Broward County struggles with recount


Following the Nov. 6 midterm elections, Broward County found itself in the midst of a ballot crisis.

After the gubernatorial, U.S. Senate and Secretary of Agriculture races were deemed too close to call, counties across the State of Florida began its recount efforts.

The recount process, lengthy and somewhat complicated, raised many questions as Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes reportedly mixed bad ballots with good. In addition to the mixing of ballots, several provisional ballots were ruled invalid by the county’s canvassing board.

The turmoil in Broward county led to attacks from both parties involved.

Republican candidate for Senate Rick Scott sued to Broward County Election Department for the refusing to publish details regarding the tabulation of election ballots.

“The people of Florida deserve fairness and transparency, and the supervisors are failing to give it to us,” said Scott.

Democratic candidate for governor Andrew Gillum is pushing for Broward to count every vote received, including the provisional and mail-in ballots.

“I am not here to ask for votes. I am simply here to say that for the votes that have been cast they ought to be counted. Every last one of them. What a notion,” Gillum said at a rally in Fort Lauderdale.

The deadline for machine recounts concluded at 3 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 15. While Broward met the deadline with minutes to spare, the count was not marked valid. Shortly after, officials began a manual recount of the ballots. The deadline for manual recounts is at 12 p.m. on Nov. 18.

Orchid project launches in Grove


Botanists from Fairchild Tropical and Botanic Garden and volunteers mounted 250 rare and endangered orchid seedlings onto tree trunks in Coconut Grove. The “Million Orchid Project” is aimed at reintroducing rare and endangered orchid species that have become nearly extinct in South Florida.

Schoolyards, hospitals and roadways are among the sites for the reintroduction initiative, which aims to have the first generation of re-established orchids blooming throughout the area within five years.

“Launching the Million Orchid Project to Coconut Grove brings all the things we love about the Grove together: environment, history and beauty,’’ Miami City Commissioner Ken Russell said in a tweet.

More than 100 volunteers through Fairchild spread out through the community over the course of one afternoon.  According to Fairchild’s website, the Florida butterfly orchid and cowhorn orchid will be planted throughout the community. Each bloom may yield more than one million seeds, but the odds are that none of the tiny, dust-like seeds will ever grow into a new plant.

As of today, the only native orchids that exist in South Florida exist in such small numbers that they have little hope of recovering on their own.

Hopefully, this project will bring beauty and an orchid population back to South Florida.

Swift post leads to registration spike


As the deadlines for voter registration approached in many states, voter registration sites noticed an uptick in traffic. Late registrations? Maybe. Forgetful teens? Could be. Voters who follow Taylor Swift on Instagram? Absolutely.

On Sunday, pop star Taylor Swift announced on her Instagram her support for two Democratic candidates running for Congress in her home state of Tennessee.

“I always have and always will cast my vote based on which candidate will protect and fight for the human rights I believe we all deserve in this country,” Swift wrote in the Instagram posts.

Swift’s Instagram post on October 7th lead to unprecedented numbers of young voter registrations (Photo courtesy of @taylorswift).

Swift has notoriously remained apolitical throughout her almost 12-year career. Many speculated that Swift’s silence on political controversies alluded to her support of President Trump.

Following Swift’s Instagram post, reported unprecedented numbers of voter registrations.

“We have never seen a 24- or 36- or 48-hour period like this. This is leaps and bounds beyond what we typically see,” spokesperson Kamari Guthrie, said in an interview with the New York Times.

It is reported that since Sunday, 6,200 new voters have registered in the state of Tennessee alone. That number alone surpasses the total number of registrants in the state of Tennessee from the months of May to September.

When asked about the comments, President Trump was quick to attack Swift’s music.

“I like Taylor’s music about 25 percent less now, O.K.?” he said.

Red tide reaches South Florida


On Thursday, Miami-Dade County officials received notice that the red tide, a toxic algae bloom that has plagued the southwest coast of Florida, was found on parts of South Florida’s East Coast beaches.

In addition, residents and tourists have been warned to avoid the beach area as the King Tide, expected from Oct. 6-13, will push these toxic algae further inland.

The red tide, which is caused by the bacteria Karenia brevis, can cause respiratory issues in humans and kill fish. These fish then push onshore, creating a foul odor and unpleasant experience for beach-goers. Much of the southwest coast of Florida, spanning from Naples to St. Petersburg, has suffered major blows to their tourism industries.

Samples of water from Haulover Beach were taken in for lab testing. The results came back this week testing positive with a “medium concentration” of algae found.

Other, smaller portions of algae were found in the water on Key Biscayne and Miami Beach, the numbers were not significant enough to close beaches.

