State Unemployment – 4.9%. Marion County Higher at 5.3%

Though Florida unemployment slightly ticked up in May, the rate was far below the previous year and remained lower than the national rate, according to statistics released by the state on Friday.  Unemployment in May was 4.9% statewide. The federal unemployment rate was 5.8%.  But here in Marion County, the unemployment rate was higher than the state average at 5.3%. 

Two people were killed and a third critically injured early Friday morning in a one car crash off SE Mericamp Road.   The Florida Highway Patrol does not identify victims.  The crash occurred at about 3 AM when the driver of the car missed a curve and went down an embankment, subsequently overturning several times.  The two deceased were only described as females.  The driver of the vehicle, was taken to a local hospital.

Threats of heavy wind and rain from a tropical weather system spinning Friday in the Gulf of Mexico prompted the closure of Louisiana coastal oyster beds, forced postponement of weekend Juneteenth celebrations in Mississippi and Alabama and could tamp down Father’s Day tourism on the northern Gulf Coast.  Weather forecasters said the system moving north in the Gulf of Mexico could become a tropical depression or a tropical storm. A tropical storm warning was in effect for parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.  The system is the reason for our cloudy conditions today.

A Florida couple has been fined by their homeowner’s association for displaying a small gay pride flag in the front yard of their home.  Bob Plominski and Mike Ferrari of Oakland Park, Florida, were issued a citation telling them to take it down or pay a a $50 daily fine. The Eastland Cove HOA sent the violation notice on June 5 after receiving a complaint.  A member of the HOA board said its rules restrict residents to displaying only U.S. or military flags.  Meanwhile the couple says it will not back down.

 Plumes of toxic oceanic bacteria known as red tide continued to move up the western Florida coast, strewing thousands of dead fish on beaches while state officials tried to reassure Floridians and potential tourists Thursday that the outbreak was being taken seriously but isn’t as bad as it would seem.  Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday assembled a team of experts in St. Petersburg to describe the work that is underway to better understand and control the latest outbreak.

Mortgage rates were mostly lower this week as the economy continued to show signs of recovery from the pandemic recession and recent bursts of inflation were deemed temporary by federal policymakers.  Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reported Thursday that the average for the key 30-year home loan fell to 2.93%, barely noticeable drop.  The rate for a 15-year loan, a popular option among homeowners refinancing their mortgages, edged up to 2.24%

In another victory for religious groups at the Supreme Court, the justices on Thursday unanimously sided with a Catholic foster care agency that says its religious views prevent it from working with same-sex couples. The court said the city of Philadelphia wrongly limited its relationship with the group as a result of the agency’s policy.

Police detectives investigating a shooting in the Northwest side of Ocala Wednesday night.  The victim is in critical condition.  The shooting occurred near Northwest 17th Avenjue and 2nd Street.  According to police reports the victim was loading a riding mower on to a trailer when he was hit.   Police are still interviewing witnesses and haven’t said if they believe the man was targeted.

Its almost become an annual rite of passage and the new school superintendent in Marion County is treating it no differently.  That is the annual shuffle of administrators, mainly school principals.  But school boss Diane Gullett is bringing back an old position under a new name.  The chief academic officer will be Margarete Talbert-Irving.  She comes from the Orange County School System.

The Supreme Court dismissed a major challenge to the Obama era health care law on Thursday, turning aside an effort by Republican-led states to throw out the law that provides insurance coverage for millions of Americans.  The justices, by a 7-2 vote, left the entire law intact in ruling that Texas, other GOP-led states and two individuals had no right to bring their lawsuit in federal court.  The GOP and GOP lead states have spent untold amounts of time and money to discredit the program since its inception without success.

If you were hoping to light up a doobie in the next year or so, sorry.  It’s not happening.  A proposed constitutional amendment to allow recreational marijuana use in Florida won’t be on the 2022 ballot after the state Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the ballot language was misleading.  The court said nothing in the proposal’s actual wording limits marijuana use.

