One Way to Skin the FCAT

Summers are educational, damn it.
Alvaro Diaz-Rubio

Summer used to be the birthright of American kids. Remember? It was the slow, loopy season, when there was time on your hands and thrilling new ideas, unimpeded by rigid schedules, seemed to come sailing in out of nowhere. You decided to read 100 Years of Solitude in a day, or do volunteer work at a soup kitchen, or polish your jump shot, or figure out, just for the hell of it, how a single-file army of ants was invading the kitchen. Funny thing: You realized years later that you learned more in the doldrums of those hot, structureless summer days than if you had spent the time with your nose stuck in the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Summers are educational, damn it.

Well, the Broward County School Board has already taken a big chunk out of that time, and it´s threatening to take more. Schools, which opened this year on August 8, are scheduled to open a day earlier next year. And who knows how many days the 2005-06 year will be extended next spring to make up for time lost to Wilma´s rampage? The idea, of course, is to make more time for FCAT preparation. FCAT is, of course, what the Florida schools offer in place of education. (When Tailpipe recently mentioned some difficulties his pipette was having with dividing by decimals, her teacher said, ¨Don´t worry. It´s not on the FCAT.¨ Tell that to the pipette when someday she´s trying to figure out if some credit card company is ripping her off.)

Take heart, though. The School Board really wants to know your opinion. If you can navigate your way through the board´s website (, you´ll find a calendar survey offering four different school-year options: A, B, D, or F. If that doesn´t confuse you enough (what happened to C and E?), take a look at the choices you´re offered. Each is a 12-month calendar chart. Careful study shows that each has a different start date (the clue is a small arrow pointing to a day in August, labeled ¨First Day of School¨). Peruse all four and you´ll see it´s offering you four possible dates: August 7, 9, 14, or 21. Now fill in the e-mail identification page and state your choice (that would be ¨Work Copy F,¨ with school starting August 21, if you want to salvage at least some of your kids´ summer vacation).

Do this by November 23, and — oh yeah — there´s no commitment by the board to take your advice.

Hollywood parent Jennifer Irving describes the process as a ¨quote-unquote poll.¨

¨It´s so complicated, how´s the average parent going to figure it out?¨ says Irving, a member of Save Our Summers, an organization that´s trying to delay the school year. The group is trying to get the word out to parents, urge school newsletters to publicize the poll, get people to e-mail the board about their dissatisfaction, and support legislative approaches, particularly a bill sponsored by State Rep. Dan Gelber (D-Miami) that would make the first day of school no earlier than a week before Labor Day.

There are strong arguments to be made against the early start dates: Other states still observe the old first-Wednesday-after-Labor Day schedule, so it´s hard to coordinate vacation plans with out-of-state relatives, summer camps haven´t caught on to Florida´s system, and it´s too damned hot in August.

But nothing trumps the notion that summer is an important part of every kid´s education.

Analog Thrills

Among the hardest hit during the post-Wilma blackout were young men who matured during the Age of the Internet. To them, pornography has always been a nonstop stream of spam-ridden jpegs, culled from the crummiest corners of cyberspace. Without electricity and DSL, that supply of high-res fantasy fodder stopped coming. What was a poor boy to do?

What young men did back in the good old days and — judging by the graying crowd of whack-stack perusers at Bob´s News, the South Andrews institution crammed with every periodical known to exist — still rely on as a backup. Behind the counter, manager Erin Steinberg explained that, with electricity off in so many households, magazines across the board were moving briskly.

But Penthouse, Hustler, Barely Legal, et al. were selling unusually well.

¨A lot more adult mags, no doubt about it,¨ he said. ¨When the power goes off, people get bored.¨

As a public service, Tailpipe hereby gives the next generation a primer on old-school, analog-porn etiquette: · Insist on a brown paper bag.

· Keep the goodies hidden in a stack under the bed or maybe in a cardboard box on a high shelf.

· Give them all away to your kid brother when you leave the house.  

· Make sure you do move out of the house.

Next: The Lawsuit-Resistant Vest

Pompano Beach´s Point Blank Body Armor, the largest supplier of body armor to the U.S. military, is in legal trouble. Again!

