Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Low Income Taxpayers Eligible For Bonus

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- Florida's Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink is urging Florida taxpayers to check if they may qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a special federal tax credit for low-income working individuals and families.  The EITC helps taxpayers whose incomes are below $38,348 for families with two or more children, $34,001 for individuals with one child and $14,120 for individuals who have no children. 

"Every year, millions of dollars in tax relief are forfeited because eligible Americans fail to claim their share of the Earned Income Tax Credit," said CFO Sink.  "This is money that could be used to pay down debt, make a down payment on a home, or open a college fund. This is the taxpayers� money; it doesn�t belong to the government,� said CFO Sink.  �We�re doing everything we can to help put money back in the hands of eligible, hard-working taxpayers so they can take advantage of Florida�s boundless opportunities.�

According to the Internal Revenue Service�s Web site, taxpayers must meet certain requirements to qualify and must file a tax return, even if they did not earn enough money to be obligated to file a tax return.  In addition to filing an EITC claim for the most recent tax year, Floridians can go back three years to claim prior refunds for which they were eligible.   Further, the IRS Web site states that in most cases, EITC payments will not be used to determine eligibility for most assistance programs, including Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and food stamps.  Consumers can visit http://www.irs.gov/ and search �Earned Income Tax Credit� to find out more about the tax credit and determine if they qualify. 

There are many free tax preparation sites throughout Florida.  To find the nearest free tax assistance site, call 1-800-829-1040.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Glades County Group Joins FPL Coal Power Protest

"Save It Now Glades" Joins Miami Protest

MOORE HAVEN, FLORIDA -- Environmental & social justice activists from across Florida and the South, including "Save It Now Glades" will this week protest the "Coaltrans Americas" 2007 annual international coal industry convention in Miami, Florida. The Coaltrans convention, happening on January 31st and February 1st in Key Biscayne's Ritz-Carlton resort, will bring business leaders and government officials from the energy, utilities, banking, transportation, and insurance sectors together in Miami from throughout the Americas.

The purpose of this Coaltrans "International Networking Event for the North & South American Coal Markets" event is to promote coal development throughout the Western Hemisphere. Activist groups will rally to present loud & visible creative protest actions that will:  urge investors to pursue clean energy development instead of coal; demand that coal producers immediately cease environmental destruction including "mountain-top removal"  coal-mining and global warming pollution; and  highlight the urgent crisis of human rights abuses and violent exploitation committed by the coal industry on rural and indigenous communities, and mineworkers, throughout the Americas.

The environmental coalition says major coal industry decision-makers & representatives attending the "Coaltrans Americas" convention are responsible for human rights violations against coalfield communities and mineworkers, as well as high levels of greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution leading to an epidemic of children suffering asthma, and massive expanses of irreplaceable land destroyed by mining. "Despite the fact that global warming is accelerating every day, over 150 new coal power plants are now planned to be built in the United States," including one in Florida's Everglades, the proposed coal power plant in Glades County, Florida. They say, "Local, regional and worldwide grassroots opposition to these irresponsible, deadly practices of the coal industry is intense and growing, from the Everglades and Appalachia in the southern US to Colombia and Venezuela in South America. A diverse alliance of local Miami and regional Southern activists will – for the first time – protest the annual Coaltrans Americas convention, in order to raise public awareness about the problems with coal and give voice to a common demand for rapid society-wide transitioning away from harmful, unsustainable coal use & towards clean, renewable energy sources."

The Wednesday January 31st protest will focus on coal issues in North America. The Thursday February 1st protest will focus on coal issues in Latin America. A public event open-to-all featuring speakers & films critical of coal will take place this Thursday evening at the Wallflower Gallery in downtown Miami (starting 7 pm; location: 10 NE 3rd St).

Discovering Artists - The Alice Project

We've been searching for new artists and we'll share the song files and feature them here on on the Sunday Morning News blog.

Here's a New York based band that specializes in melodic, hooky, tuneful pop/rock. Alice Leon is the singer and songwriter. Click on the song link below to play one of her songs.

For dozens of more Alice Project songs to play online or purchase and band information click here: The Alice Project

Sunday, January 28, 2007

$125,000 Win For Okeechobee Contest Angler

Fisherman Career Winnings More Than $2.2 Million

CLEWISTON, Fl. – Team Castrol pro David Dudley of Lynchburg, Va., caught a five-bass limit weighing 18 pounds, 8 ounces Saturday to win $125,000 in the $1 million Wal-Mart FLW Series BP Eastern Division tournament on Lake Okeechobee with a four-day catch of 20 bass weighing 64-2.

The catch gave him the win by a solid 7-pound, 7-ounce margin over Team Fuji pro Wesley Strader of Spring City, Tenn., who caught a total of 20 bass weighing 56-7 and earned $50,000.

Rounding out the top five pros are Todd Auten of Lake Wylie, S.C. (20 bass, 54-6, $40,000); Team National Guard pro Scott Martin of Clewiston, Fla. (14 bass, 45-9, $30,000) and Jim Dillard of West Monroe, La. (15 bass, 41-11, $20,000).

"No matter how many classes or seminars you attend, you can't teach instinct," said Dudley, who increased his winnings in FLW Outdoors events to more than $1.9 million and his total career winnings to more than $2.2 million. "It comes through trial and error. And this week that experience made all the difference."

Dudley became the youngest angler to surpass $2 million in career winnings in 2006 at the age of 30. He is second on the all-time money list behind the legendary Rick Clunn of Ava, Mo.

"I look back at some of the decisions I've made while fishing and I chuckle to myself," Dudley said. "When you're fishing, you have to listen to your instincts and what the Lord is telling you."

