Archive for June 19, 2008

Shooting at Baptist Medical Center, Jacksonville

JACKSONVILLE, FL — Detectives are at the scene at Baptist Medical Center after a triple shooting.

Part of the E.R. is closed, as well as the parking garage.

Police tell First Coast News a man shot a woman and her 11-year-old son. They believe the shooter was also the boy’s father. They say he then turned the gun on himself. It happened in the parking garage.

The shooter died. The woman was flown to Shands in critical condition. The 11-year-old is in fair condition.

In a news conference just before 8 p.m. JSO told reporters the boy had been a patient at Baptist. He was admitted Wednesday night. Police would not comment on his medical condition.

Source: First Coast News

Additional information at News4Jax.

The family are not from Florida and, at this time, why the shooter attempted to kill his family and did kill himself is unknown.

Update:

The mother involved in a shooting at Baptist Hospital has died.

Investigators say 49-year-old Denise A. Farve of Louisiana was critically wounded and later died at the Trauma Center at Shands. Police say she and her 11-year old son were shot by 68 year-old Jesse J. Prindle, Jr.

Police say Prindle then turned the gun on himself and died at the scene.

The boy remains in serious but stable condition.

Police say he and Prindle lived in Jacksonville.

Source: First Coast News

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Many States Watch Florida’s Education Policies

Florida is No. 1 in the nation in vouchers. It’s No. 2 in charter school enrollment. It’s No. 4 in the percentage of high school students passing college-level exams.Numbers like these have made Florida the nation’s most-watched laboratory for education policy.

But now former Gov. Jeb Bush is holding up Florida as not just a lab, but a model.

Bush, 55, has been out of office 18 months, but his controversial policies continue to roll. And today, a who’s who of education super wonks will gather in Orlando to turn a national spotlight on the changes he championed — from vouchers to school grades to merit pay for teachers.

They already know what many in Florida don’t — that many states are watching Florida. And a number of them like what they see.

“Florida’s system has been held in pretty high regard,” said Kathy Christie, chief of staff for the non-partisan Education Commission of the States, which assists policymakers nationwide. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve highlighted policies in Florida.”

Bush’s vision isn’t popular in Florida. But he and his supporters insist that evidence is on their side.

“Florida’s education reforms have caught the attention of policymakers across the country because our students are making progress,” Bush said in an e-mail to the Times. “My hope is that other states working to improve their quality of education can replicate some of the successes we have achieved.”

Bush’s critics groan at the possibility.

The state’s graduation rate remains one of the nation’s worst. And critics say Bush’s agenda is fueled by a right-wing ideology that has produced more spin than miracle.

“There are good things going on in Florida and not good things going on,” said Sherman Dorn, a University of South Florida professor whose 2007 book title, Accountability Frankenstein, riffs on the lab analogy. “Unless you’re willing to see both sides, I don’t think you are being realistic.”

The two-day summit is sponsored by the Foundation for Excellence in Education, which Bush formed last year to “improve the quality of education in classrooms across Florida and the nation.”

Bush will be the keynote speaker today.

Other speakers and panelists will trumpet the same brand of reform, which is heavy on school choice and high-stakes testing. Among them: Frederick Hess (director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute) and Checker Finn (president of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation)

Many tend to be classified as conservative. But guests also include New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent, and his schools chancellor, Joel Klein, a lifelong Democrat.

All of them know the Florida story.

For better or worse, Bush pushed the envelope during eight years as governor.

Florida did not have a voucher program when he was elected in 1998 and had only a handful of charter schools. Now it has nearly 40,000 students on vouchers and more than 100,000 in charters.

Bush made the FCAT the keystone of an accountability system that included school grades, and retention and intervention for struggling third-graders.

More quietly, Bush and his loyalists pushed literacy in early grades and the use of test data to help teachers pinpoint where students were falling short.

Did it work?

Florida’s graduation rate hovers around 60 to 70 percent (though some calculations show it rising sharply). Per-pupil spending ranks in the bottom tier. Teachers are paid below the national average.

On the other hand, Florida elementary students have made the most dramatic gains in the nation on well-respected reading and math tests. The state leads the nation in the percentage of high school seniors taking advanced placement exams.

And it’s no longer just right-wing think tanks giving Florida credit.

