A Pinella’s County Elementary School Teacher was found with a Loaded Gun and Knives in School yesterday.

The Tampa Bay Times reported yesterday of Pinella’s county arrest of Starkey Elementary School forth grade teacher Betty Jo Soto, 49.

Ex-Elementary School Teacher, Betty Jo Soto, 49, of Pinella’s County’s Starkey Elementary School. (Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office via Tampa Bay Times]

Soto is facing two counts of misdemeanor conceal weapons charge, after being found with a Glock 9mm pistol and two knives in a backpack. According to WFLA’s interview with Desoto on why she brought weapsons into her classroom, Soto responded by telling them to “Ask Desantis.” Revelations made on her Facebook Page was also reported to include a message indicating that she was conducting a “revolutionary act.”

Soto’s timely arrest arrives on the heels of the passing of the controversial State Bill 3070 on arming teachers, signed by Gov. DeSantis on May 8 and strongly advocated for by Pinellas County Sheriff, Bob Gualtieri.

School district would have to opt into the “Guardian’s Program” in order for teachers to receiving the training. As of this time, both Sarasota and Manatee counties have opted out, despite Manatee school board member, Scott Hopes, advocating for the district’s inclusion into the program.

What we don’t know:

  • Soto’s psychological evaluation, if any.
  • Soto’s Motive

Rep. Vern Buchanan Releases Statement on Russian Election Hacking via Twitter

On Thursday, U.S Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, released a public statement strongly condeming the Russian cyber-hacking of two florida county voter databases after attending a classified briefing via Twitter.

U.S Rep. Vern Buchanan’s public statement in response to attending an FBI briefing on Russian cyberhacking of two Florida county voting systems on Thursday. (Via Twitter)

In the release, Buchanan describes the alarming nature of the cyber security threats posed to state voting systems, stating ‘Vladmir Putin is not our friend’ and called on a bipartisan approach to deal with future election inteference.

Buchanan’s response comes after the revelations of Russian cyber interference from Governor Ron DeSantis earlier this week.

Gov. DeSantis told reporters that he was not ‘allowed to disclose’ information related to the FBI investigation due to signing a non-disclosure agreement in exchange for a private briefing. via Politico.

Buchanan’s response comes after his public statement last month on the Mueller Report, stating that ‘America needs to move on.’ (Via Zac Anderson, Sarasota-Herald-Tribune)

As of this time Thursday, none of the two counties has been identified.

Do you feel Vern Buchanan’s response is adequate? Please comment below.

Trump’s Trade Battle unsettles local Bradenton Business Owner

The Chinese government announced a new set of tariffs on American goods upwards of $60 Billion dollars on Monday, according to The New York Times. The tariff increase is reportedly in response to the Trump Administration’s $200 million dollar tariff hike on imported Chinese goods.

John Wong runs Wong Kai Imports in Bradenton, a family-owned specialty store of ethnic food products that he has owned for the last 38 years.

From Chinese pork buns, hard-to-find vegetables, teas, and condiments, Wong Kai import’s ethnic food goods from China and other Asian countries for retail and wholesale customers.

Despite the good business he has received of late, Wong claims that he is already witnessing the negative impact on local businesses due to the potential trade war with China.

“This lady I talked to today, and it hasn’t even started yet, her container is coming in is already 25 percent on top of normal before she paid for it,” Wong said.

“It’s not right,” he added.

Wong Kai Imports Owner John Wong speaks with a customer. (Photo: Alex M Buono)

Wong is not alone in his concern, as media reports reflect this week:

  • The Washington Post reported the fears expressed by U.S soybean farmers are witnessing the effects of stalling exports to China.
  • We’re Freaked.” CBS News quoted the official statement by the American Apparel Association in response to the prospect of retail price hikes.

In 2016, Wong voted for the president.

Going into 2020 as of this moment, he’s lost confidence in the president’s ability to focus on the plight of the American people, equating his dispute with China to a petty family squabble.

“The way I look at it is, you are helping the people of the United States, and now you are trying to, you know, ‘you don’t do this for me, I’m not going to do that for you’,” Wong said. “It’s like a sibling, your kid, your brother and sister.”