Dudley's instincts told him that shallow water wouldn't hold quality fish after a cold front moved through the area Thursday. Dudley searched for areas that bass would migrate to and hold in once the water temperatures cooled. He found fish in 12 to 15 feet of water in canals and exploited the discovery. Dudley fished five spots in the J & S canal on the east side of the lake.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

How Much Will Insurance Cuts Be?

New Insurance Laws Hodgepodge Of Legaleze

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- Homeowners have been asking "How much will my insurance premiums go down?" after the Florida legislature passed new insurance rules this week. With much hoopla and bravado, the Governor and state politicians raved on how great the new law would be to save Floridians money on home insurance.

Unfortunately, the politicians are not telling the whole story. Chances are the average homeowner will not save any money on insurance. The new law basically allows homeowners to elect higher deductibles and to waive windstorm coverage. However, for those who wish to increase their risk while saving a few dollars, many hoops have to be passed, including getting permission from your mortgage company.

Other reasons for why any immediate savings are not going to happen are included in the 176 pages of new rules as published by the state legislature. The lawyers, legislators, and lobbyists who had a hand in writing this, included a dizzying display of differing dates as to when the many parts of the new laws go into effect, March 1, April 1, August 1, etc. It will take many months for industry lawyers to figure out exactly what is supposed to happen in respect to the new regulations for insurance companies.

In summary, don't expect to save any money on your home insurance unless you are willing, and have permission from your mortgage company, to take on more risk in the form of higher deductibles or eliminating windstorm damage coverage.

Once again citizens flim-flammed by the insurance industry and politicians?

February Festivals And Fairs

Here's the schedule of upcoming local fairs and festivals in the south Florida area. Click on the underlined events for more information. Also see Hendry and Glades county places to visit:

• Feb. 2-3 – Grillin’ & Chillin’ on Main, Wauchula

• Feb. 3 – Hardee Farmer’s Market, Wauchula

• Feb. 3 – Hardee Flea Market, Bowling Green

• Feb. 3 – Camp E-Tu-Makee Skeet Shoot, Clewiston. 863-983-1400

• Feb. 3 – Cane Grinding Festival, Ortona

• Feb. 3-4 – Lake Placid Arts & Crafts Fair

• Feb. 7 – FLW Stren Series Bass Tournament, C. Scott Driver Ramp, Okeechobee. 863-763-3959 or 800-871-4403

• Feb. 10 – Arcadia Collectibles’ Market

• Feb. 10 – The Sebring Cruise, Downtown Sebring on the Circle, 6 pm-?

• Feb. 10 – Highlands Antique Fair, Poor Richard’s Antique Mall, Lake Placid

• Feb. 10 – Avon Park Chamber of Commerce Golf Tournament. 863-453-3350

• Feb. 10-11 – Florida Bass Federation 1st Qualifier Minn Kota Trail Fishing
Tournament, Okeechobee. 863-763-3959 or 800-871-4403

• Feb. 16 – Music in the Park, Wauchula

• Feb. 17 – Amateur Radio - Radio HAM Fest, Sebring, Ag Civic Center

• Feb. 16-18 – Main Street Top-Of-The-Lake Art Fest, Okeechobee, Downtown Flagler Park. 863-357-MAIN

• Feb. 16-18 – Arts & Crafts and PRCA Rodeo, Brighton, Seminole Tribes of Florida. 863-946-0440

• Feb. 21-25 – Flywheel Park 15th Annual Antique Engine & Tractor Show, Avon Park

• Feb. 21-25 – Seminole Cup International Sporting Clays Competition, Okeechobee, Quail Creek Plantation. 863-763-3959 or 800-871-4403

• Feb. 23 – Swamp Cabbage Rodeo, LaBelle, rodeo grounds, 7 pm

• Feb. 24 – Arcadia Antique Fair

• Feb. 24 – Chalo Nitka Big Fish Tournament, Moore Haven, Alvin Ward Boat Ramp

• Feb. 24 – Sebring Bikefest, Downtown Sebring on the Circle, 4 pm-9 pm

• Feb. 24 – Swamp Cabbage Festival, LaBelle

• Feb. 24 – Swamp Stomp/5K Run, LaBelle, 9:15 am

• Feb. 24 – Swamp Festival Country & Western Dance, LaBelle, Civic Center, 9 pm-1:30 am

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Browne Leads Bass Fishing Tournament

CLEWISTON, Fla. – Team Berkley pro Glenn Browne of Ocala, Fla.,
landed five bass weighing 20 pounds, 4 ounces Wednesday to lead day
one of the Wal-Mart FLW Series BP Eastern Division tournament on Lake
Okeechobee. He now holds a 1-pound, 3-ounce lead in the $1 million
tournament featuring 200 pros and 200 co-anglers representing 33
states and Canada. Browne won the Stren Series' Southeast Division
season opener Jan. 6 on Lake Okeechobee.

"I just relaxed and fished, and good things happened," said Browne.
"I cranked the big motor twice today ­ once when I took off and once
when I came in. A lot of people fished the same area I did, but I
found the edge of the grass produced bigger fish. If I didn't get a
big bite, I knew I would end up with eight or ten pounds."

Kip Carter of Oxford, Ga., trails Browne in the No. 2 spot with five
bass weighing 19-1. Rounding out the top five pros are Keith Combs of
Temple, Texas (five bass, 16-12); Bob Blosser of Lodi, Wis. (five
bass, 16-5) and Jonathan Newton of Rogersville, Ala. (five bass, 16-5).

Overall there were 913 bass weighing 1,782 pounds, 5 ounces caught by
200 pros Wednesday. The catch included 157 five-bass limits.