“I’m a big fan,” said Janet Hannaway, an education researcher at the nonpartisan Urban Institute in Washington, D.C. Florida “is a very smart policymaking state, at least in education.”

She and a handful of other highly regarded researchers recently looked at how Florida’s accountability system affected schools with F grades. Their conclusion: Schools ended up focusing more on struggling students and devoting more time to teaching. And their students improved faster than students at schools with higher grades.

Then again, researchers also said it’s too early to tell whether Florida’s approach is the best one, a line other observers use about Bush’s broader changes.

Some ask: Will Florida students continue to make gains on national tests? Will higher scores result in higher grad rates?

“The results (in Florida) so far are promising. But there’s no long-term trends yet,” said Alan Richard, spokesman for the nonpartisan Southern Regional Education Board.

Bush said Florida shouldn’t wait on them. He described the past decade as just the beginning. “I hope we never stop trying to implement bigger, better and more audacious reforms.”

Source: St. Petersburg Times

Whether they love or hate the new educational policies, everybody has to admit that Florida is no longer giving high school diplomas to those that cannot read, write, or perform mathematical calculations. As children learn that they really have to perform in order to pass, surprisingly enough, they are.

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Mother Arrested After Toddler Found Wandering in Street with Beer Bottle

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, FL — A 24-year old Jacksonville Beach woman is facing felony child neglect charges Thursday after police say neighbors found her two year old son wandering in the street wearing a soiled diaper carrying a beer bottle.

Jessica Nicole Hughes was arrested when she returned home after being contacted by police.

She was described as extremely intoxicated at the time of her arrest.

Authorities called Jax Beach Fire & Rescue to check on the little boy, who was bleeding from a piece of broken glass in his foot, and to be sure he hadn’t consumed alcohol.

“Fortunately, it did not appear the child had ingested any alcohol,” said Jax Beach Sergeant Thomas Bingham.

Read the rest at FirstCoastNews.com.

Sad, sad situation. Hope the baby will be placed with responsible adults.

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Western Ranchers Say Brucellosis Vaccine is Failing

PINEDALE — Twenty years ago, it wasn’t unusual for wild elk to enter cattle feedlines on private ranches in western Wyoming as winter storms raged.

Many ranchers were aware of the threat of transmission of the disease brucellosis, and voluntarily vaccinated their cattle with the Strain 19 vaccine to provide protection to their herds. In fact, they “bootlegged” Strain 19 into the country before it was legal for use here.

But Strain 19 was problematic because it could cause “false positive” reactions in blood tests. Animals that tested positive for the disease would have to be slaughtered and their tissues cultured to determine if they actually harbored the disease.

Just over a decade ago, federal animal health officials determined that a new cattle vaccine, RB51, was better than Strain 19. RB51 offered the same immunity level as Strain 19, but wouldn’t cause the false positives. The USDA Animal Plant Health Inspection Service banned the use of Strain 19, so the nation’s cattle industry began widespread use of RB51.

Sublette County ranchers told animal health officials Tuesday evening in Pinedale that RB51 hasn’t lived up to its promises: It appears to provide short-term immunity, but unlike Strain 19, RB51’s protective effect appears to wear off in a few years — something not even researchers knew about.

Even though elk are now actively kept off cattle feedlines, there have been several outbreaks of brucellosis in western Wyoming cattle herds since the use of RB51 was mandated. Last week, two cows from a Sublette County herd were determined to have contracted brucellosis.

Read the rest at Casper Star-Tribune.

Very bad news indeed for ranchers that have to depopulate the entire herd, destroying genetics that may have taken years to develop.

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Flooded Fields Delay Planting/Replanting in Kentucky

Flooded fields in Kentucky may be able to ride out the rain, but others may need to be replanted – pushing farmers into a high-risk crop scenario.

Recent flooding along the Mississippi and Ohio rivers left some western Kentucky crops in low lying fields underwater. As flooded tributaries in the north flow into the rivers, more may be at risk.

Depending on the length of the flood, some crops may be able to survive, but some may need to be replanted, according to Chad Lee, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture extension grain crops specialist.

“Plants can survive about 48 hours under water if the water temperature is above 70 degrees,” Lee says.

It is not uncommon for river bottoms to flood along either the Mississippi or Ohio rivers. In fact, some farmers deal with flooding every year.

