Monday, February 18, 2013

Harlem Shake (Jeff Gordon Edition)

The Harlem Shake with Jeff Gordon and Hendrick Motorsports

Florida voting woes

Desiline Victor wanted desperately to vote in November’s presidential election. She showed up at her North Miami precinct on the first day of early voting and inched along in a six-hour line. Three hours later, a poll worker wisely suggested that the 102-year-old “granny” should go home and return later. She did and finally voted to the applause of those in line.

On Tuesday, Ms. Victor sat with quiet dignity in the First Lady’s box at the State of the Union as President Barack Obama recognized her. It was one of the few moments during Mr. Obama’s speech when members of the often deeply divided chambers of state stood in unity.

It was a proud moment, but it should not have been.

Ms. Victor should not have had to stand in a hours-long line to vote in the richest democracy on earth the way citizens in the former Soviet Union used to stand in line for bread. And it’s even more dumbfounding when the wait could have been avoided if Republicans in the Florida Legislature had not collapsed the number of days for early voting. Then, amid pleas from elections supervisors, civic groups and voters, Gov. Rick Scott refused to extend early voting hours.

More than anything, those actions secured Florida’s position as the nation’s election laughing stock — again. No wonder many asked why Floridians were allowed to vote at all.

Now everyone’s scrambling. Among the positive steps that could make the next election operate as it should, Miami-Dade commissioners recently decided to advocate for a 14-day early voting period, including the Sunday before Election Day, which the Republican-led Legislature had eliminated. The decision is a reversal for commissioners, who had voted in December to recommend adding only the Sunday before Election Day to early voting. A nod to freshman Commissioner Jean Monestime, who back in September was calling for the state to restore early voting to 14 days.

Good, if belated, news also came from Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who recently told a House committee that Gov. Scott now favors a 14-day early voting period as well as more sites to be opened up for early voting, including courthouses and civic centers.

In Washington, Democratic Sens. Bill Nelson of Florida and California’s Barbara Boxer have co-sponsored the LINE Act to help ensure that no American voter has to wait longer than an hour to cast a ballot. The senators should also consider a good proposal from the Brennan Center for Justice. It calls for modernizing voter registration, providing more early voting opportunities, and setting minimum national standards for polling place access.

In his address on Tuesday, President Obama announced the appointment of a bipartisan commission to make recommendations on how to “improve the voting experience in America.” The president’s rare display of pique over the past four years came during his victory address on Election Night when he ad-libbed, “We have to fix that,” referring to the long lines.

It’s often said in Washington that politicians create a commission if they want an issue to go away. Americans, such as Ms. Victor, would be sorely disappointed if that were the case here.

This country is often seen as an example to the world of how a democracy should function. The Legislature and Congress must move swiftly to ensure voting is accessible and convenient to all voters in Florida and throughout the nation. That’s not a luxury — it’s a fundamental right.


102-Year-Old Voter Returning Home to Miami after State of the Union

Well-wishers still have one more showing of appreciation planned: A welcome-home party with balloons, flowers and signs for Desiline Victor
By Juan Ortega
|  Wednesday, Feb 13, 2013  |  Updated 2:18 PM EST Voter, 102, Returning to Miami after State of the Union
Courtesy of Elbert Garcia, a spokesman of Florida New Majority
Determined 102-year-old voter Desiline Victor, of Miami, was invited to attend Tuesday's State of the Union address.

Photos and Videos

A South Florida centenarian experienced a whirlwind adventure in Washington, D.C., joining first lady Michelle Obama for Tuesday's State of the Union and receiving applause from lawmakers during President Barack Obama’s address.
Although Desiline Victor’s Washington trip was winding down Wednesday, well-wishers still have one more showing of appreciation planned: A welcome-home party with balloons, flowers and signs for her at Miami International Airport, where Victor's flight was expected to arrive in the afternoon.
“To be able to see her acknowledged, it makes you feel really good that she is appreciated,” said Elbert Garcia, a spokesman of Florida New Majority, one of the organizations that helped bring attention to Victor’s story.
Tuesday, Victor, 102, of Miami, was seated in the House visitors’ gallery as Obama cited her as an example of early voting obstacles in the presidential election. Victor was so determined to exercise her right to vote last fall that she made two trips and waited several hours to vote for Obama.
“We should follow the example of a North Miami woman named Desiline Victor,” Obama said. “When she arrived at her polling place, she was told the wait to vote might be six hours. And as time ticked by, her concern was not with her tired body or aching feet, but whether folks like her would get to have their say.”
Obama continued: “Hour after hour, a throng of people stayed in line in support of her. Because Desiline is 102 years old. And they erupted in cheers when she finally put on a sticker that read ‘I Voted.’”
During Obama’s address Tuesday, several people stood and applauded Victor.
Victor, a farmworker from Haiti, was born in 1910 and arrived in the United States in 1989. She was naturalized in 2005 and first voted in the 2008 presidential election.

