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LEGISLATION CLEARS PROVISION FOR MEDICAL MARIJUANA LICENSE
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) – Legislation to change how a black farmer can receive a Florida license to grow medical marijuana is headed to the desk of Gov. Rick Scott. The Senate passed HB 6049 on Thursday, which removes the provision that a black farmer has to be a member of Florida chapter of the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association to be eligible for the license. The process of the state’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use issuing five new licenses has been held up after a black farmer filed a lawsuit after he was unable to join the BFAA. The Legislature last year stipulated that one of the new licenses be awarded to a member of the Pigford vs. Glickman lawsuit, in which the federal government was found to have discriminated against black farmers, and belong to the association.
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POLICE: 2 DEADLY PACKAGE BOMBS IN TEXAS CAPITAL ARE LINKED
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) – Investigators believe a package bomb that killed a teenager and wounded a woman in Austin on Monday is linked to a similar bombing that killed a man elsewhere in the city this month, and they’re considering whether race was a factor because all of the victims were black. The explosion Monday happened inside of a home near the Windsor Park neighborhood and killed a 17-year-old boy and badly wounded a woman who is expected to survive, Austin’s police Chief Brian Manley told reporters. Shortly after the news conference ended, police were called to investigate another explosion in a different part of east Austin. Authorities haven’t said whether that explosion was also caused by a bomb. Austin-Travis County EMS tweeted that the later blast left a woman in her 70s with potentially life-threatening injuries, and that a second woman in her 80s was being treated for an unrelated medical issue. Authorities haven’t said whether the injured woman is also black. The explosions happened with hundreds of thousands of visitors in the city for the South by Southwest music, film and technology festival, and authorities urged the public to call the police if they receive any packages they aren’t expecting. The first explosion on Monday happened about 12 miles (20 kilometers) from the home where a March 2 package bombing killed 39-year-old Anthony Stephan House. The March 2 blast was initially investigated as a suspicious death, but is now viewed as a homicide. Manley said investigators believe the deadly attacks are related, as in both cases, the packages were left overnight on the victims’ doorsteps and were not mailed or sent by a delivery service. He said the U.S. Postal Service doesn’t have a record of delivering the package to the East Austin home where Monday’s explosion occurred, and that private carriers like UPS and FedEx also indicated that they had none, either. Manley said investigators haven’t determined a motive for the attacks, but it is possible that the victims could have been targeted because they are black.
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FEDERAL RULING EXPECTED ON RACIAL BIAS IN STASH-HOUSE STINGS
CHICAGO (AP) – A federal judge in Chicago is slated to issue a first-in-the-nation ruling Monday about whether law enforcement stings in which suspects are talked into stealing non-existent drugs from non-existent stash houses are racially biased. The ruling could determine whether agencies nationwide curtail their reliance on phony stash-house stings, which date to the 1990s and are overseen by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The stings typically involve agents posing as couriers for drug cartels. Defense attorneys contend the stings discriminate because they overwhelmingly target blacks and Latinos. They also criticize how law enforcement can arbitrarily increase the severity of charges simply by raising the amount of drugs they say are in the stash houses. Also, suspects often are charged with trying to distribute the drugs, even though the drugs never existed. The judge issuing the ruling is the Chicago federal court’s first Hispanic chief judge, Ruben Castillo. His ruling in 2013 that there was a “strong showing of potential bias” in the stings generated years of legal motions and dueling expert reports, culminating in Monday’s ruling. Castillo and eight other federal judges held rare joint hearings in December to examine statistics-based evidence on the issue. Combined, the judges are overseeing a dozen different criminal cases involving more than 40 suspects arrested in stash-house stings, but they all heard the same evidence on the question about bias. Castillo would be the first to rule, though the other judges could issue their own decisions later.
BROWARD COUNTY ADMINISTRATOR, BERTHA WATSON HENRY, NAMED WOMAN OF THE YEAR
LAUDERHILL, FL — The Lauderhill Regional Chamber of Commerce (LRCC) announced Broward County Administrator Bertha Watson Henry as their 2018 “Woman of the Year.” Florida Panthers CEO Matt Caldwell presented her the award during LRCC’s sold out 5th Annual Women of Distinction Awards Breakfast on March 2nd, 2018, at the BB&T Center. The LRCC celebrates National Women’s History Month every year by honoring 10 influential women of Broward County as “Women of Distinction.” Bertha Watson Henry serves as Chief Executive Officer of Broward County and directs the functions of County Government, under the auspices of the Board of County Commissioners. Henry oversees a county of nearly 1.9 million residents, and operations for nearly 60 agencies with more than 6,200 employees. “I am honored to be recognized by the Lauderhill Regional Chamber of Commerce as a Woman of Distinction and Woman of the Year,” said Henry. “Throughout my 40-year career in public service, I have had the good fortune to be surrounded by employees, elected officials and business colleagues who have been deeply committed to making a difference in their local community. It is my privilege to serve the residents of Broward County, and my honor to accept this award,” she said.
