City Hall Customer Service Center Closed Because of Covid Outbreak

If you are needing something at city hall, keep this in mind.   The customer service center in the main lobby of the building is closed due to a Covid outbreak.  City officials posted the closure Thursday on their Facebook page.   City officials anticipate reopening the center on Tuesday the 31st

If you win the Florida lottery, for more than $250,000, the public won’t be informed about it for 90 days.  Governor DeSantis signed the bill that keeps winner anonymous for the three-month period.  The bill was introduced in the legislature after lottery winners complained about being hounded for money after winning large amounts.  Winners will now have an opportunity to get financial affairs in order, or move before their names are made public. 

Gun loving Republicans in Congress Thursday blocked any attempt by Democrats to open debate on gun legislation, who are attempting to get new legislation passed to keep weapons out the hands of the crazies or would be crazies.   But bi-partisan talks are underway and even Republican Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania says he is hopeful that a compromise can be worked out. 

If you’re new to Florida, you need to know about hurricane preparedness.  Even if you’ve been here for all of your life, smart Floridians are ready for the big storms.  And to help, the state is offering a tax free holiday for certain hurricane supplies starting Saturday.  The tax free holiday will run for two weeks and will include things like batteries, gas cans, generators, tarps, and fire extinguishers.  The tax holiday ends June 10th

To drive, or not to drive? This Memorial Day weekend, with surging gas prices that are redefining pain at the pump, that is the question for many Americans as a new COVID-19 surge also spreads across the country. The average gas price in the U.S. on Thursday was $4.60 per gallon, according to AAA figures. AAA estimates that around 39.2 million people in the country are expected to travel 50 or more miles from their homes from May 26-30, increasing by 3 million compared to 2021.  That would be at pre-pandemic levels as Americans are virtually ignoring prices at the pump. 

The National Rifle Association begins its annual convention in Houston on Friday, and leaders of the powerful gun-rights lobbying group are gearing up to “reflect on” — and deflect any blame for — the deadly shooting earlier this week of 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.  Former President Donald Trump and other leading Republicans are scheduled to address the three-day firearms industry marketing event, which is expected to draw protesters fed up with gun violence.  The NRA says the focus should be on better mental health care and trying to prevent gun violence.

So you got a raise last year to $15 an hour.   Or maybe even $20 an hour.  Not bad you’re thinking.  Well it turns out that those increases, while pretty good for the average worker, were miniscule compared to the CEO’s of America.  S&P 500 company bosses received an increase that averaged about 17 ½%. That equates to a median wage of $14.5 million dollars.  And rank and file workers don’t like it.  Anger is growing over such an imbalance. Surveys suggest Americans across political parties see CEO pay as too high, and some investors are pushing back.

Something new at the world equestrian center.   And it’s not for people, but animals.  A ribbon cutting was held Wednesday for a new 40,000 square foot University of Florida Veterinary Hospital.  The clinic is the latest investment in Ocala by the school.  The new hospital will provide for the care of horses and small animals.  The clinic officially opened today in the World Equestrian Center

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee was quick to react to this week’s carnage at a Texas elementary school, sending a tweet listing the gun control measures the Democratic-controlled state has taken. He finished with: “Your turn Congress.” But gun control measures are likely going nowhere in Congress, and they also have become increasingly scarce in most states. Aside from several Democratic-controlled states, the majority have taken no action on gun control in recent years or have moved aggressively to expand gun rights.  That’s because they are either controlled politically by  Republicans who oppose gun restrictions or are politically divided, controlled by the NRA, which leads to stalemates. 

The White House on Thursday announced more steps to make the antiviral treatment Paxlovid more accessible across the U.S. as it projects COVID-19 infections will continue to spread over the summer travel season.  Despite a nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases, deaths from the virus have remained largely stable over the past eight weeks, as vaccine booster shots and widely accessible treatments have helped to delink infections and mortality.  Confirmed infections in the U.S. have quadrupled since late March, from about 25,000 a day to more than 105,000 daily now. But deaths, which have tended to lag infections by three to four weeks over the course of the coronavirus pandemic, have declined steadily and are now plateaued at fewer than 300 per day.

More TT…or Trump Trouble.  Former President Donald Trump must answer questions under oath in New York state’s civil investigation into his business practices, a state appeals court ruled Thursday.  A four-judge panel in the appellate division of the state’s trial court upheld Manhattan Judge Arthur Engoron’s Feb. 17 ruling enforcing subpoenas for Trump and his two eldest children to give deposition testimony in Attorney General Letitia James’ probe.  The Trump’s could appeal one more time in New York. 