Wong Kai provides a plethora of ethnic food goods as a supplier for local restaurants. (Photo: Alex M Buono)

The potential impact of Trump’s potential trade war and immigration focus having a chilling effect on Asian-American voters are already being felt according to Vox.com’s Li Zhou, where exit-poll data indicated a 77 percent increase in Asian-Americans who voted for Democratic house candidates in the 2018 midterm election.

President Trump continued his justification via Twitter on Tuesday with claims that the 25 percent increase on imported Chinese and foreign “dumped” steel will help save the American auto industry.

In one year Tariffs have rebuilt our Steel Industry – it is booming! We placed a 25% Tariff on “dumped” steel from China & other countries, and we now have a big and growing industry. We had to save Steel for our defense and auto industries, both of which are coming back strong!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 14, 2019

Despite President Trump’s continued hostile tone on the web, John Wong hopes that cooler heads will prevail.

“This trade war, hopefully both sides talk about it,” Wong said. “Not just the United States and China, but the whole world.”

For more information and updates on products from Wong Kai Imports, visit their Facebook page.

Celebrating the 10th Annual Harvey Milk Festival 2019 in Sarasota

The 10th Annual Harvey Milk Festival celebrated it’s 10 year anniversary this Saturday, May 11 in Sarasota. The festival honors the enduring activist legacy of pioneering LGTBQI political activist and San Francisco politician, Harvey Milk.

This year’s celebration brought together a diverse array of emerging local artists, musicians, roller derby bombers, food trucks, jello shots, and an array of political activist groups and vendors.

(Photo: Alex M Buono)

The festival crowd was young and old, with fishnets or chest-mounted baby (or leashed fur-baby), teal-haired or bald. That said, everyone was flawless.

The stated mission of Festival organizers is by “fostering emerging talent in musicians and artists who support diversity and reject discrimination. While we promote equality for LGBTQ people through supporting equal rights legislation.”

Harvey Milk’s historical mark being the first openly gay politician in America was tragically cut short, when November 11, 1978 Milk and then San Francisco Mayor George Moscone were assassinated by Dan White, a rival city supervisor.

The festival’s impact continues throughout the year with youth outreach and scholarship programs, performance art and other events.

For more info, visit www.harveymilkfestival.com.

Columbia County Sheriff releases “basic ordering agreement” ICE data

The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office has provided via public records request the agency’s transactional data of individuals held under the “basic ordering agreement” or BOA with U.S Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE). According to their data which accounted for individuals held under the agreement’s parameters from the initial start date to June 30, only one out of a total of six individuals was transferred to ICE custody.

[infogram id=”d562537e-b513-4d16-9bdc-4086a80d8519″ prefix=”i02″ format=”interactive” title=”Manatee County Basic Ordering Agreement Detainee Breakdown”]

The inclusion of their data adds to a total of now seven, BOA-participating Florida law enforcement agencies as reported last month. In recent developments according to Krystel Knowles of Spectrum News 13, Brevard County’s BOA was an indicator of the eventual passage of a county commission resolution banning “sanctuary cities” policies.

Brevard County commissioner John Tobia was quoted in a follow up piece by Spectrum News 13’s Matt Fernandez on the passage of the resolution, stating that the resolution ” prevents future sheriffs or politicians from failing the shining example of Sheriff Ivey and interfere and fail to cooperate with federal assets of law enforcement,” while mentioning the threat of the Trump administration to withhold federal funding as an additional justification.

According to USA Today from August 1, a federal judge from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the Trump Administration’s attempt to withhold federal funding via the January 2017 executive order was unconstitutional.

For more information and updates on the BOA, click here.

A Smarter, Civil Discussion. Try Kialo.

Kialo encourages users to engage or follow “pro-con style,” online discussions.

Some say the social media landscape has turned toxic in recent years with regard to public debate, which has made it difficult for some to find a platform for a more civil discussion on the topics of the day.  According to a Dec. 2014 research article featured in The Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media titled, ” Seeing is Believing: Effects of Uncivil Online Debate on Political Polarization and Expectations of Deliberation,” research conducted by Dr. Hyunseo Hwang, Youngju Kim indicates, “That the exaggerated perception of a divide in American politics may erode citizens’ belief in the democratic potential of public deliberation.”

