Amid ticket quota issue, FHP Maj. Mark Welch requests retirement

After his July 28 email to Florida Highway Patrol troopers in an eight-county region was published, FHP Maj. Mark Welch sent a request to Col. Gene Spaulding Wednesday. He wants to retire. 

Welch, who ordered the troopers to issue two citations each hour, wants to retire from FHP on Sept. 5. Spaulding released a statement saying he was accepting his request. 

“Major Welch has served Florida for more than 35 years, and I appreciate his dedication to the state of Florida and FHP’s mission of saving lives,” Spaulding said. 

In the email, Welch said the order was not a quota and was meant to support an overtime program to provide more coverage in high-traffic areas. Spaulding put Welch’s job status under review after disavowing the email. 

A quota would be in violation of Florida law. The union representing troopers wants disciplinary action against Welch. 

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University of Florida denies white supremacist event

The University of Florida is denying a request by a group headed by white supremacist Richard Spencer to rent space on the campus for a September event.

UF President W. Kent Fuchs said in a statement Wednesday that the decision was made after assessing risks to the campus, community and law enforcement after last weekend’s violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Spencer, the head of the National Policy Institute, had contacted the university for plans to rent space on the campus in Gainesville next month.

In denying the request, Fuchs said he finds Spencer’s racist rhetoric “repugnant and counter to everything the university and this nation stands for.”

Fuchs said UF is dedicated to free speech and public discourse, but the First Amendment doesn’t require risk of imminent violence to students.

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Thrift shop bargain hunters find rare NASA flight suits

Talia Rappa and Skyer Ashworth turned summer bargain shopping at a Titusville thrift store closeout into the stuff of NASA collectors’ legend when the central Florida college students paid 20 cents each for five rare NASA flight suits that experts say could be valued at $5,000 each or more.

“They were kind of in a weird corner,” Rappa told WKMG. “He (Skylar) pulled them all out at first, then brought the whole handful over to me.”

The five blue NASA flight suits, along with a white “control suit,” were in the bottom of a plastic bin tucked under some forgotten winter sweaters.

According to experts at the American Space Museum, the astronauts’ names and flight dates on the white labels seem to match the time astronauts George “Pinky” Nelson, PhD, Robert A. Parker, PhD, and Charles D. Walker, a payload specialist, flew shuttle missions between 1983 and 1985.

At first, experts thought Nelson’s flight suit, a 38 small, was worn by Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, but further investigation showed Nelson didn’t fly a shuttle mission until 1986.

Rappa, a junior studying astrophysics at the University of Central Florida, told WKMG she has always been fascinated with space travel and would love to be part of the MARS mission.

When the 20-year-old looked at the suits close up, she admits her “jaw dropped.”

Ashworth, 24, who was recently accepted into a college aerospace program at Eastern Florida State College, told WKMG the space program is in his family’s DNA.

“My parents worked NASA communications with the shuttle program,” he said, “and my grandfather even worked communications with the shuttle.”

“It just blows my mind,” Ashworth said. “It (the bin holding the suits) was under two other big totes. I moved them off to the side and I’m digging through a whole bunch of sweaters and stuff, and I found the white one with the patch just kind of laying there.”

Chuck Jeffrey, a member of the board the American Space Museum in Titusville, and an avid NASA collector, purchased the fifth flight suit worn by STS-9 Astronaut Dr. Owen Garriot. Garriot, an amateur ham radio operator, is known as the first man in space to communicate via ham radio with people across the globe while aboard the Columbia STS-9.

The students plan to offer the suits at a special auction conducted by the American Space Museum.

TheA tentative date for the auction has been set for Nov. 4.

Some of the proceeds will be donated to the museum, while the other funds will be used for Rappa and Ashworth’s college tuition.

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Map details where Florida hate groups are in 2017

With hate groups resurfacing in the United States, we take a look at where hate groups exist inside Florida.

The Southern Poverty Law Center released a map showing where every hate group in America is stationed in every state.

According to the center, there are 40 hate groups inside Florida, and 917 total in the country.

The groups vary from anti-muslim to neo-nazi, white nationalist and KKK groups.