A huge diamond weighing more than 1,000 carats, which could be the third-largest mined in history, has been discovered in the southern African country of Botswana.  The high-quality gemstone weighing 1,098.3 carats was unearthed earlier this month by a mining company jointly owned by the Botswanan government and the De Beers Group.  How big is that?  About 3 inches by 2 inches.  DeBeers controls most of the diamond mining of the world, thus controlling prices as well.

President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin concluded their summit on Wednesday with an agreement to return their nations’ ambassadors to their posts in Washington and Moscow and a plan to begin work toward replacing the last remaining treaty between the two countries limiting nuclear weapons.  Of course, Putin insisted that his country has nothing to do with recent cyberattacks, despite U..S. intelligence that indicates otherwise. Biden, meanwhile, made clear to Putin that if Russia crossed certain red lines — including going after major American infrastructure — his administration would respond and “the consequences of that would be devastating,”

More than 4 million people say they fear being evicted or foreclosed upon in the coming months just as two studies released Wednesday found that the nation’s housing availability and affordability crisis is expected to worsen significantly following the pandemic.  The studies come as a federal eviction moratorium is set to expire at the end of the month. Making matters worse, the tens of billions of dollars in federal emergency rental assistance that was supposed to solve the problem has not reached most tenants.

The Justice Department has abandoned its lawsuit against John Bolton, former President Donald Trump’s onetime national security adviser, over his book that officials argued disclosed classified information.  The Trump administration sued last year to block the release of Bolton’s book, “The Room Where It Happened,” and to recover copies of the book that had already been distributed. The book, released in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election, offered a behind-the-scenes, and unflattering, account of Trump’s inept foreign policy dealings.

Planning a trip to Branson Missouri?  You might want to rethink that one.  A swath of southern Missouri is seeing a big rise in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations  as tourists make their way to popular destinations like Branson and Lake of the Ozarks.  The number of people in intensive care units in the region has tripled — from 22 a month-and-a-half ago to 65 now. Meanwhile, statewide hospitalizations have remained steady since March. Health experts cite two factors driving the surge: The presence of the faster-spreading Delta variant, and local residents who refuse to get vaccinated.

A former South Florida corrections officer was sentenced Wednesday to 10 years in prison for raping women under his supervision.  36 year old Yulian Gonzalez  pleaded guilty to sexual battery as part of a deal with prosecutors.  Gonzalez worked for the Miami-Dade Corrections and Rehabilitation Department for more than a decade.

City officials say an intersection in downtown Ocala will be closed for most of the week next week for resurfacing.  The construction will be taking place at the intersection of Watula Avenue and SE Ft. King. If you must travel through the area, expect delays. 

Royal Caribbean International is postponing for nearly a month one of the highly anticipated first sailings from the U.S. since the pandemic began because eight crew members tested positive for COVID-19.  The brand new Odyssey of the Seas was to set sail from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on July 3 but is now postponed to July 31. Royal Caribbean said late Tuesday that the decision had been made “out of an abundance of caution,” adding that the company is also rescheduling a simulation cruise scheduled for late June.

That disorganized system of showers and thunderstorms in the Gulf of Campeche is expected to slowly start moving northward tomorrow or Friday bringing heavy rains to Mexico.  By the weekend, the system could bring showers and thunderstorms to the US gulf coast but the storm system is not expected to bother us.  Meanwhile, that area of showers off the coast of Africa has diminished to the point where it is no longer a threat according to the National Hurricane Center.

A 47 year old Ocala man was killed yesterday evening when the vehicle he was driving failed to negotiate a curve, slammed into a culvert, then overturned eventually hitting a tree.  The crash occurred on County Road 25A at about 7:30.  The Florida Highway Patrol did not identify the victim, who was pronounced dead at the scene.

Florida is among 21 states that have not submitted plans to the U.S. Department of Education detailing how they intend to use the latest round of federal stimulus funds earmarked for schools. The state missed the June 7 deadline to submit its plan, citing a delay “due to (the) Legislative Session and required State Board review,” according to the federal agency. Florida has been allocated more than $7 billion under the American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund. But the U.S. Department of Education is withholding a third of the funds earmarked for Florida until the state submits a plan and gets approval.

