Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Gov. Ron DeSantis Is One Of The Most Popular Governors In America, Poll Finds

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — It's no secret that Governor Ron DeSantis has surprised voters both across the state and across party lines. 
A new poll sponsored by U.S. Term Limits and performed by Pulse Opinion Research found 64 percent of Florida voters approve of the job DeSantis is doing as governor. The poll found that 24 percent disapprove and 12 percent were unsure.
"Support for DeSantis is broad across nearly all political and demographic groups," the poll also reports. "DeSantis’ high marks, along with a net approval of 30 points, would place him among the most popular governors in America per Morning Consult quarterly governor ratings."
A newly released poll from Saint Leo University also found DeSantis' approval rating to be at 63.8 percent among more than half of Independents and a majority of Republicans. Out of 500 respondents, 27.8 percent said they 'strongly approved' of his performance while 36 percent 'somewhat approve.'
The overall key themes when discussing DeSantis' approval rating with political experts and leaders are his decisiveness, quick responses to concerns and an apparent willingness to act in a bipartisan and firm manner. 
U.S. Pulse Opinion Research
DeSantis' Stances
Gov. Ron DeSantis has taken firm -- and often bipartisan -- stances in office.
Despite being a vocal Trump supporter during the campaign, recent decisions have placed him in a seemingly more favorable light for Democrats. These include his lawsuit to block oil drilling in the Florida Everglades along with his push for the environment, and a push to legalize smokeable medical marijuana. He has appointed Democrats to key positions and pardoned four men accused of raping a woman nearly 70 years ago.
MORE: Patients applaud Gov. DeSantis’ call to end state ban on smokeable medical marijuana
"He pardoned the Groveland four during his first cabinet meeting, and he removed elected officials in South Florida," Susan MacManus, retired Political Science professor at the University of South Florida, said. "He's tackled things that are obvious problems and exceeded expectations by minimizing his [President] Trump connection and maximized connections to Florida issues."
DeSantis has also played a recent role in pushing for attention to cleaning up the beaches following red tide.
"We finally have someone in the governors' mansion where science has a role to play in issues like cleaner air quality, cleaning our beaches, understanding the effects of climate change in Florida - that's a big deal," Hillsborough County Democratic Party Chairwoman Ione Townsend said. 
Moderate and Independent voters are also good indicators of DeSantis' approval rating across spectrums.
"[DeSantis] has done things in a non-ideological fashion, when people have expected him to be on the far right," MacManus added. "People want to see elected officials work together across party lines. They're tired of polarization."
DeSantis' decision to open up the process of making medical marijuana legal has been a huge win for libertarians and other pro-marijuana voters as well. His push for vocational education has also appealed to moderate voters. 
"[Vocational education] is an educational issue [voters] can all agree on, which is a big, smart move on his part," said Barry Edwards, former trustee and financial director of the Democratic party of Florida. 
On the conservative end of the spectrum, he continues to champion the Republican ideologies, showing both accountability and visibility. 
"He’s making himself visible, accomplishing what he said he would do," Chairman of the Hillsborough County Republican Party Jim Waurishuk said. "In the campaign, he said he would push for three conservative judges for Florida Supreme Court and he has – so far everything he promises he’s come through with."
Related: Gov. Ron DeSantis appoints Barbara Lagoa as Florida Supreme Court justice
Comparing and contrasting with Governor Rick Scott
While Governor Scott was known for his passion for bringing jobs and new businesses to Florida, DeSantis appears to have brought in additional traits across party lines. 
"The big thing is you're always measured by who you follow, and Governor Rick Scott was not as favorable [as DeSantis]," Edwards said. "DeSantis has been a lot more easy to work with, which is a contrast to Governor Scott. DeSantis gets in there and answers questions. He's willing to work with the legislature, much more acceptable to the public and press; he's willing to have press conferences." 
While Republicans are less critical of Scott's performance, they are giving DeSantis a lot of credit.
"I think he’s going to be a little bit more hands-on in some areas than Governor Scott," Waruishuk said. "Scott was really business-focused, and I think we’ll see Ron DeSantis a little bit more party and Republican focused."
Waruishuk adds that the Republican party sees DeSantis as a '"continuation of the party" just as Scott was and that the amount of support received at the grassroots level has been promising. 
The 24 percent
While 64 percent is high, discussing the 12 percent who disapprove of DeSantis is also noteworthy. 
