Florida Voting Restrictions Bill Heads to Legislature

The bill, which was recently softened, still includes measures like a ban on outside groups giving water to voters near polling places, and it would also empower partisan observers during the ballot-counting process.

#absentee-voting, #florida, #law-and-legislation, #presidential-election-of-2020, #state-legislatures, #united-states-politics-and-government, #voter-registration-and-requirements


Ron DeSantis Is the Republican Autopsy

As their theory of how to move past Donald Trump, G.O.P. insiders have the governor of Florida.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #desantis-ron, #elections-governors, #florida, #republican-party, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-politics-and-government


S.U.V. Driver Jumps a Rising Drawbridge in Florida

The Daytona Beach Police Department said the jump, which was captured on video, was the second in the past few weeks.

#bridges-and-tunnels, #daytona-beach-fla, #florida, #motorcycles-motor-bikes-and-motorscooters, #roads-and-traffic, #traffic-accidents-and-safety


SUV Driver Jumps a Rising Drawbridge in Florida [Watch Video]

The Daytona Beach Police Department said the jump, which was captured on video, was the second in the past few weeks.

#bridges-and-tunnels, #daytona-beach-fla, #florida, #motorcycles-motor-bikes-and-motorscooters, #roads-and-traffic, #traffic-accidents-and-safety


Florida Plans to Close Wastewater Reservoir Where Leak Forced Evacuations

A potential deluge of millions of gallons of water from a former phosphate mine had threatened homes south of Tampa.

#department-of-environmental-protection-fla, #desantis-ron, #environment, #florida, #manatee-county-fla, #piney-point-plant-manatee-county-fla, #reservoirs, #waste-materials-and-disposal, #water


Indicted Gaetz Associate Is Said to Be Cooperating With Justice Dept.

Joel Greenberg, a former elected official in Florida, has been talking to federal investigators since last year about the conduct of Representative Matt Gaetz and others.

#florida, #gaetz-matt, #greenberg-joel-1985, #human-trafficking, #justice-department, #mandatory-sentencing, #prostitution, #sex-crimes, #united-states-politics-and-government


Liberals for Ron DeSantis*

*Unwittingly, as usual.

#cbs-news, #democratic-party, #desantis-ron, #florida, #news-and-news-media, #republican-party, #united-states-politics-and-government


‘Like the Tiger King Got Elected Tax Collector’: Inside the Case That Ensnared Matt Gaetz

Joel Greenberg, a onetime local official in Florida, is accused of an array of crimes, including bribery, stalking and corruption.

#corruption-institutional, #ethics-and-official-misconduct, #florida, #gaetz-matt, #greenberg-joel, #justice-department, #republican-party, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-politics-and-government


Turn the Lights Out. Here Come the Birds.

Buildings, landmarks and monuments are turning off lights to prevent fatal impacts as birds set off on spring migration.

#academy-of-natural-sciences, #animal-behavior, #animal-migration, #audubon-society-national, #birds, #canada, #conservation-of-resources, #cornell-lab-of-ornithology, #dallas-tex, #florida, #fort-worth-tex, #lighting, #new-york-city, #windows


Could Ron DeSantis Be Trump’s G.O.P. Heir? He’s Certainly Trying.

Florida’s governor has elbowed his way to the front of the line of 2024 Republican hopefuls by leveraging a brand of “competent Trumpism” (as one ally put it) and hitting back at critics of his pandemic leadership.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #coronavirus-reopenings, #desantis-ron, #florida, #polls-and-public-opinion, #presidential-election-of-2024, #republican-party, #shutdowns-institutional, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-politics-and-government


Woman Who Coughed on Pier 1 Shopper Is Sentenced to 30 Days

Debra Hunter, 53, was seen in a widely circulated video last year coughing on a customer who was recording her dispute with employees at a home-goods store in Jacksonville, Fla.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #coughs, #florida, #jacksonville-fla, #shopping-and-retail, #social-media, #workplace-hazards-and-violations


Matt Gaetz Tells Supporters He Is a Victim of Leaks and Lies

The congressman defended himself in his first major public appearance since a Justice Department inquiry came to light last week.

#ethics-and-official-misconduct, #florida, #gaetz-matt, #greenberg-joel, #house-committee-on-ethics, #house-of-representatives, #justice-department, #sex-crimes, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-politics-and-government, #women-for-america-first


Republicans Take Up Trump’s Fight, Leaving Policymaking Behind

The former president’s instincts for red-meat political fights over governing and policymaking have left party leaders in a state of confusion over what they stand for.

#conservatism-us-politics, #cotton-tom, #florida, #hutchinson-asa, #immigration-and-emigration, #katko-john-1962, #mcconnell-mitch, #republican-party, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-politics-and-government


Indicted Matt Gaetz Associate Is Expected to Plead Guilty, Lawyers Say

The associate could cooperate with prosecutors, giving them information about Mr. Gaetz’s relationships that investigators are examining for possible sex trafficking violations.

