Archive for the ‘Florida’ Category

Last-minute requests reportedly crush Florida voter registration site

October 6th, 2020
Close-up photograph of a man's shirt with a sticker attached.

Enlarge / A Florida man wears a sticker indicating that he registered to vote. (credit: Joe Raedle / Getty Images)

Florida's secretary of state has extended the deadline for voter registration to 7pm today. Registration officially closed last night at midnight, but problems with the state's website prevented some Floridians from completing their registration in time.

Laurel Lee, the Florida secretary of state appointed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, announced the change after noon on Tuesday, giving voters who missed the previous deadline less than seven hours to try again.

Voting rights advocates sued Lee on Tuesday morning, arguing that the website problems had deprived Floridians of their right to vote. They pointed out that Florida's voter registration website has a history of crashing under heavy loads.

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Posted in Florida, Florida Man, Policy, voter registration | Comments (0)

Florida order requiring all schools to reopen was illegal, judge rules

August 25th, 2020
A school classroom filled with empty desks.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Mayu Tanaka | EyeEm)

Florida's state government cannot force schools to reopen this month, a judge ruled yesterday. The state's order to reopen K-12 schools disregarded safety risks posed by COVID-19 and gave schools no meaningful alternative, according to the ruling issued by Judge Charles Dodson of the Second Judicial Circuit in Leon County.

On July 6, Florida Department of Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran issued an emergency order stating, "Upon reopening in August, all school boards and charter school governing boards must open brick and mortar schools at least five days per week for all students." Schools that don't meet this requirement could lose state funding. Corcoran, Governor Ron DeSantis, and other state officials were then sued by the Florida Education Association, a statewide teachers' union; the NAACP; and several individual teachers and parents.

After summarizing the health risks of reopening schools during the pandemic, the judge wrote that the state's order to reopen schools "takes none of that into consideration. It fails to mention consideration of community transmission rates, varying ages of students, or proper precautions. What has been clearly established is there is no easy decision and opening schools will most likely increase COVID‐19 cases in Florida. Thus, Plaintiffs have demonstrated a substantial likelihood of success in procuring a judgment declaring the Order is being applied arbitrarily across Florida."

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Posted in COVID-19, Florida, pandemic, Policy, schools | Comments (0)

US logs record 40K COVID-19 cases in a day as experts brace for rise in deaths

June 26th, 2020
Vice President Mike Pence speaks after leading a White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing at the Department of Health and Human Services on June 26, 2020 in Washington, DC.

Enlarge / Vice President Mike Pence speaks after leading a White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing at the Department of Health and Human Services on June 26, 2020 in Washington, DC. (credit: Getty | Joshua Roberts)

The US logged nearly 40,000 new cases of COVID-19 nationwide Thursday—the highest daily total yet in the course of the pandemic—and many states continue to see an alarming rise in the spread of disease.

Cases have been increasing in 30 states, according to the New York Times’ COVID-19 tracking effort. On Friday, 11 states set their own records for the average number of new cases reported in the past seven days, according to the Washington Post.

Though the rising case counts can sometimes reflect a rise in overall testing, many states are also seeing high and increasing percentages of positive tests—that is, the fraction of test results that come back positive, which is considered a more useful metric for assessing if disease spread is actually increasing. If states increase testing while the spread of COVID-19 stays the same or declines, the fraction of tests coming back positive would gradually decline.

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Posted in Arizona, cases, COVID-19, fauci, Florida, Infectious disease, outbreak, pandemic, pence, public health, SARS-CoV-2, science, testing, Texas, Transmission | Comments (0)

Ousted scientist says she was asked to manipulate Florida COVID-19 data

May 20th, 2020
Florida began allowing businesses to reopen this week, but the ousted manager of the data behind that decision warns it may not be solid.