Pros are competing this week for a top award of $125,000 plus
valuable points in the hope of qualifying for the BP East-National
Guard West Fishoff and a shot at advancing to the $2 million, 2008
Forrest Wood Cup, where the winning pro will earn as much as $1
million – the sport's biggest award.

National Guard team member Pamela Wood of Jonesboro, Ark., leads the
Co-angler Division with three bass weighing 15-0 followed by Wayne
Pomeroy of Wellington, Fla., in second place with five bass weighing
14-14. Rounding out the top five co-anglers are Mark Phillips of
Fayetteville, Ark. (five bass, 14-11); Matt Krekovich of Granite
City, Ill. (five bass, 14-9) and Ty Hester of Russellville, Ala.
(five bass, 14-8).

Overall there were 656 bass weighing 1,192 pounds, 10 ounces caught
by 181 co-anglers Wednesday. The catch included 81 five-bass limits.

Co-anglers are competing this week for a top award of $25,000. Like
the pros, the top 30 co-anglers from both FLW Series divisions after
four qualifying events are complete will advance to the East-West
Fishoff for a shot at the $2 million, 2008 Forrest Wood Cup.

Anglers will take off at 7 each morning from Roland and Mary Ann
Martin's Marina and Resort in Clewiston, Fla. Thursday and Friday's
weigh-in will be held at the marina beginning at 3 p.m. Saturday's
weigh-in will be held at the Wal-Mart store in Clewiston, Fla.,
beginning at 4 p.m. Children will also be treated to a Family Fun
Zone prior to Saturday's weigh-in from noon to 4 p.m. at Wal-Mart.
Activities in the Family Fun Zone include the Fujifilm trout pond, a
Ranger boat simulator and assorted fishing-themed games. All
activities are free and open to the public.

In FLW Series competition, pros and co-anglers are randomly paired
each day, with pros supplying the boat, controlling boat movement and
competing against other pros. Co-anglers fish from the back deck
against other co-anglers. The entire field competes for the first
three days, and co-angler competition concludes on day three with the
winner determined by the heaviest accumulated three-day weight. The
top 10 professionals continue competition on day four, and the winner
is determined by the heaviest accumulated weight from all four days.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Commissioner Long Replies

MOORE HAVEN, FLORIDA -- In reply to St. Lucie Commissioner Grande's letter to her, Glades Commissioner Donna Storter Long replied today:

Dear Commissioner Grande,

Thank you for the information.

When the power park proposal was publicly made, my first reaction was ambivalent-financial aspect of course the heavy positive, but COAL? My prior knowledge of this fossil fuel resource was limited, and other than its plentiful availability, my perception was completely negative. I am trying to keep an open mind and learn as much as I can.

I have seen the FP&L presentation multiple times and their "show" IS quite convincing, especially in light of the proposed economic advantage to Glades County. However, the initial approach and negotiations were privately held for months before the Glades County Commission resolved to support the power park, and prior to my election to the Board in November. Therefore, I do NOT have all nor the same the information that persuaded my esteemed colleagues to vow their support. None (of our Board members) has experience or education in the power-producing field, but I do believe that all sincerely care about all aspects of Glades County's future, especially economically and environmentally.

And too, the property owner of the proposed site, Lykes Bros., with extensive land holdings in Glades and Highlands counties with plans for development, seems to me to be in the most vulnerable position to suffer any detriment from coal powered industry, yet are willing to sell property for this venture.

As part of the permitting process, our Deputy County Manager Larry Hilton has a meeting of experts scheduled for February 20, 6-9 pm at Doyle Conner Building in Moore Haven, with opportunity for the public to submit questions in writing for the panel's discussion. I expect this forum to provide an opportunity to address all issues, and allay concerns of those who felt excluded from the process when the initial proposal was not publicized before the Commission's announcement of support.

Thank you again. In addition, I apologize that Glades County Commission chose by 4-1 vote (my dissention) to ignore St. Lucie County Commissioner Craft's letter of appeal concerning the FPL Plant, especially in light of the regional, even global, impact a coal-powered industry will have.

FPL Coal Power Plant - Glades Being Deceived?

St. Lucie Commissioner Says FPL 'Intentionally Deceiving'

MOORE HAVEN, FLORIDA -- In a communication to a Glades County commissioner, St. Lucie County Commissioner Charles Grande says FPL's proposed power plant in central Glades county is old technology and should not be allowed because of pollution emissions. The letter was sent to Glades Commission Donna Storter Long. Commissioner Long was the lone dissenter when the Glades Commissioners decided by vote to ignore a letter of caution from St. Lucie Commissioner Craft regarding the FPL proposal. The letter to Commissioner Long is published in full below:

"My name is Charles Grande and I am the county Commissioner for St Lucie County District 4. I'm sure you are getting all of the coal plant data on both sides but, I thought I should give you my sense of what caused our County Commission to change from a group eager to hear this proposal to help diversify our sources of energy production while bringing jobs and tax revenues to our county, to a group solid in their opposition who voted it down unanimously.

The points on both sides were many and compelling but, at the end of the day, after an enormous investigation effort, it became clear that FPL was intentionally deceiving us regarding the fact they were proposing an out of date technology while trying to offset the clear dangers with a very advanced "scrubbing" process. We learned that the "pulverized" coal burning
process had been replaced by "Gasification (IGCC)", a process light years better because the process itself removed almost all of the harmful elements up front, during the process of gasifying the coal, before burning.

While this far more modern technology cost about 20% more in the capital construction cost of the power generation portion of the facility, much of the extra cost was actually recovered by the elimintion of the cost needed for scrubbing emissions produced by a pulverized coal plant. The differences in such lethal emissions as mercury are stunning. It is clear that the only reason pulverized coal plants are stll allowed is that standards geared to the really clean burning IGCC plants would outlaw all other existing coal plants which is simply not feasible in today environment. If backed into a corner, even FPL will admit that IGCC is the future while pulverization is the past.