#florida, #gaetz-matt, #greenberg-joel, #human-trafficking, #justice-department, #sex-crimes, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-politics-and-government


The Unsung Influence of a Pioneering Food Journalist

Jane Nickerson made Craig Claiborne possible and put the cheeseburger on the map. Her recipe for lime pie is a taste of Florida sunshine.

#claiborne-craig, #cooking-and-cookbooks, #florida, #food, #pies, #recipes


Florida Crisis Highlights a Nationwide Risk From Toxic Ponds

Thousands of open-air waste pools near power plants, mines and industrial farms can pose safety dangers from poor management and, increasingly, the effects of climate change.

#coal, #duke-energy-corporation, #environment, #factory-farming, #floods, #florida, #global-warming, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #hazardous-and-toxic-substances, #mines-and-mining, #regulation-and-deregulation-of-industry, #waste-materials-and-disposal, #water-pollution


Florida Residents Threatened by Reservoir Leak Are Allowed to Return Home

A Manatee County official said that additional pumps and the rerouting of water from an uncontrolled breach had “successfully mitigated” the risk of collapse.

#department-of-environmental-protection-fla, #evacuations-and-evacuees, #florida, #manatee-county-fla, #reservoirs, #water


Florida’s Crisis Highlights a Nationwide Risk From Toxic Ponds

Thousands of open-air waste pools near power plants, mines and industrial farms can pose safety dangers from poor management and, increasingly, the effects of climate change.

#coal, #duke-energy-corporation, #environment, #factory-farming, #floods, #florida, #global-warming, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #hazardous-and-toxic-substances, #mines-and-mining, #regulation-and-deregulation-of-industry, #waste-materials-and-disposal, #water-pollution


How Jamaica failed to handle its JamCOVID scandal

As governments scrambled to lock down their populations after the COVID-19 pandemic was declared last March, some countries had plans underway to reopen. By June, Jamaica became one of the first countries to open its borders.

Tourism represents about one-fifth of Jamaica’s economy. In 2019 alone, four million travelers visited Jamaica, bringing thousands of jobs to its three million residents. But as COVID-19 stretched into the summer, Jamaica’s economy was in free fall, and tourism was its only way back — even if that meant at the expense of public health.

The Jamaican government contracted with Amber Group, a technology company headquartered in Kingston, to build a border entry system allowing residents and travelers back onto the island. The system was named JamCOVID and was rolled out as an app and a website to allow visitors to get screened before they arrive. To cross the border, travelers had to upload a negative COVID-19 test result to JamCOVID before boarding their flight from high-risk countries, including the United States.

Amber Group’s CEO Dushyant Savadia boasted that his company developed JamCOVID in “three days” and that it effectively donated the system to the Jamaican government, which in turn pays Amber Group for additional features and customizations. The rollout appeared to be a success, and Amber Group later secured contracts to roll out its border entry system to at least four other Caribbean islands.

But last month TechCrunch revealed that JamCOVID exposed immigration documents, passport numbers, and COVID-19 lab test results on close to half a million travelers — including many Americans — who visited the island over the past year. Amber Group had set the access to the JamCOVID cloud server to public, allowing anyone to access its data from their web browser.

Whether the data exposure was caused by human error or negligence, it was an embarrassing mistake for a technology company — and, by extension, the Jamaican government — to make.

And that might have been the end of it. Instead, the government’s response became the story.

A trio of security lapses

By the end of the first wave of coronavirus, contact tracing apps were still in their infancy and few governments had plans in place to screen travelers as they arrived at their borders. It was a scramble for governments to build or acquire technology to understand the spread of the virus.

Jamaica was one of a handful of countries using location data to monitor travelers, prompting rights groups to raise concerns about privacy and data protection.

As part of an investigation into a broad range of these COVID-19 apps and services, TechCrunch found that JamCOVID was storing data on an exposed, passwordless server.

This wasn’t the first time TechCrunch found security flaws or exposed data through our reporting. It also was not the first pandemic-related security scare. Israeli spyware maker NSO Group left real location data on an unprotected server that it used for demonstrating its new contact tracing system. Norway was one of the first countries with a contact tracing app, but pulled it after the country’s privacy authority found the continuous tracking of citizens’ location was a privacy risk.

Just as we have with any other story, we contacted who we thought was the server’s owner. We alerted Jamaica’s Ministry of Health to the data exposure on the weekend of February 13. But after we provided specific details of the exposure to ministry spokesperson Stephen Davidson, we did not hear back. Two days later, the data was still exposed.

After we spoke to two American travelers whose data was spilling from the server, we narrowed down the owner of the server to Amber Group. We contacted its chief executive Savadia on February 16, who acknowledged the email but did not comment, and the server was secured about an hour later.

We ran our story that afternoon. After we published, the Jamaican government issued a statement claiming the lapse was “discovered on February 16” and was “immediately rectified,” neither of which were true.

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Instead, the government responded by launching a criminal investigation into whether there was any “unauthorized” access to the unprotected data that led to our first story, which we perceived to be a thinly veiled threat directed at this publication. The government said it had contacted its overseas law enforcement partners.

