Then there's that 42-mile natural gas pipeline from the Bahamas to Port Everglades. Energy companies have been trying for two years to win approval. The idea is to ship liquefied natural gas to a processing plant in the Bahamas, where it would be returned to its natural form, then fed through underwater tubes to South Florida, where we could burn it in stoves and water heaters. Very neat. Maybe even profitable.
And it's no problema to U.S. and Florida regulatory agencies that it would require tunneling beneath the fragile reefs lining Broward County's coastline. They've given a green light to the project -- despite protests from environmentalists, like Florida Atlantic University ocean engineering professor Ray McAllister, who says the reef is already on its "last legs" because of human intrusion.
But not so fast.
Neither the Sun-Sentinel, the Miami Herald, nor any other U.S. media has reported that the Bahamas Ministry of Health's Environment Science and Technology Commission has rejected proposals to build a processing plant at South Riding Point in East Grand Bahama and in Freeport Harbour. Such a plant, with its concentration of volatile substances, would be an unacceptable hazard, the commission concluded, according to the Bahama Journal.
Paula Rockstroh, a spokeswoman for the conglomerate of energy companies pushing the plan -- SUEZ Energy North America, El Paso Corp., and Florida Power & Light, confirmed the Journal's report. But she hasn't given up hope. "We don't believe the door has been closed on the Grand Bahamas," she says. How the company plans to pry the portal open, though, is unclear.
Ah, the War on Terror. We taxpayers shell out big bucks so federal agents can fly in comfort as they spirit guilty-until-proven-innocent captives out of the country and then abuse them.
Take the case of Maher Arar. The 35-year-old, Syrian-born Canadian engineer has sued the United States government, alleging that in 2002, while changing planes in New York, he was kidnapped by federal agents. The G-men then flew Arar, who was tied down, from New Jersey to Bangor, Maine, and then to Rome, Italy, and finally to Syria. Once in the Middle East, Arar says, he was held for ten months, interrogated, and beaten with a metal cable.
The federal government claimed it had information that Arar was a member of al Qaeda. Arar denies that he's associated with the terrorist organization.
The New York Times broke this story, which was also printed by the Sun-Sentinel. But what the local paper forgot to include was the local angle. In court papers, the Canadian man contends -- and flight logs confirm -- that he was transported along with federal agents in a Gulfstream III, a luxury, 14-seat jet complete with leather seats and a full multimedia video system leased from Presidential Aviation, a charter company specializing in luxury jets headquartered at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport.
So how much taxpayer dough did the G-men drop transporting Arar around the globe just to brutalize him? The 'Pipe inquired at Presidential Aviation's website, asking its automated system for a quote to lease a Gulfstream III for a day to fly from New Jersey to Maine to Italy to Syria. The price: $158,064.
Panthers Belong in Cages
Andy Eller has been a pretty lonely guy since he blew the whistle last year on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. For ten years, the panther-habitat biologist had been hip-deep in the contentious regulatory and development issues surrounding the endangered cats' home in South Florida. Last spring, he filed formal charges that the FWS had exaggerated the panther population and played down how much territory it needs to survive. The federal agency rewarded him by firing him in November.
But now, 20 of his fellow scientists at the agency have stepped up -- albeit anonymously for the time being -- to verify the cat-dissing ways of the FWS. They sent a statement in support of Eller as part of the former biologist's federal suit, which is scheduled for trial in June.
"It is outrageous that in America in 2004," the biologists write in the missive, "an experienced and dedicated veteran of the Service could suffer termination simply for asking questions, refusing to incorporate nonfactual information into biological opinions, and challenging panther science."
For example, they cite Allen Webb, Eller's immediate supervisor in Vero Beach as referring dismissively to the panther as a "zoo species." He also routinely told his underlings that "jeopardy opinions," which contain objections about the effects of development on panthers or Florida's 68 other federally listed endangered species, "would not be found" at the agency.
"When I woke up this morning, I thought, 'Biotechnology over the environment? What were we thinking?'" says Scripps Research Institute President Richard Lerner, in remarks reported in a "press release." So he resolved his dilemma, scratching the whole idea. No more Scripps in Palm Beach County. No more massive biotechnology facility on environmentally sensitive wetlands. The boys at Scripps even posted apologetic signs around the Mecca Farms site. Then they sent out a news release inviting e-mail responses at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Already known to the world as a plastic-surgery mecca fixated on looking good, South Florida is turning its self-critical gaze... southward, in a manner of speaking. Anal bleaching has arrived. It's the ultimate body touchup. There's exfoliated skin, hairless bikini lines, and now -- the unnaturally light sphincter. They're doing it at Sanda Gane Esthetique Salon in West Palm Beach, acknowledges electrolysis expert Michelle Milshtein (though she wouldn't say what the process is). Demand is on the upswing. Melany Whitney, an authority in permanent makeup who works in Boca Raton, hadn't heard of the practice but was only slightly surprised by it. "Oh, jeez!" was her response, guessing that SoFla strippers will be at the vanguard of the new, controversial beauty therapy.
Don't do it, advises the Australian Medical Association, warning that the consequences could be "anal burning and scarring... or an inability to pass stools at all." The New York Observer recently advised: "Wax and pluck if you must, but don't tinker with your sphincter." Anal sex guru Tristan Taormino, on her website, tells a certain "Brown-Eyed Susan" that she can't truly get behind sphincter lightening. "I would like you to consider why you 'hate' your ass so much," Taormino advises.
Now that the Internet is buzzing with rumors about celebs like Lara Flynn Boyle bending over for a bleachin', though, it's only a matter of time before a Bung Boutique opens in a strip mall near you.
-- As told to Edmund Newton