There are gasification plants in operation all over the country with emission figures that put the plant being proposed to your group to shame. One operational plant is as close as Tampa. FPL is simply behind the times and unwilling to update their technological capability to the point where they would be competent to implement such a plant. The irony is, FPL is actually one of the better nuclear producers, a capable manager of gas production facilities, comparitively advanced in alternate methodoligies - especially wind, but well behind the curve in coal.

Again, their presenation team will seduce you with their "dog and pony show" but, if you take the time to become even marginally knowledgeable about the alternatives available, your decision will become clear and simple.

I hope the foregoing is helpful. Considering the jobs and taxes picture, I know you are in a tough position - we've been there before you - but your residents, like ours, deserve the very best FPL can deliver and this proposal simply doesn't make the grade."

Monday, January 22, 2007

Out-Of-State Land Buyer Low-Ball Offers

N.R.L.L. From California Offers Amazingly Low Price For 2.5 Acres

CLEWISTON, FLORIDA  -- As previously reported here on December 26, property owners around Hendry and Glades county are receiving postcards from N.R.L.L, an out-of-state real estate company offering to buy "for cash" if you are "interested in selling your vacant land quickly."  But, be very careful. If an offer sounds "too good to be true" it probably is, experts warn.

We received our "quick" offer today in the mail. A letter informed us that "after analyzing your property" the company is willing to pay $4000 for our parcel. The parcel is two and one-half acres in Pioneer Plantation. The letter from "Mark Raymond" adds "please let me know your decision as I have set money aside for this purchase."  Well, Mark....thanks but no thanks.

N.R.L.L. Inc., a holding company in Irvine, California has been soliciting land owners for many years in Florida and California. NRLL buys land and lots at very low prices, buys or transfers title in the names of one of its other associated companies, and then holds local auctions in large cities around the country, reselling the lots at much higher prices, and sells them "as-is."

Locally, in Hendry county, NRLL has offered Port LaBelle lot owners prices that seemed to be reasonable at first. One owner reports that an offer was made to buy a lot for $26,500 several months ago by NRLL. On contacting the company they wanted  the owner to sign a sales contract that did not provide any closing date, so the buyers could theoretically close whenever they wanted. After the seller objected, they sent a contract that did provide for a 90 day closing, but that still didn't get a quick sale either.  The contract "was subject to inspection" and sure enough, NRLL contacted the seller and said they weren't interested at the contract price after a so-called "inspection" of the property, but would "maybe" buy for $10,000 instead of $26,500. The seller elected not to go for what he believed to be a scam, and NRLL would not commit to a price at the time.

More recently, NRLL is sending postcard solicitations to owners in Pioneer Plantation, again offering a "quick sale."  When contacted at their 800 phone number, the company takes your information, and says because they are "so busy," someone will call you back in about a week. We never did receive a phone call, but did receive the letter about four weeks after we called them. So, much for a "quick sale."

Actual prices paid by NRLL in Hendry county recently have amounted to just several thousand dollars per lot, according to county courthouse records. But their sales of land they bought cheaply is a different matter. A Port LaBelle lot sale was from a N.R.R.L. company to a Pompano Beach man for $26,500 last month.  NRLL gets their mailing lists from the county tax assessor's records, which are public records. So, consumer beware. Unless you want to basically "give away" your vacant lots in Hendry county, don't bother responding to such junk mail offers and wasting your time.

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Saturday, January 20, 2007

Broward County Partners Buying Clewiston Inn

Unusual Purchases Include Clewiston Vacant Lots, A Shopping Center And Trailer Park

CLEWISTON, FLORIDA -- Two Broward county men have reportedly contracted to buy U.S. Sugar's Clewiston Inn. The historic hotel was constructed in 1938 to house company executives and traveling dignitaries. and over the years the 57-room hotel and restaurant opened to the public. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Robert Coker, of U.S. Sugar Corp reportedly says they are selling the Clewiston Inn because "we are not in the hotel business. We are a sugar and citrus business," not withstanding they have been running the hotel for 70 years.

Partners Yasir Khan and Floyd Salkey, both of Davie formed a new corporation earlier this month called Big Lake Hotels, LLC the Ft. Myers News-Press reports, to buy the old hotel. Both men have partnered in various business ventures in the last two years with several apparently failing.

The two men, through a corporation formed last year called Clewiston Commons bought four land parcels under a 48-year old trailer park, including a small vacant commercial lot. Real estate broker Ernie Rawls and his wife Hazel sold the land to the partners for $440,000 in May of 2006. The properties are located in the 800 block of East Sagamore Avenue in Clewiston.

In July 2005 through Florida's Finest Developers LLC, they bought the Clewiston Town Center for $2,150,000, the old K-Mart shopping center, and leased the stores to Hendry county and the State of Florida. They purchased the shopping center from Clewiston real estate broker Earnest Rawls and Clewiston banker Miller Couse. Rawls and Couse had purchased the property 15 months earlier for $800,000 from the LaSalle Bank, making a quick $1,350,000 profit.

The partners' corporation Florida's Finest Villas at Lake Shore also bought two vacant commercial lots at the 800 block of West Alverdez and West Ventura in Clewiston in 2006.

