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THE MAIL: Protect Florida Small Businesses from COVID-19 Litigation

Whether you realize it or not, small businesses are what define a community. They tie us to our neighbors, put money into the economy, and create jobs. It’s a shame that there are people in our great, sunny state that let their own greed lead them to destroy our small business communities.

Since late February, trial lawyers across the state have been finding ways to turn the coronavirus into a plethora of lawsuits – many of which are targeting small businesses. It doesn’t matter if you’re the hardest working, rule-following small business owner in the state. If there’s a loophole or an opportunity to file a frivolous lawsuit, they’ll do it.

I fear that given the state of the economy and all the devastation we’ve seen that our small businesses will not survive a wave of COVID-19 lawsuits. Over 90 percent agree with me that now is not the time to sue. That’s why I’m writing today to urge our lawmakers to put proper protections in place to avoid this impending catastrophe. It’s what’s best for the economy, our community and our people.

Raymond Johnson Sr.

Former U.S. Army retired, Owner and operator Raymond’s Auto Transport

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ALPHABET SOUP Edition

A GHOST IN THE CROWD
On Feb. 10, 2017, a white Nashville police officer fatally shot 31-year-old Jocques Clemmons, a black man, once in the hip and twice in the back, after he ran a stop sign. The officer was never charged, sparking outrage and protests for months. In December, while compiling its annual In Memoriam issue, Nashville Scene made a chilling discovery in its archives: an unpublished 2009 interview with Clemmons for a now-defunct feature called “Face in the Crowd.”

In the interview, which reportedly was never published, the then-23-year-old Clemmons, who was helping his grandparents at a farmers market that day, remarked on how he viewed the recent inauguration of Barack Obama as an example of Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream being fulfilled, talked about the minutiae of his young life, playing high school football, his favorite fast-food spot. He also shared an insight he’d learned: “A fool is as bad as his wisdom, so one thing I would teach,” he said, “use caution and judgment with everybody, and keep your head up and thank the Lord for everything.”
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BUT IT’S JUST GAS
In a move that makes one wonder if New Mexico is trying to mimic Old Mexico, the state’s environmental department is taking heat over its proposed revision to the permit approval process for building oil and gas facilities. Weekly Alibi writes that environmentalists say the proposed regulations would “make the state’s air quality standards some of the worst in the country.”

The New Mexico Environmental Department defended the proposal, saying it combines two existing permit processes and removes outdated language. But environmentalists were having nunya, clapping back by reiterating criticisms of the oil and gas air quality standards, noting that it would eliminate any limit on methane gas releases and allowed only four days for public comment. To which the NMED was like, oh, jk, you can comment all month.
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CRAFTING A CO-OP
Well, Worcester, Massachusetts might also be out of the running to give all their tax dollars to a billion—we mean, be the site of Amazon HQ2—but they’ve got something Northeast Florida ain’t got as far as we know: their very first community-owned brewery. Worcester Magazine reports that 3cross Brewing Company, which opened as a private company in 2014, announced on Jan. 9 it was converting to a cooperative ownership structure and becoming the state’s first community-owned brewery.

The brewery, which is changing its name to 3cross Fermentation Cooperative, will be owned by workers and consumers, the latter being sold memberships for a one-time fee of $150 starting Jan. 26. Thereafter, the business’s direction will be determined democratically—one vote/member. “From the outset,” said founder Dave Howland, “I really wanted 3cross to be very much a community-focused venture. Opening ownership to anyone in the community really reinforces that, I think.” We think so, too.
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DISASTER EVERYWHERE HE WENT
Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton is one of the targets of activists determined to influence government by sharing their thoughts with their representatives. Well, Cotton prefers his constituents laudatory and docile, not critical and agitated. And he’s cotton-pickin’ going to do something about it!

The junior senator reportedly sent a letter to numerous citizens warning them to “cease and desist” all communications with his office, according to Arkansas Times. Several members of Ozark Indivisible were reportedly sent such letters, possibly due to their unwillingness to grin and bear Cotton’s tomfoolery, which includes denying anyone in the White House has evah used the word “shithole,” holding up a dying woman’s ambassadorial appointment to “inflict special pain” on then-President Barack Obama, undermining foreign policy by spearheading a letter from 47 senators to the Iranian government during negotiations for a nuclear deal, and screwing his own people by being the ONLY Arkansas House Republican to vote against a farm bill in 2014. He makes Marco Rubio sound like un hombre del pueblo (a man of the people).

MURDER … THE INTERNATIONAL LANGUAGE!

Not to be confused with “gelato,” the Italian term “giallo” designates a specific type of cinematic treat – namely, Italian slasher films. Some film historians credit a specific sequence with a knife in Mario Bava’s Black Sabbath (1963) as the origin of the species. Quibbles aside, the sub-genre flourished in the ’60s and ’70s, its most distinguished practitioners including Bava and Dario Argento.