While it's expected that partisan views may cloud a voter's perception, there are a few key decisions and potential issues some see for DeSantis. One of the more divisive issues DeSantis has pushed for is the end to sanctuary cities in Florida. 
MORE: DeSantis calls for local, federal governments to work closely to fight illegal immigration
"Desantis announcing the statewide ban will reinforce him with his base; this helps him secure his right flank, and it will lock him back to the right," said Edwards. "[The announcement] will really inflame the left, it's going to trump the fondness of him along with other budget items."
Townsend doesn't think the governor should be making sanctuary cities a priority.
"I don't think he should pay any attention to [sanctuary cities] -- we don't have any sanctuary jails in Tampa," Townsend said. "To say to Tampa, we can't be a sanctuary city, it's not even appropriate. It's a dog whistle that Republicans use, and I don't think he should even be talking about it."
Townsend also said that some Democrats may not be happy with DeSantis' decision to place Richard Corcoran as Education Commissioner. 
"We know he's going to try redirecting money from public schools to charter schools, when 90 percent of our kids go to our public schools," Townsend added. "Too much money is being diverted to charter schools, there are too many loopholes in the charter school laws, and we don't think the money should be funneled until the loopholes are closed."
Related: One-on-one with Florida’s next education commissioner, Richard Corcoran
Where do we go from here?
DeSantis has been off to a strong start just a few months into the Governors Mansion. But will the widely-positive view of DeSantis hold true over time?
"The longer he's in office, the more he will be perceived through partisan lenses," MacManus said. "There's an old saying in politics where you hit the ground running, defy negative expectations, and take advantage of the honeymoon period, which is right when you take office and people are wanting to see something different."
For Townsend and the local Democratic party, "the report card is still out," and she says she's waiting to see how DeSantis works through the upcoming legislature. 
Even Democrats who voted for nominee Andrew Gillum may be finding solace in DeSantis' win.
"If there's buyers remorse, there's nothing positive coming out about Andrew Gillum right now," Edwards said. "There is more stuff coming out that questions his ethics and even Democratic voters said he should have been more ethical and honest about the Hamilton, airline tickets, hotels - that all helps DeSantis."
Related: Probable cause found that Andrew Gillum violated state ethics laws, newspaper report claims
DeSantis' performance in Florida could also play a key role on a national level for Republicans, primarily in getting President Trump re-elected. 
"Most people will need to understand he’s going to have a major role in Donald Trump being re-elected in Florida, especially if he does well," Waurishuk said. 
His approval rating and performance could also play a role even here at a local level with getting local-level leaders and mayors elected. In Tampa, in particular, where voters will choose a new mayoral candidate from a sea of Democrats, this could sway votes. 
"There are 62,000 Republican voters and how they view the candidates for mayor will certainly have an impact on their vote," Waurishuk added. "There are seven candidates [for mayor of Tampa] and all of them are Democrat, so they are going to be beholden to the votes. They have presented their positions based on the city, based on the voters, and that’s going to have an impact on [who wins]." 
Related: Election Day: Tampa voters to decide on next mayor in municipal election
10News has reached out for comment from DeSantis' office but has not heard back. 
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Bank Of America, RBS Sued In U.S. Over Euro Bond Cartel

By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Bank of America Corp and Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc have been sued by investors in the United States over their alleged roles in a conspiracy among eight banks to rig prices in the $9.4 trillion European government bond market.
The proposed class-action complaint accusing the banks of violating federal antitrust law was filed on Monday night in U.S. District Court in New Haven, Connecticut.
It followed a Jan. 31 announcement by the European Union's antitrust authority accusing the eight banks of being part of a cartel to distort bond prices from 2007 to 2012.
In a "Statement of Objections," the European Commission said it believed bond traders may have illegally shared commercially sensitive information and coordinated trading strategies, mainly through online chatrooms.
While the commission did not identify the eight banks, media reports said Bank of America and RBS are among them.
Bank of America spokesman Bill Halldin declined to comment on Tuesday. RBS also declined to comment.
According to the complaint, banks profited at investors' expense by conspiring to widen the bid-asked spreads they quoted, thereby increasing the prices that investors paid for bonds and decreasing the prices at which they sold bonds.
The banks' tactics were "strikingly similar" to those used in the foreign exchange market, the complaint said, where banks paid more than $10 billion in fines to settle enforcement claims in several countries. Several banks also entered guilty pleas.
