UPDATE- 1:04 AM EST 2-15-2016
Accusations of corruption in student government at the University of Florida are being put out in the open by a prominent UF student activist who previously helped to perpetuate a notorious secret society on campus.
Sabrina Philipp, a senior at UF was featured in a video detailing her experiences as a leading member of the “system”, a secret organization that helps Greek affiliated students move up in student government and influences actions taken by it.
The “system” is connected to the Florida Blue Key, a prestigious leadership honorary group that operates as a secret society that helps direct student government from the shadows, according to some students.
The UF student newspapers published a detailed expose into the way Florida Blue Key operates in 2012.
“For students aspiring to hold public office one day, the path seems simple.
Go to UF. Get involved in Student Government. Get tapped to join Florida Blue Key. Make the right connections.
Even students who have no taste for politics yearn to join the prestigious honor society that boasts alumni like former senator and Gov. Bob Graham and current U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.”
According to Not My System, the group that published Philipp’s video on Facebook, “the system” is made up of three different blocs: a political bloc, social bloc, and third bloc.
“Each is led by a bloc leader that represents the interests of various Greek organizations, communicated to them through their house leaders,” Not My System explains on its FB page. “Through massive Greek mobilization and voter suppression, the System has been able to control Student Government at the University of Florida for decades. This System is damaging to everyone involved except for its elite. Students are not given the opportunity to pursue positions based on their merit, but rather must rest on their laurels.”
Despite attempts to expose the “system” in recent years, many have still denied its very existence.
But Philipp’s video could prove to be an important moment at UF.
This all comes on the eve of student government elections taking place this week in Gainesville, with the next Student Body President, Vice-President, Treasurer, and 50 senators up for election.
The “system” has drawn comparisons to “The Machine” at the University of Alabama and other secret student organizations that sometimes try to influence college politics.
Have a tip about the way “the system” works at the University of Florida? Send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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About the AuthorRich Robinson is the CEO and publisher of Rise News. He is also a journalist and a native of Miami. Robinson graduated from the University of Alabama and can be followed on Twitter @RichRobMiami.
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By John Massey
I was not totally unfamiliar with the fandom for Sen. Ted Cruz prior to attending his rally in Trussville, AL on Sunday.
I didn’t exactly understand why he had a seemingly strong following, but I knew who these people were- disaffected lower to middle class folk with a strong distrust of government. Of course in such a strong populist election cycle, I couldn’t understand why these people weren’t attracted to one of the other anti-establishment candidates when there were so many seemingly “better” alternatives.
Rand Paul’s brand of libertarianism is engineered to be more acceptable to the anti-neocon wing of the party, Ben Carson is about as outsider as you can be in national politics while still being a man of strong faith, and does anything else need to be said about the bombastic Donald Trump?
Each of these candidates seem to epitomize a more extreme version of what Cruz offers, so why does the comparatively moderate and “establishment” Cruz have 18% of the vote in a recent FOX News survey? These are the questions I had when pulled up to the Trussville Civic Center.
Trussville is a city of about 20,000 people in north central Alabama, just a short drive from Birmingham. The community is overwhelmingly white, and tends to be more affluent than the rest of the state. It was a short drive from my house to the community center, about 5 minutes, but parking took quite a bit longer. Cars encircled the white stone structure in anticipation of the first visit of a candidate for President of the United States, to the best of the City’s collective recollection.
As I arrived at the entrance about 5 minutes before the expected time of the start of the event, I was informed that a line had been stretching outside of the building before the doors opened.
I saw some family, friends, and neighbors, but there was also quite a bit in the entrance that was alien. I suspected that most of these people had driven quite a ways further than I had to see Cruz speak.
As I made my way past the booth selling copies of the Senator’s book, my suspicions were confirmed. I was asked to sign onto a slip of paper with places for three sets of names and information. The two previous spots had been filled. The apparent contact list asked for my name, address, phone number, County of residence, and whether or not I openly supported the Senator’s candidacy.
I glanced at the two entries above mine and saw that both were from neighboring Shelby County, which is a drive that can range from twenty minutes to one hour depending on where they were coming from.