Sunday, Feb 17, 2013 at 10:23 AM

Report of immigration draft plan brings White House statement

Republican Senator Marco Rubio and others in the GOP criticizing the president for crafting immigration plan with no bipartisan input, NBC's Kristen Welker reports.
By Kristen Welker and Gil Aegerter, NBC News

The White House is not directly commenting on a newspaper report that the administration is considering a path for illegal immigrants to become legal permanent U.S. residents within eight years.

USA Today said it obtained a draft of a White House immigration plan that contained the proposal.

The White House wouldn’t comment Saturday night directly on the USA Today report but released this statement:

“The President has made clear the principles upon which he believes any commonsense immigration reform effort should be based. We continue to work in support of a bipartisan effort, and while the President has made clear he will move forward if Congress fails to act, progress continues to be made and the administration has not prepared a final bill to submit.”

Since his re-election – which got a boost from Hispanic voters -- President Barack Obama has renewed his push for an overhaul of the nation’s immigration policy, including the topic in his inaugural address and State of the Union speech and making a trip to Nevada last month to highlight the issue.

And there’s been some progress in the Senate: A bipartisan group of senators announced in late January that they had agreed on goals for a major rewrite of immigration laws. Those include creating a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who are here already and creating a system to ensure that employers don’t hire illegal immigrants.

But reaction to the USA Today report by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., points to the difficulty in passing any package. Rubio issued a statement Saturday saying that if the president's eventual proposal follows the draft described by USA Today, it "would be dead on arrival in Congress."

NBC News' Ali Weinberg contributed to this report.

Hidden cameras reveal Mexican drug and immigrant smugglers crossing the U.S. border and traveling miles north into the country, NBC's Mark Potter reports. 

White House immigration plan offers path to residency

The legislation is being developed as members in both chambers of Congress are drafting their own immigration bills.

WASHINGTON — A draft of a White House immigration proposal obtained by USA TODAY would allow illegal immigrants to become legal permanent residents within eight years.

The plan also would provide for more security funding and require business owners to check the immigration status of new hires within four years. In addition, the nation's 11 million illegal immigrants could apply for a newly created "Lawful Prospective Immigrant" visa, under the draft bill being written by the White House.

If approved, they could then apply for the same provisional legal status for their spouse or children living outside the country, according to the draft.

The bill is being developed as members in both chambers of Congress are drafting their own immigration bills. In the House, a bipartisan group of representatives has been negotiating an immigration proposal for years and are writing their own bill. Last month, four Republican senators joined with four Democratic senators to announce their agreement on the general outlines of an immigration plan.

One of those senators, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said Obama's bill repeats the failures of past legislation and would be "dead on arrival" in Congress.

"It fails to follow through on previously broken promises to secure our borders, (and) creates a special pathway that puts those who broke our immigration laws at an advantage over those who chose to do things the right way and come here legally," Rubio said. "It would actually make our immigration problems worse."

The draft was obtained from an Obama administration official who said it was being distributed to various agencies. The official requested anonymity because he was not authorized to release the proposal publicly.

The bill mirrors many provisions of the bipartisan 2007 bill that was spearheaded by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and ultimately failed.

In his first term, Obama often deferred to Congress on drafting and advancing major legislation, including the Affordable Care Act. He has openly supported the efforts in Congress to take the lead on immigration legislation, and just this week met with Democratic senators to discuss their proposals.

But two weeks ago in Las Vegas, while outlining his immigration plans, Obama made clear that he would not wait too long for Congress to get moving.

"If Congress is unable to move forward in a timely fashion, I will send up a bill based on my proposal and insist that they vote on it right away," he said.

White House spokesman Clark Stevens said Saturday that the administration continues to support the bipartisan efforts ongoing in 

With Ellis Island in the background, a group of immigrant rights advocates gathered on Wednesday in Liberty State Park in Jersey City.(Photo: Mel Evans, AP)

"The president has made clear the principles upon which he believes any common-sense immigration reform effort should be based," Stevens said. "We continue to work in support of a bipartisan effort, and while the president has made clear he will move forward if Congress fails to act, progress continues to be made and the administration has not prepared a final bill to submit."

According to the White House draft, people would need to pass a criminal background check, submit biometric information and pay fees to qualify for the new visa. If approved, they would be allowed to legally reside in the U.S. for four years, work and leave the country for short periods of time. After the four years, they could then reapply for an extension.

