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[OPINION] Remembering the Fallen in Orange County Law Enforcement

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ORLANDO (FNN NEWS) - Orlando remembers its fallen law enforcement officers at the Orange County Courthouse. Photo: Jim Randle/Florida National News.

ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN NEWS) – On Thursday, I was present for the Orange County Law Enforcement Memorial held in Orlando, Florida at the Orange County Courthouse, an annual ceremony held to recognize officers who have died or suffered serious injury while serving their communities. For me it was a time to show respect, reflect on a profession that I truly love and to see many faces that I had not seen in many years. It was a good time gathering with old friends.

As honor guards “posted the colors” and the sound of bag pipes were heard at a distance, I watched as the leadership from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, Orlando Police Department and many other local, state and federal law enforcement agencies marched in to take their seats. It was at that moment I started getting another feeling, one that was real and somber. As the ceremony proceeded, there was a moment in which the names of fallen officers were read aloud and candles were lit in a symbolic act of rememberance. I recognized so many of the names and knew many. It was a time of sorrow. A time the words “hero” and “unselfish” meant so much to me.

Law enforcement has always been a dangerous occupation, but many have sacrificed their lives for the lives of others. They sacrifice themselves for the people in their communities, and even for those who resent them. In a time where the relationships between officers and communities are strained and negative headlines of police abuse are constantly in the media, law enforcement officers as a whole have been unfairly targeted in many cases nationally. The negative stigma jumps out first whenever there is an article involving law enforcement activity. Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter have been posted and chanted throughout the country over the last few years, but in reality, all lives matter. We all will be better off when we understand that good people die everyday at the hands of bad people, but regardless of who it is, good lives should be honored and given respect.

As a retired law enforcement officer and a member of the Orange county community, I was glad to be on hand to give honor and remember those during this special event. I listened to the son of a fallen Orange County Deputy speak about his father and how much his father meant to him. I watched as candles were lit and “TAPS” was played. I also had an overwhelming flood of fresh air come over me. It was truly a good feeling to have served and now show my respect to those who have given it all.

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Jim Randle is a contributor for Florida National News. | social@floridanationalnews.com

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[OPINION] The Pro-Life Party is Now Targeting Children

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George Washington University's Kye Allums competing at the BankUnited Center against the University of Miami Women's Basketball Team on December 28th, 2010. Photo via the Miami Herald.

ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN) – Despite the current host of urgent issues plaguing America, Florida Republicans (and the national Republican Party) have chosen to focus their efforts on curbing civil liberties for historically underprivileged minority groups.

We’re grappling with the substantial increase in chronic homelessness, Florida being the fourth most uninsured state in the nation, an uptick in racist attacks against AAPI and other marginalized minority groups, and a rise in white supremacy.

And they are getting away with it.

Aside from the excessive voter suppression laws and anti-protest laws that give little regard for the first amendment or fifteenth amendment to the United States Constitution, Florida Republicans waited until the last minute of their retaliatory legislative session ending in the last week of April to strike a blow against school children who identify as trans, particularly trans girls.

One of the fiercest proponents of the bill, Senator Kelli Stargel (R – Polk County), has tried to frame the language of the bill around equality, arguing that girls’ sports should not be open to “male students” and competitors should have “equal” genetic dispositions. Senator Stargel has faced opposition not only from Democrats, but from her own daughter. Laura Stargel, a climate activist, wrote an op-ed reasoning with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to veto the transphobic legislation, at one point stating:

“This legislation relies on birth certificates at the time of the player’s birth to determine the gender-assigned team. The policy is rooted in a false stereotype of girls being unable to compete against boys. It oversimplifies sex-neutral characteristics such as skill, weight, height, strength and/or testosterone level, and the tremendous variation in athleticism within the sexes; variation that has produced incredible female athletes like Serena Williams and Simone Biles.”