  • D. James Kennedy Ministries (Anti-LGBT) – Fort Lauderdale
  • Nation of Islam (Black Separatist) – Fort Lauderdale
  • Citizen for National Security (Anti-Muslim) – Boca Raton
  • The United West (Anti-Muslim) – Lake Worth
  • Stormfront (White Nationalist) – West Palm Beach
  • ACT for America (Anti-Muslim) – Palm Beach
  • The Israelite Church of God in Jesus Christ (Black Separatist) – West Palm Beach
  • Sharkhunters International (General Hate) – Hernando
  • Ku Klos Knights of the Ku Klux Klan – Hudson
  • Ku Klos Knights of the Ku Klux Klan – Cape Coral
  • Bill Keller Ministries (General Hate) – St. Petersburg
  • The Israelite Church of God in Jesus Christ (Black Separatist) – Fort Myers
  • The Straight Way and More (Anti-Muslim) – Venice
  • Nation of Islam (Black Separatist) – St. Petersburg
  • Christian American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan – Bushnell
  • ACT for America (Anti-Muslim) – Heathrow
  • Nation of Islam (Black Separatist) – Tampa
  • New Black Panther Party (Black Separatist) – Tampa
  • American Freedom Party (White Nationalist) – Lakewood Ranch
  • Insight USA (General Hate) – Longwood
  • Legal Immigrants for America (Anti-Immigrant) – Winter Springs
  • The Daily Stormer (Neo-Nazi) – Brandon
  • All Eyes on Egipt Bookstore (Black Separatist) – Orlando
  • Nation of Islam (Black Separatist) – Orlando
  • Liberty Council (Anti-LGBT) – Orlando
  • Christian American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan – Cocoa
  • The Daily Stormer (Neo-Nazi) – Orlando
  • National Socialist Movement (Neo-Nazi) – Statewide
  • Israel United in Christ (Black Separatist) – Orlando
  • American Vanguard (Black Separatist) – Orlando
  • ACT for America (Anti-Muslim) – Statewide
  • Ku Klos Knights of the Ku Klux Klan – Wauchula
  • Crew 38 (Racist Skinhead) – Statewide
  • Sons & Daughters of Liberty (White Nationalist) – Statewide
  • Confederate Hammerskins (Racist Skinhead) – Statewide
  • Endangered Souls RC / Crew 519 (Neo-Nazi) – Statewide
  • Vinlanders Social Club (Racist Skinhead) – Statewide
  • Firm 22 (Racist Skinhead) – Statewide
  • Gallows Tree Wotansvolk Alliance (Neo-Nazi) – Statewide
  • Supreme White Alliance (Racist Skinhead) – Statewide

This list was compiled using hate group publications and websites, citizen and law enforcement reports, field sources and news reports. Groups that appear in the center of states represent statewide groups.

President Donald Trump, facing mounting pressure from Republicans and Democrats alike, did what he declined to do over the weekend during an event at the White House on Monday when he directly condemned white supremacists and neo-Nazis in a brief statement to reporters.

“Racism is evil — and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans,” Trump said in response to the attacks in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend.

“Those who spread violence in the name of bigotry strike at the very core of America,” Trump said.

The comments came in a hastily scheduled White House event in the Diplomatic Reception Room, where Trump — speaking with the help of a teleprompter — spoke straight to camera after meeting with FBI Director Christopher Wray and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to discuss the Department of Justice’s civil rights investigation into the attack.

“To anyone who acted criminally in this weekend’s racist violence, you will be held fully accountable,” he said. “Justice will be delivered. “

Trump had been excoriated for his unwillingness to condemn the groups behind the violent protests that left one woman dead who was hit by a car allegedly driven by a man with ties to white supremacy groups.

After blaming the violence “on many sides” Saturday, Trump stayed silent for close to 48 hours, letting his trademark bluntness and campaign pledges to call terrorism what it is succumb to silence and vagueness.

Trump was asked by reporters after he spoke why he waited so long to condemn these hate groups by name and did not respond.