After giving my name and phone number I made my way over to the auditorium. I was told that unless I had reserved seating that I would have to make my way to the overflow in the indoor basketball court. I made the turn down the hall, and walked to the far side of the room. When I turned around I noticed that the crowd had gotten much more bulky in one section that it had been when I passed. It took a moment to realize that the Senator and his entourage had come into the room on my heels.
Cruz was difficult to spot. He was heavily embedded into the crowd, honoring requests for selfies at least a couple of times. The crowd shook his hand, and offered him pats on the back as he made his way across the front of the mob gathered on the court. A woman yelled out “President Cruz” to get his attention towards the end of his gauntlet of handshakes.
When finally the crowd’s needs had been sated, the Senator offered brief but unintelligible remarks due to the poor quality of the microphone. With that he was gone off to the auditorium to go to the main event, whilst the projector was turned on for us late arrivals to view it simultaneously.
When I inquired further, he told me that Senator Cruz was honest and had principles. After being given a Chick Tract by his mother, I moved on.
Both Mo Brooks, the representative for the 5th Congressional District, and Mrs. Cruz spoke prior to the Senator. They were fairly well received, with Brooks offering the crowd an opportunity to boo both government spending and amnesty for illegal immigration, and Mrs. Cruz offering cute anecdotes of their relationship and the curiously well received line that Senator Cruz finally offers people an “articulate Republican candidate”.
This may be a subtle dig at President Bush, and by proxy his brother Jeb, or Trump but it could very well have been a throwaway line as well.
Despite the politely received opening acts, one could feel the anticipation for the main attraction. When the Senator went on stage with his family we could hear the applause from the auditorium.
The Senator preempted the meat of his remarks with a 10 minute long standup comedy routine. He primarily dug into the Democratic debates, offering condolences to those who watched them, and the well crafted line that the Democratic party is choosing between a “crazy haired socialist… and Bernie Sanders”.
He then offered familiar rhetoric, including detailing several policies that he plans to enact on his first day of office, including giving Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions a cabinet position, moving the American Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and the particularly well received line that the “persecution of religious liberty ends today”.
Cruz continued with well received buzz words and phrases, drawing greater applause nearly every time, like:”flat tax”, “abolish the IRS”, “destroy ISIS”,” abolish Department of Education”, and “remove and replace Obamacare”. Closing with a prayer, the crowd shuffled out in short order.
I managed to catch up to a few of the people exiting the Civic Center. The first was a young man by the name of Josh. I asked him who he intended to support, and he indicated that Cruz was his man, followed by Paul, and Dr. Carson. When I inquired further, he told me that Senator Cruz was honest and had principles. After being given a Chick Tract by his mother, I moved on.
I met a jolly older man named Mack next. He was a loud spoken man wearing several pieces of Ted Cruz merchandise, and a small American flag in his pocket. He told me that he was a Cruz man because “He’s the only honest man!”.
When I asked if he had a second choice, he replied “NO! Why would I need a second? He’s the man!”
After shaking hands with Mack one last time, I spoke with a young lady named Marissa. When I asked her why she supported Cruz, she sheepishly told me that she was actually a supporter of Bernie Sander’s candidacy. After the initial shock wore off, I learned that she attended for the same reason I did, because it was so close to home.
She told me that she liked some of what the Senator said, but by no means clapped for all of it. Expressing disgust for Republicans in the state government and Secretary Clinton, she did express some appreciation for Carly Fiorina, calling her “highly intelligent”, and for Carson, though she remarked “I’d like Carson if he had more balls.”
After leaving the event, I feel I have a better understanding of Cruz’s supporters.
Cruz is very personable, and charismatic. He seems to strike a strong balance between the contradictory social conservative, civil libertarian, and neocon wings of the Republican Party.
Paired with a record of defying “the establishment”, but not so much that his name is mud by association, seems to have created a strong base of supporters among those disenfranchised by the previous unfettered free market capitalist bent of the GOP. (Just ask his “friends” in the Senate.)
The Cruz campaign is banking on a strong performance on the so-called “SEC Primary“, also known as March 1, the day when voters in Alabama, Arkansas, Texas, Tennessee and Georgia go to the polls.
It seems highly probable that they can perform well in Jefferson County, and perhaps in the whole of Alabama.
