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Viewpoints
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Tuesday, April 21
“We must change the decisions we are making by changing the people who are making them,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., proclaimed in his presidential campaign kickoff April 13.

It was impossible not to think of when Barack Obama in 2008 - a freshman senator with an impressive personal story - chose to challenge presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton. She had supported President George W. Bush by voting in 2002 to authorize the use of force in Iraq. By 2008, most Democrats opposed that war.

Rubio seemed especially Obama-esque when he took a swipe at former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the erstwhile presumptive GOP front-runner.
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My sources in the board game industry tell me that a new game is about to be launched. It’s called “What in the World Is Happening in the Mideast?” It’s aimed at the millions - no, billions - of people around the world who are trying without success to comprehend the goings-on in today’s Mideast.

The DePew Anti-Confusion Research Institute recently declared the entire Mideast as the most puzzling situation in world history, not only in international politics but also in any area of human knowledge. The Institute’s president, Dr. Rancid Behoover, said, “Today’s Mideast makes cancer and AIDS research look like a nursery rhyme. Even the deepest mystery known, i.e., What do women really want? pales in comparison to the mad-house that exists in the region between Morocco and Singapore.

One expert, Serena Tinn Kahn, has expanded that geographic region (the Mideast) to include any nation where Muslim extremists live. She said, “If you don’t believe me, just wait until a terrorist bomb goes off in Sacramento.”
 ... Read More 
When North Charleston Patrolman Michael Slager allegedly shot Walter Scott in the back as he ran from a traffic stop, it sent shock waves throughout the black and white and law enforcement communities.

There is no way to exonerate Slager’s actions after viewing the video taken by Feidin Santana, who used his cell phone to record the dramatic encounter.

There stood Slager firing on the fleeing 50-year-old Scott, who reportedly believed that he had an outstanding warrant for nonpayment of child support. We see him stumble, then fall to the ground as bullets find their mark. Then the officer handcuffs what now is a corpse, and allegedly calls in a false report that Scott commandeered his taser gun.
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Tuesday, April 14
It had been decades since I walked across the campus of my alma mater without hearing anyone yell, “Go Gators.”

I’m not accustomed to being in Gainesville on business; I’m usually there to watch the Gators play football or basketball.

Nevertheless, you can’t be standing on the center of the University of Florida campus without seeing some telltale signs of Gator Country, such as the school’s colors. I walked past an orange and blue hammock stretched across a pair of oak trees on the grounds of the four-story Library West. A student relaxed in the hammock, staring at his smartphone, as dozens of students passed by him, either going to or returning from classes.
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I’m writing this in longhand on a spiral notebook. And it looks it. My handwriting is laughable, both from encroaching age and the fact that I gave up writing by hand years ago when I bought my first computer.

My current computer is in the hands of a local Geek Squad, for cleanup. The scammers, spammers and malware merchants had infected my files to the point that I no longer could be sure that what I wrote and emailed would get there intact.

I first learned handwriting in various grammar schools scattered in obscure villages throughout Pennsylvania. I especially recall a spiteful female teacher in Berlin, Pennsylvania, who scolded me because I could not make beautiful strokes with my pen. I believe she was a Nazi, but I can’t be sure.
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Rand Paul’s entry into the 2016 Republican presidential primary is good for the GOP. I won’t proclaim that Paul, 52, has the gravitas or character to occupy the Oval Office - that remains to be seen - but I do believe that all the other Republican hopefuls should watch and learn from Kentucky’s junior senator. His take on issues could make independents and Democrats take a second look at a party where they have not felt welcome.

Paul describes himself as “libertarian-ish.” He’s not an apologist for the GOP. “It seems to me that both parties and the entire political system are to blame,” Paul said in his campaign kickoff speech in Louisville on Tuesday. “Big government and debt doubled under a Republican administration. And it’s now tripling under Barack Obama’s watch.” Many Republicans wonder why they send to Congress candidates who promise to reduce the size and scope of government yet government keeps growing. This rhetoric plays with the party’s base.

Paul’s criticism of excesses in the federal government’s war on drugs should appeal to young people and African-Americans. Paul believes “any law that disproportionately incarcerates people of color” should be repealed. He quoted Martin Luther King Jr.’s criticism of “two Americas,” one with opportunity, the other scarred by “daily ugliness.”
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Tuesday, April 7
In commuting the sentences of 22 federal drug offenders Tuesday, President Barack Obama has begun to take the unfettered power of executive clemency embedded in the Constitution to the place where it belongs. “I’ve been a cynic on the Obama administration for a while,” University of St. Thomas School of Law professor Mark Osler told me, but with these commutations, which doubled the president’s total, “it’s hard for me to be cynical about what’s happening today.” Finally, the administration is demonstrating how pardon power should be used, with, as Osler put it, “the most powerful person in the world freeing the least powerful person in the world.”