Illegal immigrants would be disqualified from the program if they were convicted of a crime that led to a prison term of at least one year, three or more different crimes that resulted in a total of 90 days in jail, or if they committed any offense abroad that "if committed in the United States would render the alien inadmissible or removable from the United States."

People currently in federal custody or facing deportation proceedings also could be allowed to apply for the Lawful Prospective Immigrant visa. Application forms and instructions would be provided in "the most common languages spoken by persons in the United States," but the application and all supporting evidence submitted to the federal government would have to be in English.

They would also be given a new identification card to show as proof of their legal status in the country.

The immigrants could then apply for legal permanent residence, commonly known as a green card, within eight years if they learn English and "the history and government of the United States" and pay back taxes. That would then clear the path for them to apply for U.S. citizenship.

To combat fraud, the draft proposes a new Social Security card be developed that is "fraud-resistant, tamper-resistant and wear-resistant." The Social Security Administration would be required to issue the new cards within two years.

A major requirement for many Republicans is enhanced border security. The bill calls for an unspecified increase in the Border Patrol, allows the Department of Homeland Security to expand technological improvements along the border and adds 140 new immigration judges to process the heavy flow of people who violate immigration laws.

It also orders U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to study whether a land-border crossing fee should be implemented to help offset border security costs. The draft also proposes raising many inspection fees that border-crossers already pay.

The draft bill proposes a new plan to allow Homeland Security to "accept donations" from citizens, businesses and local and state governments to improve ports of entry and security features along the border. And it would require CBP to begin collecting statistics on deaths along the border and report them quarterly.

The draft also expands the E-Verify program that checks the immigration status of people seeking new jobs. Businesses with more than 1,000 employees must begin using the system within two years, businesses with more than 250 employees within three years and all businesses within four years.

Homeland Security, working with the U.S. departments of Labor and Agriculture, the attorney general and other agencies, would engage in a $40 million-a-year program to educate business owners and workers about the program.

Homeland Security also would be required to submit a report within 18 months showing how the worker verification system is working, and specifically explain how it is affecting the nation's agriculture industry, which relies heavily on illegal immigrant workers.

The draft obtained by USA TODAY does not include sections that would alter the nation's legal immigration system to adjust the future flow of legal immigrants, which is expected to be a critical component of any immigration overhaul.

Danica Patrick teaches Jeff Gordon's daughter lesson

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- On a bright, sunny afternoon at Daytona International Speedway, fans and NASCAR dignitaries alike hung around to soak up a bit of history Sunday.

Danica Patrick added to a growing list of history making moments by becoming the first woman to win the Daytona 500 pole.

But before she did any interviews or posed for pictures with her team, Jeff Gordon approached with his family to ask for a quick favor.

DANICA: She makes Daytona 500 history

Would Patrick mind taking a photo with the Gordons?

Patrick happily obliged, posing in between Gordon, wife Ingrid Vandebosch, their 5-year-old daughter Ella and 2-year-old son Leo.

Gordon then asked for one more shot: A photo with just Patrick and Ella together. Patrick nodded her head and smiled.

Like she does with so many young girls who look to her as a role model, Patrick knelt down and introduced herself to Ella, then put an arm around her and posed for the picture.

Ingrid Vandebosch 19h
Ella was so exited to have her picture taken with

 Ella, her dad said, hadn't even realized girls could grow up to be race car drivers until Patrick came along. When a driver becomes the first female in NASCAR history to win a Cup Series pole position – and at the Daytona 500, no less – even daughters of four-time NASCAR champions are impressed.

When Patrick won the pole – edging Gordon for the top spot – Ella requested a meet-and-greet like she'd done with Kasey Kahne (because he's cute), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (because he's popular) and Jimmie Johnson (because he's a five-time champ).

"I'm flattered to take pictures with kids," Patrick said later. "… Especially Jeff Gordon's daughter, it's even more so an honor."

Tiger Woods joins vacationing Obama for golf round at Florida club

By Associated Press, Published: February 17 | Updated: Monday, February 18, 3:50 AM

PALM CITY, Fla. — President Barack Obama teed it up with Tiger Woods on Sunday.

The White House confirmed that the President and the world’s most famous golfer played a round at a secluded, exclusive yacht and golf club on Florida’s Treasure Coast.

Once the sport’s dominant player before his career was sidetracked by scandal, Woods joined Obama at the Floridian, where Obama is spending the long Presidents Day weekend. The two had met before, but Sunday was the first time they played together.

The White House, which has promised to be the most open and transparent in history, has prohibited any media coverage of Obama’s golf outing.

