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News Bites: Firing Back at the NRA; Safeguarding Democracy

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Without question, the year’s biggest political story so far has been the mass movement of student activism led by the senior class of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who used the tragedy they endured last Feb. 14 to catalyze American youth to a degree unseen since the 1960s. Their efforts are centralized around the March For Our Lives: Road to Change tour, which is making its way around the nation, mobilizing a new generation of voters for midterm action and beyond, and galvanizing resistance to the focal point of their teenaged angst.

The NRA, which is the premier lobbying group for multinational arms traffickers in the known universe, and influence-peddlers nonpareil, has never seen any challenge to its political power—not even the RICO statutes—but these kids have them shook like Bisquick, and it’s truly a joy to behold. And it was beheld bigly as the tour rolled through Jacksonville, with a rally at The Landing on July 27, followed by another at UNF later that day. It was the second stop that found Kevin Beaugrand onsite, working a man-on-the-street gimmick for UNF’s student newspaper, The Spinnaker.

Colleague Hunter Horstmann held the camera as Beaugrand (who covered the Downtown event, in an article co-written with Aisling Glocke, and who plays bass in the band Sidereal) chatted up a handful of subdued youths before the event. Their views skewed sympathetic to the cause, as one would expect. The actual event came off smoothly and, overall, it was a lively night of networking and education for the budding pols of Osprey Nation (or, as we like to call it, the “Di-Osprey-a”—you’re welcome).


As America proceeds toward the denouement of this year’s epochal midterm election cycle, Floridians are preparing for the primary balloting, which concludes on Tuesday, Aug. 28. The candidates are at peak performance, the soft-money is flowing like water in a Bruce Lee metaphor, and even the president is gearing up for a full schedule of campaign stops that are sure to prove consistently counterproductive for his candidates of choice. While the actual politicians are doing their thing, there is an army of public servants laboring to ensure the mechanics of our electoral system are greased up and ready for action, much like the motor of a Harley Davidson.

Election security is a hot topic, due to the Russia investigation(s) focusing on election(s) tampering, so cities nationwide are trying to tighten up the security of their electronic voting systems. A few forward-thinking elections supervisors are going beyond that, in anticipation of God-knows-what. An article by Jared Keever in the July 29 St. Augustine Record looks at efforts being made to shore up security in St. Johns County, which recently received about $120,000 out of the $19 million provided by the federal government to increase security in all of Florida’s 67 counties, which could use it.

Keever writes: “The indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officers for hacking into the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign included allegations that an email account sent more than 100 ‘spearphishing’ emails with malware to infect host computers in several unnamed Florida counties.” Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner smartly refrained from naming those unnamed counties, but specified that the money was earmarked for “cybersecurity,” which he defines as “preventing any access, breach, hack or however you want to define it, of our election system.”

Well, good luck with that. Vicky Oakes, the Supervisor of Elections for St. Johns County, actually requested $189,000, but had to settle for $120,000 to cover their most immediate needs; the specifics of how it will be used are a Sunshine State secret, but “Oakes did say her office has already upgraded hardware, software and firewalls as well as a layer of ‘two-factor authentication’ and an ‘Albert server’ which monitors all traffic in and out of the office’s network.” It’s worth noting that state officials initially said they wouldn’t take any money at all, but they were overruled by Gov. Rick Scott—which is ironic, given that he would presumably benefit from any shenanigans that were to occur. Good for him!

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