When reached, a spokesperson for the FBI declined to say whether the Jamaican government had contacted the agency.

Things didn’t get much better for JamCOVID. In the days that followed the first story, the government engaged a cloud and cybersecurity consultant, Escala 24×7, to assess JamCOVID’s security. The results were not disclosed, but the company said it was confident there was “no current vulnerability” in JamCOVID. Amber Group also said that the lapse was a “completely isolated occurrence.”

A week went by and TechCrunch alerted Amber Group to two more security lapses. After the attention from the first report, a security researcher who saw the news of the first lapse found exposed private keys and passwords for JamCOVID’s servers and databases hidden on its website, and a third lapse that spilled quarantine orders for more than half a million travelers.

Amber Group and the government claimed it faced “cyberattacks, hacking and mischievous players.” In reality, the app was just not that secure.

Politically inconvenient

The security lapses come at a politically inconvenient time for the Jamaican government, as it attempts to launch a national identification system, or NIDS, for the second time. NIDS will store biographic data on Jamaican nationals, including their biometrics, such as their fingerprints.

The repeat effort comes two years after the government’s first law was struck down by Jamaica’s High Court as unconstitutional.

Critics have cited the JamCOVID security lapses as a reason to drop the proposed national database. A coalition of privacy and rights groups cited the recent issues with JamCOVID for why a national database is “potentially dangerous for Jamaicans’ privacy and security.” A spokesperson for Jamaica’s opposition party told local media that there “wasn’t much confidence in NIDS in the first place.”

It’s been more than a month since we published the first story and there are many unanswered questions, including how Amber Group secured the contract to build and run JamCOVID, how the cloud server became exposed, and if security testing was conducted before its launch.

TechCrunch emailed both the Jamaican prime minister’s office and Jamaica’s national security minister Matthew Samuda to ask how much, if anything, the government donated or paid to Amber Group to run JamCOVID and what security requirements, if any, were agreed upon for JamCOVID. We did not get a response.

Amber Group also has not said how much it has earned from its government contracts. Amber Group’s Savadia declined to disclose the value of the contracts to one local newspaper. Savadia did not respond to our emails with questions about its contracts.

Following the second security lapse, Jamaica’s opposition party demanded that the prime minister release the contracts that govern the agreement between the government and Amber Group. Prime Minister Andrew Holness said at a press conference that the public “should know” about government contracts but warned “legal hurdles” may prevent disclosure, such as for national security reasons or when “sensitive trade and commercial information” might be disclosed.

That came days after local newspaper The Jamaica Gleaner had a request to obtain contracts revealing the salaries state officials denied by the government under a legal clause that prevents the disclosure of an individual’s private affairs. Critics argue that taxpayers have a right to know how much government officials are paid from public funds.

Jamaica’s opposition party also asked what was done to notify victims.

Government minister Samuda initially downplayed the security lapse, claiming just 700 people were affected. We scoured social media for proof but found nothing. To date, we’ve found no evidence that the Jamaican government ever informed travelers of the security incident — either the hundreds of thousands of affected travelers whose information was exposed, or the 700 people that the government claimed it notified but has not publicly released.

TechCrunch emailed the minister to request a copy of the notice that the government allegedly sent to victims, but we did not receive a response. We also asked Amber Group and Jamaica’s prime minister’s office for comment. We did not hear back.

Many of the victims of the security lapse are from the United States. Neither of the two Americans we spoke to in our first report were notified of the breach.

Spokespeople for the attorneys general of New York and Florida, whose residents’ information was exposed, told TechCrunch that they had not heard from either the Jamaican government or the contractor, despite state laws requiring data breaches to be disclosed.

The reopening of Jamaica’s borders came at a cost. The island saw over a hundred new cases of COVID-19 in the month that followed, the majority arriving from the United States. From June to August, the number of new coronavirus cases went from tens to dozens to hundreds each day.

To date, Jamaica has reported over 39,500 cases and 600 deaths caused by the pandemic.

Prime Minister Holness reflected on the decision to reopen its borders last month in parliament to announce the country’s annual budget. He said the country’s economic decline last was “driven by a massive 70% contraction in our tourist industry.” More than 525,000 travelers — both residents and tourists — have arrived in Jamaica since the borders opened, Holness said, a figure slightly more than the number of travelers’ records found on the exposed JamCOVID server in February.

Holness defended reopening the country’s borders.

“Had we not done this the fall out in tourism revenues would have been 100% instead of 75%, there would be no recovery in employment, our balance of payment deficit would have worsened, overall government revenues would have been threatened, and there would be no argument to be made about spending more,” he said.

Both the Jamaican government and Amber Group benefited from opening the country’s borders. The government wanted to revive its falling economy, and Amber Group enriched its business with fresh government contracts. But neither paid enough attention to cybersecurity, and victims of their negligence deserve to know why.