[os-widget path=”/alexmbuono/the-social-media-debate-how-do-you-feel” comments=”false”]

Enter Kialo, “A debate platform powered by Reason,” created by CEO and Founder, Errikos Pitsos, a German-born tech entrepreneur according to the Financial Times in January.

Detoxify Your Debate. Sign up for Kialo Free Today.

The Immigrant Youth Project Hopes to Inform Central Florida and Lawmakers

According to Dr. Heide Castaneda, Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of South Florida, and co-founder of The Immigrant Youth Project, recruiting undocumented youth to speak on their experience for the federally funded research project has been a challenge after the DACA recision.

“When people had DACA, they felt certainty with their status, they were more willing to talk about how they felt, what they experienced,” Castaneda explained. “As soon as the DACA recision was announced, people shutdown,” she added.

The project began in Sept. 2017 with the aim of investigating the social and emotional well-being of undocumented young adults living in Central Florida and across the United States. The legal battle to decide the uncertain fate of DACA recipients is still being waged in U.S District Courts. On Tuesday, The New York Times reported that the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that DACA protections should remain in place, and the government must continue to accept new applications.

According to Dr. Castaneda, the goal of the project’s research is to inform policymakers and the public on the social implications of undocumented young adults who are living in a transitional status.

“We’ve talked to people who are afraid to enter long-term relationships because they don’t know what’s next for them, and I think that really impacts their ability be full members of society and express themselves as humans,” Castaneda said.

 Castaneda is a co-creator of the project along with University of South Florida Assoc. Prof. of Sociology Dr. Elizabeth Aranda and former USF faculty and now Assoc. Prof. of Sociology at George Washington University, Dr. Elizabeth Vaquera. The three professors met at the University of South Florida in 2007, and all shared a common interest in immigrant families, youth, and incorporation into society. According to Castaneda, The National Science Foundation awarded their project proposal in June of last year and provided the perfect opportunity to combine their research efforts into an interdisciplinary focus on “an urgent issue In their own backyard” in Central Florida. The project has also extended an outreach partnership with the Florida Immigrant Coalition, where the researchers themselves take part in events and clinics held by the coalition.

In Castaneda’s and the researchers’ view of their preliminary findings, participants have shown a variety of responses, ranging from high levels of emotional distress, depression, and suicidality to high levels of political engagement and activism. According to a Jan. 2017 article from the National Institute of Mental Health, child of immigrants born in the U.S. may have a higher risk for mental disorders than their parents. According to the Pew Research from Sept. 2017, two-thirds of DACA recipients are ages 25 or younger.

 President Trump continues to press Democrats on the issue of immigration, where on Monday Trump tweeted out on Monday that he has instructed Secretary of Homeland Security Kristjen P.Nielsen to, “not let these large Caravans of people into our Country.”

According to Castaneda, the key for Central Florida to understand the plight of its undocumented immigrant youth is how ingrained they already are in the community.

“The key thing to understand is that what passport you are holding and how valid your visa is, it’s not that it’s not important, but for the everyday experience of living in our communities here in Central Florida, it’s not as important,” Castaneda said. “These are people who have jobs in all sectors of society,” she added.

[infogram id=”foreign-born-civilian-labor-force-by-us-citizenship-status-in-the-state-of-florida-2016-1hke60x9rog165r” prefix=”xl9″]

 

As the project heads into the summer, their recruiting push is expecting an increase in participants, with the overall goal of reaching 140 individual experiences for the project’s total.

“More and more people in the US are living in a family where there is at least one undocumented person,” Castaneda said. “Immigration doesn’t just affect the immigrant, it affects their family members and their communities,” she added.

For more information on how to get involved with the Immigrant Youth Project, click here.

ICE’s 287(g) Program is not decreasing crime in North Carolina, According to New Cato Institute Study

On Wednesday, Alexander Nowrasteh, an Immigration Policy Analyst at the Cato Institute, a D.C public policy think-tank, tweeted out the abstract of a new Cato Working Paper analyzing the two-year rollout of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) 287(g) program in the state of North Carolina. The paper was co-authored with Cato research associate Andrew Forrester, titled, “Do Immigration Enforcement Programs Reduce Crime? Evidence from the 287 (g) Program in North Carolina,”  and specifically focuses on the program’s impact on local crime and police clearance rates across the counties participating in the program.