Enlarge / Florida began allowing businesses to reopen this week, but the ousted manager of the data behind that decision warns it may not be solid. (credit: CHANDAN KHANNA | AFP | Getty Images)

As Florida tries to move past the COVID-19 crisis and reopen businesses and venues, the former manager of the state's novel coronavirus data project alleges she was fired for refusing to cook the numbers and make the state look better.

Rebekah Jones said Friday she was removed from her position, local outlet Florida Today was the first to report.

Jones built and managed the COVID-19 data dashboard for the state from March until until May 5. Last week, she explained that for "reasons beyond my division's control," her office lost all connection to the portal, and neither she nor her team was any longer involved with it, its data, its publication, or answering questions.

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Posted in coronavirus, COVID-19, data, Florida, Policy | Comments (0)

Unlicensed “health coach” claims health advice is free speech—court disagrees

July 20th, 2019
Unlicensed "health coach" Heather Del Castillo

Enlarge / Unlicensed "health coach" Heather Del Castillo (credit: Institute for Justice)

A federal court on Wednesday rejected claims by an unlicensed “health coach” that the unqualified health advice she provided to paying clients was protected speech under the First Amendment.

In rejecting her claim, the court affirmed that states do indeed have the right to require that anyone charging for health and medical services—in this case, dietetics and nutrition advice—be qualified and licensed. (State laws governing who can offer personalized nutrition services vary considerably, however.)

Heather Del Castillo, a “holistic health coach” based in Florida, brought the case in October of 2017 shortly after she was busted in an undercover investigation by the state health department. At the time, Del Castillo was running a health-coaching business called Constitution Nutrition, which offered a personalized, six-month health and dietary program. The program involved 13 in-home consulting sessions, 12 of which cost $95 each.

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Posted in First Amendment, Florida, Freedom of Speech, Health, licensing, Medical, nutrition, public health, science | Comments (0)

Ryuk, Ryuk, Ryuk: Georgia’s courts hit by ransomware

July 1st, 2019
Court systems in Georgia are down due to a ransomware attack. Surprise.

Enlarge / Court systems in Georgia are down due to a ransomware attack. Surprise. (credit: Rivers Langley / SaveRivers / Wikimedia)

Georgia's Judicial Council and Administrative Office of the Courts is the victim of the latest ransomware attack against state and local agencies. And this looks like the same type of attack that took down the systems of at least two Florida municipal governments in June.

Administrative Office of the Courts spokesman Bruce Shaw confirmed the ransomware attack to Atlanta's Channel 11 News. The Administrative Office of the Courts' website is currently offline.

Shaw told 11 News that some systems had not been affected by the ransomware but that all systems connected to the network had been taken offline to prevent the ransomware from spreading. The Courts' IT department was in contact with "external agencies" to coordinate a response to the attack, Shaw said.

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Posted in Atlanta, Biz & IT, Florida, ransomware, ryuk | Comments (0)

Florida LAN: Someone clicks link, again, giving Key Biscayne ransomware

June 28th, 2019
Key Biscayne, Florida, is the third Florida local government to get hit by ransomware within a month.

Enlarge / Key Biscayne, Florida, is the third Florida local government to get hit by ransomware within a month. (credit: Alicia Vera/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

A third Florida local government has reported that it has been struck by ransomware. Key Biscayne joins Lake City as a victim of Ryuk, a form of ransomware first spotted in August of 2018. Ryuk was the final piece of what has been labeled the "Triple Threat' attack, the other two threats being Emotet and Trickbot malware.

While the attack on Riviera Beach, Florida revealed last week was similar—all three cases start with a city employee clicking on an attachment in email and unleashing malware—it's not certain if that attack was also based on Ryuk.

Ryuk is targeted ransomware, originally linked to the North Korean "Lazarus" threat group, but now it appears to have been adopted by non-state criminal ransomware operators as well. It comes with a tailored ransom note that directs victims to contact the attacker via email. It has been known to lay dormant for up to a year before executing.