For women today, this may make you rethink the cosmetics you use every day.  More than half the cosmetics sold in the United States and Canada are awash with a toxic industrial compound associated with serious health conditions, including cancer and reduced birth weight.    Researchers at the University of Notre Dame tested more than 230 commonly used cosmetics.   Some of the highest levels were found in waterproof mascara (82%) and long-lasting lipstick (62%)

 A new analysis of blood samples from 24,000 Americans taken early last year is the latest and largest study to suggest that the new coronavirus popped up in the U.S. in December 2019 — weeks before cases were first recognized by health officials.  Some experts remain skeptical, but federal health officials are increasingly accepting a timeline in which small numbers of COVID-19 infections may have occurred in the U.S. before the world ever became aware of a dangerous new virus erupting in China.

Criminals have never been accused of being the brightest lights in the box.  Case in point.   A 41 year old man already in the Marion County no frills hotel on charges of kidnapping, beating, and torturing a woman now has another rap.  William Rodriguez-Cordero is now charged with trying to hire a fellow prisoner to be a hit man and kill the woman.  On the new charges, Rodriguez-Cordero had bail set at $250,000.  But he has no bond on the original charges and won’t be going anywhere soon. 

 James Alderman, a former Florida chief justice and prominent cattle rancher, has died at the age of 84, according to the state Supreme Court.  The court said in an announcement Tuesday that Alderman died June 10 in Vero Beach. A cause was not listed.  Alderman, a sixth-generation Floridian, was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1978 by then-Gov. Reuben Askew. He served there until 1985

 Patience running thin, Democratic leaders are laying the groundwork for a go-it-alone approach on President Joe Biden’s big jobs and families infrastructure plans even as the White House continues negotiating with Republicans on a much more scaled-back $1 trillion proposal.  Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced he is moving ahead to prepare for July votes on a majority-rules approach as wary Democrats prepare to lift Biden’s $1.7 billion American Jobs Plan and $1.8 billion American Families Plan to passage.

Have you noticed your food bill going up over the past six months or so?  You were right, it has.  Wholesale prices, driven by rising food costs, increased 0.8% in May and by a unprecedented amount over the past year as the U.S. economy emerges from pandemic lockdowns and pushes inflation higher.  Food prices jumped a sizable 2.6% with the cost of beef and veal rising, though the cost of fresh fruits declined.

Two more groups sued Florida over its new restrictive elections laws Monday, adding to a growing chorus of voter rights advocates who say the rules could keep some people from casting ballots.The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Tallahassee by the Fair Elections Center and the Southern Poverty Law Center on behalf of Head Count and the Harriet Tubman Freedom Fighters.  The suit argues that the new law foments distrust against civic organizations that work to register voters by suggesting that residents use the government’s website instead.

Saying Ocala’s homeless population needs a stronger voice, Curtis Jones, the founder of Streets R Talking Outreach Ministry, has announced that he is a candidate for the Ocala City Council from district 4.  Jones himself was homeless back in 1999.  Jones is hoping his voice on the council can help with homeless issues along with mental illness, which is a problem among homeless people.  Jones joins Alex Everts and Kevin Lopez on the September 21st ballot. 

A semi that got stuck on some railroad tracks Monday night was hit by a CSX freight train.  The accident occurred in the 6200 block of Baseline Road.  The driver of the truck was able to escape prior to the accident and there were no injuries.  But traffic in the area was tied up for hours as debris from the truck’s load was spread all over the place. 

The owner of the Paddock Mall in Ocala has filed for bankruptcy protection.  Washington Prime, based out of Columbus, Ohio, filed for the protection in Texas.  For us locally, it doesn’t mean that the mall will be closing.  In fact, you probably won’t notice anyting.  Washington Prime, which runs over one hundred shopping centers nationwide, is in talks with creditors about restructuring.  The company could, though, sell off some of it’s properties in the future.