The partners also owned Florida Finest Realty Group which went out of business within two years, Florida's Finest Development and Real Estate Services, which went out of business after one and a half years, Hallendale Development,Group, started a year ago, Florida's Finest Villas at Lake Shore, started 10 months ago, Carver Heights Townhomes Association, started 10 months ago, Florida's Finest Builders, going out of business in 2005 after 13 months, Florida's Finest Realty Group, going out of business in 2005 in 22 months, Florida Finest Developers, still in business, after two years although the corporation had to reinstate its papers with the Florida Secretary of State.

Floyd Salkey also has owned two other failed businesses, Advance Training and Agrotech Florida International, both closed in 2005 after three years in business ,

Local real estate observers say small hotels under 100 rooms are a substantial gamble, especially older properties. A few years ago the Port LaBelle Inn was purchased by an out-of-area buyer and upgraded but has very little customers each night. Construction workers seems to make up the largest group of overnight stays. The property seems to stay afloat through a new restaurant lease, and some banquet parties. But restaurant patronage seems to be off except for Friday nights and a few days a week for lunches.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Hendry Deputies Win Union Rights

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- In an effort to establish a law enforcement union in Hendry county, deputies of the Hendry county Sheriff's office have voted to have the Florida Police Benevolent Association represent them in employment bargaining against Sheriff Ronnie Lee.

Of the 44 eligible persons entitled to vote, 17 voted for the FPBA and 10 against. The matter of allowing the employees to choose union status and collective bargaining rights came before the Florida Public Employees Relations Board who certified the voting results January 11.

Florida is a so-called "right to work" state and unions have traditionally been hard pressed to organize for collective rights to stand up against employers for better benefits and pay. Government and utility company employees have succeeded to a larger extent in union organizing than have employees of private businesses.


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Over 50 And Need A Job?

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- Dozens of national companies have teamed up with ARRP to encourage the hiring of employees aged 50 and over. They want to hire older workers knowing that they bring the qualities of leadership, experience, and skills. Click the link below to find extensive information about the companies, and what they offer older workers.

ARRP Companies Hiring 50 and older

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Clewiston To Host 400 Bass Anglers

Lake Okeechobee Bass The Target

CLEWISTON, FLORIDA. ­ The $10 million Wal-Mart FLW Series will visit Lake Okeechobee in Clewiston, Jan. 24-27 for its first BP Eastern Division tournament of the season. Hosted by Roland & Mary Ann Martin's Marina & Resort, the tournament will feature as many as 400 top bass anglers from 26 states casting for top awards of $125,000 in the Pro Division and $25,000 in the Co-angler Division.

Anglers will take off from Roland & Mary Ann Martin's Marina & Resort located at 920 E. Del Monte Ave. in Clewiston, Fla., at 7 EST each morning. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday's weigh-ins will also be held at the marina beginning at 3 p.m. Saturday's final weigh-in will be held at the Wal-Mart store located at 1005 W. Sugarland Highway in Clewiston, Fla., beginning at 4 p.m. Children will also be treated to a Family Fun Zone prior to Saturday's weigh-in from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Wal-Mart. Activities in the Family Fun Zone include the Fujifilm trout pond, a Ranger boat simulator and assorted fishing-themed games. All activities are free and open to the public.

The entire field competes for the first three days of FLW Series events. Co-angler winners are determined on day three based on the heaviest accumulated three-day weight. The top 10 professionals continue competition on day four, and the winner is determined by the heaviest accumulated weight from all four days.

In FLW Series competition, pros and co-anglers are randomly paired each day, with pros supplying the boat, controlling boat movement and competing against other pros. Co-anglers fish from the back deck against other co-anglers. The total purse for the Lake Okeechobee tournament is $1 million, including $10,000 through 50th place and $2,000 through 75th place in the Pro Division. The entry fee is $3500.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Kidnapped Boys' Recovery Leaves Questions

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- The recovery of the two Missouri boys still leaves many questions unanswered. Family members are reportedly not asking questions of the boys and media commentators say those questions should not be asked, except by law enforcement. Meanwhile, reporters have discovered apparent web postings by one of the boys on the internet.

Click for a video report by CBS News on the latest infomation:

Death Of Fidel Castro - Impact On SW Florida?

Controversy Continues

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- According to news sources in Madrid, Spain, Cuba's long-time leader Fidel Castro may be in very grave condition after three operations that did not go as planned. The newspaper El Pais said two sources report a "grave infection in the large intestine...and various complications" have left Castro with a "very grave prognosis."

Although Castro ceded power in July to brother Raul Castro, much speculation and rumor is spreading around the Cuban countryside and the world. Life goes on as usual in the socialist country while 80-year old Castro lingers on.

According to a local Cuban newspaper "Periodico 26" Ecuadorian President-elect Rafael Correa met Sunday with Cuban Vice President Carlos Lage in Quito, Ecuador and sent a greeting to Cuban leader Fidel Castro wishing him a speedy recovery. And the US peace group led by Cindy Sheehan is due to stage a vigil at that country's naval base in Guantanamo, Cuba on Thursday, to protest the US jail in that territory.

In other news from the island nation, controversy continues as US courts continue to award frozen Cuban funds to US citizens. According to Cuban press reports, "Cuba denounced on Wednesday that the US government has stolen over 170 million dollars of the total amount of Cuban funds frozen in that country." Cuba's foreign ministry said this is the fourth time since 1959 the US courts have taken funds from Cuba as part of the blockade policy against them.

US citizens Janet Ray Weininger and Dorothy Anderson McCarthy received a total of $72,126,884 from frozen Cuban funds of accounts at Cuba's National Bank and Telecommunications Enterprise.

Janet Ray Weininger is the daughter of pilot Thomas Willard Ray, a CIA agent who died during the "Bay of Pigs" invasion in 1961. His body was kept in Cuba for 18 years due to the US government's refusal to recognize his identity, said the Cuban government. It had been falsely stated by the US government that he had been executed that year, the Cuban government claimed. Dorothy McCarthy is the daughter of Howard Anderson, who was allegedly tortured and killed in Cuba.