Soybeans normally are planted in these areas because their late planting date allows them to be planted after the rivers recede from spring rains. However, the exceptionally wet spring and rains in the Midwest have prolonged flooding, delayed planting and forced replanting.

Soybeans planted after June 10 risk lower yield potential. With that date past, that’s a risk farmers wanting to replant have to take, says Carla Harper, UK agriculture and natural resources extension agent in Carlisle County.

Read the rest at Southern Farmer.

I keep hoping for a miracle, I suppose, but I just don’t see any way that I’m going to be able to keep the livestock this winter unless the pasture conditions improve a LOT.

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Iowa Crops “Ugly” Per Iowa Secretary of Agriculture

Iowa’s crop situation this month may best be described by Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey. He calls it “ugly.”

But, farmers looking at this month’s ugly crops and flooded fields need to be aware of a few dates. They also need to understand communication and flexibility will be important in the coming days, weeks and months.

“I think we’ve got two problems,” Northey says. “First, there’s the stuff that’s not in the ground (that was either never planted or was drowned out).”

Northey says some estimates put the number of soybean acres not growing a crop as of Monday at as much as 20 percent. That’s a problem, he said.

“The second problem is the problem with the ground that is still growing a crop,” he says. “Just because corn didn’t get covered with water doesn’t mean it didn’t get affected,” he explains.

The state is working diligently to help those farmers any way possible, he adds. However, much will depend on the weather and growing conditions the rest of the season.

Source: Iowa Farmer Today

“Ugly” is certainly a term that we can all understand.

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Iowa Floods Damage Ag Transportation Systems

Although the immediate concern during the recent flooding was for people’s safety, some of Iowa’s ag transportation system also has been damaged.

Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) officials say railroad infrastructure in flooded areas has been particularly hard hit this spring.

The DOT has received reports of major railroad bridges either entirely or partially swept away by floodwaters in Waterloo, Cedar Rapids, Dunlap, Liscomb and Marshalltown. Many smaller bridges also are destroyed or damaged.

Track washouts are evident throughout the rail system with some already repaired and others still hidden by floodwaters.

The BNSF Railway has reported flooding in Missouri and Iowa has caused major delays, and it won’t resume normal traffic until after several rivers have crested.

Routes that run east to west through Ottumwa, along the Des Moines River, and north-south from St. Louis to Burlington are affected. Another disruption is north-south from St. Louis and Memphis along the Mississippi River, according to a BNSF spokesperson.

In addition, the Union Pacific rail line through Iowa also had some damage.

DOT officials say customers can expect short-term delays to more significant long-term effects. They say there was widespread track damage in the floods of 1993, but far fewer bridges were lost.

Damage to Iowa’s rail infrastructure in 2008 likely will exceed that of 1993 with a “trickle-down” effect to customers, who will see business disruptions including shipping delays and arrangement of alternate transportation for raw goods or products.

Mike Steenhoek, executive director of the Soybean Transportation Coalition in Urbandale, says several Iowa rails have sustained damage ranging from class I to the short-line railroads.

Railroads in Iowa that were damaged include Cedar Rapids and Iowa City Railroad, the Iowa Northern and the Iowa Interstate.

Steenhoek says many of the railroads have tied their growth to the growing ethanol industry in Iowa and the movement of products in and out of those plants.

He says the effect could mean differences in basis patterns. It may make farmers use more on-farm storage longer than originally expected.

The delays are coming at a time when the rail system is already stretched to meet its capacity, Steenhoek notes.

However, rails were not the only segment of the transportation system damaged. Photographs and reports are coming in about various bridges and roads being damaged by floodwaters.

Steenhoek says this adds insult to injury as many county governments were struggling to repair roads this spring due to the winter conditions.

“County governments are really stretched to maintain the road system,” he says.

The Mississippi River also was shut down during the flood.

Steenhoek says that shut down came during high demand for U.S. ag exports.

That means the shut down could put more pressure on the international marketplace for oilseeds and grains. The effects will likely be felt far beyond the Midwest.

Source: Iowa Farmer Today

When many people think of floods, they think of water gradually rising and therefore do not consider the effect of water currents carrying debris that is gouging across fields, slamming into highways, bridges, and railroad trestles, and into houses and barns. The damage from that is considerable and the repairs could take months.

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