Scaffolding collapses

Staff & Wire Reports

This shows the collapsed scaffolding, center, at a hotel under construction after two workers fell to their deaths early Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018, near Orlando, Fla. (Orange County Fire Rescue via AP)

This shows the collapsed scaffolding, center, at a hotel under construction after two workers fell to their deaths early Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018, near Orlando, Fla. (Orange County Fire Rescue via AP)

This shows the collapsed scaffolding, top center, at a hotel under construction after two workers fell to their deaths early Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018, near Orlando, Fla. (Orange County Fire Rescue via AP)

Fire Dept: 2 workers die in scaffolding collapse near Disney

Wednesday, August 29

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Two construction workers fell to their deaths when scaffolding collapsed above the sixth floor of a hotel under construction near Disney World early Wednesday. A third worker managed to hang on and climb to safety, a fire-rescue spokesman said.

The accident happened just outside Disney property, Orange County Fire Rescue spokesman Mike Jachles said.

“They were on the scaffolding, and for reasons unknown at this time, that support structure gave way, sending two workers plummeting to the ground below. Both died on the scene. A third worker managed to hang onto the scaffolding and managed to climb to safety,” Jachles told The Associated Press.

Marriott International has described the project as a 16-story, $282 million JW Marriott Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort, featuring 516 rooms near Orlando’s popular theme parks. It’s owned and developed by DCS Investment Holdings, a private equity group based in West Palm Beach, Florida, which is owned by Dwight C. Schar, co-owner of the Washington Redskins.

Fire-Rescue got the call at about 4:15 a.m., when about 18 workers were at the scene.

Jachles said it happened at the top of the construction project, which is still in the concrete-pouring stage. The Orange County Sheriff’s office and the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration will investigate, he said.

Attorney General DeWine Announces Rape Indictment Against Business Owner, Councilman

August 29, 2018

(ASHTABULA, Ohio)— Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine today announced charges against a northeast Ohio business owner and councilman who is accused of sexually assaulting and/or paying for sexual activity involving multiple juveniles between 1997 and 2005.

An Ashtabula County Grand Jury indicted Phillip Garcia, 63, of Conneaut, on five felony counts of rape, fifteen felony counts of compelling prostitution, two felony counts of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, and four felony counts of corruption of a minor.

Authorities with the Ashtabula County Sheriff’s Office launched the investigation into Garcia, the owner of Phil’s Catering in Ashtabula and a councilman for the city of Conneaut, after one of the alleged victims came forward in June.

The charges relate to five juveniles who were between the ages of 13 and 17 when the crimes allegedly occurred. Four of the alleged victims were employees of the defendant’s catering business.

“We do have concerns that there could be additional victims who have not yet been identified, and we urge anyone with information pertinent to the investigation to come forward,” said Attorney General DeWine.

The case is being prosecuted by attorneys with Attorney General DeWine’s Special Prosecutions Section as part of the Attorney General’s Crimes Against Children Initiative. The initiative was formed in 2011 to help local authorities investigate and prosecute those who commit crimes against juveniles.

Authorities with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Federal Bureau of Investigation assisted with the case.

Opinion: Congress Must Overhaul Its Harassment Policies

By Lisa Gilbert and Craig Sandler

It has been nearly a year since allegations of rampant sexual harassment and assault by powerful individuals overwhelmed social media and drove the media’s spotlight to the #MeToo movement. The women who are leading this movement continue to have a transformative effect on our culture and our elections nationwide.

In the last year, survivors have felt empowered to share their stories in the face of a society that for far too long demanded their silence, called them liars and protected the perpetrators. As a result, powerful men (and several women) from Hollywood to athletics, the restaurant industry to factory floors and everywhere in between, have been held accountable for their actions.

However, despite the power of the movement and the obvious need for reform, our U.S. Congress has failed to take sufficient action to reform its own internal sexual harassment policies. According to a 2016 CQ Roll Call survey, four in 10 female congressional aides say sexual harassment is a problem, and one in six staffers say they personally have been victimized.

But some members of Congress have been stonewalling important provisions that could protect targets of sexual harassment on Capitol Hill, in particular pushing to continue the potentially fraudulent practice of settling harassment complaints using taxpayer dollars instead of their own money. In failing to protect legislative staffers and hold its own members accountable, Congress has shown itself to be startlingly behind the times.

Congress’ inaction is unacceptable, especially given that more than half a dozen members of Congress have resigned in the past year because of allegations of inappropriate behavior, including former Reps. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas), John Conyers (D-Mich.), Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) and Pat Meehan (R-Pa.), and former senator Al Franken (D-Minn.).