Nowrasteh summarized their results in his Wednesday tweet.

Screen Shot 2018-04-15 at 9.07.00 PM
(Alex Nowrasteh via Twitter)

Nowrasteh’s findings on the 287 (g) program counter Trump administration claims of a correlation between undocumented immigration and criminal activity. According to Washington Post on April 2, the administration is planning to implement a deportation quota system for federal immigration judges that link to their performance reviews. President Trump also tweeted on April 4 accusing U.S Democrats of upholding Obama Era border policies to allow for unchecked illegal immigration that would lead to an uptick in crime. In 1996, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Responsibility Act added section 287 (g) to the act, where ICE and local law enforcement could enter into Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), enabling ICE to designated local officers to perform immigration enforcement functions. The administration expanded the ICE program via executive order in January of 2017.

“President Trump’s reactivation of 287(g) task force agreements has prompted us to evaluate how this program has affected crime rates and police clearance rates in the past,” writes Nowrasteh and Forrester in their conclusion of the Cato Working Paper. “We find no statistically significant elasticity between immigrants deported through the 287(g) program and the index crime rates under multiple specifications. Similarly, we find no significant elasticity between crime clearance rates and 287(g) deportations. Combined, these results demonstrate that the 287(g) program did not reduce crime in North Carolina,” they concluded.

Nowrasteh tenure as an immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity started in 2012, after serving as a policy analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, another Libertarian D.C public policy organization based in Washington D.C. Earning his Masters of Science degree in Economic History at The London School of Economics and Political Science in 2011, ABC news cited Nowrasteh as one of the top 20 immigration experts to follow on Twitter in 2013. Nowrasteh has been active on various social media platforms promoting his policy research on immigration, with titles ranging from “Immigrants Did Not Take Your Job,” “Obama Administration Adopts De Facto Dream Act,” and “Trump’s Deplorable Travel Ban.”

 

nowrasteh-social-media
(Created by Alexander Michael Buono via Infogram)

 
Nowrasteh’s research arrives in the wake of a public debate last month between law enforcement officials in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina,  on the merits of the program current implementation in the county. Mecklenburg County Sheriff Irwin Carmichael stated in a March 13 Charlotte Observer article that, “A person will never encounter that 287(g) program unless they get arrested for breaking the law.” Countering the Sheriff’s assertion was Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney, where Putney stated to the Charlotte Observer on March 26 that the program would be a “good” tool for targeting violent felons and gang members but doubted the program’s overall effectiveness. According to Nowrasteh and Forrester’s findings in their research, Mecklenburg County had the highest recorded number of removals by 287(g) in the available ten-year data set.

According to Kristin Bialik of Pew research in a February 15 article, 2017 ICE fiscal data revealed that 74 percent of immigrant arrestees had prior convictions, a 13 percent increase from last measurements taken in 2009. Bialik was quick to point out that despite this increase of immigrants with prior convictions from 2016 to 2017, the overall arrest increase is attributable to arrestees without priors. Senior Immigration Policy Analyst Nicole Prchal Svajlenka of the Center for American Progress concludes in her March 20 CFAP article that with the elimination of prosecutorial discretion by Trump administration policies, ICE has arrested far more people without criminal convictions while emboldening local law enforcement officials to take part in the federal government’s deportation procedures.

Nowrasteh took to Twitter on Saturday in a tweet that appeared to echo his paper’s conclusion about the perceptions of criminality in the U.S.

“More evidence that fear of crime is influenced by social entertainment or news rather than perceived local danger,” Nowrasteh wrote, citing criminaljusticedegreehub.com data.

For more information on Nowrasteh and his work at the Cato Institute, click here.

The Intercept’s Viral Immigration Article is Retracted During Tense Week for Undocumented Immigrants

On Monday March 26th, The Intercept posted an article written by reporter Lee Fang, with the headline that implicated that ICE was using private Facebook Data to find and track a criminal suspect that was an unauthorized immigrant, via a public records request filed by The Intercept.