Suspected cartel members that have yet to be publicly named were identified as "John Doe" defendants in the complaint.
A lawyer for the plaintiffs did not immediately respond on Tuesday to requests for comment. The plaintiffs are led by the Electrical Workers Pension Fund Local 103 I.B.E.W. in Boston.
U.S. courts are home to a wide array of private litigation accusing banks of conspiring to rig various financial markets, interest rate benchmarks and commodities.
The case is Electrical Workers Pension Fund Local 103 I.B.E.W. et al v Bank of America NA et al, U.S. District Court, District of Connecticut, No. 19-00314.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

He’s A Wanted Man In South Africa. Now He’s Pushing An App To Help Solve School Shootings In America.

Last month, tech company founder Barry Oberholzer introduced the world to “Sword,” a high-tech iPhone case and app that he claims will transform the security industry by allowing people to detect the presence of a gun from the relative comfort of their phone.
The device, Oberholzer says, utilizes facial recognition software and more to effectively allow for people to match a hidden firearm or even a bomb with a database of thousands of weapons. Operating as a case to a smartphone or tablet, Sword, according to Oberholzer, can detect gunshots and even launch “drone countermeasures.” And it can do it all from up to 40 feet away.
“It’s an instance of science fiction becoming science fact,” Oberholzer declared at a Los Angeles launch event for his product, comparing Sword’s impact on security to the effect the invention of the Model-T automobile had on transportation.
Oberholzer and his company, Royal Holdings, have promised that Sword will shake up the nearly $3 billion school security industry, which has exploded in the wake of high-profile mass shootings. And, so far, they have gotten the type of media coverage befitting such a revolutionary product.
USA Today asked whether Sword meant it was time to say “so long metal detectors.” And Oberholzer has become a regular on local TV stations, sitting for interviews that take his claims about the device at face value.
“Eat your heart out, Clark Kent,” declared popular tech blog Engadget, referencing to Sword’s promised ability to detect concealed weapons.
Left undiscussed in the coverage is that Oberholzer is currently a fugitive on the run from fraud charges in South Africa, having fled the country with a warrant issued for his arrest in July 2016 after he missed court appearance. A spokesman for South African prosecutors confirmed to The Daily Beast that there’s an active arrest warrant in Oberholzer’s name, over nearly two dozen charges, including fraud and forgery. The spokesman shared a copy of the charges with the Daily Beast, alleging that Oberholzer, who says he holds American citizenship, participated in a number of fraudulent schemes. Oberholzer is photographed in some of the news articles about the case.
Currently pitching himself as a security tech innovator to both media outlets and potential government customers, Oberholzer demurred when asked about his past.
“It depends on what a fugitive is,” Oberholzer said. “I was an intelligence asset for the U.S. government.”
“It depends on what a fugitive is. I was an intelligence asset for the U.S. government.”
— Tech company founder Barry Oberholzer
Oberholzer has used his purported background as an “intelligence operative” during his promotion of Sword. Attendees at the product’s Los Angeles launch event received copies of his self-published book, The Black Market Concierge: Sanction Busting, Smuggling & Spying for America, which is an account of his exploits as a self-described intelligence asset for American and European law enforcement agencies.
If Oberholzer is to be believed, the salesmanship has been successful. Oberholzer told The Daily Beast that roughly 83,000 Sword models have already been preordered—which, with its cheapest price point being $3,500, would mean the company has already racked up nearly $300 million in sales before even launching its product. Oberholzer declined to name any of Sword’s buyers.
Back in South Africa, Oberholzer exploits have been greeted with less credulity than his current venture. His case has earned plenty of coverage in the country’s newspapers, where he’s known under his full name, Barend Oberholzer. When Oberholzer fled South Africa in 2016, one newspaper demanded to know “Where’s Barry?”
According to the charging papers, Oberholzer’s purported frauds run the gamut from alleged cigarette smuggling to allegedly not paying the bills for a CrossFit gym and his own debts at a luxury housing complex.
In one case, Oberholzer, while operating a South African aviation company, allegedly offered to sell a married couple a lightly-used helicopter. When the helicopter arrived, however, the couple discovered that Oberholzer had sold them a significantly more beat-up model, and only refunded a portion of the money. Some of the money from the helicopter sale was used on Oberholzer’s “upkeep,” “cosmetic products,” and “general expenses,” according to the charging papers provided by South African prosecutors.
