Throw Away The Key — Found Guilty for 96 Million Robocalls

A Miami man accused of flooding consumers with 96 million phone calls touting fake travel deals faces a record proposed $120 million fine from federal regulators, who said he operated the worst robocall spoofing effort they had seen.

Adrian Abramovich tried to trick consumers into answering and listening to his advertising messages, the Federal Communications Commission said in a news release Thursday. The pace of calls works out to an average of more than 1 million per day…

Calls appeared to come from local numbers, but those who answered were prompted to “Press 1” to hear about vacation deals, according to the FCC. If they did, consumers were connected to call centers not affiliated with companies mentioned in messages, such as Expedia Inc., TripAdvisor Inc., Marriott International Inc. and Hilton Worldwide Holdings…

Consumers who did “press 1″…ultimately connected Americans to call centers in Mexico that usually attempted to fleece innocent consumers out of their hard-earned money by promising too-good-to-be-true vacation deals,” Adam Medros, a senior vice president at TripAdvisor, said in an emailed statement. The company said it worked closely with the FCC to investigate after its customers called to complain.

Like the headline says, THROW AWAY THE KEY – after you take back all the money he stole plus penalties.

Florida city employee rang up $93K on city credit cards to get butt lift – among other frauds

❝ An investigative report…shows a former city of Gainesville employee, accused of stealing more than $93,000 from the city, spent some of it on a Brazilian butt lift.

The report found that former city staff specialist Natwaina Clark, 33, charged her city-issued credit card 136 times for roughly $61,000 in unauthorized charges, used her bosses’ cards at least 36 more times for an additional $31,000, and spent nearly $900 on a coworker’s card five times between November 2015 and March 2017.

The report also finds department heads acted negligently, allowing city funds to be misspent.

❝ Documents attached to the report show Clark, who was hired in August 2015, funneled roughly $41,000 to her personal PayPal account, linked to her bank account, and that $8,500 of it went toward a Brazilian butt lift. The cosmetic surgery procedure uses fat from one part of the body to augment one’s buttocks…

Clark, whose salary was $33,500, was fired from the city March 21, while on a cruise-ship vacation, the report said. She was arrested March 28 and charged with larceny and scheme to defraud, both felonies…

❝ The city report found the city’s human resources department failed to properly execute the city’s employee background screening and didn’t advise the hiring department about concerns in Clark’s history, allowing her to be hired.

Har. Turns out the HR Department didn’t really do their homework about Clark being busted for similar crimes in another county. Didn’t tell folks in the department where she was hired of any concerns.

Researchers find more new invasive tropical mosquitoes in Florida

❝ Two more tropical disease-carrying mosquitoes have been found on the U.S. mainland for the first time, caught in traps near Florida’s Everglades.

The scientists involved say this could raise the risk of mosquito-borne viruses reaching people and birds, but health officials say it’s too early to sound an alarm.

Think they’d keep their jobs if they raised an alarm with a thug like Scott as governor?

❝ The new arrivals from Latin America and the Caribbean — Culex panocossa and Aedeomyia squamipennis — were trapped in October in rural areas bordering Everglades National Park by University of Florida…entomologist Nathan Burkett-Cadena and…researcher Erik Blosser…

❝ In the traps, they discovered that native species were crowded out by thousands of Culex panocossa mosquitoes and hundreds of Aedeomyia squamipennis mosquitoes.

Both species can be found on a few Caribbean islands as well as from Mexico into South America. They lay their eggs on water lettuce — invasive weeds that float in the canals, drainage ditches and other waterways crisscrossing Florida neighborhoods.

“‘Hundreds’ is substantial, particularly when you get a hundred from a single trap. This is not a single specimen that blew in from a storm — this is a reproducing species,” Burkett-Cadena said.

❝ About 15 invasive mosquitoes now live in Florida, including nine that have arrived in the last decade. One, Aedes aegypti, is blamed for spreading the Zika virus, along with dengue fever and chikungunya.

The new arrivals are another sign that climate change, along with increased tourism and global trade, has made Florida more hospitable to exotic species, Burkett-Cadena said.