Photo from cubaverdad.net

Monday, January 15, 2007

Glades Residents May Get Mandatory Garbage Service

MOORE HAVEN, FLORIDA -- Residents of Glades county may be forced to
pay for garbage collection services whether they want to or not. The
Glades County Board of County Commissioners will hold a public
workshop on Monday, January 22, 2007, at 3:00 PM in the County
Commission Meeting Room, Glades County Courthouse, 500 Avenue J,
Moore Haven, Florida. The purpose of the workshop is to discuss
mandatory solid waste disposal. All interested parties are invited to
appear and be heard.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

FOX TV Affiliate Screws Up Again

"24" Television Series Premier Interrupted

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- The technically least reliable television/cable broadcasting outlet in Southwest Florida again had transmission difficulties Sunday night preventing anyone in the station's broadcast area from seeing the opening two-hour premier episode of the popular series "24"  at 8 p.m. Sunday. The station did not come on the air until 8:25 p.m. after being off the air for about an hour.

WFTX has not had a very good reputation for quality service, as frequent technical problems take the station off the air, or the station management changes program schedules at the last minute, in recent weeks having hours of un-programmed and unscheduled shows on the air. WFTX was sold in August of 2005 by Emmis Communications to Journal Broadcast Group, and managed by Judy Kenney, with Robert Castillo as Chief Engineer.

And according to an article on Wikipedia, "WFTX has had a long standing reputation for being last in news ratings in the market, due mainly to the obvious disdain opinions that the station management has for its employees."  WFTX broadcast on UHF channel 36 and cable channel 4.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Ag Report From Gene McAvoy

By Gene McAvoy, Hendry Agricultural Extension Agent

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- Reports from the National Weather Service indicate that December was the 3rd warmest on record.  Growers report that above normal temperatures have accelerated crop growth and are playing havoc with planting schedules as some planting are as much as 15 days ahead of scheduled harvest.  Daytime temperatures have been mostly in the 70�s and 80�s with nighttime temps in the 40�s, 50�s and 60�s and a few 30�s in normally colder locations.

 Unsettled weather during the holiday period bought some rain to south Florida growing areas. Accumulations varied widely with highest reported totals from Balm and Homestead.  In addition to rain, fog and heavy dews and mostly cloudy conditions punctuated with varying amounts of rainfall has continued to favor disease development in many areas over the past few weeks.  In some places, growers reported minor disruptions of planting and cultural activities.

Crops coming to market include cabbage, celery, cucumbers, eggplant, endive, escarole, lettuce, okra, peppers, radishes, snap beans, squash, strawberries, sweet corn, tomatoes, watermelons and specialty items.  Quality is mostly good although reports indicate that warm weather has affected strawberry quality.  Reports from the Ruskin area indicate that they are between crops at this time.

The short-term forecast from the National Weather Service in Miami calls for no significant changes to the current weather pattern through the early part of next week.  A ridge of high pressure to the north will maintain breezy conditions.  Flow off the Atlantic will bring patchy clouds and low-level moisture and the possibility of a few scattered showers.  A cold front is predicted to impact the area by Thursday possibly dropping temperatures to seasonable lows.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Governor Crist Wants Less Gobbledygook

We Hope "Clear Messages" Start With The Governor's Press Office

LABELLE, FLORIDA – Governor Crist today met with Holly Benson, Secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, and her senior staff to discuss the implementation process for the Governor’s Plain Talk Initiative. "The people are entitled to clear communication with their government," Said Governor Crist. "This is the people’s government, and clear, plain language will be used to make it open and transparent to all," (Apparently speaking to government documents and agency writing that is mostly so badly written you need a lawyer to interpret.)

Governor Crist established the Plain Talk Initiative in his first executive order to ensure clear, common language is used in government documents and information is presented in a logical sequence. The new standards require short sentences written in active voice and a visually clear layout design. The deadline for review of existing communications, publications and other documents is April 2, 2007. (Well, ok. The first sentence of this paragraph had 30 words.)

"Citizen and employee feedback is a critical component of this program and will ensure a higher standard of service to all Floridians," said Robert Sparks, Assistant Chief of Staff for Citizen Services. ("Feedback is a critical component." You mean, telling you what we think is important?)

Citizens and state employees will have the ability to offer suggestions or examples of government communications that are unclear, confusing, or contain language not commonly used in everyday conversation. A “Plain Talk” icon will be created on www.MyFlorida.com.

"Gobbledygook" means something expressed in an overly complicated or baffling manner.  First used by Maury Maverick in 1944 during War War II. The editor of the Sunday Morning news prays that these maladjustments culminate co-extensively with the problem areas and alternative, but nevertheless meaningful minimae, will ultimately apply herein.

$10,000 'Apprentice Winner In Clewiston

Who's That Mystery $10,000 Winner In Clewiston?

CLEWISTON, FLORIDA -- Sunday night's "The Apprentice" reality television show with Donald Trump made a Clewiston woman presumably very happy. Even a "you're fired" by Trump would probably not dampen her surprise reward for watching the TV show.

At the conclusion of the popular show, it was announced that  a "Dorothy P." had won the phone-in contest held weekly for the grand prize this week of $10,000.  The results of just who won the cash prizes won't be announced by NBC for several months according to the contest official rules. The winners must sign affidavits of their identity and meet numerous contest rules first.

We can only speculate on just who is the mystery "Dorothy P. of Clewiston" but a quick scan of the names in the Clewiston phone records does show a "Dorothy Phillips."  We don't know if she's the mystery woman but congratulations to whomever you are. Anyone else have any speculations on who the mystery Dorothy is?