In both asserting that the suspect was an undocumented immigrant and that the ICE officials were using private Facebook data, turned out to be false. The revelation prompted the following retractions to be release by The Intercept on Monday, with the addition of an official statement given by Facebook denying the claims made in the article:

Screen Shot 2018-03-29 at 1.30.11 PM
(Retractions via The Intercept on March 26, 2018)

The first release of the article went viral on social media on Monday. The article’s release coincided with another wave of rising tension within immigrant communities across the country this week, as Vox reported the announcement by the US Census Bureau that the 2020 census will ask households which members of the family are US citizens and the Trump administration’s order to end automatic release from detention for undocumented pregnant women, as reported in the Washington Post.

The Intercept’s D.C Bureau Chief, Ryan Grim took responsibility for the error on Twitter, where founders Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill, each separately tweeted out in defense of Fang’s integrity after the initial backlash Fang received on Twitter.

In the first release of the article written by Intercept Journalist Lee Fang, it appeared that Fang asserted that internal ICE emails showed that in February and March of 2017, ICE agents were coordinating via email to send a “Facebook Business Record” with a local detective from Las Cruces, New Mexico. According to the article, the agents aggregated the data through a “Backend log” on Facebook, where the subjects last point of accessing his account and IP address revealing the subject’s phone number and location of each log in. The email correspondence revealed in the article also alluded to an employee of Palantir Data Analytics potentially aiding in the retrieval of the data, as the company owned by venture capitalist Peter Thiel,  has been in contract with ICE since 2014 according to the Intercept. Thiel also serves on Facebook’s board of directors.

The Social Media Timeline of Lee’s Article

(Created by Alexander Michael Buono via Timetoast)

The New York Times’ Zyenep tufeki tweeted that “motivated reasoning” led to the retracted headline’s claim that it was undocumented immigrant, where Vox’s Dara Lind responded in a series of tweets that the “framing” of Fang’s article implied heavily that ICE’s immigration division used this data. According to Lind, it was a joint federal and local criminal investigation between Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), another agency within ICE, that is unrelated to immigration enforcement.

According to Pew Research Poll from January, news organizations account for 75 percent of tweets related to immigration on Twitter.

Lee Fang returned to Twitter on March 27 to respond to critics on social media, and gave his take on the course of events while on still on vacation.

“I was out of cell phone service for most of the day yesterday, in a different time zone, and had no idea the piece had been radically changed with information I did not include in my submitted draft and pubbed under my name until many hours after it was up. I was blindsided,” Fang wrote on Twitter.

To read more on the article, click here.

A Local Manatee Dreamer Looks Forward to a Future in Politics Despite the Uncertain Future of DACA

Oscar J. Portillo-Meza is a local DACA recipient who has dreams of becoming a U.S Secretary of State one day, that is all contingent of course, if he can stay in the country he has called home for the last ten years.

A resident of Bradenton and Bayshore High School Senior while splitting time taking courses at the University of South Florida, Portillo-Meza is an ambitious Florida teenager who immigrant from Honduras with his parents at the age of 7. Portillo-Meza has volunteered with several local organizations such as Unidos Now, The Boxser Diversity Initiative, and the Florida Democratic Party. In recognition for his philanthropic efforts, he was recently awarded the Young Spirit Award by the Manatee Community Foundation as reported in the Bradenton Herald last Tuesday.

In deciding to reveal his undocumented status and become a public advocate for the cause, Portillo Meza wants to prove that the young DACA recipients in America stand for positive change in their local communities. I’m not afraid of anything, I think I could do wonderful things anywhere,” said Portillo-Meza. “It doesn’t matter if there’s some crazy people who wants to like say yeah ‘ I’m gonna call ICE’, yeah okay,” he added.

According to Pew research polls from September 2017, most DACA recipients are 25 years old and younger.

James A. McBain, a local Bradenton Immigration Attorney of Immigration Law Services of Bradenton, says Dreamers like Portillo-Meza who can prove good moral character have greater pressure to adhere to the law and less legal recourse than average American citizens if they slip up.

“You don’t have to prove it, neither do I,” McBain said. “A small crime isn’t going to affect you guys, but they do affect those kids,” he added.

 Domain age checker

For more information on Portillo-Meza, click here.