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By Mark Kaire
The I-95 Express lanes are literally deadly. Ineffective “delineators” — those flimsy orange plastic poles you see falling down like so many pins on a bowling lane — invite collision and abuse. They are obstructive more than instructive, and they do little to divide high-speed traffic from cars driving at more normal speeds.
As a result, Miami now faces a new phenomenon known as lane diving, in which drivers weave between express lanes and regular lanes as though there isn’t any difference in them at all.
It’s a dangerous habit, but one that has become commonplace — all on Miami leaders’ watch. Real people are suffering real injuries. I’ve seen it first-hand. My firm has represented some of these people. These are your neighbors. They could be your family members. They could be you. And all because Miami-Dade County rushed into an Interstate “improvement” project it wasn’t ready for.
The intentions were undoubtedly noble. The state needs revenue. Drivers want to get where they’re going quickly. One might reasonably argue that the fast traffic ought to be divided from the slow and assessed a fee for the privilege of efficiency. But when priorities are ranked, money and speed should never surpass safety. And moreover, if the goal is to divide traffic, division ought to be a keyword.
The I-95 Express lanes in Miami do not provide adequate division, nor have they advanced safety. On the contrary, they’ve introduced a new danger in our community, and our commuters’ lives are at stake.
It’s time to admit that, however, worthwhile the original aspirations might have been, the project hasn’t worked. And now it’s time to fix it.
It’s time for Miami and the State of Florida to own up to its error. It’s time to admit that, however, worthwhile the original aspirations might have been, the project hasn’t worked. And now it’s time to fix it.
I’d like to demonstrate just how dangerous the problem has become by looking at actual numbers. Consider the following, keeping in mind that these all pertain to just a short stretch of road right here in Miami (about 13 miles):
- In 2014 alone, state troopers made more than 150 arrests for lane diving. That is an especially compelling number when you consider that, by their own admission, officers are increasingly reluctant to enforce the laws on I-95 because the traffic conditions are so dangerous there. They fear for their own lives. It is likely, then, that these 150 arrests represent only a very small portion of the amount of lane diving that actually occurs.
- There have been more than 17,500 crashes on this specific stretch of I-95 between 2005 and 2014. That is an astounding total. No 13 miles of asphalt should be that dangerous.
- The total number of crashes that have occurred on this section of I-95 has increased over 50% in the past eight years.
- At least four people have died as a result of lane diving in Miami during just the last few years. Even more have been injured.
- Crashes are most likely to occur during peak traffic periods (i.e. southbound in the morning rush hours and northbound in the evening rush hours).
- Fatal crashes are most likely to occur between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., and are more common when traveling southbound.
- Serious injuries happen at all times of the day, with incapacitating injuries evenly distributed across the 24-hour driving period.
- Road crews replace 11% to 15% of the plastic delineators on I-95 every single week. That’s how often cars hit them.
- Each delineator is replaced between 6 and 8 times per year, on average.
- When the Express lanes were installed, the average shoulder width shrank by 40%. As WLRN reports, the shoulder along I-95 in Miami is now 7 feet, 11 inches on average (about the size of a single parking space).
Why the I-95 Express Lanes Are Dangerous
Before going further, it’s important to understand exactly why these lanes are dangerous. It isn’t just that they’re fast. Speed is indeed dangerous, but it isn’t the sole source of the problem.
The Express Lane situation is more complicated than that. A number of factors converge to create the danger here, and we can begin with the delineators themselves.
Lightweight as they are, the delineators still stand as obstructions to traffic. Every time a car hits one of these in-the-way wobblers, there is an increased likelihood that the driver will be distracted by the collision and/or lose control of his or her car, thus raising the risk for subsequent or multi-vehicle collision.
The simple fact is that the delineators make it more difficult to drive down I-95. Difficult driving isn’t anyone’s objective, so why did we pursue it?
Drivers have historically shown little patience for obstacles, and many simply ignore them. Figuring that they can easily zip between the delineators with little risk of real damage to their own vehicles, many of Miami’s drivers — already known for an occasional proclivity toward recklessness — now pick the lane that suits their interests best in the moment.
“If I see a line at a grocery station that’s faster than the one I’m in, I’m liable to jump over there,” expert traffic analyst Scott Cooner recently told Miami’s WLRN. That same instinct kicks in on I-95.