Friday, January 05, 2007

Water Withdrawals From Caloosahatchee Brings Inspectors

Inspectors To Check For Farm Violators

LABELLE, FLORDA -- The  Water Management District in Southwest Florida will be sending field inspectors out this weekend to look for growers violating the ban on weekend withdrawals from the regional water management system.  The Caloosahatchee River is of particular interest because of the high withdrawal rates the last few days, but they will also patrol the main canals in the Everglades Agricultural Area.  Their intention is to only give warning letters at this point. 

Salvador Dali Exhibit Opens At FGCU

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- Florida Gulf Coast University invites the public
to the opening reception for "Fruits and Flowers: Prints from the
Salvador Dali Museum" 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 11 in the Art
Complex art gallery. Dirk Armstrong, assistant curator of the
Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Fla. and curator of the show,
delivers a lecture on Salvador Dali at a gallery talk 4 p.m.,
Thursday, Jan. 25. The show runs Jan.11 through Feb. 13 and is free
and open to the public.

The collection of prints showcased in "Fruits and Flowers" is
represented by 24 framed photolithographs and embossed
photolithographs. The "FlorDali" photolithographs are presented with
the original engraved remarques and color. The "FlorDali – Les
Fruits" are photolithographs of original gouaches painted on printed
illustrations and original engravings.

The photolithographs encompass the late 1930s period in which
Salvador Dali began to work directly over existing works by other
artists – photographs, posters, advertisements, and magazines. In
"FlorDali – Les Fruits," Dali would often use 'cut and paste'
techniques to include previously printed images into his mixed-media
creations, as well as use entire images that he would alter. In
"FlorDali," he would use existing images as a guide for making his
own copies.

The Art Gallery at Florida Gulf Coast University is located inside
the Arts Complex on FGCU's main campus. The University is located off
Ben Hill Griffin Parkway, east of I-75 between exits 123 and 128.
Parking is available in Lot 7 for gallery visitors; parking passes
are available at the parking kiosk located at the University's
entrance. The gallery is open to the public 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.,
Mondays through Saturdays excluding University holidays.

Police Group To Give Free Toys Saturday

CLEWISTON, FLORIDA -- The Latino Officers Association Florida will be
distributing toys to children from the Hendry County area. The Lee
County and Palm Beach Chapter of the LOA will host the 1st annual Dia
de Los Reyes on Saturday January 6 at 12 noon at the Inglesias De
Dios at 312 W.C. Owen Avenue in Clewiston.

The L.O.A Florida was charted by a group of officers from Miami-Dade,
Seminole and Clay County. The LOA-FLA is registered in Florida as a
not for profit corporation in 2002. Our mission and vision is and
always shall be to promote the Hispanic community, increase the
representation of Latinos at the Federal, State, County and Local of
the criminal justice system. We also work hard towards enhancing the
image and professionalism of law enforcement in general, and
Hispanics in particular. The National Latino Officers Association is
made up of over 10,000 volunteer officers, ands is currently the
largest Latino law enforcement association in the United States.

Tim Mahoney Take Oath In Congress

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- Florida's United States Representative for the 16th district took his oath of office Thursday. Tim Mahoney, born in 1956 in Illinois, and now a resident of Palm Beach Gardens and Venus, a rural community in southern Highlands county, succeeds Mark Foley in the 16th Congressional District.

Mahoney, describing himself as a fundamentalist Christian is a member of the Venus United Methodist Church and has a computer science degree and an M.B.A., and achieved wealth after a computer company he worked for was sold. Mahoney was an officer with a Florida disk drive company, Rodime Systems and that company was sold leaving him to begin Union Atlantic LLC with partner Lenney Sokolow, and then the purchase of vFinance, Inc. of Boca Raton. The company's main income is from securities brokerage and trading and has over a hundred employees.

The company stock went from $8 per share in 2000 down to 20 cents per share in late 2006, only turning a profit once in six years, and has been sued for fraud and breach of contract, while paying $80,000 in fines to securities regulators, according to a Wikipedia article.

A Democrat, Mahoney has criticized the Georgre Bush administration for general mismanagement and its policies in Iraq. Mahoney's Florida 16th congressional district takes in Hendry and Glades county and portions of Charlotte county, St. Lucie and Palm Beach county, creating a wide swath from the east coast to the west. Map of 16th District

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Indiantown Cattle Woman Gets Award

INDIANTOWN, FLORIDA -- Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charles H.
Bronson today announced that Iris Pollock Wall of Indiantown has been
selected to receive the "Woman of the Year in Agriculture" award for 2006.

"Iris Wall is a lifelong cattlewoman and rancher and a talented
businesswoman," Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson
said. "She is a living representative of the history of agriculture
in our state. She spent her youth cowhunting, and over the years
established a number of successful businesses and became a leader in
her community and her industry."

The award, now in its 22nd year, recognizes women who have made
outstanding contributions to Florida agriculture. It is sponsored by
the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the
Florida State Fair Authority. Bronson is scheduled to present the
award to Wall on February 8 during the opening-day luncheon at the
Florida State Fair in Tampa.

A fifth-generation Floridian, Iris was born in 1929 in
Indiantown. She spent most of her childhood on the back of a horse,
cowhunting with her father or just riding for the fun of it. During
the 1940s, when the screw worm was at its worst, she rode every day,
roping her family's cows and calves and "doctoring" them with
medicine she carried in her saddlebags.

