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Breaking Tampa Bay, Florida and national news and weather from Tampa Bay Online and The Tampa Tribune | TBO.com
Thursday, Apr 24, 2014
Tampa detective under investigation fired
The case of Dontae Morris is just one under review in the investigation of Detective Eric Houston. FILE PHOTOS
Officials are reviewing several cases that involved Detective Eric Houston, a crime scene investigator and cold case specialist, including the one of convicted police killer Dontae Morris.
A new compressed natural gas filling station for HART line buses was on display at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new system at the HART facility in Tampa Thursday. JIM REED/STAFF
HART starts conversion to natural gas
The Bass Pro Shops planned in Brandon will be the hub of a far grander retail and entertainment complex. WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
Bass Pro hopes to land a late 2015 opening
A dragon head passes by the stage as members of SACA, Suncoast Association of Chinese Americans, perform a dragon dance during Asian Fest. TRIBUNE FILE
Best Bets: Fun stuff to do in Tampa Bay area this week

Opinion

Henderson: Time to fix county school transit

Joe Henderson After employee complaints, recurring mechanical problems and the controversy surrounding the death of a special-needs student, Joe Henderson says John Franklin’s resignation is a good start.

Editorials:
Editorial: Belden’s example
Editorial: Bill not starry eyed about film incentives
Editorial: Rotary’s century of service
Letters:
Letters to the editor: Get off your knees
Hispanics’ trailblazing efforts trampled on
Dog Daze


Florida, since the advent of air conditioning, has been a pretty bearable place to be all year.
The exception is now; those dog days of mid-August when the unrelenting heat has the added flavor of later afternoon storms. It’s taht time of year when we also keep a weather eye on those tropical waves that begin off the western coast of Africa and gather strength they move over the warm waters in our general direction.
I don’t know if it’s at all attributable to the weather but we seem to act a little more strangely this time of year. Politicians, maybe having spent too much time in the sun, tend to blather even more.
Things are even antsy around the house. My wife the teacher is already back in the classroom, with the little urchins scheduled to come in next week. That’s nuts too, of course. Going to school in late August makes little sense, except that in Florida it’s still going to be summer well into October, and you have to go sometime.
    Even columnists seem to go more awry than usual. Tomorrow’s epic is about a psychic doing business on the layaway plan.  Hey, it’s Tuesday right in the middle of the dog days of August..

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Bell Shoals Blast Off


Reading today’s story about a possible case of swine flu at Bell Shoals Baptist Church, a piece of trivia good only for today. Bell Shoals, along the Alafia River, is the site that Jules Verne used to launch his rocket in “From the Earth to the Moon.’’

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Beepball


For the 23rd consecutive year and despite my coaching skills, the Lighthouse for the Blind beat my media all stars today, this time 1-0 at the New York Yankees Community Field.
Also as usual it was Lee Kimbrell of the Llighthouse who scored the only run of the game.
Beepball is a game where you have to hit a ball that beeps while you are blindfolded. In the unlikely event you hit the ball, you have to find a base, that is also beeping, before the other team finds the ball.
We looked pretty good for a team that actually seldom came close. Sharon taylor of WFLA radio actually hit theball but they got her out.
I’ve decided to change strategy for next year’s game and cut little slits in our blindfolds.

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Chili for the Pandemic


As promised, here is a chili recipe you can prepare in advance for when you are stuck home with the flu. This one is called “La Venganza del Alamo’’ It was a winner in the International Chili Society championships. Recipe makes enough for about 18 servings.

LA VENGANZA DEL ALAMO

ingredients:
11 tablespoons chili powder
one quarter cup. ground cumin
one quarter cup instant beef boullion
2 tablespoons parprika
2 tablesppons monosodium glutamate
1 tablespoon dried oregano
3 cans (12 ounces each ) beer
2 cups water
one half cup vegetable oil
2 pounds pork from thick butterfly cut pork chops, cut into half-inch cubes
2 pounds beef chuck,cut into half-inch cubes
6 pounds beef rump ground
4 large onions, finely chopped
10 cloves garlic minced
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon mole powder
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
1 tablespoon masa harina
salt to taste

Preparation:

In a large pot combine chili powder,cumin, beef boullion, paprika MSG, oregano, beer and water. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer.

