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Florida editorial roundup

August 12, 2014
Associated Press

Recent editorials from Florida newspapers:

August 12

The Gainesville (Florida) Sun on water warnings:

We have been warned — and warned and warned. It goes like this: If Floridians don't quit pumping and polluting their water to excess, there will be real consequences that will be difficult to overcome and could endanger the state's economic future.

If the threat sounds exaggerated, just take a look at two major national events that have been in the news, both involving water.

Most recently, the people of Toledo, Ohio, had their water supply shut off for two days because of a massive algae bloom in Lake Erie, which the city depends on for its drinking water. The bloom was not only huge but, because it was so concentrated, it was toxic as well and made the drinking water unsafe.

The principal culprit, according to scientists evaluating the mess, is runoff from farms. Household fertilizer and municipal stormwater runoff also contributed.

What's happening on Lake Erie happens all over Florida, just not on that big of a scale. When nitrates continue to flow into surface waters in large volumes, they will produce algae — lots of algae. We only need to look at our once-glistening springs to see the effects of nitrates on waterways.

The other story regarding water supply that is relevant locally — anywhere, actually — is the study done of the Colorado River Basin by NASA and the University of California, Irvine. After 14 years of drought, researchers used NASA satellites to measure all the water within the basin, which supplies water to 40 million people in seven states.

What the researchers found was that between 2004 and 2013, the basin lost about 53 million acre feet of water — twice as much as the nation's largest reservoir, Lake Mead at Hoover Dam.

The obvious lesson is that when scientists tell us we are over pumping and are nearing the aquifer's sustainable pumping capacity, we should listen and begin making lifestyle, business and policy changes.

It is not hard to imagine either the Lake Erie disaster or the Colorado River Basin crisis occurring here in our own state, in our own community.

Unless our state and local governments begin implementing serious water protection policies — fertilizer restrictions, water permit limits and mandatory conservation measures, for starters — it is possible, even likely, Florida could become both Lake Erie and the Colorado River Basin.



August 7

News-Journal, Daytona Beach, Florida, on letting universities unleash drones:

It's a strange world where Martha Stewart gets to take pictures from a drone hundreds of feet in the air, while advanced aviation scientists at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University remain tethered to the ground by a 70-foot rope.

In an essay last week for Time magazine, the nation's most famous (and felonious) domestic goddess waxed poetic about taking beach and home shots with her Parrot AR Drone 2.0, and posted pictures of her "Peter Rabbit marzipan embellished Easter cake" of a garden, taken by a drone owned by an employee. As a hobbyist, Stewart can simply visit one of several websites selling drones, offer up her credit card and have a drone delivered in flight-ready mode. But the Federal Aviation Authority has slapped severe restrictions on law enforcement, businesses and many of the nation's top educational institutions that want to explore the possibilities of unmanned aircraft.

There are solid reasons to be cautious about such a rapidly evolving technology. Drones have limitless potential to benefit humans, in areas ranging from fire patrols to package deliveries. They could also seriously undermine Americans' expectations of privacy and safeguards against unreasonable searches. But the ideal place to address those questions is at universities like Embry-Riddle, where students are eagerly signing up for classes related to unmanned aircraft, and the nation's top experts in aviation are building research programs around the potential of drones. Federal authorities currently allow public universities to apply for permission to operate drones, but shut out private institutions such as ERAU, Harvard and Stanford.

A letter to the FAA, signed by a group of professors at colleges across the nation, urged the agency to create rules allowing "responsible parties" to undertake drone research and education without unreasonable federal barriers.

The FAA should heed that request. Loosening the restrictions on drone education and research could untether new economic possibilities — not just for Embry-Riddle, but across the nation.



August 11

Miami Herald on death of a rabbi:

A rabbi from Brooklyn, visiting family in Miami, is walking to temple on the Sabbath. He is suddenly accosted by two men and shot to death on a quiet street in Northeast Miami-Dade. Rabbi Joseph Raksin's murder is a tragedy compounded by the brazen and apparently cold-blooded nature of the crime.

Random criminality across the country is all too common in urban settings, including Miami. Every crime deserves to be condemned. Every homicide is an affront to civility, regardless of the circumstances and the identity of the victim. This one is particularly frightening, though, because weeks of fighting in Gaza and rocket attacks on Israel have once again given rise to a nauseating wave of anti-Semitism around the world.

In Miami-Dade, swastikas were spray-painted on the front pillars of Torah V'Emunah, an Orthodox synagogue a few days ago, putting the surrounding community — where Rabbi Raksin would later be murdered — on edge. Meanwhile, in Miami Beach, two cars were vandalized in what appeared to be anti-Jewish hate crimes.

It is not surprising, thus, that the murder of Rabbi Raksin has sent shudders through the Jewish community in South Florida. Local sensitivities have been heightened by the open displays of anti-Semitism around the world and here at home sparked by the fighting in Gaza.

Was the rabbi's murder a hate crime? Absent evidence produced by a police investigation, no one can be sure if his killing meets the legal definition. But Rabbi Phineas Weberman, who spoke to reporters at Miami-Dade Police headquarters on Monday, cut through the fog of words with rabbinical clarity. Speaking of the unknown shooter, he said: "He certainly didn't do it because he loved him."

Hate has no borders, as the regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, Hava Holzhauer, said after the vandalism incidents were reported. Its seeds are everywhere, even here, but it must not be allowed to find fertile ground.




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