The Florida House of Representatives on Wednesday gave final passage to sweeping property insurance legislation that creates a $2 billion reinsurance fund and rewrites rules on coverage denials and attorney fees, as lawmakers attempt to stabilize rising rates and insurer losses.  The legislative package now awaits the signature of Gov. Ron DeSantis.  The bipartisan vote in the House capped a special legislative session in which lawmakers approved the broad insurance proposals in three days with little expert analysis in public. Still, many lawmakers said that the measures represented a meaningful way to begin to solve problems in the market, with more work to be done in the future.

Property insurance reform wasn’t the only thing that lawmakers took into consideration during their special session this week.  Lawmakers passed, and sent to the Governor,a bill that will require the recertification of condos over three stories tall.  The recertification would be required every 30 years, or every 25 years if within three miles of the coast.  The bill is in response to the collapse of a condo building in Surfside that killed 98 people. 

Federal Reserve officials agreed when they met earlier this month that they may have to raise interest rates to levels that would weaken the economy as part of their drive to curb inflation, which is near a four-decade high.  At the same time, many of the policymakers also agreed that after a rapid series of rate increases in the coming months, they could “assess the effects” of their rate hikes and, depending on the economy’s health, increase rates at a slower pace.

The United States called for a vote Thursday on a U.N. resolution that would impose tougher sanctions on North Korea for its recent launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles that can be used to deliver nuclear weapons. The U.S. Mission to the United Nations has been working on the draft Security Council resolution for several months. But the measure faces opposition from North Korea’s neighbors China and Russia, which both said at a council meeting on May 11 that they wanted to see new talks and not more punishment for the North.

Boeing’s crew taxi returned to Earth from the International Space Station on Wednesday, completing a repeat test flight before NASA astronauts climb aboard.  It was a quick trip back: The Starliner capsule parachuted into the New Mexico desert just four hours after leaving the orbiting lab, with airbags attached to cushion the landing. Only a mannequin was buckled in. NASA astronauts will strap in next for a trip to the space station.

Republicans are coming under increasing pressure to do something about gun control but are stubbornly resisting.  Governor Gregg Abbott of Texas said Wednesday, regarding the killing of 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school that guns weren’t the problem.  Here in Florida, GOP lawmaker Randy Fine said quote “try to take our guns and you’ll learn”   Fine has been widely criticized for the remark.  And Senator Rick Scott flat out said he wouldn’t support expanded background checks because he believed it trampled on citizens rights.   Yet a full 89% of Americans believe expanded background checks are needed in the country. 

The death toll in that Texas elementary school massacre is now up to 21, including 19 children and two teachers.  The shooter was also killed by police who are now looking for a motive, if there could be one.  Last night, President Biden took to the airwaves saying he was sick of the chokehold that the gun lobby has on congress, meaning the GOP, and called for meaningful legislation to keep weapons out of the hands of the crazies.  Meanwhile members of the GOP once again offered no hope of changing gun laws but instead said they would offer prayers for the victims, a common refrain following gun violence. 

Former President Donald Trump’s crusade for vengeance suffered two devastating blows after Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger won their primaries Tuesday despite rejecting Trump’s entreaties to reverse his 2020 election loss.  It’s a huge warning sign for the way Republican voters view the former president’s crusade to punish those who were not willing to overturn the will of the voters in 2020. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene won her Republican primary, shrugging off challengers who complained Greene was giving the party a bad name.  Greene is the one who claims that forest fires in California were started by Jews who had control of lasers in outer space.

A 60 year old man on felony probation is back at Sheriff Wood’s no frills hotel and probably back to prison again.  Mitchell Brown was stopped by deputies at the McDonald’s restaurant on County Road 484 near I 75.  The Ford Escape had been reported stolen out of Lake County several days ago.  Brown was also in possession of a bag of marijuana and his license has been suspended at least 9 times.  A court date has not been set. 

The mass shooting at a Texas elementary school has put school districts on high alert, including Marion County.  School officials Tuesday decided to beef up security within the district and ordered extra security at all the high schools Wednesday and Thursday, the last day of school.  Law enforcement will also increase security at the last remaining high school graduations this week. 