In a nice personal touch, Obama sent letters to the 22, urging them to act on their “capacity to make good choices” and “prove the doubters wrong.”

In his first term, Obama commuted but one sentence - half the meager two meted out in the first term of President George W. Bush. Pardon Power blogger P.S. Ruckman charged that inmates seeking mercy from Obama stood “a better chance of getting hit by lightning.” Apologists justified Obama’s sorry record as an exercise in political self-defense. No politician, after all, wants to be tied to a preventable crime spree as former Massachusetts Gov. (and 1988 Democratic presidential nominee) Michael Dukakis was to Willie Horton - a convicted murderer who, in 1987, raped and assaulted a woman after he was furloughed from a Bay State prison.
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I have a niece named Phoebe in Indiana who works as a Starbucks barista. As you probably know, “barista” means “server of over-priced coffee drinks.” I got to thinking about Phoebe a few days ago when I heard about Starbucks’ program for improving race relations.

It’s the idea of Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz. He’s encouraging his baristas to strike up a conversation about race while they (the baristas) prepare the customer’s drink. As they hand over the drink, the barista prints the words “Race Together” on the coffee cup. As I understand it, all of this is supposed to help whites, blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans, and newly-arrived Swedes to get along better.

I phoned Phoebe one night at her home. She sounded discouraged. “What’s up, Phoebe?” She said, “Uncle Bob, do you know who Nat Turner was?” I said, “Wasn’t he the slave who in 1831 led a famous uprising in Virginia?”
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A friend recently lost his mother whose ashes were scattered in the Gulf of Mexico.

In a display of sympathy I offered my sincere condolences. “You know,” he replied, “every time I look into an ashtray I think of Mom.”

A keen sense of humor has absolutely no boundaries. My own has been described as “unconventional.” That came from years of covering New York City area police beats where I learned from the best humorists of all ... cops.
 ... Read More 
Tuesday, March 31
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A neighborhood watches with sad eyes as tree after tree falls in backyards of homes along a residential street in Largo. We’re victims of rules enacted to protect the masses. We’re giving up our green space for the greater good.

I get that. Our backyards are under power transmission lines. Our trees could endanger the lines. The lines are power.

My husband and I weren’t too terribly surprised when a neighbor came to our door one night, distraught over the door hanger left by Duke Energy informing him of the fate of his trees. We didn’t get a door hanger. Selfishly, I hoped they wouldn’t take ours.
 ... Read More 
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Community Calender
• Saturday, April 25, 2015
Action 2000
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH – The Action 2000 service Saturday is April 25, 9 to 11 a.m., at the 10th Avenue park.

Volunteers may park in the 10th Avenue Indian Rocks Beach Nature Preserve parking lot. Members of the organization will be mulching and planting spring flowers.

To get ready for the June 20 planting at the county park between 17th and 18th avenues, A2K will have three Wednesday sessions from 9 to 11 a.m. to prepare the site.

For volunteers who have a hard time making Saturday sessions, this could be a good alternative. Club members will be weeding and trimming in the county park, where they will be planting the native butterfly garden.

The park is overgrown and requires some preparation work before the June 20 planting. The prep dates are April 29, May 13 and June 3, 9 to 11 a.m.

For information, visit www.irbaction2000.com /events.
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American Cat Fanciers sanctioned show
SEMINOLE – The Gulf Coast Touch of Class Cat Club has partnered with Career Academies of Seminole, 12611 86th Ave. N.,to host an American Cat Fanciers sanctioned show Saturday, April 25 through Sunday, April 26, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the school.

The show will be a fundraiser for CAS’ veterinary assisting program.

Over 100 pure bred cats are entered in the competition. There will also be cats and cat accessories for sale. Tickets to the show are available for a $5 donation. Email biramp@pcsb.org or visit www.acfacat.com for more information.

CAS commercial and digital design students will offer free Adobe Photoshop workshops April 25, 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. Bring damaged or old photos and the students will demonstrate how to scan and retouch them. Email juulc@pcsb.org for more information.

The school’s horticulture program will also host a plant sale that weekend. Students will be on site to help guests select a variety of different plants and to offer advice on growing and maintaining vegetation. Email heavnera@pcsb.org for more information.
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Art Hop
LARGO – The Greater Largo Library Foundation is hosting the eighth annual Art Hop, a fundraising event, April 25, 6 to 10 p.m., at the Largo Public Library, 120 Central Park Drive. 

The Art Hop will showcase local businesses, special guest artists, the library and the youth artists of the area. The event will include silent auctions, delicious foods, entertainment, dancing and more.

Starting out at the library, guests will board buses and hop all over Largo’s downtown area, visiting businesses and artists. At each business, they will be able to meet an artist, bid on a silent auction item, find great refreshments and explore the business.

Hop to as many stops as you like and then return to the Library to see more local artists, a featured collection, featured artist, and rising star artist. Bid at the silent auction and enjoy tasting samples of food from local restaurants.