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Gainesville removes Confederate statue, Tampa statue vandalized

Crews are removing a Confederate statue that was created as a memorial to men of the Gainesville area who lost their lives in the Civil War.

Work began Sunday to remove the statue in downtown Gainesville, known as “Old Joe.” The Gainesville Sun reported it would be moved from outside the Alachua County Administrative Building Monday.

The statue is being returned to the local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which erected the bronze statue in 1904.

County officials said they did not know where the statue would be going.

Meanwhile, authorities say someone splashed red paint around a Confederate memorial park in Hillsborough County.

Hillsborough County sheriff’s officials said in a news release that a passer-by called 911 after seeing that paint had been tossed on and around the memorial’s columns and derogatory comments were scrawled in the paint. The site is on private property near Tampa on Florida’s west coast.

Other Confederate memorials in the area been targeted as well.

Hillsborough County commissioners voted on July 19 to remove a different monument in the county, this one in downtown Tampa and on county property, after several heated meetings filled with public discussion.

On Wednesday, the commission is scheduled to discuss the monument again with an update on the relocation.

In Tampa, a passer-by called 911 after seeing that paint had been tossed on and around the Confederate memorial’s columns and derogatory comments were scrawled in paint, Hillsborough County sheriff’s officials said in a news release. The site is on private property near Tampa on Florida’s west coast.

Other Confederate memorials in the area have been targeted as well.

Hillsborough County commissioners voted on July 19 to remove a different monument in the county, this one in downtown Tampa and on county property, after several heated meetings filled with public discussion.

On Wednesday, the commission is scheduled to discuss the monument again with an update on the relocation.

The attention focused on Florida’s Confederate monuments comes as similar debates heat up in other states. Tension flared into violence this weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, after a white nationalist rally that was tied to protest against the removal of a Confederate statue there.
 

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SpaceX to launch supercomputer to International Space Station

A SpaceX rocket is ready to deliver one of the most high-tech payloads ever to the International Space Station.

The launch is scheduled for 12:31 p.m. ET. on Monday from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center is Florida.

It marks the 12th unmanned resupply mission that SpaceX — the private space exploration company headed by Tesla CEO Elon Musk — has conducted for NASA since 2012.

Cargo missions are always packed with some interesting payloads — typically several tons of experiment equipment, food and other provisions.

But Monday’s mission will carry something the space station has never seen before: A supercomputer built by Hewlett Packard Enterprise, dubbed the “Spaceborne Computer.”

If it works, it could be the most powerful commercial computer ever to operate in space.

Astronauts aboard the space station already have a bunch of devices you’d find at your local electronics store — including HP laptops.

But a supercomputer is something different. It’s a much more powerful piece of hardware that can crunch massive amounts of data and send the results to other computers in just moments.

According to Mark Fernandez, the HPE engineer who is heading up this new experiment, the space-bound supercomputer will have the ability to make one trillion calculations in a single second — about 30 to 100 times more powerful than your average desktop computer.

Julie Robinson, the chief scientist for NASA’s space station program, said if this supercomputer can function in the harsh conditions of space — it’ll be very exciting news for companies down here on earth.

Robinson points out that a huge point of interest for the private sector is taking high-quality satellite images of earth in order to track things like crop growth or oil exploration.

“What’s happening is — just as your TV now has so much more resolution — the same thing is happening with [satellite imagery],” she said.

But the high-definition images require 200 to 300 times more data, which can clog up the communication pipeline between earth and space. That’s where a supercomputer on board the space station would become hugely valuable, Robinson told CNNMoney.

“If you can process the data on board [the space station], you then only need to send down a subset of the data that’s actually needed,” she said.

Will the supercomputer work?

We’ll find out soon enough. After launch on Monday, SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft will detach from the top portion of the rocket. It’ll then fire up its own engines and spend about two days traveling through orbital space.

Then, it’ll dock with the space station, and the astronauts on board can collect the payload.

Fernandez said HPE has volunteered to have its payload removed last, so it’ll be a few days into September by the time the supercomputer makes its way onto the space station and is plugged in.

“If it powers up, that’s going to be my first relief. I will be very excited then,” Fernandez told CNNMoney.

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