Russia says it will pay dollar-denominated foreign debt in rubles, a move that is likely to be seen by foreign investors as a default.  The U.S. Treasury Department led by Janet Yellen allowed a license to expire Wednesday that permitted Russia to keep paying its debtholders through American banks. The license applied to American investors and international investors who have dollar-denominated debt or bonds. Russia has not defaulted on its international debts since the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. 

One person is dead, several others injured, the result of a horrific crash involving a special needs bus and at least four other vehicles.   The accident occurred Tuesday afternoon at the intersection of U.S. 441 South and Sunset Harbor Road.   The driver of the bus was killed when he was thrown from the vehicle with nine others taken to a hospital.  The intersection was blocked for hours.  The Florida Highway Patrol is investigating the cause of the crash. 

An investigation into Marion County School Board member Don Browning shows that the appointed member of the board did not create a hostile work environment legally, but his actions may have violated the district’s anti bullying policies.  The report, by a Gainesville law firm, revealed that Browning has made many offensive and derogatory remarks to employees, especially blacks.   While the board cannot punish an elected board members, school board members must now decide whether to send the report to Governor DeSantis, who appointed Browning the first place.  When asked if an apology should be made to employees, Browning quipped, ‘for what’ 

Republicans in the state legislature rejected any form of compromise with Democrats Tuesday and instead moved closer to passing the insurance reform as proposed by Governor Ron DeSantis.  The GOP rejected proposals from Democrats to include such things as a rate freeze, climate change considerations, increased capital requirements for companies.  A significant portion of the legislation is aimed at limiting lawsuits against insurers but none guarantee any kind of rate reductions.  Democrats had hoped that at least a rate freeze would reduce the chances of yet another rate hike by insurance companies. 

An 18-year-old gunman opened fire Tuesday at a Texas elementary school, killing 14 children, one teacher and injuring others, Gov. Greg Abbott said, and the gunman was dead.  It was the deadliest shooting at a U.S. grade school since the shocking attack at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, almost a decade ago.  The gunman was a high school student in the same town about 80 miles from San Antonio.  Police are looking to find a motive for the massacre. 

Top administrative leaders for the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in America, said Tuesday that they will release a secret list of hundreds of pastors and other church-affiliated personnel accused of sexual abuse.  An attorney for the SBC’s Executive Committee announced the decision during a virtual meeting called in response to a scathing investigative report detailing how the committee mishandled allegations of sex abuse and stonewalled numerous survivors. The committee anticipates releasing the list Thursday.

The U.S. will close the last avenue for Russia to pay its billions in debt back to international investors on Wednesday, making a Russian default on its debts for the first time since the Bolshevik Revolution all but inevitable.  The Treasury Department said in a notification that does not plan to renew the license that allowed Russia to keep paying its debtholders through American banks. Without the license to use U.S. banks to pay its debts, Russia would have no ability to repay its international bond investors putting the country in worse financial condition than it was before. 

Hyundai is recalling 239,000 cars in the U.S. because the seat belt pretensioners can explode and injure vehicle occupants. Three injuries have been reported, two in the U.S. and one in Singapore. In a letter to the Korean automaker, government regulators said that the driver’s and front passenger’s seat belt pretensioners can explode upon deployment and send shrapnel throughout the vehicle. Pretensioners tighten the belts in preparation for a crash.  The recall, which expands and replaces three previous recalls, includes 2019-2022 Accents, 2021-2023 Elantras and 2021-2022 Elantra HEVs, or hybrid electric vehicles. Vehicles repaired under the previous recalls will need to be brought to dealerships again for the new remedy.

U.S. births bumped up last year, but the number of babies born was still lower than before the coronavirus pandemic.  The 1% increase was a bit of a rebound from 2020, the first year of the pandemic, which witnessed the largest one-year drop in the U.S. births in nearly 50 years.  But there were still about 86,000 fewer births last year than in 2019, according to a government report released Tuesday.  But you can’t just blame Covid.  U.S. births had been declining for more than a decade before COVID-19 hit

Not in agreement.   There are dozens of different opinions on the construction of an extension to the Florida Turnpike through parts of western Marion County.  The Dunnellon Chamber of Commerce is one group who wrote a letter to the Department of Transportation expressing a desire to work with DOT on the project.  But not so fast says the Dunnellon City Council.  That group has an official no build stance for the project.  Three of the four proposed routes run through Marion County and some say the project would negatively impact the Rainbow River and residents in the area. 