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#articles, #ceo, #contact-tracing, #contractor, #federal-bureau-of-investigation, #florida, #government, #health, #jamaica, #mass-surveillance, #mobile-applications, #new-york, #norway, #nso-group, #privacy, #securedrop, #security, #social-media, #software, #spokesperson, #technology, #united-states


Virus Variants Threaten to Draw Out the Pandemic, Scientists Say

Declining infection rates over all masked a rise in more contagious forms of the coronavirus. Vaccines will stop the spread, if Americans postpone celebration just a bit longer.

#astrazeneca-plc, #brazil, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #disease-rates, #europe, #florida, #germany, #great-britain, #immune-system, #influenza, #johnsonjohnson, #moderna-inc, #novavax-inc, #oxford-university, #pfizer-inc, #vaccination-and-immunization, #your-feed-science


How Matt Gaetz Got Here

A prominent young Republican and Trump ally faces a head-spinning scandal.

#florida, #gaetz-matt, #human-trafficking, #justice-department, #sex-crimes, #united-states-politics-and-government


The Matt Gaetz Investigation: What We Know

The Justice Department is said to be investigating the congressman’s encounters with women recruited online for sex and whether he had sex with a 17-year-old girl.

#child-abuse-and-neglect, #florida, #gaetz-donald-j, #gaetz-matt, #greenberg-joel, #human-trafficking, #justice-department, #prostitution, #sex-crimes, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-politics-and-government


Justice Dept. Inquiry Into Matt Gaetz Said to Be Focused on Cash Paid to Women

The congressman and a former official in Florida sent money to the women using cash apps, receipts showed.

#florida, #gaetz-donald-j, #gaetz-matt, #greenberg-joel, #human-trafficking, #justice-department, #levinson-robert-a, #presidential-election-of-2020, #seeking-arrangement, #sex-crimes, #united-states-politics-and-government, #women-and-girls


Matt Gaetz Is Said to Be Investigated Over Possible Sexual Relationship With a Girl, 17

An inquiry into the Florida congressman was opened in the final months of the Trump administration, people briefed on it said.

#child-abuse-and-neglect, #florida, #gaetz-matt, #house-of-representatives, #justice-department, #sex-crimes, #stone-roger-j-jr, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-politics-and-government


Google spinoff Cartken and REEF Technologies launch Miami’s first delivery robots

Self-driving and robotics startup Cartken has partnered with REEF Technologies, a startup that operates parking lots and neighborhood hubs, to bring self-driving delivery robots to the streets of downtown Miami.

With this announcement, Cartken officially comes out of stealth mode. The company, founded by ex-Google engineers and colleagues behind the unrequited Bookbot, was formed to develop market-ready tech in self-driving, AI-powered robotics and delivery operations in 2019, but the team has kept operations under wraps until now. This is Cartken’s first large deployment of self-driving robots on sidewalks.

After a few test months, the REEF-branded electric-powered robots are now delivering dinner orders from REEF’s network of delivery-only kitchens to people located within a 3/4-mile radius in downtown Miami. The robots, which are insulated and thus can preserve the heat of a plate of spaghetti or other hot food, are pre-stationed at designated logistics hubs and dispatched with orders for delivery as the food is prepared.

“We want to show how future-forward Miami can be,” Matt Lindenberger, REEF’s chief technology officer, told TechCrunch. “This is a great chance to show off the capabilities of the tech. The combination of us having a big presence in Miami, the fact that there are a lot of challenges around congestion as Covid subsides, still shows a really good environment where we can show how this tech can work.”

Lindenberg said Miami is a great place to start, but it’s just the beginning, with potential for the Cartken robots to be used for REEF’s other last-mile delivery businesses. Currently, only two restaurant delivery robots are operating in Miami, but Lindenberger said the company is planning to expand further into the city and outward into Fort Lauderdale, as well as other large metros the company operates in, such as Dallas, Atlanta, Los Angeles and eventually New York.

Lindenberger is hoping the presence of robots in the streets can act as a “force multiplier” allowing them to scale while maintaining quality of service in a cost-effective way.

“We’re seeing an explosion in deliveries right now in a post-pandemic world and we foresee that to continue, so these types of no-contact, zero-emission automation techniques are really critical,” he said.

Cartken’s robots are powered by a combination of machine learning and rules-based programming to react to every situation that could occur, even if that just means safely stopping and asking for help, Christian Bersch, CEO of Cartken, told TechCrunch. REEF would have supervisors on site to remotely control the robot if needed, a caveat that was included in the 2017 legislation that allowed for the operation of self-driving delivery robots in Florida.

“The technology at the end of the day is very similar to that of a self-driving car,” said Bersch. “The robot is seeing the environment, planning around obstacles like pedestrians or lampposts. If there’s an unknown situation, someone can help the robot out safely because it can stop on a dime. But it’s important to also have that level of autonomy on the robot because it can react in a split second, faster than anybody remotely could, if something happens like someone jumps in front of it.”

REEF marks specific operating areas on the map for the robots and Cartken tweaks the configuration for the city, accounting for specific situations a robot might need to deal with, so that when the robots are given a delivery address, they can make moves and operate like any other delivery driver. Only this driver has an LTE connection and is constantly updating its location so REEF can integrate it into its fleet management capabilities.