Populistus teabagocrap isn’t an exotic species in any of the Old Confederate states. Top it off with a governor from the latest generation of neo-con Republican and you won’t find any attention paid to potential disasters which reflect climate change. Rick Scott made a career from profiteering from the sick and poor. Then, he turned to politics and didn’t change a beat in his anti-science bongo solos.

This Burmese Python was caught with remains of 3 deer in its gut – not in Burma; but, Florida

bobby-hill-and-friend
Click to enlargeWater District agent, Bobby Hill, with that 14 foot python

❝ Normally, what a snake eats for breakfast isn’t worth a headline. But this is no normal snake. And this was no normal meal.

The Burmese python is a massive snake native to Southeast Asia that arrived in South Florida in the 1980s, possibly released into the wild by careless pet owners. There are now as many as 300,000 of these invasive creatures slithering through the state, and they’ve been known to eat alligators, bobcats, rabbits, and birds.

❝ Now scientists have discovered that Burmese pythons — which can reach 18 feet in length and swallow a bobcat whole — are even more ravenous than they realized. In a new paper in Bioinvasions Records, a team of researchers describe slitting open the intestine of a dead 14-foot python and finding the remains of three different white-tailed deer. The snake appears to have gobbled them up, an adult and two fawns, in just 90 days.

❝ The implications are disturbing. “If this was just one snake that ate three deer in isolation, that’d be one thing” says Scott Boback, a biologist at Dickinson College and lead author of the study. But the incident comes alongside growing evidence that the Burmese pythons are ravaging native wildlife in South Florida’s Everglades. “When you put that all together, you’ve got to say, okay, something serious is going on here.”…

❝ However it happened, the notion that pythons may be gobbling up lots and lots of white-tailed deer is troubling. For one, deer are a major revenue source in South Florida, thanks to the sale of hunting licenses. There are also ecological implications — the elimination of deer could rearrange the region’s ecosystem in unpredictable ways.

But what’s even more worrisome, says Boback, is that it suggests there’s little limit to what pythons can devour. “They’re eating pretty much every vertebrate in the Everglades,” he says. “They’re basically taking all that diverse biomass and replacing it with python biomass. And we’ve seen this story before.”

❝ One huge worry is that the Everglades will see a repeat of what happened in Guam…

During World War II, heavy ship traffic brought the non-native brown tree snake to the island. There had never been a snake species on that island before, and the local birds had no idea how to evade it. In the decades since, 12 native bird species have gone extinct.

❝ …South Florida is struggling to figure out how to respond…The biggest challenge…is that Everglades National Park is so vast, stretching hundreds of miles across, and the pythons can easily hide in the park’s endless sea of grass. The snakes are rarely ever spotted unless they happen to cross over roads. “Roads are really the only place we can reliably detect them,” says Boback.

Back to the conventional wisdom that people are either ignorant or stupid. In the case of any invasive species everyone always pleads ignorant about what might happen when they release their old pet who got too big for apartment living. Not looking around for information in the age of the Internet – is stupid.

Sinkhole sucks millions of gallons of fertilizer wastewater into Florida drinking water


Click to enlargeJim Damaske/AP

The hole in the middle of that now-empty pond is 45 feet in diameter

❝ More than 200 million gallons of contaminated wastewater from a fertilizer plant in central Florida leaked into one of the state’s main underground sources of drinking water after a huge sinkhole opened up beneath a storage pond…

Mosaic, the world’s largest supplier of phosphate, said the hole opened up beneath a pile of waste material called a “gypsum stack”. The 215 million gallon storage pond sat atop the waste mineral pile…

“Groundwater moves very slowly,” said David Jellerson, Mosaic’s senior director for environmental and phosphate projects. “There’s absolutely nobody at risk.”…

Does that mean he’s drinking water from a local source — every day?

❝ The sinkhole, discovered by a worker on 27 August, is believed to reach down to the Floridan aquifer, the company said in a news release…

The Floridan aquifer is a major source of drinking water in the state. One of the highest-producing aquifers in the world, it underlies all of Florida and extends into southern Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina.