The contamination of fruits and vegetables produced in the European Union by the most toxic pesticides has substantially increased over the past decade, according to new research published Tuesday.  The study by the Pesticide Action Network Europe group said European citizens have been exposed to a “dramatic rise” in both the frequency and intensity of residues of pesticides. The EU has strict rules concerning pesticides and previously said it wants to halve their use of by 2030 as part of its goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions to zero by mid-century.

The first question you’ll be asking about this story is, who was the Harvard grad that allowed this one to post bond?  A dangerous drug dealer in Ocala is back on the streets after he was somehow able to post $460,000 bond after being arrested.  48 year old Willie Cobb was arrested following a raid on his home on NE 22nd Street.  During the raid, the Unified Drug Team found a large number of dangerous drugs including fentanyl, a loaded weapon, and $6000 cash.  Cops have been investigating Cobb since 2021 after a man was found dead in his home.  Cobb, who also goes by Sankie and Fool, has been in and out of jail since 1996. 

If you have peanut butter in the house,  check it out.  There’s a huge recall of Jiff Peanut Butter in Florida bacuase of the risk of salmonella.  The FDA says testing shows the illness matches samples taken from the factory back in 2010.  Go to our website and click on today’s news to see the lot code numbers begin recalled.  If you have any of the tainted product either throw it away or return it to your retailer.  Keep in mind this product has a two-year shelf life.  The lot numbers are between 1274425 through 2140425.  

A 32 year old Ocala man will likely get life in prison after pleading guilty Monday to charges that he killed his 77 year old grandmother then decapitated her in March of 2021.  Nicholas Trench entered the plea before judge Lisa Henderson.  Alice Trench’s body was found by sheriff’s deputies on a well being check.  Trench was arrested a short time later wandering around a daycare nude.  Under sentencing guidelines the minimum Trench could receive is 26 ½ years up to life. 

The Florida Legislature on Monday began a special session focused on fixing the state’s turbulent property insurance market, advancing sweeping legislation to create a $2 billion reinsurance fund and place new rules around attorney fees and coverage denials as lawmakers attempt to stabilize a market plagued by rising rates and insurer insolvencies.  The Senate Committee on Appropriations approved the measures on near-unanimous votes. The bills now move to the full Senate.

A Florida law spearheaded by Governor Ron DeSantis intended to punish social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter is an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment, a federal appeals court ruled Monday, dealing a major victory to companies who had been accused by GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis of discriminating against conservative thought.  A three-judge panel of the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously concluded that it was overreach for DeSantis and the Republican-led Florida Legislature to tell the social media companies how to conduct their work under the Constitution’s free speech guarantee.

The already slow slog of picking jurors in the penalty trial of Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz hit a new stumbling block Monday when a potential juror’s T-shirt honoring those killed and traumatized in the 2018 massacre resulted in the dismissal of her entire group of 10.  The woman, a 58-year-old high school teacher, was wearing a T-shirt in the burgundy and silver colors of Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that read “Teacher Strong.” Below that were two hashtags that were commonly found on T-shirts and bumper stickers throughout South Florida long after the Feb. 14, 2018, shooting: #msdstrong and #NeverAgain.

Tourists have returned to Florida in numbers that are surpassing pre-pandemic levels.  Officials at Miami International Airport are projecting the “busiest Memorial Day weekend ever,”.  Passenger traffic at the airport was up 17% over the last 30 days, compared to the same period before the pandemic hit in 2020.   Similar growth in tourism is being seen statewide in Florida

Three doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine offer strong protection for children younger than 5, the company announced Monday. Pfizer plans to give the data to U.S. regulators later this week in a step toward letting the littlest kids get the shots.  The news comes after months of anxious waiting by parents desperate to vaccinate their babies, toddlers and preschoolers, especially as COVID-19 cases once again are rising. The 18 million tots under 5 are the only group in the U.S. not yet eligible for COVID-19 vaccination.

Local BBQ guru Rashad Jones is headed back to the national stage once again, and once again it’s on the Food Network.  Jones, the owner of Big Lee’s BBQ, has been tapped for the Food Network program BBQ Brawl.  Two of the episodes have already been aired.  A third is slated for 9 pm this evening.  The program is a competition between Jones and 8 other restaurants across the country. 