In 1948 she married Homer Wall, her high school sweetheart, and they
started a family, which eventually grew to include three
daughters. Today, Iris owns a sprawling ranch and six lumberyards,
but she and Homer started with nothing except an eagerness to
work. They began their life together in the Everglades, hunting
alligators and cutting fence posts. They made their living fencing
other people's ranches, living frugally and putting money aside to
buy their own land.

They were soon able to start a small cattle and timber operation,
High Horse Ranch, located just outside of Indiantown. Over the years
it grew and prospered. Iris has always been a good steward of her
land and has worked with her local forest service, water districts,
county extension office, and farm service agency to ensure the best
management of the ranch's resources. She still rides through the
pastures and hammocks almost daily and offers tours to school and
civic groups. The tours often include a big barbecue and lots of
storytelling about Florida in the old days.

Iris and Homer got into the lumber business in 1962 when they
partnered with their friends Jack and Fay Williamson to open W&W
Lumber in Indiantown. After three years the Williamsons sold the
Walls their half of the business. W&W Lumber thrived, and today it
has expanded to include locations in West Palm Beach, Jensen Beach,
Okeechobee, Lake Placid and Sebring.

A ranch and a flourishing lumber business might be enough to keep
most people busy-but not Iris. In the early 1970s, Homer and Iris
purchased and restored the historic Seminole Inn, where her mother
once worked as a cook. The inn was built in 1926 by S. Davies
Warfield, a Baltimore financier who dreamed of turning Indiantown
into a railroad hub until his plans were dashed by the Great
Depression. The inn is one of the few reminders of Indiantown's boom
years in the twenties, and Iris and Homer intended their careful
restoration of the landmark to be their gift to the city. Today, the
inn is filled with period antiques and serves authentic Southern food
in its dining room. It was recently named one of Florida's top 20
inns by the St. Petersburg Times, and is listed on the National
Register of Historic Places.

Preserving the best of "old Florida" is a passion for Iris. She
serves on the board of the Florida Cracker Cattle Association and the
Florida Cracker Horse Association, and is dedicated to conserving
these rare old breeds as living links to Florida's history. She
often hosts the Cracker Horse Association's annual meetings at High
Horse Ranch, treating everyone involved, her friend Nelson Bailey
says, "to generous helpings of genuine old-style Southern hospitality
and food." Iris keeps a herd of Cracker cattle on the ranch and
still rides a Cracker horse.

Iris is also an active member of the Florida Cracker Trail
Association, a non-profit dedicated to preserving Florida's cattle
and horse heritage and to providing an east-west greenway from
Bradenton to Fort Pierce. Each February she participates in the
group's annual cross-state horseback and wagon ride, telling stories
around the campfire about her cowhunting days and helping to keep
Florida's history alive. As her friend David Reed, president of the
Cracker Trail Association, says, "With a gentle ease, she delivers us
into the old world of woods, cows, camps, rare nights in town, and
long, lonely months on the prairie. Were it not for the
participation of people like Miss Iris, who actually lived the life
growing up, it would be far more difficult, if not impossible, to
promote our purpose."

Iris took part in the Great Florida Cattle Drive of 1995, which
celebrated Florida's 150th year of statehood. She was part of a
group of cattle ranchers, farmers, and historians who drove 1,000
head of Cracker cattle across the state in a historical reenactment
of Florida's 19th century cattle drives. In 2006 Iris helped to
organize a second cattle drive, this time to benefit the Florida
Agricultural Museum, and she rode again, at the age of 77,
accompanied by family and friends.

Iris is a member of the Florida Cattlemen's Association and the
National Cattlemen's Association. She was recently elected to the
board of the Martin County Farm Bureau and has been inducted into the
Florida Cracker Hall of Fame.

Iris Pollock Wall lives in Indiantown, where her authentic Cracker
tales have put her much in demand as a speaker and storyteller. Her
beloved husband, Homer, died in 1994, but she is surrounded by her
children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and many
friends. Today, her daughters and sons-in-law manage the family
lumberyards and the inn, which is just wonderful, Iris says. The
arrangement leaves her with plenty of time to devote to her first
love: High Horse Ranch.

Hendry Commission Lop-Sided?

Opinion By T. W. Bill Neville

The recent election of a new Chairman of the Hendry County Commission has swung the gavel back into the hands of one of the three Clewiston based Commissioners, and if the past is an indicator of  things to come, the western portion of the county will not see appropriations necessary to meet the overwhelming growth needs coming in 2007.

I  understand that as long as the existing system of electing Commissioners continues, we will have this imbalance in the makeup of the BOCC.  So what are our options as responsible citizens to manage this inequity so that the subject Commissioners can be impartial in their governing of all the citizens needs?

As I see it, we have two options.  We can expand the Board by electing another Commissioner from the western half, or we can go the County-wide, at-large, County Commissioner elections.

These two options would require a referendum of the Hendry County voters, and in no way should be critical of the current Commissioners abilities to be impartial in satisfying what they are being called upon to satisfy in their individual districts.
I know this is not rocket science thinking on my part, and I hear the choruses starting up of, "it won;t work, been tried before, if it ain't broke, don't fix it", but that was then and now is now, or never. 

With the current planned amending of the Comprehensive Land Use Plan, a done deal, the western half of the county, with a 50% growth projection in 5 years or less, without adequate funding and disciplines, will be another Lee/Collier County debacle.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year 2007!

Archived Local News Stories Available

LABELLE, FLORIDA (January 1, 2007) -- The Sunday Morning News enters a new year and we wish all our readers a prosperous and happy 2007.

We know many readers like to search for past news stories. Selected full online issues from the past are available starting from February 1999 to current issues at Archive.org

And complete "archives" of all 741 stories we've written from May 2004 to the current week are found on the "Archives" section of this page. Click on any month at the left side of this page to find each of that month's stories.

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