Bondi, other AGs target drug industry in opioid probe

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and other attorneys general are targeting drug manufacturers and distributors as well as the insurance industry, in an effort to address the nation’s opioid epidemic.

Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the country, with 52,404 fatal overdoses reported in 2015, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine. Opioid addiction drove the epidemic with 20,101 overdose deaths related to prescription pain relievers and 12,990 deaths related to heroin.

Florida, where overdose deaths have spiked over the past two years, is one of the epicenters of the opioid crisis, fueled in part by the widespread use of fentanyl, a deadly painkiller sometimes mixed with heroin.

Bondi and a group of attorneys general are demanding documents and information from pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors related to their opioid business.

The information requests are part of an effort by 41 states to crack down on the opioid crisis.

Bondi, who was appointed by President Donald Trump to serve on the White House’s Opioid and Drug Abuse Commission, has made prescription drug abuse one of her top priorities since she took office in 2011.

“Florida citizens continue to become addicted to opioids and die daily—meanwhile, prescription drug manufacturers, distributors and the medical profession all point fingers at each other as the cause of this national crisis,” Bondi said in a press release issued Tuesday. “This far-reaching multistate investigation is designed to get the answers we need as quickly as possible. The industry must do the right thing. If they do not, we are prepared to litigate.”

On Monday, Bondi joined a separate group of attorneys general who want insurers to make it easier for patients to receive alternative pain management treatments.

Justin leaving, but Sayfie Review going nowhere

Good news for both readers of one of Florida’s top news aggregators and for the aggregator himself.

Justin Sayfie — a South Florida lawyer, entrenched Republican operative and commentator who served as a senior policy advisor and speechwriter to former Gov. Jeb Bush — was named part of the lobbying firm Ballard Partners ever-growing Washington, D.C. office on Monday.

While Sayfie has run Ballard’s Fort Lauderdale operations since 2015, he has also operated — since 2002 — one of Florida’s most-followed online political sites. The Sayfie Review compiles news, blogs, editorials and tweets from the state’s political reporters and news outlets.

As the increased national exposure was announced for Sayfie, he offered “A Message from the Publisher…”  on his website.

“I am really excited to share some personal news with you. This morning Ballard Partners announced that I am joining their Washington, DC office to provide government affairs consulting services to the firm’s growing list of blue chip clients in our nation’s capitol.

“In light of this announcement, I wanted to be sure I let you know that this will not impact the Sayfie Review in any way. Florida politics is in my blood, and after 15 years of publishing the site every day, it’s even made it into my soul! I will continue to serve you in my role as Publisher of Sayfie Review, and I, along with our team of dedicated article editors, will keep providing you with the best political news from around the state, around the clock. This remains our highest mission and commitment to you. Furthermore, Sayfie Review will always remain non-partisan, and independently owned and operated from my other business interests.

“We are grateful to have you as a reader, and we look forward serving you in the future.

“Best regards,”

Justin

By Jim Turner.
 

Death Row inmate launches hunger strike

Florida Death Row inmate Cary Michael Lambrix is going on a hunger strike as a protest for his upcoming execution, set for Oct. 5.

Lambrix was sentenced to death after he was convicted of killing Aleisha Bryant and Clarence Moore in 1983 after escaping from a work-release program.

Gov. Rick Scott ordered Lambrix to be put to death last year, but a series of court rulings overturning Florida’s death sentencing system put the execution on hold. Scott reset Lambrix’s execution date earlier this month.

But Lambrix’s lawyers and supporters say the state lacks evidence that he committed the crimes.

Save Innocents, an organization based in France that provides assistance to prisoners condemned to death, issued a press release this morning announcing Lambrix’s hunger strike.

“I have been forced into a non-win situation in which the vast resources of the State of Florida are being employed to put me to death for a crime I am actually innocent of. I cannot stop anyone from executing me. But I am constitutionally entitled to protest against this injustice by declaring and maintaining a hunger strike as an expression of the free speech without governmental intrusion,” Lambrix is quoted in the release.

 

According to court documents, Lambrix met Bryant and Moore at a LaBelle bar and invited the pair to his mobile home for a spaghetti dinner. Lambrix went outside with Bryant and Moore individually, then returned to finish the dinner with his girlfriend. Bryant’s and Moore’s bodies were found buried near Lambrix’s trailer. Lambrix was originally scheduled to be executed in 1988, but the Florida Supreme Court issued a stay of that execution. A federal judge lifted the stay in 1992.

In Their Own Words: Trump in Ft. Myers praises media for Irma coverage

IMG_0578 In Florida to tour damage from Hurricane Irma President Donald Trump spoke at an airport hangar in Fort Myers before he and First Lady Melania Trump headed to Naples to hand out hoagies to hurricane survivors.

In Fort Myers, Trump gave a bunch of thank–yous to FEMA, the Coast Guard, first responders — the list went on and on.

Trump also heaped praise on Florida Power & Light President and CEO Eric Silagy, who was part of the president’s posse.

