions of dollars in wages would be removed from the economy.

The automakers would be hurt, too. If a strike against all three companies lasted just 10 days, it would cost them nearly a billion dollars, the Anderson Economic Group has calculated. During a 40-day UAW strike in 2019, GM alone lost $3.6 billion.

The strike could also test President Joe Biden’s claim that he’s the most pro-union president in U.S. history.


It’s hard to say. The companies have plenty of cash on hand to withstand a strike. The union has its $825 million strike fund. But it would be depleted in just under three months if all 146,000 workers were to walk out. That’s where the targeted strikes come in — helping the union stretch its money if the walkout persists into this winter.

The union’s inability to organize U.S. factories run by foreign automakers represents a disadvantage for the union because those companies pay less than Detroit companies do.

But organized labor has been flexing its muscles and winning big contract settlements in other businesses. In its settlement with UPS, for example, the Teamsters won wages for its top-paid drivers of $49 an hour after five years.

So far this year, 247 strikes have occurred involving 341,000 workers — the most since Cornell University began tracking strikes in 2021, though still well below the numbers during the 1970s and 1980s.

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