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The year’s annual ritual of untold numbers of children maimed by explosives continued the tradition. A check of hospital emergency rooms confirmed the carnage. It never fails to amaze me how parents will allow their children to “play” with explosive devices and then express surprise when some kids seek to continue the thrill year-round by playing with matches. There is nothing wrong with celebrating, but fireworks are dangerous, explosive devices, nothing less. They should only be purchased and handled by professionals, or, at the very least, adults, and certainly not children. No matter what the law may allow, adults should not expose children to such endangerments.

There are increasing claims that customers who visit the city of Wilton Manors  Community Services office are treated with rudeness and insults. Community Services is the city department that handles building permits and other services. If true, this is outrageous. City Manager Joseph L. Gallegos said any such conduct is unacceptable, and he is looking into it, and I’ll have an update once his query is completed.

While Fort Lauderdale city commissioners were busy doling out hefty pay raises to top managers in these tight budget times last week, they were left in the dark about a potential financial crisis related to employee healthcare benefits. During recent meetings, department heads in City Manager George Gretsas’ administration have been trying to find ways to reduce the level of employee healthcare benefits, which they say are too generous. There is concern that current labor contracts might affect any effort to reduce these benefits, but look for this one to get nasty.

U.S. Rep. Alcee L. Hastings issued a press release this week touting a $676,935 grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to build a traffic interchange at the intersection of U.S. 441/State Road 7 and Sunrise Boulevard in Lauderhill. The project would make it easier for motorists to enter and exit the recently completed, Central Broward Regional Park.  The park has been the subject of controversy over its high construction costs, and the fact that it has a cricket field and stadium as its main hub, instead of a multi-sport facility.

The shine on Gov. Charlie Crist's armor has been dulled, once again. Crist is on the losing side of a ruling handed down by the Florida Supreme Court, which nullified a gambling agreement he reached on behalf of the state with the Seminole Indian Tribe. The court ruled Crist had no authority to bind the state to the agreement with the Seminoles that gave the casinos Las Vegas-style slots and blackjack games, in exchange for an estimated $100 million a year in revenue. Crist is being mentioned as a possible running mate for Republican presidential nominee John McCain. This ruling won’t help his chances.

Miramar city officials are looking to hire 14 more police officers. Like most local governments, finding the extra money will be tough. There are whispers, however, that criminal activity from the less affluent, neighboring city of Miami Gardens is crossing over into Miramar. The additional officers would join Miramar’s current, 175-member force.

Lauderdale Lakes Commissioner John Billingsley, Lauderhill City Commissioner Dale Holness and Allan B. Jackson, a church pastor, are all challenging Broward County Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion for his District 9 seat. Eggelletion filed complaints with the Florida Elections Commission against Jackson, alleging he broke campaign laws by failing to include the word “for’’ before the words “county commission’’ on his website and in campaign literature. Now, he has filed a similar complaint against Billingsley, alleging he, too, violated the same election laws. In other news, Lauderdale Lakes Commissioner Hazelle Rogers has now quietly removed her private real estate business information from her “commissioner’s” website. This comes after it was reported in this space that the listing was inconsistent with state law, which prohibits public officials from using their positions for personal gain.

Louis Johnson, 31, of West Palm Beach, and Sheila Martins, 22, of Boynton Beach, are in custody. They are charged in the violent armed robbery of Carlos Franco, who was shot several times last month in the parking lot of Sugar Daddy’s Bar, a nightclub in West Palm Beach. This is a shameful, uncalled for act of greed and violence.

The United Teachers of Dade has declared an impasse in contract negotiations with the Miami-Dade School District. Also, the Dade County School Administrators' Association has announced its intention to sue the district over plans to stop pay raises for teachers and district administrators. At the center of the controversy is $72 million needed to pay for raises promised in labor contracts with employees. The district’s school superintendent, Rudy Crew, is coming under heavy criticism from residents and workers over budget cuts, which the district says are caused by a combination of property tax cuts, hard economic times and cuts in state funds.

Meshia Morant, 30, gave birth to a child several weeks ago, and reportedly placed the newborn into a garbage bag. It is unclear what she intended to do with it, but members of the Lauderdale Lakes family with whom she was living became concerned, and called police. Morant was arrested and charged with attempted murder. She remains jailed, without bond, but the baby girl is doing fine. The family with whom Morant had been living was caring for the infant. Morant is also being detained over questions about whether she illegally entered this country from her native Jamaica.

Former Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre announced his retirement after the end of last year’s NFL season, but he never actually filed the papers with the league. Now, he is apparently reconsidering and wants to continue playing. The rumors are leading to speculation that the Miami Dolphins, which has concerns about its quarterback position, might be interested in Favre. For their part, the Dolphins have not said a word, but the speculation is interesting.

Jill Goldsmith, 31, of Wellington, opened her home to troubled young boys. She provided them with food and shelter, gifts and special treatment. That treatment included drugs, alcohol and sex, prosecutors said during a court hearing this week. Goldsmith was arrested in March on several felony charges. This week, with the blessing of the boys’ parents, a judge accepted a plea agreement between her attorneys and state prosecutors. She will be required to enter a pre-trial intervention program that could lead to felony charges being dropped – if she successfully completes the conditions. Goldsmith must undergo psychiatric counseling and attend a local community college.