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Posted in Biz & IT, Emotet, Florida, ransomware, ryuk, TrickBot | Comments (0)

A tale of two cities: Why ransomware will just get worse

June 21st, 2019
Baltimore, Maryland; Riviera Beach, Florida. Both got ransomware, and the outcomes were... the worst of times, and the worst of times.

Enlarge / Baltimore, Maryland; Riviera Beach, Florida. Both got ransomware, and the outcomes were... the worst of times, and the worst of times.

Earlier this week, the city of Riviera Beach, Florida, faced a $600,000 demand from ransomware operators in order to regain access to the city's data. The ransom was an order of magnitude larger than the ransom demanded by the attackers that struck Baltimore's city government in May. Against the advice of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, however, the Riviera Beach city council voted to pay the ransom—more than $300,000 of it covered by the city's insurance policy.

Baltimore had refused to pay $76,000 worth of Bitcoin despite facing an estimated ransomware cost of more than $18 million, of which $8 million was from lost or deferred revenue. Baltimore lacked cyber insurance to cover those costs.

Riviera Beach is much smaller than Baltimore—with an IT department of 10 people, according to the city's most recent budget, and an annual budget of $2.5 million to support a total city government of 550 employees. (Baltimore has about 50 IT staffers supporting more than 13,000 employees by comparison.) It's not a surprise that Riviera Beach's leadership decided to pay, given that a full incident response and recovery would have likely cost two to three times what they've agreed to pay the ransomware operators, and half of that price tag is covered by insurance. So, Riviera Beach's decision to pay looks like the easiest way out. It's a decision that has been made by many local governmental organizations and businesses alike over the past few years.

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Posted in Baltimore ransomware attack, Biz & IT, Florida, Riviera Beach ransomware attack, targeted ransomware | Comments (0)

Tesla sued after fatal crash, accused of making “unreasonably dangerous” car

January 9th, 2019
A seller shows the dashboard of the Tesla Model S car at the electric carmaker Tesla showroom of El Corte Ingles store in Lisbon, on September 1, 2017.

Enlarge / A seller shows the dashboard of the Tesla Model S car at the electric carmaker Tesla showroom of El Corte Ingles store in Lisbon, on September 1, 2017. (credit: Getty Images)

The family of a Florida man who died in a high-speed accident involving a Tesla has sued the automaker, alleging that his Tesla's battery was defective and that the company was negligent when it removed a speed governor on the car.

According to the lawsuit, Edgar Monserratt v. Tesla—which was filed Tuesday in Broward County court—Monserratt's 18-year-old son was a front-seat passenger in a 2014 Tesla S being driven by another person, Barrett Riley.

Riley was driving southbound over 116 mph on Seabreeze Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale on May 8, 2018, when he hit an adjacent wall. The Tesla came back into the road, then hit a light pole on the opposite side of the street.

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Posted in battery, crash, Florida, Policy, tesla s | Comments (0)

Wild monkeys with killer herpes are breeding like crazy in Florida

January 3rd, 2019
Wild monkeys with killer herpes are breeding like crazy in Florida

Enlarge (credit: Getty | DEA / C.DANI / I.JESKE)

A quick reminder: there’s a band of feral monkeys running wild in Central Florida that carries a type of herpes lethal to humans. The mischievous simians—who are not shy around people—can transmit deadly disease with just a scratch, nip, or fling of poo.

Last year, experts warned that the rhesus macaques are a public health threat. It now seems that the monkey business is likely to get worse, with a wildlife expert revealing that their population is set to double in the next few years.

It’s going to be a problem… Continual growth of that population is going to occur without intervention,” Steve Johnson told Florida ABC-affiliate WFTV in a report published January 3. Johnson is a professor and wildlife expert at the University of Florida and part of a team of researchers that has followed the monkeys for years.

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Posted in Florida, herpes, Infectious disease, monkeys, science, wildlife | Comments (0)