According to the University of Florida, it’s the principal source of groundwater for much of the state, and the cities of Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Gainesville, Orlando, Daytona Beach, Tampa, and St Petersburg all rely on it. The aquifer also supplies water to thousands of domestic, industrial and irrigation wells throughout the state…

❝ The incident comes less than a year after Mosaic, one of the world’s largest fertilizer makers, settled a vast federal environmental lawsuit with the US Environmental Protection Agency in which the company agreed to nearly $2 billion in fixes, improvements and cleanups at its plants…

The usual lies will continue from free market politicians and libertarians who hold that voluntary policing, self-regulation is all that corporate exploiters ever need. That lawsuit after lawsuit is required on an annual basis to acquire any level of environmental safety and sanity doesn’t seem to dent the myths that insulate conservative brains from reality.

Tiny rocket company targets 100 launches a year

Preparing for launch
Preparing for launch

Alone in the Mojave desert, the tiny rocket stood barely as tall as a basketball goal backboard. Launch control was a laptop inside a nearby bunker, and the small gathering of aerospace engineers and investors seemed almost like a rocket hobby club as it watched the vehicle soar to about 5,000 feet before parachuting back to Earth. But this scene may have represented something much more than that. With its small-scale test Saturday, the company Vector Space Systems took another step toward upending the rapidly expanding small satellite launch market.

…Within about five years Vector intends to launch as many as 100 of its 13-meter-tall Wolverine vehicles annually, with a capability to put a 50kg satellite into low-Earth orbit. The company aims to fill a niche below the current generation of launchers being developed by companies such as RocketLab and Virgin Galactic, with rockets capable of delivering 200 to 250kg satellites to low-Earth orbit.

So far, it seems like a good bet. On Tuesday morning, Vector announced that it has acquired its first customer, Finnish-based Iceye, to conduct 21 launches of the company’s commercial synthetic aperture radar satellite constellation. “Getting your satellite into orbit is one of the biggest challenges for new-space companies, but there just isn’t the launch capacity right now,” Iceye Chief Executive Rafal Modrzewski said in a news release.

The two companies are already working together. According to Jim Cantrell, chief executive of Vector Space Systems, Saturday’s test flight in Mojave, California, carried a prototype of an Iceye microsatellite core computing and communications systems to see if it would survive launch conditions (it did). Vector’s sub-scale launcher, named the P-20, also tested some prototype upper stage engines…

Vector remains on track for its first orbital launch in 2018, Cantrell said, and the company aims to increase the launch cadence to about 100 vehicles per year by 2020 or 2021. Perhaps the biggest issue is range constraints — making sure the company has clearance from launch site officials. While Vector may do some launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, it will primarily operate from Alaska, which has a much less crowded range. That works out well, Cantrell said, because many of the polar orbits desired by customers are easier to reach from northern latitude launch sites.

Good luck, gang. No need to rely on being the biggest to be profitable.

Any good reasons why Florida hasn’t allowed in the CDC’s emergency response team to fight Zika?


Reuters/Paulo Whitaker/file photo

The state of Florida, the first to report the arrival of Zika in the continental United States, has yet to invite a dedicated team of the federal government’s disease hunters to assist with the investigation on the ground, health officials told Reuters.

Coordination with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention since the state reported possible local Zika transmission on July 19 has been conducted largely at a distance, they said. That is surprising to some infectious disease experts, who say a less robust response could lead to a higher number of infections.

While Florida has a strong record of battling limited outbreaks of similar mosquito-borne viruses, including dengue and chikungunya, the risk of birth defects caused by Zika adds greater urgency to containing its spread with every available means, they say. Other states have quickly called in CDC teams to help track high-profile diseases.

You only have a small window. This is the window” to prevent a small-scale outbreak from spreading, said Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine…who expressed impatience with the pace of the Florida investigation.

Florida on Friday said that four cases of Zika in the state were likely caused by mosquito, the first sign that the virus is circulating locally, though it has yet to identify mosquitoes carrying the disease.

Florida Governor Rick Scott said the state health department was working with the CDC as it continues its Zika investigation…Dr Marc Fischer, a CDC epidemiologist, has gone to Florida at the state’s request.