In a large skillet heat oil, add one and a half pounds of mean and saute until brown. Drain off oil, transfer meat to simmering spices and continue until all meat is brown.

Saute onions and garlic in one tablespoon oil and add to mixture. Simmer two hours, adding water as needed.

Add sugar, coriander. mole, Tabasco and tomato sauce and simmer an additional 45 minutes.

Disolve masa harina in a little water until it is pasty and add to chili.Season to taste with sale  

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party time


Just back from the NFL Commissioner’s party at the Tampa Convention Center. I didn’t see the commissioner but the Frau and I entered it turned out there were two lines, depending on the color of your ticket. One line had the kind of people you would have expected to arrive in a horse and buggy.  I’m guessing that was the “A’ list. We were in the other line.
I did see Councilman John Dingfelder, which was not exactly the same as Paris Hilton.
And we did see one movie star. OK star might be pushing it since neither one of us could remember his name or anything he had ever been in.
Anyhow the food was good and the music loud.
Downtown Tampa was mayhem. They had a hockey game over at the Ice Palace but it couldn’t have been as exciting as watching the traffic jam and confused drivers around town. 

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A Super Week


Super Bowl week is underway. It could be worse. Back in 1984 when we hosted our first Super Bowl we were so pumped up down here at the Type and Gripe factory we actually made a grid map out of the area around the stadium and assigned reporters to every grid space. I thought the business editor was going to quit when he learned he was covering one of the men’s rooms inside the stadium.
We never learn. I talked to one restaurant owner today who said business will be so slow on Sunday he might as well close down. Most of us who had visions of renting our homes out for thousands of dollars a day, discovered that just didn’t happen.
But at least the weather is good and this should give us something to talk about until Gasparilla the week after.

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Finally pumped up


For the first time in months people seem pumped up over this marathon campaign. It’s easy to suggest they are just glad it’s over and there will be no more TV commercials and sleazy pitches, but I think it’s more.
  Maybe it’s because finally we are having our say, even if our options might not have been what we had wanted.
Even at our house where our youngest son gets to vote for the first time, listening to him ask questions and get excited is something special. You feel like that maybe things are going to be all right in the long run; that the process is going to continue.
  I felt it down at te Elks Club where we vote. You could see it in the eyes of voters coming out the door with those stickers on their shirts,  wonder if it is the first time in years they have bothered and now they too realize that there is something special in our election process. I’d be interested in hearing how it was for you out there. 

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Lighting up the night


It was another morning of wading thorough the bad news as the economy continues to tank and the gnawing fear that nobody knows what to do about it permeated the Sunday paper.
But the story that got to me was back in one of the middle sections of the Trib. It talked about the global decline of the firefly, from southeast Asia to the southern forests of the United States.
It was last October when we were staying at one of those bed and breakfast homes in western North Carolina. It was their last weekend as they were about to close up until the following spring.
I sat out on the a rocker on the old deck that looked out over a rolling pasture where I watched the cows, as if by some silent signal, began to meander off to some unseen barn.
It was then that the first fire flies began to flash. At first there were only one or two but within minutes the entire lawn in front of me was alive as thousands of lights spread out down the hill.
In my mind I could remember summer nights as a boy in Tampa, chasing “lighting bugs’’ across the backyards of our neighborhood.
But that was a long time ago and for the generation growing up today in Tampa, one of those simple pleasures they will not know.

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Fay meets Bus


This ought to be interesting. School starts Monday in Hillsborough County with nobody quite sure how the bus schedule is going to work out. Tropical storm Fay is making her way toward Cuban and if you look at the computer models, could be blowing up the west coast of Florida by Tuesday.
I’m thinking Wednesday ought to be some kind of convergence of confusion and indecision. Let’s hope not.