To date, the House of Representatives and Senate each have passed bills intended to reform the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 (CAA), the law that governs how Congress handles cases of discrimination and harassment, including sexual harassment. These reforms are needed, yet the Senate and House bills dramatically differ in their approaches. The House’s legislation is imperfect, but it contains robust provisions to ensure that survivors can access justice, while the Senate bill is considerably weaker.

For example, the House bill prohibits members of Congress from using taxpayer funds as hush money for settling claims of discrimination or harassment. But the Senate bill provides a loophole that still allows members to continue the sneaky practice.

Farenthold, who resigned in April, used $84,000 in taxpayer funds to settle a sexual harassment case with a former staffer and never repaid taxpayers even though he promised to do so. There is no reason regular Americans should foot the bill for members of Congress who are accused of sexually harassing their staff.

As both chambers attempt to agree on a compromise bill to send to the president’s desk, reform efforts have stalled. Reporting indicates that a number of factors have contributed to this breakdown, including senators remaining adamant that they do not want to be held liable for repaying taxpayers.

Congress must agree on legislation to protect their staffs and the reputation of our representative institutions with strong transparency and accountability provisions as quickly as possible. Congressional staffers deserve to feel safe against harassment in the workplace and know that protections are in place should they face such inappropriate behavior.


Lisa Gilbert is vice president of legislative affairs at Public Citizen. Craig Sandler is program associate at Public Citizen’s Congress Watch. They wrote this for

The Conversation

NAFTA negotiations: Two’s company, three’s a crowd?

August 28, 2018


Drew Fagan

Professor of Public Policy, Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, University of Toronto

Disclosure statement

Drew Fagan does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.


University of Toronto provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation CA.

Two’s company, three’s a crowd. The third wheel. There’s no good term for someone who jams a couple, seemingly invited in out of pity.

Is that the position Canada finds itself in with the United States and Mexico, brought back in to the negotiations to conclude a new continental trade pact at the 11th hour after Washington and Mexico City have made a deal of their own?

And, if so, how did it get to the point that the United States’ most important trading partner appears to be essentially an afterthought in talks fundamental to Canadian national interests?

The Trudeau government said for weeks that Ottawa wasn’t frozen out of the negotiations. It was normal for two parties in a three-way negotiation to huddle and work on issues fundamental to them alone, Ottawa said.

Fundamental issues

But the U.S.-Mexico agreement initialed this week didn’t deal solely with bilateral issues, but with issues fundamental to Canada too, such as the dispute-resolution mechanism that was Canada’s most important trade objective when Ottawa first signed a free-trade pact with the United States in 1987.

If anyone traditionally worried about being the third wheel in the North American relationship, it was Mexico.

Mexico was only invited to negotiate its way into the free-trade zone after Canada and the United States had done their deal and put it into effect. Once those trilateral negotiations began in 1991, the three parties were scrupulous in ensuring they remained three-way talks.

Certainly, there were issues that concerned Canada only, such as cultural protections. And there were issues that concerned Mexico only, such as protections for its energy industry. But Canada and Mexico maintained a common interest in engaging the United States. And Washington didn’t try a divide-and-conquer strategy, recognizing that NAFTA involved continent-building as much as trade facilitation.

Behind the eight ball

Not so now. Canada now finds itself behind the eight ball in these negotiations, possibly faced with a choice between a bad deal and no deal at all, precisely what the Trudeau government was determined to avoid.

In particular, the price of signature may include a humiliating climb-down on protections for the supply-managed dairy and poultry sectors.

Much of this is the fault of the Trump administration. The White House has been singular in its contempt for its trading partners and in its dismissal of any concept of a North American community.

Canada and the United States have fought over trade since before Canada was a country (the first dispute over softwood lumber trade dates to shortly after the American Revolution), but Ottawa and Washington always sought to make those disputes about those disputes alone.

U.S. President Donald Trump, in contrast, talks as if Canada’s dairy tariffs are symptomatic of Canada’s trading practices rather than the exception.

Unrealistic expectations

But Ottawa deserves plenty of blame too. The Trudeau administration went into the NAFTA talks with unrealistic expectations.

It’s demand for a progressive pact, worthy as that goal might have been, simply turned off the White House, just as it did the Chinese government in putative trade talks last year.

More costly still was Ottawa’s determination to show no flexibility on supply management. More than one prime minister over the past three decades has wished quietly for an opportunity to reform this protectionist throw-back, even as they mouthed fealties to it.