Image Credits: REEF/Cartken

Eventually, Lindenberger said, they’re hoping to be able to offer the option for customers to choose robot delivery on the major food delivery platforms REEF works with like Postmates, UberEats, DoorDash or GrubHub. Customers would receive a text when the robot arrives so they could go outside and meet it. However, the tech is not quite there yet.

Currently the robots only make it street-level, and then the food is passed off to a human who delivers it directly to the door, which is a service that most customers prefer. Navigating into an apartment complex and to a customer’s unit is difficult for a robot to manage just yet, and many customers aren’t quite ready to interact directly with a robot. 

“It’s an interim step, but this was a path for us to move forward quickly with the technology without having any other boundaries,” said Lindenberger. “Like with any new tech, you want to take it in steps. So a super important step which we’ve now taken and works very well is the ability to dispatch robots within a certain radius and know that they’re going to arrive there. That in and of itself is a huge step and it allows us to learn what kind of challenges you have in terms of that very last step. Then we can begin to work with Cartken to solve that last piece. It’s a big step just being able to do this automation.”

#artificial-intelligence, #atlanta, #automotive, #cartken, #ceo, #chief-technology-officer, #dallas, #doordash, #driver, #fleet-management, #florida, #food, #google, #grubhub, #los-angeles, #machine-learning, #miami, #new-york, #postmates, #reef-technologies, #robot, #robotics, #self-driving-car, #tc, #transportation


A Boat Snarled Traffic. No, Not That Boat.

The 38-foot boat broke loose from its trailer on Thursday, blocking Florida highway traffic for several hours. While inconvenient, it wasn’t the week’s biggest ship-related bottleneck.

#boats-and-boating, #florida, #traffic-accidents-and-safety


I Survived 18 Years in Solitary Confinement

The harrowing injustice I suffered as a boy should never happen to another child in this country.

#browder-kalief-1993-2015, #children-and-childhood, #eighth-amendment-us-constitution, #equal-justice-initiative, #florida, #juvenile-delinquency, #law-and-legislation, #new-york-state, #post-traumatic-stress-disorder, #prisons-and-prisoners, #solitary-confinement, #state-legislatures, #stevenson-bryan-a-1959, #united-states, #united-states-politics-and-government


How Miami Lifted Covid-19 Restrictions and Then Came the Crackdown

After the city struggled to contain large crowds with its police force, Black leaders questioned the tactics.

#black-people, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #florida, #miami-beach-fla, #police-brutality-misconduct-and-shootings, #travel-and-vacations


SpaceX launches 60 more Starlink satellites, making 240 launched this month alone

SpaceX has added yet more Starlink satellites to its existing constellation on orbit, with a successful delivery of 60 spacecraft this morning from Cape Canaveral in Florida. The mission used a Falcon 9 with a flight-prove booster that served on five previous launches, and a cargo fairing cover made up of two re-used halves from past flights.

This is the fourth Starlink launch in under a month, with prior batches of 60 sent up on March 14, March 11 and March 4, respectively. In total, that means it’s sent up 240 satellites in about three weeks, which is actually around on par with the number satellites than the second-largest commercial constellation operator, Planet, has in space in total.

The stated goal for SpaceX is to have launched 1,500 Starlink satellites in 2020, and given its progress, it looks on track to make that target at the current launch pace. Starlink should eventually grow to include as many as 10,000 or more active satellites in low-Earth orbit, but the near-term goal is to continue expanding geographic coverage of its broadband internet service to additional countries and customers.

Right now, it seems like the beta service rollout is more hardware-constrained on the ground component side, since SpaceX opened up pre-orders to anyone in a geography it services earlier this year. Customers signing up now for the Starlink antenna and modem kit are getting delivery times that extend out to the end of this year, even in areas where service is known to be available and performing well for existing beta users.

Starlink could become a massive revenue driver for SpaceX once it’s fully operational, and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has said the plan is to eventually spin the company out once it’s past the initial infrastructure investment phase and revenues have stabilized. So far, customer seem to be having a positive experience with the network in terms of speed and reliability relative to other rural broadband solutions, but the next big test will come once the network is experience heavy load in terms of customer volume.

#broadband, #ceo, #elon-musk, #falcon-9, #florida, #hyperloop, #outer-space, #space, #spaceflight, #spacex, #starlink, #tc


A List of Recent Mass Shootings in the United States

In the last five years, there have been at least 29 shootings with four or more fatalities, according to a database compiled by the Violence Project.