To be clear: the standard and Express lanes are not intended to be interchangeable. Drivers aren’t supposed to hop between them. But with very little to prevent them from doing so, drivers do it anyway.
The problem with such “lane diving” is that higher-speed traffic is suddenly entering into slower-speed traffic without warning, and vice-versa. Different speeds don’t mix well, and sudden changes in acceleration often lead to unexpected impacts.
Without a Shoulder, Drivers Can’t Shrug Off Their Mistakes
Adding insult to injury (or, as the case may well be here, adding injury to injury), the diminished shoulder width on the Express Lanes leaves little room for error. So not only is driver error more likely on these roads but there is also a small margin for correcting those errors before they cause a crash.
The shoulder size poses other dangers too. Police officers say the small shoulder is the biggest reason they avoid enforcing the laws on I-95. They simply don’t have a safe space for pulling people over anymore.
Pedestrians are vulnerable too.
On March 5, 2011, five people were killed on the shoulder of an I-95 Express lane. They were standing on the side of the road after a series of accidents had forced them out of their cars. Then another vehicle — this one with a drunk driver behind the wheel — entered the Express lane and veered off course, killing all five. It was Miami-Dade County’s deadliest I-95 accident in a decade. And while the drunk driver is to blame, those bystanders might not have been in such peril had the Interstate not been so poorly redesigned.
The Proof Is in the Price Tag
The delineators aren’t just dangerous. They’re expensive too. The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) spends more than $1 million on replacing delineators that have been damaged or destroyed by vehicle impact every year.
If you need a sign that something isn’t working, a million-dollar annual repair budget is it. And again, we’re talking about a cumulative total of 13 miles here. That comes to about $77,000 in annual delineator repair-and-replace costs for every mile.
It’s Time for Change
It is not permissible for our leaders to recognize a dangerous condition and then simply do nothing about it.
We here at Kaire & Heffernan, LLC hold irresponsible parties to a basic duty of care every single day — hospitals, storeowners, insurance companies, vehicle and drug manufacturers, and more. We expect the same kind of care from the people who have a responsibility to keep our roads safe.
Our firm has called on county and state leaders to take immediate action to rectify the dangerous situation on Miami’s I-95 Express Lanes. We only hope that more people won’t have to lose their lives before we see real change.
Take a minute to sign our petition for Florida representatives to step up and fix the failed, deadly, and costly I-95 Express Lane.
Mark Kaire is a personal injury lawyer in Miami and a cofounder of Kaire & Heffernan, LLC.
RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. Anyone can write for you us as long as you are fiercely interested in making the world a better place.
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By Vanessa Paredes
Approximately 62 percent of Americans celebrate Valentine’s Day every year, and it’s safe to say most of them are going out to dinner…snooze!
Restaurants will be crammed with hundreds of grumpy couples and overwhelmed waiters collectively wishing the night would just be over already. Consider these much more creative ways to show your S.O. you care on February 14th.
- Painted Love
Make love AND art with the Love is Art Kit. The kit provides couples everything they need to craft a one-of-a-kind abstract painting, while being intimate with one another. Rolling around in paint isn’t only sexy, but a great bonding experience without ever stepping foot outside of the house.
- What’s Cooking Good Looking?
Avoiding restaurants but still want to eat? Don’t blame you. Luckily there’s a more unique way to grub with your lover and learn some valuable skills while you’re at it. Find a local spot that offers cooking classes like Sur La Table and cook up some romance together. Extra points if the class focuses on aphrodisiacs!
- Plan A Staycation
Vacations aren’t cheap, so plan a Staycation with the beau in your favorite nearby city and get away from it all without having to go very far. Order room service, throw on those white fluffy robes, and take advantage of all of the hotel amenities the next day.
- Brew Up Some Romance
Bonding over some brewskis should be a no brainer for some. Local breweries offer tours, tasting, and events perfect for beer loving duos to sip on some of the local flavors their city has to offer.
- Let’s Get Physical
They say couples that sweat together, stay together, and if that’s true it might be worth a shot to do something physical on V-day with your significant other. Consider something that builds trust like rock climbing, relaxing like kayaking or competitive like shooting some hoops at your local court to score big with your one true love.
RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. Anyone can write for us as long as you are fiercely interested in making the world a better place.
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