The Greater Largo Library Foundation provides funding for programs, services and equipment that the yearly city budget does not fund. The funds from previous Art Hop events have provided for new art pieces to enhance the library, sponsors the English Language Learning Program and other educational programs at the library. The foundation also provides funding for handicapped scooters, new shelving and other material needs in the library.

Purchase tickets in person at the library or call 586-7398.
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Arts and crafts show
TARPON SPRINGS — The Tarpon Springs Merchant’s Association will once again host its Arts and Crafts Show featuring dozens of vendors Saturday and Sunday, April 25-26, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on on the sponge docks and Dodecanese Boulevard. Food and beverages will be sold on site. About 80 booths will sell everything from jewelry and ceramics to plants and photography.
 ... Read More 
Beach Branch ACH Ducky benefit
TREASURE ISLAND – The Beach Branch of All Children’s Hospital Guild will present its 10th annual Ducky event on Saturday, April 25, 6 to 9:30 p.m., at The Club at Treasure Island, 400 Treasure Island Causeway.

The gala’s namesake is a sassy yellow rubber duck. Last year, Ducky went to the Oscars; this year, he’s having a “Ken-ducky Derby.”

The event with dinner and open bar will feature entertainment, live and silent auctions, Run for the Roses races and a best hat contest.

Tickets are $100 per person, and sponsorships ranging from $500 to $2,500 bring event tickets, tours and recognition. Underwriting opportunities are also available.

For information and reservations, call Annmartine Rinker at 388-1649 or email annmartine1@gmail.com.

Proceeds from the event will help the guild in its third and final year of a three-year pledge of $900,000 to support and sustain the Pediatric Palliative Care Program at All Children’s Hospital.

The program will provide a coordinated, comprehensive and compassionate approach to caring for children with life limiting or life threatening illness and injuries.

In addition to this guild pledge, the Beach Branch gives $2,500 to Flashes of Hope, which provides professional photographs that portray the bravery, grace and dignity of children with life threatening illnesses.
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Biggest Beach Party Ever
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH – The Indian Rocks Beach Homeowners Association presents the Biggest Beach Party Ever on Saturday, April 25, 4 to 10 p.m.

This event, sponsored by Century 21 Beggins and Paramount Title, will be held on the beach just behind the Indian Rocks Beach County Park, 1700 Gulf Blvd.

Admission is free. Beer is sponsored by Crabby Bill’s, Wine is sponsored by Paradise Air. Stage and band sponsors are Discount Loans.com, Hedrick’s Roofing. Century 21 and Paramount Title.

No coolers or dogs allowed. The Biggest Beach Party Ever is a great family for bringing blankets and lawn chairs and enjoying an afternoon and evening of food, music and fun.” More information available at IRBhome.com.

The Indian Rocks Beach Homeowners Association, a non-profit organization, donates proceeds from its events to support local community projects and worthwhile causes.
 ... Read More 
Brooker creek extended hike
TARPON SPRINGS – A free extended guided hike will be presented Saturday, April 25, 9 a.m. to noon, at Brooker Creek Preserve, 3940 Keystone Road.

Volunteer hike guides will lead participants on a 2.8 to 4-mile walk through Brooker Creek Preserve. Hike trails will be determined by trail condition. Sturdy closed-toe shoes are a must; water and a hat are recommended.

Hike guides will meet participants in the lobby of the Exhibit Hall 10 minutes before the scheduled start time of 9 a.m.

Pets are not permitted. All ages are welcome. Children 15 and younger must be accompanied by an adult, and those younger than 10 may find the hike challenging.

Advance registration is required. Call 453-6800 or visit www.brookercreekpreserve.org.
 ... Read More 
Career workshop
LARGO – A career workshop will be offered Saturday, April 25, 9:30 a.m. to 4:40 p.m., at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 9000 106th Ave. N.

Attendees will have an opportunity to further develop the skills and knowledge needed to achieve their employment goals, help them find jobs and to help them get the job that they desire by setting themselves apart from the other candidates.

This workshop – valued at $1,000 – is free and open to the general public. For information, call 942-9786.
 ... Read More 
Community garage sale
PINELLAS PARK – The Father Lopez Council of the Knights of Columbus will host a community garage sale Saturday, April 25, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., at 7177 58th St. N. Call 244-1341.
Fort De Soto guided walk
TIERRA VERDE – A free, guided nature walk will be offered Saturday, April 25, 10 to 11 a.m., at Fort De Soto Park, 3500 Pinellas Bayway S.

Guests will enjoy the beauty of Fort De Soto Park with a one-hour nature walk great for the entire family. A guided walk on the beach trail is planned. Parking cost is $5.

Registration is required. To register, call 582-2267 and select option 8. Visit www.pinellascounty.org /park.
 ... Read More 
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