Miami-Dade will be testing more beaches this week to assure that more locations haven’t been impacted.

While officials can’t confirm how the toxic algae made its way to the East Coast, scientists assume small portions of it were carried through the ocean’s current.

The red tide could take anywhere from a week to many months to leave an area depending on weather factors such as wind, tide and temperature conditions.

For now, residents and tourists with severe respiratory issues or other health concerns are advised to avoid the beach areas affected.

Miami airport gets a furry flyer


Miami International Airport unrolled a new plan to relieve stressed travelers. The new therapy dog program, the Miami Hound Machine, began service on Sept. 24.

Located in Concourse D, five trained therapy dogs — Abbey, Belle, Dash, Donovan and Pico — will be available to passengers. This new plan unfolds as the busiest travel time of the year approaches.

Airline officials hope this will impact travelers’ decisions to bring their own therapy pets onto flights during the holiday season. In recent years, many airports and airlines have seen an influx of travelers bringing emotional support animals on flights. After numerous complaints, companies like Delta, Southwest and United Airlines have followed through with an overhaul to their pet policy.

“Therapy dogs are a no-brainer for airport customer service. If a passenger is having a bad day or under stress, what’s better than a loving, happy dog to put you at ease? They’re known as man’s best friend for a reason,” Miami-Dade Aviation spokesman Greg Chin said in a statement to the Miami Herald.

The Miami Hound Machine program will be using dogs through the Alliance of Therapy Dogs, a separate program that works internationally to certify and train K-9’s to become therapy dogs.

Rabid racoons found at Zoo Miami


Zoo Miami visitors have been put on notice after six raccoons with rabies were found. The raccoons have since been euthanized in order to prevent the spread of the disease.

According to Communications Director Ron Magill in a statement to the Miami Herald, the zoo’s 3,000 animals on its 740 acres have all received rabies vaccinations and also have been checked since the initial discovery of a rabid raccoon on May 15.

This scare comes after several alerts have been issued throughout Miami-Dade County regarding other raccoons found with rabies.

Rabies alerts are issued when the disease is discovered. If no additional cases are found within the 60 days following the initial alert, the alert is cleared. The state health department extended its warning another 60 days with the most recent finding on Sept. 8.

In early July, the first alert was issued throughout many parts of south-west Miami-Dade. Officials thought the situation was under control until another raccoon tested positive for rabies in early August.

The affected areas were within the boundaries of SW 152nd Street to the north; SW 187th Street to the south; SW 117th Avenue to the east; and SW 137th Avenue to the west.

This warning has now extended to the Zoo Miami property and its’ surrounding neighborhoods.

Miami-Dade Animal Services continues to monitor the situation closely.

Carolinas brace for impact of Florence


This Friday, Hurricane Florence will make landfall on the Carolinas as the strongest storm to make landfall on the continental U.S. in the last decade.

Mandatory evacuation orders have been put in place for North and South Carolina, as well as several counties in the surrounding states. While the government has advised that this storm will be catastrophic, some residents have decided to ride out the storm in their homes.

Florence is currently trekking along in the Atlantic Ocean, maintaining its status as a Category 2 storm, but is expected to strengthen before making landfall on Friday.

With wind speeds reported of up to 80 m.p.h., meteorologists say the biggest concern for coastal cities should be the storm surge and heavy rain.

What’s more, Florence appears to be moving slowly at roughly only 10 m.p.h., meaning these wind speed will batter the Carolinas for hours on end.

Aside from Florence, scientists are monitoring four additional tropical disturbances, all expected to develop into storms within the next three days. Sept. 10 marked the peak of Hurricane season.

Shalala wins Democratic nomination


After a tough battle, Donna Shalala, former University of Miami President and Secretary of Health and Human Services, has won the nomination for the South Florida District 27 Congressional seat. Among her opponents were former Knight Foundation director Matt Haggman, former University of Miami academic adviser Michael Hepburn and Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez.

The showdown in November will come between Shalala and GOP nominee Maria Elvira Salazar, a former Univision reporter and anchor, is expected to be a close race.

Throughout her campaign, Shalala was adamant on several policy stances. Among the most controversial, Shalala campaigned for government-provided health care, removing the nation’s immigration enforcement force (ICE) and starting impeachment proceedings on Trump on day one if she is elected.

While her views may deter from the Democratic agenda, Shalala’s resume bodes an impressive history in Washington. Serving as chair of the Children’s Defense Fund from 1992 to 1993, President Bill Clinton nominated her as Secretary of Health and Human Services in 1992.

Many constituents cited this experience as making Shalala the most qualified among the Democrats for the nomination.

The final election will take place on Nov. 6.