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JOBLESS RATES FALL FOR BLACK AMERICANS, RECENT VETERANS
WASHINGTON (AP) – The unemployment rates for black Americans, recent veterans and people in their early 20s fell sharply in February, even as the national jobless rate held steady at 4.1 percent. The rate for African-Americans fell to 6.9 percent, near a record low of 6.8 percent reached in December. Still, the unemployment rate for African-Americans remains stubbornly higher than the rates for other racial and ethnic groups. The unemployment rate for those who have served in the armed forces anytime since September 2001 dropped to 3.3 percent, matching a record low from December. Younger Americans in their early 20s also enjoyed a good month in the job market. Their jobless rate fell to 6.8 percent, the lowest level since 2000. All told, employers added 313,000 jobs in February. The data for demographic groups came from a survey of households that is part of the Labor Department’s monthly jobs report.
BESIEGED FROM WITHIN, VA’S SHULKIN HANGS ON AS SUPPORT WANES
WASHINGTON (AP) — Embattled Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin is hanging onto his job by a thread. He faces an insurgency from within his department and new allegations that he had a member of his security detail go shopping with him at Home Depot and then cart the purchases into his house. Shulkin came under fire last month for ethics violations after accepting free Wimbledon tennis tickets and taxpayer-paid travel to Europe for his wife. A political adviser installed by President Donald Trump at the department has openly mused to other VA staff about how to oust him. Shulkin also is bracing for an upcoming VA watchdog report, due by summer, that examines his use of the department’s security detail.
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‘BLACK PANTHER,’ 4 WEEKS IN, TOPS ‘A WRINKLE IN TIME’
LOS ANGELES (AP) — T’Challa still rules the box office four weeks in, even with the fresh rivalry of another Walt Disney Studios release in “A Wrinkle in Time.” “Black Panther” took the No. 1 spot at the North American box office with $41.1 million according to studio estimates Sunday, leaving another newcomer in its wake. The Marvel and Disney phenomenon crossed the $1 billion mark worldwide this weekend and became the 7th highest grossing domestic release with $562 million. Not accounting for inflation, it’s now passed “The Dark Knight.” With a marketplace still dominated by “Black Panther,” Disney faced some stiff competition from its own studio in launching Ava DuVernay’s adaption of “A Wrinkle in Time,” which opened in second place with $33.3 million from 3,980 locations. The PG-rated film, which cost around $103 million to produce and stars Oprah Winfrey and Reese Witherspoon, received mixed reviews from critics (it’s currently at a “rotten” 44 percent on RottenTomatoes) and audiences who gave it a B CinemaScore. In gauging “A Wrinkle in Time’s” long-term prospects, a somewhat similar comparison could be Disney’s “Tomorrowland,” a PG-rated sci-fi pic with middling reviews and a B CinemaScore which opened to $33 million in the early summer of 2015 and went on to gross $93 million domestically. “Tomorrowland,” however, notably cost nearly twice as much to make as “A Wrinkle in Time.” But the “Black Panther” effect is the x-factor here. For Disney, it’s a “win all around.”
FLORIDA GOV. MAY BE FORCED TO RESIGN EARLY DUE TO SENATE BID
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) – Florida Gov. Rick Scott may have to resign early if he goes ahead with an anticipated run for the U.S. Senate. But thanks to a little-noticed change approved this month by state legislators, Scott may be able to wait until after the November elections to make up his mind. The U.S. Constitution requires Congress to convene on Jan. 3 unless a different day is chosen. Scott’s term as governor does not end until the following week. Scott said this weekend he will decide his political future in the next few weeks. If Scott does have to resign early, it could have ramifications on the makeup of the Florida Supreme Court. Age limits are forcing three justices to retire on the day Scott’s successor takes office. Scott has said he planned to name their replacements on the same morning.