Sunsets across Florida in the coming days could become even more spectacular, as clouds of dust from the Sahara desert sweep in across the Atlantic coast.  The plume is expected to dampen storm activity but worsen air pollution, causing trouble for some people with allergies and other respiratory problems. Trade winds are carrying the plume across the ocean, with the leading edge expected to arrive in Florida in the coming days.

 The former wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos on Tuesday donated $40 million to the University of Central Florida, making it the largest gift in the state university’s 58-year history.  Philanthropist Mackenzie Scott and her current husband, Dan Jewett, made the donation without any restrictions on its use according to UCF officials. The gift to UCF was part of $2.7 billion in donations to 286 organizations Scott announced Tuesday.’

The National Hurricane Center is watching and tracking three systems in this early part of the hurricane season.  The first is a system off of the Outer Banks of the Carolinas that is headed to the northeast and really won’t be effecting the United States mainland.  The second system is in the Gulf of Campeche just west of the Yucatan Peninsula.  That system has a 70% chance of forming into something tropical over the next several days as it meanders into the Gulf of Mexico.  Right now that system does not concern us.  The third system is a disturbance off the coast of Africa that is very large.  While concerning, the NHC only gives this system a 20% chance of forming into something over the next five days.  Classic hits is monitoring these systems and we will keep you up to date.

 A 24 year old Marion County man was sentenced to 30 years in prison Monday for 30 years for robbing a Dollar General store in November of 2018.  Rolondo Rodney was convicted on the charges two months ago.  He could have received up to 40 years in prison.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis visited a South Florida Jewish temple to denounce anti-Semitism and stand with Israel, as the Republican governor cloaked himself in religion Monday while signing a bill into law that would require public schools in his state to set aside at least one minute of silence for children to meditate or pray.  The contraversial bill pushes the envelope on the already blurred lines between church and state in Florida.

A man well known in Marion County horse circles is headed to court.  Bob Baffert is suing the New York Racing Association after they banned Medina Spirit following a posititve drug test after the Kentucky Derby.  Following the ban, none of the horses trained by Baffert were allowed to enter the Belmont Stakes held on June 5th.  The drug detected on Medina Spirit was an ointment, not an injection.  That whole investigation is continuing.  In the mean time, Baffert says he is suing to recover damages caused by the ban. 

A federal judge threw out a lawsuit filed by employees of a Houston hospital system over its requirement that all of its staff be vaccinated against COVID-19.  The Houston Methodist Hospital system suspended 178 employees without pay last week over their refusal to get vaccinated. In a scathing ruling a US District Judge deemed lead plaintiff Jennifer Bridges’ contention that the vaccines are “experimental and dangerous” to be false and otherwise irrelevant.  The judge also ruled that making vaccinations a condition of employment was not coercion, as employees are not being forced to work at that hospital 

The Girl Scouts have a little problem.  Unsold cookies.  Lots of unsold cookies.   Count them….15 million boxes.  Blame the pandemic for the leaner sales.  The impact will be felt by local councils and troops, who depend on the cookie sales to fund programming, travel, camps and other activities. But no word from the Girl Scouts if they’re going to have a fire sale.

That tropical disturbance over the Gulf of Campeche west of the Yucatan Peninsula is causing heavy rains along the Mexican boarder.  Over the next several days the system is expected to meander near the coast of Mexico then emerge across the central of northwestern Gulf of Mexico where it now has a 70% chance of developing into a tropical depression.  Right now the system is posing no threat to us but we’re watching it and will keep you informed. 

Vaccine maker Novavax said Monday its COVID-19 shot was highly effective against the disease and also protected against variants in a large study in the U.S. and Mexico, potentially offering the world yet another weapon against the virus at a time when developing countries are desperate for doses. The two-shot vaccine was about 90% effective overall, and preliminary data showed it was safe. The Novavax vaccine, which is easy to store and transport, is expected to play an important role in boosting vaccine supplies in the developing world.