New Times recently reported on how Point Blank, the largest division of New York-based DHB Industries, has been dogged by allegations, including some from its own employees, that its body armor is defective (see ¨Vested Interests,¨ Trevor Aaronson, September 29). As a result of post-9/11 military engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq, Point Blank´s sales skyrocketed, from $70 million in 2000 to $340 million last year.

But 2005 hasn´t been so rosy for the publicly traded defense contractor. In April, Point Blank settled a lawsuit filed by the Southern States Police Benevolent Association (SSPBA), agreeing to replace 2,609 potentially defective pieces of body armor that were sold to police officers nationwide. One month later, the U.S. military recalled 5,277 bullet-resistant vests manufactured by Point Blank. Then, in September, Point Blank´s parent company received a class-action lawsuit that alleges investor fraud and insider trading.

But wait. There´s more.

On November 7, New York-based attorney Samuel H. Rudman, whose firm has previously won cases against Enron and WorldCom, filed another claim against DHB. The lawsuit, brought by a pension plan and two individual investors, alleges that company executives, including founder/Chief Executive Officer David H. Brooks (whose initials he shares with the company), participated in a ¨pump-and-dump¨ scheme by artificially inflating DHB´s stock price and then selling off shares as the price peaked at $22.70 per share.

In all, executives raked in $200 million, including $185 million to Brooks alone. Chief Operating Officer Sandra Hatfield, whom the South Florida Business Journal once described as a ¨steel magnolia¨ for being a female executive in a male-dominated industry, cashed in 100 percent of her shares, collecting roughly $5 million. If she sold those same shares today, she´d collect only about $1 million. Brooks is so flush that, according to New York Daily News gossip columnist Lloyd Grove, he´s trying to lure Billy Joel and Rod Stewart, among other geriatric rockers, to perform at his daughter´s multimillion-dollar bat mitzvah to be held November 26.

The nonprivileged stockholders haven´t been so lucky. Not long after executives bailed out, investors learned of disappointing earnings and quality problems at DHB´s Point Blank. The stock price plummeted. ¨As these adverse facts entered the market, DHB´s stock collapsed back to just $4.48 per share, inflicting hundreds of millions of dollars of damages on public investors,¨ the lawsuit alleges.

Insider trading? Not guilty, man!

In a prepared statement, DHB commented: ¨The company believes that the recently filed lawsuits are baseless and intends to vigorously defend them.¨

The ´Pipe is betting that sometime during that gold-plated bat mitzvah, Brooks will wave to Rod up there on the stage and mouth the words: ¨Some guys have all the luck...¨

Cozy Cottage

Some call Tim Elmes the Broward County real-estate agent extraordinaire. He has just added a considerable notch to his designer belt by selling a Harbor Beach manse for $18.5 million. Sources tell the ´Pipe that the seller is one of the owners of China White on the Riverwalk, and, though as of this writing the buyer´s name has not been made public, it´s a woman you´d recognize on the street.

Whoever the new owner is, she´ll have plenty of leg room. The 20,000-square-foot home sits on a quiet stretch of Intracoastal beauty, with dock space for ¨several mega yachts¨ and parking for more than ten cars. Entertaining friends won´t be much of a problem, what with the nine-hole golf course and 1,800-square-foot nightclub, complete with light show and sound system. And when guests get tired of boogeying, they can kick their feet up in the million-dollar home theater, a duplicate of the one showcased in Epcot´s ¨Home of the Future.¨

Say what you will about the mega-rich and those who cater to their needs: Elmes, who´s been in the South Florida real-estate business since 1988, has the touch. He says he´s been involved in ¨every record-breaking sale in Fort Lauderdale since 1990.¨ According to the Luxury Real Estate Council, Elmes lays claim to four of the highest recorded home sales in Broward County. This places him in the rarefied air of only 10 percent of real-estate brokers who closed deals that exceeded $10 million.

For his efforts in moving the Harbor Beach property, Elmes was awarded the Most Outrageous Property Listed award by Unique Homes Magazine. The most outrageous part, of course, is Elmes´ commission. Let´s see, 6 percent of $18,500,000 is...

Not to be outdone, the ´Pipe just put a noteworthy piece of property of his own on the market. The Tailpipe family garage comes complete with a chamois and a bucket and, within walking distance, its own porta-potty. — As told to Edmund Newton  

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