The foursome also included Jim Crane, a Houston businessman who owns the Floridian and baseball’s Houston Astros, and outgoing U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, a former mayor of Dallas, said White House spokesman Josh Earnest. Crane and Kirk also were part of Obama’s foursome on Saturday, the White House said.

Obama, an avid golfer, also received some instruction Saturday and played a few holes with Butch Harmon, Woods’ former swing coach.

Initial word that the First Duffer would play a round with the world’s No. 2 player didn’t come from the White House, but instead came from veteran golf journalist Tim Rosaforte, who announced it on Twitter. Rosaforte’s late-morning tweet said: “The president is arriving at the Floridian range. Awaiting is Tiger Woods and club owner Jim Crane. Historic day in golf. Their first round.”

White House confirmation of Woods’ participation came about two hours later, following multiple appeals from traveling White House reporters.

Golf Digest reported on its website that Obama spent eight hours Saturday with Harmon, playing 27 holes and hitting balls in Harmon’s studio, and then managed to coordinate Sunday’s round with Woods. The report said the original plan called for Obama and Woods, a Florida resident, to play at Woods’ home club — The Medalist Golf Club, a half-hour away in Hobe Sound. But they eventually opted for the Floridian.

Woods departed Sunday after the first 18 holes, with Obama staying on to play another nine, the report said.

“Just to see the interaction between the two on the range was pretty neat,” Harmon told Golf Digest. “The President said to Tiger: ‘The last tournament you played was fun to watch. It’s good to see you play well again.’ You could tell he meant it. It just wasn’t a throw it out compliment.”

It seems Obama and Woods — the first black men at the top of their respective fields — have spent the past few years inching toward Sunday’s meeting on the fairway.

They met in January 2009, during Obama’s inauguration in Washington. Four months later, in April, Woods visited the White House and Obama received him in the Oval Office.

Woods’ personal life imploded later in 2009 after revelations that he had engaged in multiple extramarital affairs, leading to divorce. He followed with a public apology and announced he was taking an indefinite break from golf. Shortly after Woods announced he was coming out of seclusion, Obama said in an interview with Fox News Channel that Woods will still be a “terrific” golfer despite his personal issues.

After returning to the sport, Woods went two years without winning, but his game is back on track and he currently is ranked No. 2 in the world. Woods won the last tournament he played, three weeks ago in San Diego.

The White House made clear from the start of Obama’s trip that there would be no coverage of him because he would be on vacation with no plans to leave the club, which remained open to members and their guests.

It arranged for the pool of reporters who traveled with Obama to bunk at a Holiday Inn about a 20-minute drive away in Port St. Lucie. Whenever the reporters were brought to the Floridian on the off chance that Obama might leave the property, they were taken no further than a maintenance shed beyond the club gates but on the edge of the grounds.

The presence at the Floridian of a professional journalist who tweeted about Obama’s game as he was playing, while White House reporters essentially were locked out, brought a sharp response from Ed Henry, the Fox News Channel correspondent who also is president of the White House Correspondents’ Association.

“A broad cross section of our members from print, radio, online and TV have today expressed extreme frustration to me about having absolutely no access to the president of the United States this entire weekend,” Henry said in a statement. “There is a very simple but important principle we will continue to fight for today and in the days ahead: transparency.”

In response, Earnest, the White House spokesman said: “The press access granted by the White House today is entirely consistent with the press access offered for previous presidential golf outings. It’s also consistent with the press access promised to the White House Press Corps prior to arrival in Florida on Friday evening.”

Previous administrations have allowed brief news media coverage at either the beginning or the end of presidential golf games. Obama’s policy generally is no coverage at all, but exceptions were made for separate outings he had in 2011 with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and former President Bill Clinton.

Golf Channel said Rosaforte is a member of the Floridian who sent his tweets from the clubhouse. Rosaforte did not have access to the course or to Obama, the network said.

Obama is in Florida while his wife and daughters are on an annual ski vacation out West. He was due to arrive back in Washington on Monday night.


AP Golf Writer Doug Ferguson contributed to this report.

Former Florida GOP leaders say voter suppression was reason they pushed new election law

Former GOP chair, governor - both on outs with party - say voter fraud wasn’t a concern,but reducing Democratic votes was.

Updated: 9:58 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 25, 2012 | Posted: 7:00 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 25, 2012
Palm Beach Post Capital Bureau

A new Florida law that contributed to long voter lines and caused some to abandon voting altogether was intentionally designed by Florida GOP staff and consultants to inhibit Democratic voters, former GOP officials and current GOP consultants have told The Palm Beach Post.

Republican leaders said in proposing the law that it was meant to save money and fight voter fraud. But a former GOP chairman and former Gov. Charlie Crist, both of whom have been ousted from the party, now say that fraud concerns were advanced only as subterfuge for the law’s main purpose: GOP victory.