The legislation has caused a series of disagreements about whether trans kids should be forced to sit out on sports or a league of their own must be instituted. In fact, neither should be the case. Transgender individuals playing sports has been a non-issue and Republicans are attempting to spark a so-called culture war.

Unfortunately, there is a grey area: One side of this culture war is completely misinformed. According to Dr. Eric Vilain, Molecular Geneticist at George Washington University in conjunction with NPR, people born with XY chromosomes often perform 10% to 12% better than those with XX chromosomes due to testosterone and that is typically presented in a small number of athletic competitions such as 400 meter runs and hand-tossing.

The difference between athletes is even smaller for Florida’s target, which are little kids. Before the age of 13, there are very minimal differences in athletic competition between those born with XY chromosomes and those born with XX chromosomes.

Without even counting the significant changes that transgender individuals go through when taking hormone-blockers – which lowers bone density, making them weaker – there are natural advantages in certain sports that far outweigh the average differences between those with XY chromosomes and XX chromosomes. To deny the significance of training, other differences would have to be made in regards to athletic competitions if legislators want to lock transgender women out or make them separate but equal by promoting a league of their own. Taller individuals have an advantage over shorter individuals when playing basketball or volleyball and shorter individuals have an advantage over taller individuals when ice skating or rock climbing, therefore, it would only be “fair” to exclude certain people from those sports as well. Instead, people appreciate the diversity between athletes.

Furthermore, such blatant legislation will only increase discrimination against transgender individuals, especially in women’s sports where many women are already targeted for the way they look or the way their body is built.

Florida is one of the fastest growing states in the country, and it is truly unfortunate to see Florida Republicans taking significant steps to curb civil liberties and rights, especially now targeting those they frequently toss into speeches about protecting. The Republican Party is no longer the conservative party of the past built on fiscal responsibility or so-called family values–they are a reactionary party grounded on conspiracy theories and social discrimination.

I urge readers to take the NCAA’s word on this: transgender individuals in sports is a non-issue. Stand with those who are transgender and defend every child’s right to play the sport that they love while learning how to work with a team and improve themselves physically and mentally.

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Orange Soil & Water Conservation District Supervisor Nate Douglas is a Florida National News contributor. He was the youngest person elected to public office in the state of Florida during the 2020 election is currently Vice Chair on the Orange Soil & Water Conservation District board. | info@floridanationalnews.com

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[OPINION] Destroy Gerrymandering Before it Destroys Democracy

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ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN) – In 2010, more than 60% of Florida voters opted for an amendment that would outlaw gerrymandering. This was ten years ago, yet the amendment is still relevant today. In the United States, only six states have non-partisan commissions to redraw legislative and congressional districts, apart from those six states – Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Michigan, and Washington – districts are redrawn by state lawmakers (with exception of New Jersey, which has a more complex process).

Partisan redrawing presents an issue for voters, especially Asian, Latino, and black voters. One of the most famous examples of this disenfranchisement is Florida’s 5th congressional district after the 2010 census. Prior to the Florida Supreme Court’s decision to take it upon themselves to fairly redraw districts, Florida lawmakers drew a district that stretched from Jacksonville to Orlando, encompassing primarily diverse urban areas.

Gerrymandering is worrying activists as well, particularly in southern states like Georgia, where there were increases in the black turnout.

GOP operatives have also made their intentions to gerrymander districts clear, with states like Florida, North Carolina, and Georgia set as the primary targets. This will be a problem for Americans because partisan gridlock in government does not help deliver promises, it only benefits Wall Street and those at the top.

The conservative-leaning United States Supreme Court ruled less than two years ago that federal courts do not have the authority to block gerrymandering. This Supreme Court vote was gross negligence that had little regard for the racial discrimination and voter suppression that gerrymandering presented for American voters.

Although the Supreme Court neglected its duties to protect American voters, there are solutions that could be considered to bring gerrymandering to a halt.

States should be responsible enough to put independent commissions in charge of the redistricting process. Independent commissions ensure that voters are picking their representatives in a fair manner instead of the system that many states have, where representatives are picking their voters. Redistricting commissions should be headed by citizens as opposed to politicians.