#annapolis-md, #atlanta-ga, #atlanta-spa-shootings-2021, #aurora-colo, #borderline-bar-and-grill-thousand-oaks-calif-nightclub, #boulder-colo, #capital-gazette, #charleston-sc, #colorado, #dallas-tex, #dayton-ohio, #dayton-ohio-shooting-2019, #deaths-fatalities, #demonstrations-protests-and-riots, #el-paso-tex, #el-paso-tex-shooting-2019, #florida, #fort-lauderdale-fla, #fort-lauderdale-hollywood-international-airport, #gilroy-calif, #gilroy-calif-shooting-2019, #las-vegas-nev, #las-vegas-nev-shooting-october-2017, #louisiana, #mandalay-bay-resort-and-casino, #marjory-stoneman-douglas-high-school-parkland-fla, #maryland, #mass-shootings, #midland-tex, #midland-odessa-tex-shooting-2019, #minnesota, #newtown-conn, #orlando-fla, #parkland-fla, #parkland-fla-shooting-2018, #pittsburgh-pa-shooting-2018, #police-department-dallas-tex, #san-bernardino-calif, #santa-fe-tex, #santa-fe-tex-shooting-2018, #school-shootings-and-armed-attacks, #springfield-mo, #sutherland-springs-tex, #sutherland-springs-tex-shooting-2017, #thousand-oaks-calif, #thousand-oaks-calif-shooting-2018, #tree-of-life-pittsburgh-pa-synagogue, #virginia-beach-va, #virginia-beach-va-shooting-2019, #virginia-polytechnic-institute-and-state-university, #walmart-stores-inc, #workplace-hazards-and-violations


Harris Visits Florida to Sell Stimulus Package in a Republican-Led State

The vice president urged Americans to get vaccinated and promoted programs like food assistance as the administration seeks to build public support amid partisan divisions in Washington.

#american-rescue-plan-2021, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #federal-emergency-management-agency, #florida, #food-banks-and-pantries, #harris-kamala-d, #stimulus-economic, #united-states-politics-and-government, #vaccination-and-immunization


Side raises $150M at $1B valuation to help real estate agents go it alone

Side, a real estate technology company that works to turn agents and independent brokerages into boutique brands and businesses, announced Monday that it has raised $150 million in Series D funding.

Coatue Management led the round, which brings San Francisco-based Side’s valuation to $1 billion and total funding raised to over $200 million since its 2017 inception. Existing backers Matrix Partners, Trinity Ventures and Sapphire Ventures also participated in the new financing.

The round is notable in that the amount raised is significantly higher than the $35 million Side raised in a Series C round in November 2019. Valuation too increased nearly 7x compared to the $150 million valuation at the time of its Series C. Sapphire Ventures led that investment and managing director Paul Levine, who was previously president and COO of Trulia (through its IPO and multibillion-dollar acquisition by Zillow), joined the company’s board of directors at that time.

The startup pulled in between $30 million and $50 million in revenue in 2020, and expects to double revenue this year. In 2019, Side represented over $5 billion in annual home sales across all of its partners. Today, the company’s community of agent partners represents over $15 billion in annual production volume.

Side was founded by Guy Gal, Edward Wu and Hilary Saunders on the premise that most real estate agents are “underserved and underappreciated” by traditional brokerage models.

CEO Gal said existing brokerages are designed to support “average” agents and as such, the top-producing agents end up having to do “all of the heavy lifting.”

Side’s white label model works with agents and teams by exclusively marketing their boutique brand, while also providing the required technology and support needed on the back end. The goal is to help partner agents “predictably grow” their businesses and improve their productivity.

“The way to think about Side is the way you think about what Shopify does for e-commerce…When partnering with Side, top-producing agents, teams and independent brokerages, for the first time in history, gain full ownership of their own brand and business without having to operate a brokerage,” Gal said. “When you spend years solving the problems of this very specific community of agents, you are able to use software to drive enormous efficiency for them in a way that has never been done before.”

Existing brokerages, he argues, actively discourage agents from becoming top producers and teams, because agents who serve fewer clients can be forced into paying much higher commission fees on every transaction, which means the incentives between brokerages and top agents and teams are misaligned.

“Top producers want to grow and differentiate, and brokerages want them to do less business at higher fees and be one more of the same under the same brand,” Gal said. “Side, rather than discouraging and competing with top producing agents and teams, enables them to grow and scale their own business and brand.”

Today, Side supports more than 1,500 partner agents across California, Texas and Florida.

The startup plans to spend its new capital on “significant hiring” and toward an expansion outside of California, Texas and Florida — the three markets in which it currently operates. It also plans to boost its 300-plus headcount by another 200 employees. 

#california, #coatue-management, #florida, #funding, #marketing, #matrix-partners, #real-estate, #real-estate-agents, #real-estate-technology, #recent-funding, #san-francisco, #sapphire-ventures, #side, #startups, #texas, #trinity-ventures, #venture-capital


8 Public Gardens From Across the United States

These eight gardens, located across the country, welcome visitors with a range of beloved blooms, traditional collections and experiential outdoor spaces.

#bronx-nyc, #chicago-botanic-garden, #coral-gables-fla, #dallas-arboretum-and-botanical-garden, #florida, #flowers-and-plants, #longwood-gardens, #new-york-botanical-garden, #pennsylvania, #quarantine-life-and-culture, #states-us, #walking


Canadian Snowbirds Find Refuge in Their Mythical Miami

In this retirement community celebrating all things Florida, Quebec snowbirds hunkered down this winter to ride out the pandemic.