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Ugly Dog Puts Us Back On Top


Tampa Bay - Home of Champions - has done it again.
They had a parade when the Bucs won the Super Bowl and another for the Lightning when they captured the Stanley Cup.
I can only imagine that plans are already underway to welcome home Gus, just named “World’s Ugliest Dog.’‘
Gus, a one-eyed, three-legged hairless Chinese Crested took top honors yesterday at the Sonoma Marin Fair in Petaluma, California. Gus is already wining his way to New York for an appearance on the CBS TV show “Sunday Morning.’’ tomorrow.
Gus is owned by by Jeanene Teed of St. Petersburg, who works in Tampa as the finance officer of the non-profit Healthy Start organization.
If you can’t wait until tomorrow morning, Google up “Ugliest Dog’’ and you will see our own Gus in all his weird glory.

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Our Brave New World Makes Me Cringe


How is it that we can treat an innocent victim like this? Someone needs to tell me the answer to this one.

Every day now – every day – the woman with the clipboard – a social worker – comes into the room and tells the mother that her daughter needs to go. The mother, who has not left her daughter’s side for six weeks, is exhausted and afraid for her daughter. She is not about to give up and not about to leave.

The daughter does not argue. She cannot.

You already know part of the story. In a season of violence, hers was the most horrific of them all.

It happened April 24, two days after the young woman turned 18. Earlier in the day everything had been going so well in her life. She had been shopping for shoes with her friends. They were going over to the beach to celebrate a birthday and graduation and the beginning of the next stage of her life.

She had been accepted into the University of Florida with a full scholarship; her family was so proud of a daughter who was overflowing with life.

But then, much later that evening, she decided to stop by the Bloomingdale Regional Public Library to drop off some books in the drop. As she drove up, she told a friend she was talking to on her cell phone that a suspicious person seemed to be hanging around. Her friend advised her to stay in the car. A moment later, her friend heard the screams.

Law enforcement officers think they know what happened next in a violent, brutal attack on the young woman. It was a rape so vicious the young woman was slammed against a wall and beaten and left half-naked in some nearby bushes.

Sheriff’s deputies soon arrested 16-year-old Kendrick Morris. He faces charges of kidnapping, aggravated battery with great bodily harm and sexual battery with injury. After he was arrested, investigators found evidence they say links him to the rape of another woman. He is in the Orient Road Jail.

The woman was briefly conscious when the sheriff’s deputies arrived at the library. She has been in an induced coma for weeks as doctors deal with a swelling brain and other severe injuries.

The mother says that it was only this week that her daughter had a seizure and is too unstable to be moved to some facility where there are no specialists and no rehabilitation.

Old News

The attack was six weeks ago. The story disappeared from the news, and we all moved on.

Not the young woman. She was in the intensive-care unit for weeks. All the while, her mother stayed at her side and slept in a chair at night. Her father slept in the family van parked in the emergency room lot.

Doctors have told the mother they do not know the extent of the damage and may not for months.

“She reacts when her friends come in,” her mother says. “She smiles or cries when they are gone. She still cannot speak, but I know she hears them.”

Remember that this is a mother speaking, a mother who may understandably see things that others do not.

What frightens the mother is that everyone is forgetting her daughter, including the caregivers. She says the hospital wants her to move her daughter to another facility, a nursing home where, the mother thinks, she will vegetate and be forgotten.

This is a difficult story on many levels. I’m writing this on an emotional level, about a life and death issue that in our brave new world of technology seems more and more common.

Tampa General is not even the decision-maker here. In fact, the hospital cannot even acknowledge that the young woman is in its facility.

John Dunn, a TGH spokesman, could only talk generally about hospital policies. “Generally speaking,” he said, “the decision to discharge patients is made by a physician who is following a medical treatment plan. Patients are usually discharged when they have completed that medical plan or the doctor concludes there is nothing more medically that can be done. Only then are arrangements made to put the patient in a more appropriate setting.”

Waiting

The young woman lies quietly in the hospital bed. Her wounds and injuries are covered by blankets and a few soft stuffed animals left by friends. One eye socket, cracked in the beating, appears normal as she sleeps.