Furthermore, gerrymandering hurts voters in communities of color most, by ensuring that their representation is capped to only a few representatives. Independent commissions must make it a priority to get communities of color equitable and fair representation in the redistricting process, ensuring that their votes are no longer drowned out.

Gerrymandering is a corrupt process that prohibits citizens from getting equal and fair representation, oftentimes subjecting citizens to minority rule. Gerrymandering has usually been a tool used to keep members of congress in power, but states like Pennsylvania are now trying to extend the minority rule to judicial representation as well. This effort was first brought about during Republicans efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, seeing how unrealistic that was, state Republicans put their energy into retaking power of the legislative and judicial branches.

During the 2022 redistricting process, gerrymandering may help Republicans secure the seats of the representatives who voted in favor of overturning the election results after the Capitol riots on January 6th. Gerrymandering will not only have an adverse impact of communities of color, it will also lead to increased corruption. United States Representatives who undermine the democracy of the United States, such as Marjory Taylor Greene of Georgia will not be held accountable because as long as their party is able to hang on to state legislatures (through the process of gerrymandering), they will be able to gerrymander their way to holding on to those seats.

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Supervisor Nathaniel Douglas is the youngest ever elected to the Orange Soil & Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors in Orange County, Florida, and the youngest elected to public office during the 2020 election. He is a contributing political opinion writer for Florida National News. | info@floridanationalnews.com

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[OPINION] Joe Biden: An Extraordinarily Normal Inauguration

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President Joe Biden takes the Oath of Office on January 20th, 2021. Photo: Sgt. Charlotte Carulli.

ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN) – Under the circumstances, I think it’s safe to say that everyone expected Joe Biden’s inauguration to be extraordinary. And in a very real way, it was…by being anything but. From the moment the guests arrived at the Capitol to the one where the 46th President took his seat in the Oval Office, I was surprised by how absolutely… normal everything felt.

Nothing leading up to that day could be considered normal by any definition of the word. The fact that Biden himself would have been the Democratic contender. The absurdity of that first debate. The cries of fraud on Election Day. The horrifying assault on Congress on January 6th, just a week before. And how can we forget all that happened while a pandemic erased so much of what we considered a normal life?

I watched the ceremony with something akin to envy. Where I come from, there hasn’t been an actual inauguration in over twenty years. While democracy has been assaulted here in the States in a very real sense, in Venezuela the word itself has lost all meaning. I did not welcome, in fact, the feeling of familiarity that came over me on the 6th (not the first time I’d felt it in the past four years, by the way). It was one of the reasons why I was still nervous, even scared, two weeks later. If things like this could happen in one of the oldest democracies in the world, how could we, as a nation, recover?

Please don’t get me wrong. I believe the Inauguration was filled with many out-of-the-norm details. Let’s start with the fact that a woman of color and Asian descent took oath as vice president. Let’s single out a breathtaking poetic performance that promised, “we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one.” While we’re at it, let’s see how many women were front and center, what a diversity of faces and races graced the audience. We even had a moment that was charmingly meme-worthy.

Did I feel hope, though? I’m sad to say, I didn’t. Not much. Biden takes office in a country sliced in half. He will have to work with people who question his legitimacy. He has to convince citizens (especially many of my countrypeople) that think he is part of a plot to destroy us all that he is, in fact, there to unite, to repair. He faces a world where America’s spot at the table is not as close to the head as it was. And he faces a pandemic.

But Biden knows this. And the first thing he grabbed was a pen, to sign twenty-three executive orders to start repairing damages. His first hour in the office was spent working. That told me, “I’m not here to mess around.”

Though the uneventful-yet-event-filled inauguration didn’t bring me the hope I longed for, it did bring me something that perhaps was more needed. It brought me peace.

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Juan Carlos Rodriguez is an entertainment and politics writer for Florida National News. | info@floridanationalnews.com

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