Air quality warning issued for several Florida counties

An air quality warning was issued Thursday for several counties throughout the state of Florida, including Broward County.

Environmental officials are measuring ozone levels 24/7 while they monitor the situation.

The warning comes after elevated levels of air pollution were detected in the county.

The elevated levels come from vehicle emission chemical reactions, something seen when the temperature and traffic are high and humidity is low.

Environmental officials said the air quality is unhealthy for sensitive groups of people, including those with asthma, as well as children, elderly people or people with respiratory issues.

“(We ask) that they limit their outdoor activities, especially in the late afternoon, early evening hours, because that’s when we see the highest levels of our ozone,” Natural Resources Administrator Monica Pognon said.

Asthma and allergy specialist Dr. Shahnaz Fatteh said this is the time of year when her practice tends to see an increase in patients.

She recommends keeping a close eye on children and the elderly population.

“These are the folks we really want them to hear about staying indoors and avoid being outside,” Fatteh said.

Officials are hoping conditions will improve by the weekend and urge people to cut down on gassing up their vehicles in the evening.

People are also asked to car pool if they are able and to turn up the air at their homes when they are not there.

Officials said back-to-back days of high heat, sunlight and low humidity have contributed to the air quality levels.

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Air quality warning issued for several Florida counties

An air quality warning was issued Thursday for several counties throughout the state of Florida, including Broward County.

Environmental officials are measuring ozone levels 24/7 while they monitor the situation.

The warning comes after elevated levels of air pollution were detected in the county.

The elevated levels come from vehicle emission chemical reactions, something seen when the temperature and traffic are high and humidity is low.

Environmental officials said the air quality is unhealthy for sensitive groups of people, including those with asthma, as well as children, elderly people or people with respiratory issues.

“(We ask) that they limit their outdoor activities, especially in the late afternoon, early evening hours, because that’s when we see the highest levels of our ozone,” Natural Resources Administrator Monica Pognon said.

Asthma and allergy specialist Dr. Shahnaz Fatteh said this is the time of year when her practice tends to see an increase in patients.

She recommends keeping a close eye on children and the elderly population.

“These are the folks we really want them to hear about staying indoors and avoid being outside,” Fatteh said.

Officials are hoping conditions will improve by the weekend and urge people to cut down on gassing up their vehicles in the evening.

People are also asked to car pool if they are able and to turn up the air at their homes when they are not there.

Officials said back-to-back days of high heat, sunlight and low humidity have contributed to the air quality levels.

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Immigration authorities consider criminal records of Haitians with Temporary Protected Status

During a recent speech, The U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said the nation is under attack from criminals. 

This is why the retired U.S. Marine Corps general was reviewing the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ programs that allow migrants from 13 countries to remain in the U.S. for humanitarian reasons. 

“We are under attack from criminals who think their greed justifies raping young girls at knife point, dealing poison to our youth, or killing just for fun,” said Kelly, who led the U.S. Southern Command in Miami-Dade’s Doral until last year. 

Kelly is concerned about the Temporary Protected Status’ protection from deportation being granted to immigrants who have criminal records. The program protects migrants running from war, persecution or natural disasters and it excludes those with criminal records. 

Kathy Nuebel Kovarik, USCIS head of policy and strategy, requested information about how often Haitians with TPS were convicted of “crimes of any kind,” according to e-mails obtained by The Associated Press. This was indicative of Kelly’s criteria for deciding whether or not he will renew the TPS program for Haitians this year. 

“I know some of [the criminal data of Haitians with TPS] is not captured, but we’ll have to figure out a way to squeeze more data out of our systems,” Kovarik reportedly wrote April 27.

President Barack Obama included Haitians in the program after the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake. About 50,000 Haitian immigrants who were in the U.S. before Jan. 12, 2011, qualified for TPS, according to USCIS. They are only a fraction of the estimated 954,000 Haitians in the U.S.

“You should not craft a humanitarian policy based on the few,” Maria Odom, a former USCIS ombudsman during the Obama administration, told the Associated Press. 

In 2015, Janet Napolitano, the former DHS secretary, extended the TPS for qualifying Haitians to July 22, 2017. After Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti in 2016, Haitians in South Florida were advocating for a change of date required for TPS and for Congress to allow them to be eligible to become legal permanent residents.

Earlier this year, James McCament, the USCIS acting director, recommended that Kelly allow the TPS for Haitians program to expire in July. This would prompt the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement authorities to deport thousands of Haitians living in South Florida. 

INTERACTIVE GRAPHIC

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Okefenokee wildfire forces evacuations in Georgia

A mandatory evacuation was ordered and classes canceled as hundreds of firefighters battled a massive wildfire Monday near the southeastern Georgia town of St. George, officials said.

The blaze was only 12 percent contained Sunday since April 6 when a lightning bolt ignited it at the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, fire officials said.

More than 130,000 acres are scorched by the fire, InciWeb fire information shows.

High temperatures and low humidity fed the flames over the weekend, but the fire’s activity is expected to decrease.

Authorities ordered a mandatory evacuation for all St. George’s residents on Sunday after the fire spread out of Okefenokee over the weekend.

All schools in St George and Charlton County are closed Monday, school officials said.

“First responders are NOT coming door to door because they are fighting this approaching fire to try to save your homes,” said Bruce Young, director of the Charlton County Emergency Management in a message.

At least 75 homes were initially evacuated in the three-mile perimeter around St. George, a town with about 2,000 residents on the border with Florida.

Some residents refused to leave their homes as they could hear helicopters and fire crews battling the fire in the vicinity of their homes.

“It’s my home. I want to protect my home and my neighbors. That’s just the way I am,” St. George resident Marvin Roberts told CNN affiliate WFOX.

Smoke and falling ash from the fire reached the Jacksonville, Florida, area, about 30 miles to the southeast.

Some residents in Nassau County, Florida have been put on notice that they may also have to evacuate, the county’s emergency officials said.

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Snapchat shows nooses drawn around students’ necks

Photos posted to social media by a Baker County High School student have sparked outage.

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One image shows African-American students sitting in a classroom with nooses drawn around their necks. A second shows a black woman with a noose drawn around her. 

“I saw it on Snapchat and Facebook,” said one teenage boy who attends Baker County High School. “I thought it was kind of crazy.”

Students at the high school in Glen St. Mary told News4Jax that the girl who posted the pictures is a classmate, and that school leaders know who she is. 

“I heard a student say, ‘Have you heard about this picture?’ This wasn’t directed to me, this was while I was in the room then a big group of students started talking about it. The teacher got involved and said, ‘Oh let me see.’ And that’s how I first saw it and I thought it was definitely appalling and definitely crossed the line for sure,” said one female student. “I’ve hear a lot of people try to speak about what the student’s intentions were behind it — whether or not it was a threat, or whether or not she was just joking.”

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One parent, whose child attends Baker County High, also expressed outrage about the pictures. 

“To think that kids think this is OK — it’s not. This is hard to even put into words. It’s just total, utter disgust,” Gaylene Shoemaker said. “That’s not a joking matter. There’s nothing to joke about what so ever. Whether it was a threat or kids thinking it was cute and fun, it wasn’t.”

Superintendent Sherrie Raulerson sent News4Jax the following statement:

“The Baker County School District along with the Baker County Sheriff’s Office has initiated an investigation. This kind of behavior will not be tolerated in the Baker County School System.”

If investigators determine the pictures were part of a racist threat, the student could be charged with a hate crime, and hate crimes are generally handed over to the FBI.

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