#canada, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #florida, #miami-fla, #montreal-quebec, #quarantine-life-and-culture, #retirement-communities-and-assisted-living, #travel-and-vacations


Virus Partially Shuts Trump’s Florida Club

The club is set to play host to events during the Republican National Committee spring retreat in Florida next month. It has been Mr. Trump’s post-presidency base of operations.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #florida, #internal-essential, #mar-a-lago-palm-beach-fla, #palm-beach-fla, #trump-donald-j


How a Sham Candidate Helped Flip a Florida Election

The candidate and the man who prosecutors say recruited him to play spoiler in a Florida Senate race last year were both arrested this week.

#artiles-frank-1973, #campaign-finance, #elections-state-legislature, #federal-election-commission, #florida, #frauds-and-swindling, #garcia-joe-1963, #republican-party


Biden Nominates Bill Nelson to Lead NASA

Bill Nelson flew on a space shuttle in 1986 and lost re-election for a fourth Senate term in 2018. Some space advocates fear his approach to the agency could take it backward.

#appointments-and-executive-changes, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #florida, #national-aeronautics-and-space-administration, #nelson-bill-1942, #private-spaceflight, #space-and-astronomy, #united-states-politics-and-government


SpaceX nears final assembly of its first massive testing rocket booster for Starship

SpaceX has completed what’s known as the ‘stacking’ of its first Super Heavy prototype, the extremely large next-generation first-stage rocket booster that it will eventually use to propel its Starship spacecraft to orbit and beyond. The Super Heavy Booster is about 220 feet tall – which is roughly the wingspan of a Boeing 747, or a bit taller than the Cinderella Castle at Walt Disney World in Florida.

That’s without Starship on top, which will add around another 160 feet. Super Heavy will undergo its own testing prior to flying with Starship, however, and a lot of that will be focused on assuring its fuel tanks can handle the pressurization and extreme temperatures required for keeping all that ignitable material stable prior to when the engines actually fire.

Super Heavy uses the same engines as Starship — Raptor engines, to be specific, which SpaceX created new for this generation of launch vehicle. The final version will have a total of 28 Raptor engines, but this first prototype will likely be outfitted with far fewer, and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has confirmed that it’ll also remain grounded, as it’s intended to be use only for testing things like build and transportation mechanics.

He did say the next prototype will fly, and while he isn’t always accurate about timelines, the Starship upper stage (i.e., the one that looks like a big grain silo with fins) is progressing quickly in its development, including with a recent test flight that ended with a near-perfect landing — minus the subsequent explosion that took out the prototype rocket entirely a few minutes after it had touched down successfully.

Musk clearly wants to move fast with Starship and Super Heavy, in part because of ambitious goals it has of serving as a provider to NASA for future human lunar landing missions as part of the Artemis program, and also because it’s still planning to fly the first commercial tourist flight of a Starship in just two short years in 2023.

#aerospace, #ceo, #elon-musk, #florida, #outer-space, #space, #spacecraft, #spaceflight, #spacex, #spacex-starship, #starship, #super-heavy, #tc, #transportation, #walt-disney-world


Florida Finds Election Fraud in High School Homecoming Votes

A student and her mother were arrested after the authorities found more than 100 votes suspiciously cast from a single school login.

#education-k-12, #emily-grover, #florida, #identity-theft, #laura-carroll, #school-discipline-students


‘I’d Much Rather Be in Florida’

Floridians are out and about and pandemic restrictions have been lifted. There’s just one problem: The virus never went away.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #coronavirus-reopenings, #desantis-ron, #florida, #miami-fla, #miami-beach-fla, #travel-and-vacations


Your Daylight Saving Time Questions Answered

A group of U.S. senators has joined the ranks of those who want to abolish daylight saving time, which has roots in cost-cutting strategies of the late 19th century.

#arizona, #daylight-saving-time, #electric-light-and-power, #florida, #hawaii, #railroads, #states-us, #united-states-chamber-of-commerce


Despite Pandemic, 300,000 Expected at Daytona Beach Bike Week

Bike Week typically draws a half-million people to the Daytona Beach area, but a smaller crowd is expected this year. Still, some worry that it could be a superspreader event.

#bike-week, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #daytona-beach-fla, #festivals, #florida, #masks, #motorcycles-motor-bikes-and-motorscooters, #volusia-county-fla


SpaceX launches 60 new Starlink satellites just one week after the last batch

SpaceX now has 60 more Starlink satellites in orbit – it launched its latest full complement of the internet broadband spacecraft early this morning from Cape Canaveral in Florida. Just last Thursday, SpaceX launched its last batch of 60, and this past week it also confirmed that it’s expanding its beta of the Starlink internet service to additional markets around the world, including Germany and New Zealand.

This is the 21st Starlink launch overall, and the sixth this year, with as many as three more launches tentatively planned for later this month, weather and schedule permitting. The simple reason it’s pursuing such an aggressive launch pace is that the more satellites it adds to its constellation in low-Earth orbit, the more customers it can sign up and serve. Starlink is currently in beta, but it’s now open to anyone to sign up depending on geography, with SpaceX taking a deposit and offering a rough timeline on projected availability.