“I must say, Florida Power & Light — where’s Eric?  Eric.  Where’s Eric?  Eric, great job,” Trump said, eliciting applause.

“I will say they’re way ahead of schedule.  There are more electrical people in this state, I think, than ever accumulated anywhere in the world is what I read before.  It’s from all over the country they came and I’ve never seen — you’ve never seen anything – ” Trump said before being interrupted from an audience member who may have a different view of the state’s largest utility.

“No, we haven’t,” he said.

Trump, who’s had a rocky relationship with the media, also had some kind words for the press.

“Media, we appreciate you being so understanding.  It’s been a very tough period of time even for you folks, and we really do appreciate your understanding.  This has been a difficult situation,” he said.

Read the full transcript after the jump.

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Hunkering down at the Hard Rock during Irma

The rest of the state may have come to a screeching halt as Hurricane Irma wreaked havoc throughout Florida earlier this week.

But the slots didn’t stop spinning at the Seminole Tribe of Florida‘s Hard Rock casinos in Hollywood and Tampa, both areas that were affected by the historic storm.

The hotels at the casinos also provided a haven for storm workers, according to Seminoles spokesman Gary Bitner.

“Both Hard Rocks stayed open during the storm with limited service options and mostly for hotel guests. Both hotels hosted a large number of emergency responders,” Bitner said in an email.

Tribal leaders took out full-page ads  in several Florida newspapers on Thursday to express their appreciation for the 600 employees who worked throughout the storm.

“We salute our Seminole Gaming employee team members, our vendor partners and contractors who worked tirelessly through Hurricane Irma,” the ad reads. “They exemplify the unconquered survivor spirit of the Seminole Tribe of Florida.”

 

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While Irma packed a powerful punch, the damage at the casinos was mostly limited to landscaping, according to Bitner.

MIA rocker Charlie Pickett uses talent to raise $$ for Irma

Miami home boy and blues rocker Charlie Pickett has teamed up with R.E.M.’s Peter Buck to raise money for Hurricane Irma victims through sales of a digital single, “What I Like About Miami.”

The catchy tune pays tribute to Cuban girls, bananas and South Beach, with a telling line that probably applies to many residents, both native and non-native: “I never meant to stay here.”

Here’s the blurb from Bloodshot Records promoting the song:

In light of the recent unfortunate and disastrous events of Hurricane Irma in Charlie Pickett’s home state of Florida, the Miami garage rock hero releases a new track with fellow Southeastern guitarist Peter Buck (R.E.M., The Baseball Project, The Minus 5) to pay tribute to Pickett’s humble beginnings in Florida, a part of the fertile and groundbreaking underground music scene of the Southeast in the early ’80s. “What I Like About Miami” is a burly, brawny piece of Southern rock riffage, an amalgam of layed-on-thick distorted blues guitar, snarling punker vocals, and gospel harmonies à la Exile on Main Street. It’s a fitting barroom singalong number for the beachside haunts that Pickett calls home.

“Watching the storm approach, I wanted to do something to raise spirits as much as money,” Pickett says. “This song has been a celebration in our shows, and it’s a song that rallies around what makes South Florida what it is.

“When I started working on my first album in years, “What I Like About Miami” cried out for something more, something special, so I called Peter. He not only agreed to play on the track, what he sent just burned. So when I wanted to do something to help, dropping this track right now seemed to be the right thing to do.

UPDATE: Scott, Tebow huddle over Irma

SWOON ALERT: Tim Tebow joined Gov. Rick Scott at the state Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee on Monday, posing for pictures with emergency workers & staff.

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Yesterday, Scott and Tebow rallied folks at a shelter in Jacksonville.

09-11-17_Jax_Shelter3Before touring the Florida Keys yesterday in a Coast Guard C-130 to survey damage from Hurricane Irma, Gov. Rick Scott talked storm impacts with New York Met minor leaguer and former University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow.

The duo later visited a shelter in Jacksonville, which experienced historic flooding.

Tebow, college football’s 2007 Heisman Trophy winner, had rallied people to volunteer at shelters and with relief efforts.

And this wasn’t the first time the governor took note of Tebow’s assistance with the storm.

On Friday, Scott retweeted a message from Tebow that said,  “@FLGovScott is asking for more volunteers. LET’S RALLY, Florida! Go here: volunteerflorida.org.”

Scott last week also retweeted a message from Miami rapper Pitbull, a former paid ambassador for the state’s tourism industry, who said, “Florida residents & visitors, please be diligent. Evacuate where needed. Be safe. We will be back bigger, better, stronger.”

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The storm work by Tebow won’t get him a “Great Floridian” honor — Scott’s already endowed him with that.

Tebow was part of the 2013 class of “Great Floridians” that included former Miami Dolphin coach Don Shula, General Norman Schwarzkopf, golfer “Bubba” Watson, and 16th Century Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de León, each recognized for making significant contributions to the progress and welfare of Florida.

Tebow, who is also a college-football analyst for ESPN, has his own charity intended to help children in need. He’s said he can envision a future career in politics.

By Jim Turner.