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VA Moves to Offer Gender Confirmation Surgery to Vets

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FILE - In this Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021, file photo, Secretary of Veterans Affairs nominee Denis McDonough speaks during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs on Capitol Hill, in Washington. In an announcement Saturday, June 19, 2021, McDonough said that the Department of Veterans Affairs is moving to offer transgender veterans gender confirmation surgery. (Sarah Silbiger/Pool Photo via AP, File)

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — The Department of Veterans Affairs is moving to offer transgender veterans gender confirmation surgery, Secretary Denis McDonough announced at a Pride Month event in Orlando Saturday.

McDonough said in prepared remarks that the move was “the right thing to do,” and that it was part of an effort to overcome a “dark history” of discrimination against LGBTQ service members. The move is just the first step in what’s likely to be a yearslong federal rulemaking process to expand VA health benefits to cover the surgery, but McDonough said the VA will use the time to “develop capacity to meet the surgical needs” of transgender veterans.

The decision, he said, will allow “transgender vets to go through the full gender confirmation process with VA by their side.” McDonough also referenced what he said were higher rates of mental illness and suicidal thoughts among LGBTQ veterans, and a fear of discrimination that prevents those veterans from seeking care.

“We’re making these changes not only because they are the right thing to do, but because they can save lives,” he said.

McDonough said the decision was based on the “recommendation of our clinicians, so this is a health care decision that has very real physical health care impacts as well as significant mental health impacts.”

The National Center for Transgender Equality estimates that there are more than 134,000 transgender veterans and over 15,000 transgender individuals serving in the military today.

McDonough’s announcement is the latest in a series of moves by the Biden administration to expand protections and benefits to transgender individuals in the military.

Just days into his term, President Joe Biden signed an executive order overturning a Trump administration ban on transgender individuals serving in the military. And in February, McDonough ordered a review of the department’s policies to “ensure that transgender Veterans and employees do not face discrimination on the basis of their gender identity and expression.”

Orlando

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, District 2 City Commissioner Tony Ortiz and Fire Chief Charlie Salazar Break Ground on Fire Station 11

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ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN) – Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, District 2 City Commissioner Tony Ortiz and Orlando Fire Chief Charlie Salazar invite the Dover Shores community to celebrate the groundbreaking of the new Orlando Fire Department Station 11, “The Beast of the East.”

The new 14,918-square-foot station will be built at the corner of Curry Ford Road and Gaston Foster Road where the previous station was located. The state-of-the-art facility will provide Dover Shores and the surrounding neighborhoods with a modern facility, equipped with the latest in technology and space to accommodate multiple, specialized units and equipment.

The station will be home to 30 firefighters, house four bays, four units – an Engine, a Tower, a Rescue and a District Chief – and is designed to promote firefighter health and safety while providing top-rated service, functionality and rapid response times to the community it serves. The modern facility features new technology that further enhances station operations, including:

  • Individual crew bunk rooms and restrooms to accommodate and promote diversity in the workplace.
  • A decontamination room with a shower and two airlocks with pressurization to further keep potential carcinogens out of the living quarters.
  • Sleeping quarters and active crew quarters that have acoustic separation to allow for rest, recuperation and camaraderie.
  • Escalating emergency tones to reduce fatigue and heart-rate response.
  • Physical agility rooms that promote a healthy lifestyle for top firefighter performance.
  • Open kitchens and dining rooms to allow for the crew to cook and eat together.

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Orlando

U.S. Department of Transportation Providing Florida $50 Million in ‘Quick Release’ Emergency Relief Funding to Repair Damage Caused by Hurricane Ian

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U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced $50 Million in Emergency Relief Funding for Florida, Friday, October 21, 2022. (Photo by J Willie David, III, Florida National News)

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) today announced the immediate availability of $50 million in “quick release” Emergency Relief (ER) funds for use by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) as a down payment to offset costs of repair work for damage caused by Hurricane Ian earlier this month.

“Today we’re making available $50 million in emergency funds to help Florida repair roads and bridges after the devastation of Hurricane Ian,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “This important step is only part of a larger federal commitment: as President Biden said, we will be with the people of Florida for as long as it takes to recover and rebuild stronger.”

“The Federal Highway Administration is working closely with the Florida Department of Transportation to repair the damage caused by Hurricane Ian in Florida,” said Acting Federal Highway Administrator Stephanie Pollack. “The quick release funding we are providing will help get those repairs done as soon as possible and better prepare this area for future storms in Florida.”