So far, Starlink service is open to people in the U.S., Canada, the UK, Germany and New Zealand, but the plan is to achieve “near global coverage of the populated world” by the end of this year. Adding satellites to the constellation not only helps expand geographic reach, but also improves network performance. SpaceX says that currently, the beta should provide speeds ranging from 50Mb/s to 150Mb/s, with latency falling between 20ms to 40ms, but that both of those metrics should improve over the coming months as more spacecraft join the network, and as SpaceX rolls out additional ground stations.

Already, there are anecdotal reports that Starlink’s service bests the competition in rural and hard-to-reach areas where ground infrastructure for alternative services like cellular internet, or legacy satellite from geosynchronous spacecraft-based networks have been disappointing.

This launch also included a successful controlled landing of the booster used to propel the Falcon 9 rocket that carried the Starlink satellites to orbit. SpaceX landed the first stage, which flew previously on five missions, including SpaceX’s first human spaceflight mission, back at its autonomous drone landing ship in the Atlantic Ocean.

#aerospace, #broadband, #canada, #falcon, #falcon-9, #florida, #germany, #internet-service, #internet-service-providers, #new-zealand, #outer-space, #satellite, #space, #spacecraft, #spaceflight, #spacex, #starlink, #tc, #united-kingdom, #united-states


A Family’s Search for Answers: Did Their Brother Die of Covid?

When a healthy 41-year-old died a year ago, an autopsy blamed heart disease. But his family wants to know if the coronavirus was lurking before anyone realized it.

#autopsies, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #deaths-fatalities, #florida, #miami-beach-fla


A Vexing Question for Democrats: What Drives Latino Men to Republicans?

Several voters said values like individual responsibility and providing for one’s family, and a desire for lower taxes and financial stability, led them to reject a party embraced by their parents.

#arizona, #democratic-party, #florida, #hispanic-americans, #race-and-ethnicity, #texas, #trump-donald-j, #voting-and-voters


Two Oscar Contenders to Stream

“A Concerto Is a Conversation” and “Hysterical Girl” are among 10 shortlisted films in the Best Documentary Short Subject category.

#academy-awards-oscars, #classical-music, #documentary-films-and-programs, #duvernay-ava, #florida, #freud-sigmund, #hollywood-calif


CPAC Day 1: Ron DeSantis, Rick Scott and Ted Cruz to Headline

Day 1 of the Conservative Political Action Conference will include speeches from Senators Tom Cotton, Ted Cruz, Rick Scott and others. Here’s what to expect.

#conservatism-us-politics, #conservative-political-action-conference, #cotton-tom, #cruz-ted, #desantis-ron, #florida, #haley-nikki-r, #hawley-josh-d-1979, #trump-donald-j


Blue Origin pushes New Glenn orbital rocket’s first flight to Q4 2022

Jeff Bezos’ space company Blue Origin published an updated timeline for the first flight of New Glenn, the orbital rocket it’s building to complement its existing New Shepard suborbital space launch vehicle. The company is now targeting Q4 2022 – a slippage of roughly a year from the prior stated timeline of sometime towards the end of 2021. The main cause, per Blue Origin? Space Force passing on using New Glenn to launch national security payloads during a recent contract bid process.

Blue Origin said in a blog post that the “schedule has been refined to match the demand of Blue Origin’s commercial customers,” and specifically says it “follows the recent Space Force decision to not select New Glenn for the National Security Space Launch (NSSL) Phase 2 Launch Services Procurement (LSP).” Those awards were announced last August, and the two winners were the United Launch Alliance (ULA) and SpaceX, who prevailed over Blue Origin, and also Northrop Grumman. The launch service contracts that make up the awards begin in 2022, so it makes sense why Blue Origin had been pushing for a first launch of New Glenn by the end of this year in order to meet the needs of Space Force.

While it may not be under the same time pressure without access to those contracts, it’s still making “major progress” towards New Glenn and the facilities at Cape Canaveral in Florida from which it’ll launch, according to the company. Blue Origin shared tweets showing off some of its progress, including work on the New Glenn rocket factory, testing facility and Launch Complex 36. It also said it’s put more than $2.5 billion into the facilities and infrastructure that will support its eventual launches.

#aerospace, #blue-origin, #florida, #jeff-bezos, #new-shepard, #northrop-grumman, #outer-space, #science, #space, #space-force, #space-tourism, #spaceflight, #spacex, #tc, #united-launch-alliance


Manatees May Carry Half a Million Microscopic Hitchhikers

Unexpected species of nematodes, some of them new to science, were found living on the skin of the marine mammals.

#florida, #manatees, #microbiology, #research, #scientific-reports-journal, #skin, #worms, #your-feed-animals, #your-feed-science


The Retired Boys of Summer Play On

Senior softball leagues remain an essential lifeline for many retirees. I would know: My 83-year-old father is playing through the pandemic.

#baseball, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #florida, #softball