Former Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer says he attended various meetings, beginning in 2009, at which party staffers and consultants pushed for reductions in early voting days and hours.

“The Republican Party, the strategists, the consultants, they firmly believe that early voting is bad for Republican Party candidates,” Greer told The Post. “It’s done for one reason and one reason only. … ‘We’ve got to cut down on early voting because early voting is not good for us,’ ” Greer said he was told by those staffers and consultants.

“They never came in to see me and tell me we had a (voter) fraud issue,” Greer said. “It’s all a marketing ploy.”

Greer is now under indictment, accused of stealing $200,000 from the party through a phony campaign fundraising operation. He, in turn, has sued the party, saying GOP leaders knew what he was doing and voiced no objection.

“Jim Greer has been accused of criminal acts against this organization and anything he says has to be considered in that light,” says Brian Burgess, Florida GOP spokesman since September.

But Greer’s statements about the motivations for the party’s legislative efforts, implemented by a GOP-majority House and Senate in Tallahassee in 2011, are backed by Crist — also now on the outs with the party — and two veteran GOP campaign consultants.

Wayne Bertsch, who handles local and legislative races for Republicans, said he knew targeting Democrats was the goal.

“In the races I was involved in in 2008, when we started seeing the increase of turnout and the turnout operations that the Democrats were doing in early voting, it certainly sent a chill down our spines. And in 2008, it didn’t have the impact that we were afraid of. It got close, but it wasn’t the impact that they had this election cycle,” Bertsch said, referring to the fact that Democrats picked up seven legislative seats in Florida in 2012 despite the early voting limitations.

Another GOP consultant, who did not want to be named, also confirmed that influential consultants to the Republican Party of Florida were intent on beating back Democratic turnout in early voting after 2008.

In 2008 Democrats, especially African-Americans, turned out in unprecedented numbers for President Barack Obama, many of them casting ballots during 14 early voting days. In Palm Beach County, 61.2 percent of all early voting ballots were cast by Democrats that year, compared with 18.7 percent by Republicans.

In 2011 Republicans, who had super majorities in both chambers of the legislature, passed HB 1355, which curtailed early voting days from 14 to eight; greatly proscribed the activities of voter registration organizations like the League of Women Voters; and made it harder for voters who had changed counties since the last election to cast ballots, a move that affected minorities proportionately more than whites. The League and others challenged the law in court, and a federal judge threw out most of the provisions related to voter registration organizations.

Various voter registration organizations, minority coalitions and Democratic office holders are now demanding investigations either by state or federal officials.

On Oct. 26, The Post published a story citing a deposition by Florida GOP General Counsel Emmett “Bucky” Mitchell IV in litigation between Florida and the U.S. Justice Department over HB 1355. Mitchell described a meeting near New Year’s Day 2011, in which he was approached by GOP staffers and consultants to write the bill that would become HB 1355.

He said the meeting had followed other conversations with those same GOP officials and consultants since the fall of 2010.

Crist said he was asked

to curb early voting

Crist said party leaders approached him during his 2007-2011 gubernatorial term about changing early voting, in an effort to suppress Democrat turnout. Crist is now at odds with the GOP, since abandoning the party to run for U.S. Senate as an independent in 2010. He is rumored to be planning another run for governor, as a Democrat.

Crist said in a telephone interview this month that he did not recall conversations about early voting specifically targeting black voters “but it looked to me like that was what was being suggested. And I didn’t want them to go there at all.”

About inhibiting minority voters, Greer said:

“The sad thing about that is yes, there is prejudice and racism in the party but the real prevailing thought is that they don’t think minorities will ever vote Republican,” he said. “It’s not really a broad-based racist issue. It’s simply that the Republican Party gave up a long time ago ever believing that anything they did would get minorities to vote for them.”

But a GOP consultant who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of retribution said black voters were a concern.

“I know that the cutting out of the Sunday before Election Day was one of their targets only because that’s a big day when the black churches organize themselves,” he said.

GOP spokesman Burgess discounted Crist’s statement to The Post.

“Charlie Crist speaks out of both sides of his mouth,” he said.

Former Florida Secretary of State Kurt Browning, a Republican, has spoken favorably about HB 1355, because he believes its 12-hour early voting days — the law previously limited them to eight hours a day — give voters more flexibility to vote before or after work.

“But reducing early voting days does not attack voter fraud and given the longer days, it certainly does not save money,” Browning has said.

In a 2011 deposition in the litigation over HB 1355, Browning said that while he was always concerned with voter fraud, he did not see it as a large problem in the state and that was why he did not include any mention of it in his legislative goals for 2011.