This negotiation was the opportunity to act but, instead of doing it proactively and strategically, the Trudeau government may be forced into it as the price of saving Canada’s most important trade pact.

It’s now widely accepted that Canada is too dependent on the U.S. market given the wave of protectionism washing over U.S. politics. But, if anything, it may be more accurate to say that Canada didn’t do enough to protect its North American advantage by building a community of interest and institutional ties in the United States.

Instead, Canada took the U.S. market — as big as the entire European Union and right on our doorstep — for granted.

The White House, having finally grabbed Ottawa’s attention, may now agree to a deal that Ottawa can live with. Or it may work to drive a very hard bargain with the clock ticking. If so, another European comparison comes to mind: Canada just might have been sleepwalking to its own Brexit.

Analysis: Stemming Florida’s Red Tide Requires Government and Business to Work Together

By Kate Patrick

The red tide in Florida is historically destructive and toxic this year, extending along the western coast of the state from Naples to St. Petersburg, destroying marine life and ravaging tourist destinations and local businesses.

Even though the phenomenon is a naturally occurring one, it drew the attention of the U.S. Senate in a Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee hearing Tuesday while Florida politicians and corporate giants continue to point fingers at each other over how bad the red tide is this year.

But Florida conservationists and scientists say there’s plenty of blame to go around as to why the red tide is so severe, and said that Florida’s government, businesses and local residents must work together to fix the problem.

Before industrialization in Florida, rain water flowed through northern and middle Florida wetlands down into Lake Okeechobee. Once the lake’s waters rose to a certain height, the water spilled over the southern side and flowed through the Everglades and all the way down to the tip of the state.

This process created layers of nutrients in the soil south of the lake, which is why that area is so fertile and heavily used for sugar farming.

According to conservationist group Audubon Florida’s executive director Julie Wraithmell, this extensive process naturally cleaned the water. While red tides still happened — and have been documented as far back as the Spanish explorers in the 16th century — they weren’t nearly as acute as they are now.

Part of the problem is man-made engineering to allow the surrounding land to be farmed. Instead of allowing Lake Okeechobee to naturally spill over toward the south, the Herbert Hoover Dike was installed to stem the southern flow and two estuaries — the Caloosahatchee River to the west and the St. Lucie River to the east — now drain the lake east-west instead of south.

The result, according to Wraithmell, is a disrupted natural water management system that fuels not only a booming agricultural and sugar industry but also a booming red tide.

“This is the problem with a natural system that has been constrained and re-engineered in many different ways,” Wraithmell said. “We can’t make it work for all of the needs that we have. We need to get it back more to its natural function to make sure the lake and Everglades are healthy.”

The farms surrounding the lake contribute nutrients to the water flow that encourage the red tide. Because the natural water flow and cleaning is disrupted, the nutrients from farm fertilizers steadily makes the red tide worse.

Some have blamed US Sugar specifically for contributing to the red tide, because it dumps pollutants into Lake Okeechobee, including the chemical phosphorus, which accelerates the life cycle of red tide blooms.

But Wraithmell said US Sugar is “not responsible for all of the nutrients” causing the red tide: many of the nutrients come from septic tanks and other farms north of the lake.

Just a few weeks ago, US Sugar posted a news release titled “The Facts on Florida Red Tide — It Is NOT Caused by Lake Okeechobee” in which it states that anyone claiming US Sugar is responsible has an “anti-farming agenda.”

“This idea is completely false, and factual statements to correct that misinformation have been made recently by well-respected scientists with research organizations that have studied Florida red tide for decades,” the statement reads.

US Sugar then quoted Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium scientist Tracy Fanara as saying the red tide is not “initiated” by the lake.

Fanara then told WINK News that US Sugar “misused” her statement for its own agenda, clarifying that the lake may be in fact contributing to the red tide even if it isn’t causing it.

Despite the debate over the cause and facilitation of the red tide, some Floridians believe US Sugar has abused the land and paid off politicians to stop them from focusing on environmental protection regulation that might cut into US Sugar’s business.

Local and national reports in the Miami Herald, the Orlando Sentinel, Marketwatch, and the right-leaning Americans for Tax Reform have found that US Sugar regularly contributes millions of dollars to federal, state and local politicians and then receives hefty subsidies, which some claim hurts Florida jobs, taxpayers and local businesses as well as the environment (US Sugar says it employs more than 12,000 in Florida sugar cane farming).