But the state has not invited in the CDC’s wider emergency response team of experts in epidemiology, risk communication, vector control and logistics…

CDC spokesman Tom Skinner said the agency has several teams ready for when states request help with Zika, including Florida…

“Florida does what Florida does,” said one public health expert familiar with the investigation. “If I were health commissioner, I would have asked for their (CDC’s) help immediately.”

Still Floriduh, ain’t it. Even more so with Rick Scott in charge.

When will police departments stop using cheapo drug tests that give false positives?


Mr. Rushing buys a doughnut every other weekOrlando Sentinel

Daniel Rushing probably won’t be eating Krispy Kreme doughnuts in his car any more.

The 64-year-old was arrested on drug charges when Orlando police officers spotted four tiny flakes of glaze on his floorboard and thought they were pieces of crystal methamphetamine…

Cpl. Shelby Riggs-Hopkins wrote in an arrest report that during a traffic stop on 11 December she noticed the flakes on the floorboard. Two roadside drug tests were positive for the illegal substance and Rushing was arrested. But a state crime laboratory test cleared him several weeks later.

“It was incredible,” Rushing said. “It feels scary when you haven’t done anything wrong and get arrested … It’s just a terrible feeling.”

It started on a Friday afternoon when Rushing dropped off a neighbor at a hospital for a weekly chemotherapy session. Then, he drove to a convenience store to pick up a friend who needed a ride home.

Riggs-Hopkins said she was staking out the area for drug activity. Rushing told her he had a concealed weapons permit, according to an arrest report. She asked him to step out of his car and noticed a “rock like substance” on the floorboard.

“I recognized through my eleven years of training and experience as a law enforcement officer the substance to be some sort of narcotic,” she wrote…

Uh-huh.

Riggs-Hopkins and other officers spotted three other pieces of the substance.

“I kept telling them, ‘That’s … glaze from a doughnut,” Rushing said.

He was charged with possession of methamphetamine with a firearm and spent 10 hours in jail before being released on bond.

The Florida’s law enforcement department told the newspaper that an analyst in its Orlando crime lab did not try to identify what police found in the car, only to determine whether it was an illegal drug. They determined it was not and three days after Rushing’s arrest the state attorney’s office dropped the charges.

Mr. Rushing is going to sue the city. The coppers – of course – say the bust was lawful. Going by the book is sufficient as far as they’re concerned.

I think he should sue them for stupid. And probably for cheap. For using a test that gives false positives for doughnuts.

Thanks, Honeyman

Florida just flushed its collective toilet onto the beaches


Water sample at Fort Myers beachCheryl Cagle Jones

Just in time for tourist season, both of Florida’s coasts are being flooded by dark, polluted water that’s killing ocean creatures and turning away would-be swimmers, fishermen, and other visitors.

Last month was South Florida’s wettest January since 1932. Because of the heavy rain, the water levels in Lake Okeechobee in central Florida rose to about a foot above what’s normal for this season. On top of that, water managers began to pump dirty water from flooded farms into the lake, adding more pollution to a body of water that already contains fertilizers and other chemicals from the state’s cattle and sugar industries.

At the same time, officials began to worry that the rising lake waters would put stress on its aging dike, so they decided to drain the lake toward the east and west coasts. Some 70,000 gallons per second flowed into the St. Lucie River and the Caloosahatchee River all the way through to the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. And as the toxic runoff spreads, it’s threatening sea grasses and oyster beds and is adding to harmful algae growth.

Now the tourism industry and small businesses on the coasts are worried that they’re going to see their business slump as a result of the pollution. Local politicians are calling on Governor Rick Scott to declare a state of emergency, and mayors are traveling to Washington, D.C. to demand action from Congress and the Army Corps of Engineers…

According to David Guest, managing attorney of the Florida branch of the environmental law group Earthjustice, the pollution is not going to end any time soon…The lake is basically a toilet,” Guest says. Florida’s powerful sugar industry has stood in the way of the state purchasing land south of the lake that could be used to build a waterway to direct dirty water to the Everglades, cleansing it along the way.

Enjoy your Spring Break, gang. Let us know how if the beaches in Florida smell as bad as the state politics.