“It wasn’t an issue that rose to the level to place it in our package,” Browning said.

Greer told The Post that people who attended the GOP’s behind-the-scenes meetings on early voting included: Andy Palmer, former state GOP executive director, now a Tallahassee political consultant; Bret Prater, head of party development; Randy Enwright of Enwright Consulting, a veteran Tallahassee political consultant; Jim Rimes, former state GOP executive director and now a consultant with Enwright; Kirk Pepper, a former top aide to House Speaker Dean Cannon; and Rich Heffley, a former top aide to Crist.

The Post contacted all of them. GOP spokesman Burgess responded for Palmer and Prater and also for Frank Terraferma, director of state House campaigns, who had been named in the Bucky Mitchell deposition as attending the meeting about the drafting of 1355.

“If what Greer said had happened, that would be wrong and he should have fired those men,” Burgess said. “Why didn’t he fire them? They said they were never in any meeting with Jim Greer of that kind. They never had meetings of that kind.”

The other four did not respond.

Ex-House speaker:

Law meant to curb fraud

Cannon, who took over as House speaker in 2010, said he had no conversations about early voting with GOP strategists and that he believed HB 1355 was aimed at voter fraud.

“I don’t recall anybody talking about some tactical advantage or need to curtail early voting,” said Cannon, who has launched a lobbying business in Tallahassee since his term as a state representative ended this month.

But Crist, who extended early voting hours in 2008 by executive order to address long lines during that presidential election, said he was approached about early voting but told the GOP consultants and staffers that he would veto any proposed legislative changes that would reduce early voting.

“The people that worked in Tallahassee felt that early voting was bad, ” Crist said. “And I heard about it after I signed the executive order expanding it. I heard from Republicans around the state who were bold enough to share it with me that, ‘You just gave the election to Barack Obama.’”

It wasn’t until Gov. Rick Scott took office in January 2011 that the idea went anywhere. It passed the legislature that session and Scott signed it into law.

“I assume they decided, ‘It’s 2011, Crist is gone, let’s give it a shot,’” Crist said. “And that’s exactly what they did. And it is exactly what it turned out to be.”

Before signing the law, Scott said he wanted to make voting easier and to eliminate voter fraud. Recently, he asked Secretary of State Ken Detzner to look into problems with the November election and to recommend changes if necessary.

Purging of non-citizens

off voter rolls discussed

Besides early voting, Greer said other issues discussed at the behind-the-scenes meetings were voter registration organizations, attempts to have Florida Supreme Court judges defeated at the polls and the purging of voters on the rolls who might not be U.S. citizens.

“There is absolutely nothing with their absolute obsession with retaining power that they wouldn’t do — changing the election laws to reduce early voting, to keep organizations like the League of Women Voters from registering people, going after the Supreme Court justices,” Greer said of his former colleagues.

HB 1355 greatly reduced the time voter registration organizations had to hand in registration applications and imposed hefty fines for any violation of the time guidelines, which forced the largest voter registration organizations to suspend activities, afraid they might incur fines they couldn’t afford. The League of Women Voters suspended its activities in Florida for the first time in nine decades.

A federal judge subsequently struck down those parts of 1355 and registration organizations resumed their activities over the summer of 2012.

The Division of Elections under Scott also issued purge lists for non-citizen voters, which several county elections supervisors have criticized as being filled with errors. The attempted voter purge resulted in several lawsuits against Scott’s administration, and nearly all of the state’s elections supervisors abandoned the effort in the months leading up to the presidential election.

And the Republican Party of Florida waged a campaign to defeat three Supreme Court justices this fall. Voters chose to retain all three.

Staff researcher Michelle Quigley and staff writer Christine Stapleton contributed to this story.

Key dates
  • 2006: Jim Greer becomes chairman of Florida Republican Party.
  • 2007: Republican Charlie Crist takes office as governor of Florida.
  • November 2008 — President Barack Obama wins Florida, in part due to Democratic majority in early voting.
  • 2009 — GOP staffers and consultants begin talking about ways to inhibit early voting, according to Greer. Crist and two GOP consultants confirm.
  • January 2010 — Greer, accused of stealing from GOP, resigns as chairman. Arrested six months later. Greer then sues party, saying it owed him money. Both cases are pending.
  • Fall 2010 — Conversation begins between GOP staffers and consultants and Florida GOP General Counsel Emmett “Bucky” Mitchell IV about drafting legislation to reduce early-voting days, what would eventually become HB 1355.
  • November 2010 — Republican Rick Scott elected governor.
  • May 2011 — Scott signs HB 1355 passed by GOP-majority legislature. Parts of law later overturned by federal judge, but reduced days of early voting remain.
  • November 2012 – Despite long lines at early voting sites, Obama re-elected president, Democrats pick up seven seats in Florida Legislature.