The local reports found that US Sugar has successfully lobbied to push back the deadline for cleaning up Lake Okeechobee several times. According to the Herald, the Everglades Foundation claims the lake is primarily responsible for most of the phosphorus that enters the Everglades.

Yet, US Sugar has substantially reduced phosphorus levels in the lake over the past 10 years, so much so that now most phosphorus comes from cattle ranches and suburbs, according to the South Florida Water Management District.

“Every time people put those things on their lawns or cut their lawns, those things get flushed out into our waterways,” Wraithmell said. “So we’re asking people to be really mindful of the use of fertilizers on laws and municipal parks and reserves. Septic tanks of course contribute as well. Even septic tanks that are in perfect order continue to contribute nutrients to waterways, so making sure that we have every opportunity to hook those up to sewer is an important step we can take.”

Vincent Lovko, another scientist with Mote, said there “isn’t sufficient data” to pinpoint exactly why the red tide is so bad this year.

“As far as the influence from human derived nutrients, fertilizers and septic systems, all that of course can increase the nutrient concentration in the coastal water,” he said, “or it could be that it’s just a natural occurrence. From a scientist’s perspective, either we don’t have data to conclusively say, or we just need to do more analysis to determine.”

At the Tuesday hearing, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute’s Daniel Anderson also said additional research is necessary to fully understand the red tide and said “sustained funding at a higher level is a critical need.”

Lovko said there were historically bad blooms in 2004, 2005 and 2006, so this year’s severe outbreak “is not unprecedented.”

“This is not the norm, but they do happen,” he said.

Besides the influence of man-made nutrients, Wraithmell said warmer temperatures are also responsible for this year’s outbreak.

“Water temperature is related to weather patterns and climate,” she said. “We need to recognize that there are long-term effects of climate change.”

Republican Gov. Rick Scott has called for additional federal funding to repair the Herbert Hoover Dike, but his challenger in the coming senatorial election — Democrat Bill Nelson — and Wraithmell both said that won’t solve the problem.

Scott has also asked Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to do everything they can to mitigate the crisis, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

A few weeks ago, Scott declared a state of emergency and announced additional funding for conservation and environmental protection groups so they can quickly address the issues. The funding includes more than $100,000 for Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium, according to the Bradenton Herald.

Additional funding, Wraithmell and Lovko said, can make a huge difference. Not only will it allow scientists to better study and determine the exact causes of the red tide but it will also allow conservationists to help save marine life.

But Wraithmell said the water system in Florida must be overhauled in order to bring about lasting change, and that requires cooperation from politicians as well as corporations like US Sugar.

“Wetlands and these water bodies, they’re infrastructure, they need to be maintained just like roads and schools,” Wraithmell said. “Investing in this is important to the health of the state. We need to move more water south and focus on the Everglades and clean more water. Folks need to be thinking about septic tanks and also protecting coastal wetlands.”

At the Senate’s hearing Tuesday, Nelson said the red tide is a “bipartisan issue” and highlighted this year’s destruction to the tourism industry and local businesses as well as marine life and hazards to human wellbeing.

“This is not a partisan issue. I’ve worked for years with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to secure funding for research on algae blooms and projects to restore the Everglades to send the water south as Mother Nature intended,” he said.

Nelson said he and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, are working on a bill “to require a coordinated scientific strategy to address toxic algae in South Florida and the Everglades.”

Sen. Dan Sullivan also described similar algae problems in his home state of Alaska, as did Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin. Anderson, of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, told the senators that red tides can cost local communities millions of dollars in lost tourism or business.

“As waters warm, precedents like this may become the new normal. Climate change will only make things worse,” Baldwin said.

Nelson sponsored the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act of 2017, but after passing the Senate in September 2017 it is now stalled in the House.


Kate Patrick reports technology and finance news for InsideSources.

This shows the collapsed scaffolding, center, at a hotel under construction after two workers fell to their deaths early Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018, near Orlando, Fla. (Orange County Fire Rescue via AP) shows the collapsed scaffolding, center, at a hotel under construction after two workers fell to their deaths early Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018, near Orlando, Fla. (Orange County Fire Rescue via AP)

This shows the collapsed scaffolding, top center, at a hotel under construction after two workers fell to their deaths early Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018, near Orlando, Fla. (Orange County Fire Rescue via AP) shows the collapsed scaffolding, top center, at a hotel under construction after two workers fell to their deaths early Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018, near Orlando, Fla. (Orange County Fire Rescue via AP)

Staff & Wire Reports