Most agree one of the best of the “giallo” films is Massimo Dallamano’s What Have You Done to Solange? (1972), which genre fans will be delighted to hear is getting a full 4K Blu-ray restoration in December, just in time for Christmas. Anticipating the yuletide treat, I decided to revisit the film in its current DVD format, which isn’t bad at all.

With a mostly Italian cast, the movie was filmed in London with all the actors speaking English, heavy accents and all, their voices then dubbed with surprisingly good results. The plot is pure “giallo,” with lovely girls (in various degrees of undress) pursued by an unknown killer with sharp instruments. Beautifully photographed in vibrant color, Solange has an added distinction of a musical score by Ennio Morricone.

Fabio Testi plays the handsome, married Italian teacher at a Catholic girls’ school who, in the film’s opening sequence, is nuzzling one of his students in a boat. Suddenly, the girl sees a classmate being pursued and stabbed in the nearby woods. In short order, the ranks of the other nubile students are quickly being depleted by the same killer. Red herrings accumulate almost as rapidly as the body count, and the chief suspects are a woman (the Lothario’s jealous wife) or maybe one of school’s priests.

Never dull, occasionally preposterous, but overall quite surprising in its plot twists, What Have You Done to Solange? is giallo at its best. Solange, by the way, is a central character in the plot, though her name is not spoken until near the end. Playing the title character in her film debut is Camille Keaton who, though she receives prominent billing, has not a single line of dialogue. In 1978, the young actress (a distant relative of Buster Keaton’s) later starred in the original version of I Spit on Your Grave, one of the most notorious examples of yet another genre, the rape/revenge film. She doesn’t do a whole lot of talking in that movie, either.

Watching Solange, I was reminded of another foreign thriller, not an example of giallo by any means, but notable in its own way. What’s more, its title (like Solange) also features a question mark.

Who Killed Bambi? (2003) is a French film, co-written and directed by Gilles Marchand in his first turn behind the camera, though he made his mark earlier as a screenwriter for the brilliant Hitchcockian With a Friend Like Harry … (2000). The title character of Bambi is Isabelle (Sophie Quinton), a young doe-eyed nurse nicknamed for the Disney deer by the film’s villain, the handsome but creepy surgeon Dr. Philipp (Laurent Lucas). In the early stages of their “relationship,” Isabelle has trouble keeping on her feet (like Disney’s Bambi) due to an inner ear problem. Dr. Philipp will operate on her.

Meanwhile, however, the doctor’s doing something odd with other patients in the hospital, though Isabelle is the only one to suspect him. It’s soon a game of cat-and-mouse or (to be more accurate) hunter-and-deer. Sort of, at least. Little is straightforward in Bambi, which owes as much to David Lynch as to Hitchcock.

A curious factoid: Who Killed Bambi? is also the title of a 1977 unproduced screenplay by Roger Ebert which was to have been directed by Russ Meyer and feature the Sex Pistols. Imagine the possibilities – with an exclamation point and a question mark.

Magnet Schools May Not Be All They're Cracked Up To Be

Parents rush to meet magnet application deadlines and students rejoice when they receive their acceptance letters in the mail. But would parents be so eager to send their students to these top-ranked high schools if they knew there would be 47 kids in their math class? If they knew that their student might not have a desk or a textbook? On the first day of school Superintendent Vitti visited Stanton, most likely just for a good photo op. He walked into one of the smaller classes (37) and said "wow, this is a big class." Then why doesn't he do something to change it? How are students supposed to learn when they can't even see the board or hear the teacher through the other 47 students in their jammed packed classroom? Vitti has put great emphasis on enforcing the dresscode, yet it's the 2nd week of school and I still don't have textbooks for all my classes. There have been also been attempts to increase the size of the IB program. All this will do is lower qualifications, lower test scores, and make the program lose any credibility it had left.

Our superintendent shoots from the hip, not the head. All of the decisions he's made can't possibly be thought through. Having an extra hours in the school day for reading instruction (not required by the state) apply to the ESE wing of schools? If the superintendent had actually stepped into an ESE wing he may realize that many of these students have trouble even communicating. How will reading instruction benefit them? The idea that class sizes only apply to regular level courses, how will that affect testing rates? By increasing class sizes in AP and honors classes, the test scores will simply drop and these programs will also lose credibility. They're policing the dress-code and policing social media posts, but they're not focusing on anything that actually matters. Where are my textbooks? Where is my desk? Why am i stuck in this dictator-like system of education?

Florida Selfies

Spencer Toner, 79, was arrested for indecent exposure in a McDonald's parking lot in January in Bonita Springs, after a complainant said Toner was watching pornography on a laptop computer and masturbating (a downside of McDonald's early-on, company-wide adoption of Wi-Fi). Toner demanded earlier that the complainant give him privacy. In December, Francis Bianco, 76, was arrested shortly after noon for indecent exposure in a Winn-Dixie grocery store parking lot in Fort Myers Beach. Bianco protested, claiming he was merely urinating (apparently thought to be not as offensive). William Gibson, 50, was charged with "lewd and lascivious" behavior in front of a store in Jensen Beach in November after he began (according to the police report) "fluffing" his genitals and performing other genital-related activities.