A Japanese university professor has reportedly solved one of World War II”s greatest mysteries:  where are the remains of executed Prime Minister Hideki Tojo.  Declassified documents show the cremated ashes of Tojo, one of the masterminds of the Pearl Harbor attack, were scattered from a U.S. Army aircraft over the Pacific Ocean about 30 miles east of Yokohama.  American officials took extreme steps to keep Tojo’s remains, and those of six others executed with him, away from ultra-nationalists looking to glorify them as martyrs.

Duke Energy blew up the old Crystal River Coal Fired Power plant over the weekend with just a push of a button.  500 explosives were used to bring down the 200 foot tall building in just seconds.  The two remaining smoke stacks will be blown up later this year.  The plant had operated for over fifty years.  To see the video of the implosion, copy and paste this link into your web browser. (note- the video may not be supported on all computer systems)

As Southern Baptists prepare for their biggest annual meeting in more than a quarter-century, accusations that leaders have shielded churches from claims of sexual abuse and simmering tensions around race threaten to once again mire the nation’s largest Protestant denomination in a conflict that can look more political than theological.  More than 16,000 voting delegates are pre-registered for the two-day gathering that starts on Tuesday in Nashville.

School districts across the United States are hiring additional teachers in anticipation of what will be one of the largest kindergarten classes ever as enrollment rebounds following the coronavirus pandemic.  As they await the arrival next fall of students who sat out the current school year, educators are also bracing for many students to be less prepared than usual due to lower preschool attendance rates.

An auction for a ride into space next month alongside Jeff Bezos and his brother ended with a winning $28 million bid Saturday.  The Amazon founder’s rocket company, Blue Origin, did not disclose the winner’s name following the live online auction. The identity will be revealed in a couple weeks — closer to the brief up-and-down flight from West Texas on July 20, the 52nd anniversary of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s moon landing.

Look for a return to more normal summer weather patterns this week.  The weather man is calling for a 60 to 70% chance of those afternoon thunderstorms for most of the week with hot temperatures.  That also means the humidity is back so be sure to stay well hydrated if you’re going to be outdoors.

The 49 people killed in a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Florida were honored in Orlando and around the world over the weekend, the fifth anniversary of the attack.  Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, who donated blood recently in honor of the people who were killed, said the dead must continue to be remembered with “real change.  President Joe Biden said that he will sign a bill naming the site as a national memorial.

Leaders of the Group of Seven wealthy nations staked their claim Sunday to leading the world out of the coronavirus pandemic and crisis, pledging more than 1 billion coronavirus vaccine doses to poorer nations, vowing to help developing countries grow while fighting climate change and backing a minimum tax on multinational firms.

The airline industry’s recovery from the pandemic passed a milestone as more than 2 million people streamed through U.S. airport security checkpoints on Friday for the first time since early March 2020.   The Transportation Security Administration announced Saturday that 2.03 million travelers were screened at airport checkpoints on Friday. It was the first time in 15 months that the number of security screenings has surpassed 2 million in a single day.

A Summerfield man was critically injured Sunday morning when the SUV he was driving went out of control along State Route 471 in Sumter county, struck a culvert and overturned.  The Florida Highway Patrol said the 55  year old man was luck to just be alive as he was not wearing a seatbelt.  The man was not identified.

Duke Energy blew up the old Crystal River Coal Fired Power plant over the weekend with just a push of a button.  500 explosives were used to bring down the 200 foot tall building in just seconds.  The two remaining smoke stacks will be blown up later this year.  The plant had operated for over fifty years.  To see the video of the implosion, just log on to our website and click on today’s news

While Gov. Ron DeSantis is drawing praise from conservatives and pulling in campaign cash from across the nation, he also is attracting a long list of lawsuits spurred by the polarizing legislation he signed into law.  Defending the constitutionality of those laws falls on the Florida Attorney General.  So we reached out to the AG’s office and asked simply, do you have any idea what the cost of defending these suits is going to be to the taxpayers.  Ashley Moody’s office was oblivious to the issue, and apparenly didn’t even know that the AG would be defending the state, let alone how many millions it would cost.