Starbucks is pulling out of the Russian market, for good.  In a memo to employees Monday, the Seattle coffee giant said it decided to close its 130 stores and no longer have a brand presence in Russia. Starbucks said it will continue to pay its nearly 2,000 Russian employees for six months and help them transition to new jobs.  Starbucks’ move follows McDonald’s exit from the Russian market last week. McDonald’s is selling its stores __ which are almost all owned by the company __ to an existing Russian franchisee. The stores won’t be allowed to use McDonald’s name or menu.

President Joe Biden said Monday that the U.S. would intervene militarily if China were to invade Taiwan, saying the burden to protect Taiwan is “even stronger’ after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It was one of the most forceful presidential statements in support of self-governing in decades.  Biden, at a news conference in Tokyo, said “yes” when asked if he was willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan if China invaded.

Covid cases in Marion County have reached their highest level since February.  Last week 413 new cases were confirmed, up from 303 the previous week, an increase of more than a third.  The positivity rate is also increasing, now at 9%, up 3 percentage points from just last week.  The Marion County Health Department is encouraging everyone to get vaccinated for covid to help prevent the spread of the disease, and to reduce the seriousness of the disease including hospitalizations

Gas is no bargain anywhere now but classic hits will help you find the cheapest prices in our area.   Today that is at Sam’s club on State Road 200…where regular is at $4-21 a gallon.  Several other stations around town are in the $4-27 range.  The average price across the nation now is $-71To find the cheapest prices or ones in your neighborhood, just log on to our website,   The link is right there on the front page. 

All this month there are high school graduations around the state.  There are graduations, then there are impressive graduations.  Take the case of Plant City just to our south which will graduate it’s senior class on Wednesday.  Among those graduations are fraternal twins Drew and Bailey Blanton.  And no, we can’t read each other’s minds explains Bailey.  But unique is the fact that the twins are at the top of their class.  Drew is the valedictorian while Bailey is the salutatorian.  In the fall, both students will begin studies at the University Of Florida, each with different majors.  .

The Florida legislature back in session today to try and put a fix on the homeowner insurance industry.  Many insurance companies have pulled out of Florida because of outrageous claims, and others have raised rates substantially.  It’s primarily because of contractors, in particular roofing contractors, who found a loophole in the state law that let contractors replace roofs at insurance company expense when the damage was minimal.  Several proposals are on the table for lawmakers to consider, with the Senate Appropriations Committee devoting five hours to the first public hearing. 

With prices across the economy — from food, gas and rent to cars, airfares and hotel rooms — soaring at their fastest pace in decades, you might think Americans would tap the brakes on spending.  Not so far. Consumers as a whole are showing surprising resilience, not only sustaining their spending but increasing it even after adjusting for inflation. In April, the government said, retail sales outpaced inflation for a fourth straight month. It was a reassuring sign that consumers — the primary drivers of America’s economy — are still providing vital support and helping allay concerns that a recession might be near.

A military plane carrying enough specialty infant formula for more than half a million baby bottles arrived Sunday in Indianapolis, the first of several flights expected from Europe aimed at relieving a shortage that has sent parents scrambling to find enough to feed their children.  President Joe Biden authorized the use of Air Force planes for the effort, dubbed “Operation Fly Formula,” because no commercial flights were available.  The White House says this and future flights will provide “some incremental relief in the coming days

A “presumptive” case of monkeypox is being investigated in South Florida according to state health officials.  Health officials in Broward County and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are investigating the case which appears to be related to international travel. The person is in isolation, and local Department of Health officials were notifying people who may have been exposed to the patient.  Monkeypox is a virus that originates in wild animals like rodents and primates, and occasionally jumps to people.  Most patients only experience fever, body aches, chills and fatigue and the health department said the risk of exposure is low. 

Colin Cantwell, the man who designed the X-wing spacecraft in the “Star Wars” films, has died. He was 90.  The Hollywood Reporter reported Sunday that Sierra Dall, Cantwell’s partner, confirmed that he died at his home in Colorado on Saturday.   Cantwell also worked on films including “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “WarGames.”

If you receive social security and Medicare this will definitely interest you.  Florida Senator Rick Scott is now proposing a bill in Congress that could be political suicide, for him anyway.  The bill would do away with social security and Medicare for seniors as we know and require the Congress to renew or rewrite the laws for both every five years.  The plan would be proposed only if Republicans regain control of the Congress.  The story was first reported in the Miami Herald.  Estimates show that if the Scott proposal should ever pass, 1/3 of Florida’s seniors would fall into poverty.