In another case, according to court records provided to The Daily Beast by South African prosecutors, Oberholzer teamed up with an importer, telling the company that he wanted to import tiles from the Middle East into South Africa. But customs officials discovered that, unbeknownst to the importer, the three-container shipment was filled with cigarettes, apparently in an attempt to avoid cigarette taxes. The drivers involved in the shipment were arrested, according to the charging papers filed against Oberholzer, and the importer suffered a roughly $45,000 loss.
At one point, according to the charges filed against Oberholzer, he offered to sell a man truckload of cigarettes for roughly $18,000. When the buyer opened the shipment, though, he discovered that it was empty. Oberholzer’s role in the incident was discovered, law enforcement said, because he forgot his wallet in the car.
Through his attorney, Oberholzer declined to comment on the specific charges against him.
“Mr. Oberholzer has been open, honest and transparent about his time in South Africa as documented in his 2016 book, The Black Market Concierge: Sanction Busting, Smuggling & Spying for America,” Oberholzer’s attorney wrote in an email to The Daily Beast. “Simply stated, this is old news.”
“Mr. Oberholzer has been open, honest and transparent about his time in South Africa as documented in his 2016 book, The Black Market Concierge: Sanction Busting, Smuggling & Spying for America. Simply stated, this is old news.”
— Oberholzer’s Attorney
But controversy has followed Oberholzer even after he left South Africa. In August 2017, he launched TerrorMate, an app that claimed to use proprietary technology to detect terrorist incidents almost as soon as they happened. Put out amid a wave of terrorist shootings that dominated headlines in Europe and the United States, the app was aimed at consumers who wanted instant warnings if they were near a terrorist attack. Oberholzer claimed that TerrorMate had been used to detect a British ISIS supporter who was arrested for threatening Britain’s Prince George on Twitter. In fact, the Guardian reported, the suspect had been monitored by British law enforcement since November 2016 — months before TerrorMate launched.
Oberholzer declined to address that discrepancy, saying in an email that he wouldn’t comment on a “UK intelligence matter.”
In a statement, Royal Holdings said its investors and customers were not caught off guard by Oberholzer’s past.
“The Board of Directors, Shareholders and clients of [Royal Holdings] are well aware of Mr. Oberholzer’s past dealings and history in South Africa which has been well documented in previous media reports since 2012 as well as in his book, The Black Market Concierge. Sanction Busting, Smuggling and Spying for America, published in 2016,” the statement reads.
Royal Holdings publicist Eva Bowen also noted that copies of Black Market Concierge were handed out at the February launch event, giving recipients insight into Oberholzer’s “background.”
In Black Market Concierge, Oberholzer portrays the charges against him as a “petty non-issue” over an “alleged bad business deal” drummed up by a vindictive police detective bent on punishing him for a dispute with some South African politicians.
“The charge was a crudely ingenious attempt to revive an old business dispute that had long been withdrawn,” Oberholzer writes.
In his book, Oberholzer also claims he worked for a variety of law enforcement and intelligence agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, Belgian customs, and the United Kingdom’s Revenue and Customs department. Oberholzer declined to offer any proof of that work though, saying he’s restricted from offering any evidence that he was an informant.
“There’s no proof that I am allowed to share,” Oberholzer said.
Neither the Department of Homeland Security nor Belgian’s customs responded to request for comment, and the British Revenue and Customs department declined to comment, citing a policy against discussing whether someone has worked as an informant.
While Sword’s release approaches, the product’s specifications have changed over the past few months. A November press release from Royal Holdings promised that the product—which it billed as ”something out of a James Bond movie!”—would be available to civilians eager on pursuing their “spy daydreams.”
Now, however, Oberholzer tells The Daily Beast that Sword “will never be in the hands of a civilian.”
Oberholzer has also changed his mind about discussing Sword’s purported clients. A 2018 press release from Royal Holdings claimed that 23,000 copies of Sword had already been purchased by a large number of buyers, including the U.S. military, the Department of Homeland Security, and Cairo International Airport. In a February interview with The Daily Beast, however, Oberholzer refused to discuss who had purchased Sword.
Though it won’t talk about clientele, Royal Holdings is keen on showcasing Sword as a product worthy of accolades. On its website, the company trumpets several awards Sword won from American Security Today, a security industry publication. Left unmentioned is that Royal Holdings itself sponsored that award ceremony.

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