On homosexuality, many Christians get the Bible wrong

The Rev. Adam Hamilton, senior pastor, United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, Leawood, Kansas, speaks as US President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Dr. Jill Biden and Vice President Biden as they attend a prayer service at Washington National Cathedral on January 22, 2013 in Washington, DC. (SAUL LOEB - AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

Homosexuality is one of the most divisive issues within churches and across our country today. The issue has become, for some, a litmus test on fidelity to God and the scriptures. The divide is not just between the progressives and conservatives. It is also a generational divide, with younger Christians generally seeing this issue differently than older Christians.

I recently delivered the sermon for the National Prayer Service at the presidential inauguration. While in Washington I took my family to the Lincoln Memorial. This iconic structure stands as a reminder of America’s great dream of equality and President Lincoln’s role in the emancipation of America’s slaves and the abolition of slavery in America. The words to Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address are inscribed on the north wall of the memorial’s interior. In them Lincoln noted that at the center of the conflict over slavery were very different interpretations of the Bible. Lincoln said of the two sides in the war, “Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other.”

View Photo Gallery: From same sex marriages to prohibitions on homosexual behavior, Christian churches range in their outreach to gay members.

Southern preachers and slave owners believed the many references in the Bible permitting and regulating slavery (well over 100 verses), in both the Old and the New Testaments, were clear evidence that the institution was a part of God’s social and moral order. Abolitionist preachers argued in their sermons that the verses related to slavery in the Bible were a reflection of the cultural context and times in which the Bible was written and did not reflect God’s endorsement of slavery. They argued that there were “weightier” scriptures on justice, mercy and love that superseded those on slavery. This was the position that Lincoln himself adopted.

At the center of the divide over homosexuality today is the Bible. Conservatives and progressives “read from the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other.”

There are a handful of Scriptures (five or eight depending upon how one counts) that specifically speak of same-sex intimacy as unacceptable to God. Conservatives or traditionalists see these as reflecting God’s timeless will for human relationships. Progressives look at these same scriptures in much the same way that progressives in the nineteenth century looked at the Bible’s teaching on slavery. They believe that these verses capture the cultural understandings and practices of sexuality in biblical times, but do not reflect God’s will for gay and lesbian people.

In my own life, it was both reading the Bible’s passages on same-sex intimacy in the same light as passages on slavery (and violence and the place of women) and coming to know gay and lesbian people that led me to see this issue differently, particularly children who grew up in my church who loved God and sought to serve Christ. As I listened to their stories I saw that they did not fit the stereotypes I had been taught about gay and lesbian people. The love they shared with others looked very much like the love I share with my wife --a deep friendship and companionship. And their faith was as authentic as that of anyone else in my congregation.

For many Christians today, particularly young adults, the handful of Bible verses related to same sex intimacy seem more like the 100 plus verses on slavery than they do the teachings of Jesus and his great commandments to love God and neighbor. Their gay and lesbian friends are people, just like them, in need of love and community. I believe that in the years ahead an increasing number of Christians, not only progressives, but also conservatives, will read the Bible’s passages regarding homosexuality as all Christians today read the Bible’s passages on slavery. And the sermons preached from America’s pulpits decrying the rights of homosexuals today will sound to future generations much like the pro-slavery sermons sound to us today.

Adam Hamilton is a United Methodist pastor and author of “When Christians Get it Wrong” (Abingdon, 2013) By Adam Hamilton | 04:00 PM ET, 02/13/201

Posted at 04:00 PM ET, 02/13/2013

You can find anything you want in the Bible. It's a very complex collection of work and as such it's a big mistake to cherry pick your scripture. Biblical scholars spend lifetimes studying, researching because the history of the Bible itself is so complicated: a compilation of letters copied, recopied and translated so many times and in so many languages, some of them nearly extinct, and the letters themselves somewhat cherry picked by a handful of bishops 2000 years ago.

Which does not take away from the import of the Bible. the overall message is still valid. But we have to remember that while much of it is supposed to be the Word of God, it was written down by the hand of man. And men are very fallible creatures, subject to prejudice, superstition and downright stupidity from time to time.

because if you really believe the Bible should be followed to the letter, you have to start stoning your wife, take multiple wives, cast out your children, take up slavery, etc.

And really it shouldn't be that complicated. Treat everyone you meet as you would like to be treated. The Golden Rule takes care of so many problems if people are truly willing to live that way.