Hurricane Ian hit southwest Florida as a strong Category 4 hurricane with storm surges in excess of 10 feet in many places and heavy rainfall for several days. The subsequent flooding damaged, washed out, and/or destroyed roadways, causeways, intersections, and bridges throughout several regions in the state. Quick release funds will be used to pay for repairs on the Sanibel Island and Pine Island Causeways in order to restore essential traffic to the islands and protect the remaining facilities. FDOT has also identified 20 critical intersections in which they indicate a need to perform emergency repairs in order to restore essential traffic.

FHWA’s Emergency Relief program provides funding to States, territories, Tribes, and Federal Land Management Agencies for highways and bridges damaged by natural disasters or catastrophic events. These “quick release” Emergency Relief funds are an initial installment of funds toward restoring this essential transportation link.

The FHWA Emergency Relief program complements Bipartisan Infrastructure Law programs and provisions by encouraging agencies to identify and implement measures to incorporate resilience in the design, restoration and repair of damaged infrastructure, to better withstand future damage from climate change and future weather events. FHWA is also updating its ER Manual to spotlight the program’s impact on improvements to system resilience and the equity of infrastructure spending.

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Orlando

Orlando Economic Partnership Unveils First-of-its-Scale Regional Digital Twin

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Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, Orlando Economic Partnership CEO Tim Giuliani and otehr community leaders cut the ribbon to unveil OEP's regional digital twin. Photo: Orlando Economic Partnership.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, Orlando Economic Partnership CEO Tim Giuliani and otehr community leaders cut the ribbon to unveil OEP's regional digital twin. Photo: Orlando Economic Partnership.

ORLANDO, Fla.– The Orlando Economic Partnership, along with Unity (NYSE: U), the world’s leading platform for creating and operating real-time 3D (RT3D) content, unveiled a first-of-its-kind digital twin that showcases the entire Orlando region. Operational for the first time, the brand-new 3D technology maps 800 square miles of the region and 40 square miles in high-fidelity, including Orange, Seminole and Osceola counties which makes it the first large regional digital twin in use by an economic development organization.

Digital twins are dynamic virtual copies of physical assets, processes, systems and/or environments that look and behave identically to real-world counterparts. Orlando’s digital twin is essentially a virtual copy of the entire region with different data sets layered throughout.

Currently deployed in a digital marketing center at the Partnership’s new headquarters in downtown Orlando, with an online version set for launch in phase II of the project, the digital twin incorporates various data sets from multiple sources, allowing companies, local governments, and nonprofits to visualize how plans will impact the region. By aggregating public and private sources of information, the digital twin serves as a critical resource for all decision makers in the area, making the technology a vital piece of Orlando’s future.

“The Digital Twin technology and capabilities truly exemplify why Orlando has been designated the MetaCenter of the Metaverse,” said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. “Using this technology, Orlando has the ability to demonstrate to established companies, start-ups, entrepreneurs and thought leaders from around the globe the possibilities available to them in our city – from real estate options and infrastructure to the proximity of other like-minded companies and our diverse talent pool.”

 

While other cities’ digital twins have singular applications for smaller areas, the technology for the Orlando region will have nearly unlimited uses. For economic development, the Partnership will show site selectors and CEOs available land and real estate, as well as areas of interest for different industries, infrastructure connectivity and talent availability all while saving drive time.

 

“Orlando is one of the world’s most dynamic innovation ecosystems and this immersive digital twin further proves our position as a region leading the development of forward-thinking tools that enhance the experience of economic development,” said Partnership President and CEO Tim Giuliani. “This is a game changer that highlights Orlando’s unique value proposition and people from around the U.S. and the globe will want to come here to see how it works.”

The Partnership chose to partner with Unity based on the company’s extensive leadership in gaming, government solutions and its experience building digital twins for other well known organizations.

“We’re honored to be collaborating with the Orlando Economic Partnership on this ‘first of a kind’ regional digital twin of this size and scale,” said Callan Carpenter, Vice President Digital Twin Solutions at Unity.”We hope it’ll help companies to better plan for expansion in the future and map out new transit routes to connect Floridians with new jobs in the process.

The Partnership works to accelerate economic development and transform the region through advancing Broad-based Prosperity™ for all. Broad-based Prosperity™ allows businesses, community leaders and local governments to work together, strengthening Orlando’s economy and quality of life by solving shared regional challenges. The Partnership works one-on-one to attract and assist companies with relocations and expansions to continue Orlando’s rapid economic growth.

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