Over by the window, the mother has a cot she has been sleeping on since her daughter was moved to a solitary room. Above the cot on the sill are pictures of better times. She only leaves the room when a relative comes to give her a break. “I don’t want her waking up and not having me there,’’ the mother says.

The family business that she works at is suffering. Everything in the family’s life has come to a standstill as they wait for a sign, maybe even a miracle.

I walked into the hospital’s gift shop and found a couple of workers from the state attorney’s office. They deal with sex crimes and aid to the families of victims. They were buying a small stuffed animal for the girl. When I asked them about the situation, one of the women had tears in her eyes.

There aren’t any easy answers. But I can give you a couple of thoughts. The young woman is a victim of a horrid crime. She was among the most promising of our youths. Now the only answer seems to be to send her off to be warehoused until—if ever—something happens.

And maybe medically and rationally that is the appropriate answer.

I just can’t buy it. I think we are better than that, even to the point of giving her every opportunity when there may be no opportunities to give. She deserves everything we can provide, and she needs more than a social worker coming into the room once a day and harassing a distraught mother – wondering why she hasn’t left.

If Tampa General doesn’t have a bed for this woman, she needs to go to a facility that is beyond warehousing, a place where she is seen and treated by our very best.

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Bailey’s Chili a la Zingaro


Kim Bailey is the owner of Bailey’s great restaurant on Rome Ave. in Hyde Park. He was also one of the judges in my chili contest back in March.
Apparently he has recovered and not only that, says he will be serving the championship recipe Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights, which are the only nights the restaurant is open to the public. He is making his version of the one won by the Krewe of Zingaro.
        To that end Bailey says 100 percent of all chili sales will go to the Krewe of Zingaro’s fund for the St, Joseph’s Children Cancer Group. I’m getting my spoon and heading over.

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Scratch My Back


  It’s Sunday, the humidity is down, heat is up and the Scratch My Back benefit concert is about the best place to be this afternoon, starting around 5 p.m. and going on until the last band is tossed out.
The venue is the legendary SkipperDome out behind Skippers Smokehouse where the Quivering Rhythm Hounds will open the concert, followed by Sharon (of WFLA AM fame) and the Boys and then the great Johnny G. Lyon band.
It’s all for the Humane Society of Tampa Bay and also as a reminder not to lock your pets in enclosed cars or anything else, especially this summer.
        I’ll be giving away raffle prizes along with Party Marti Ryan all night. Get your shades, flip-flops and straw hat (even after dark you will be so cool) and come on out.

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Getting a raw deal


We went out to a seafood restaurant last night. This one was in Westshore Plaza where they have almost a village of new restaurants. Like the others, I guess you would describe this one as “upscale chain.’’ And it was pretty good. The service was attentive, the fish was fresh and I even had something called a “key lime martini’’ that was like key lime pie with a kick.
Where they lost me was when I said I wanted a dozen oysters. This place has four different kinds of oysters to choose from, except that each order is for four oysters at $7.50 an order. I mean geez, it’s like that pound of coffee you buy in the grocery these days that is less than a pound.
“You mean,’’ I said a little too loudly for my wife to the waiter, “that if I ordered a dozen oysters that would be thirty bucks?’’
The waiter only nodded, certainly wondering what cheap local yahoo he had been stuck with.
I don’t care. This is Florida, and it’s not even resort Florida or one of those Disney jobs and thirty bucks for a dozen oysters is way over any body’s top.
I mean isn’t it enough you risk your health eating raw shell fish without getting a raw deal at the same time?

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Jose can you see?


  The most interesting story in Mother Trib today is the discovery of a sunken vessel in the Hillsborough River, somewhere near Lowry Park. A team of archeaologists from the Florida Aquarium made the find and say the ship appears to be etween 80 and a 100 feet long. Records indicate it could be a Confederate blockade runner from the Civil War.
Maybe. I do recall going across the river on Hillsborough Ave. to church with my grandfather. We would always see the wreckage of the originial Gasparilla ship stuck in the muck where it had been beached and later burned.
I suppose it’s not too likely, but if those archaeologists come up with some beads on that blockade runner they might have to re-evaluate their discovery. One can only dream.

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