The analogy Adam Hamilton is making simply will not work, for several reasons. For one thing, it would be impossible for anyone to regard slavery as an institution which, like marriage, dates back to the time of creation, for there is no mention of it in any of the opening chapters of the Bible. God created all men in the image of God. Particular forms of slavery-- such as indentured servanthood, entered the picture because of conditions prevailing after man's fall into sin. Heterosexual marriage, on the other hand, was ordained by God in the Garden of Eden before mankind fell into sin. He established it as part of the original created order, declaring that "a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife." Jesus upholds this view of marriage and teaches in Matthew 19 that God ordained marriage at the outset of human history precisely because he created mankind 'male and female.' The union of a man and a woman in marriage is really a 'reunion' of two subjects who belong together by virtue of their complementary characteristics-- the woman was taken 'out of' the man at creation in order to be given back to the man in marriage. Thus, the two halves of humanity, the male and the female, are reunited in marriage, so that out of the resulting 'wholeness' new life might emerge. So-called 'gay marriage' is really a subversion of God's design for created order, just as 'man-stealing,' a sin condemned in the New Testament which was the foundation of American slavery, is a subversion of God's created order. So slavery, as a sub-Christian arrangement tolerated for a period of time in the context of the Israelite theocracy, is not at all parallel to heterosexual marriage, which is a part of God's design for all human beings for all times. It is presumption for men to think themselves wiser than God by claiming that God's definition of marriage is outdated and must be replaced with a more 'enlightened' definition
10:15 AM EST
He who is without sin cast the first stone. I will not be throwing any stones; because, I believe that we, are all sinners in one way or another. We are all imperfect; because, perfection does not exist here on earth. I do not rate/judge one sinner worse than another. Sin is sin as defined by many different actions. One of which is homosexuality. My sin does not lessen or heighten your sins’ rating and I like everyone else will have to answer for it. My constant prayer is for forgiveness of my sin and strength to overcome my weaknesses. I believe that there are people born with a predilection for one thing over another. Is this like being born with a handicap? I do not know. But I am sure that GOD hears their prayers just as he hears mine and that unlike you and me he will rate/judge us according to his will and his purpose not according to our understandings of man’s interpretations.  

Daytona 500: Complete qualifying results, speeds

Published 19 hours and 29 minutes ago Last updated 19 hours and 20 minutes ago

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Danica Patrick won the pole Sunday for the Feb. 24 Daytona 500 and will lead the field to the green flag for NASCAR's biggest race.
Jeff Gordon qualified second and also is locked into a front-row starting spot.
The rest of the starting lineup for the 55th annual race will be determined through the Budweiser Duel qualifying races Feb. 21, with speeds from Sunday used to fill positions 33-38. The rest of the field will be determined by provisionals based on 2012 owner points.

Complete speeds from qualifying

1. Danica Patrick, 196.434
2. Jeff Gordon, 196.292
3. Trevor Bayne, 195.976
4. Ryan Newman, 195.946
5. Tony Stewart, 195.925
6. Kasey Kahne, 195.852
7. Denny Hamlin, 195.771
8. Kyle Busch, 195.767
9. Joey Logano, 195.767
10. Matt Kenseth, 195.725
11. Dale Earnhardt Jr., 195.584
12. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 195.538
13. Juan Pablo Montoya, 195.508
14. Paul Menard, 195.503
15. Casey Mears, 195.495
16. Austin Dillon, 195.385
17. Carl Edwards, 195.240
18. Clint Bowyer, 195.228
19. Martin Truex Jr., 195.207
20. Jeff Burton, 195.156
21. Jimmie Johnson, 195.084
22. Jamie McMurray, 195.042
23. Brad Keselowski, 194.961
24. Marcos Ambrose, 194.793
25. Kevin Harvick, 194.742
26. Aric Almirola, 194.742
27. Greg Biffle, 194.729
28. Mark Martin, 194.683
29. David Gilliland, 194.654
30. David Ragan, 194.616
31. Michael Waltrip, 194.313
32. Josh Wise, 194.254
33. Kurt Busch, 193.657
34. Michael McDowell, 193.544
35. Scott Speed, 193.540
36. Terry Labonte, 193.515
37. Regan Smith, 193.006
38. Dave Blaney, 192.996
39. Bobby Labonte, 192.563
40. J.J. Yeley, 192.094
41. David Reutimann, 190.339
42. Travis Kvapil, 190.142
43. Joe Nemechek, 190.046
44. Mike Bliss, 186.974
45. Brian Keselowski, 183.876

Danica Patrick wins historic pole for Daytona 500

Published 21 hours and 31 minutes ago Last updated 14 hours and 53 minutes ago

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Danica Patrick reacted to winning the Daytona 500 pole, the first ever Cup pole for a female driver, like any racecar driver would.
She was thrilled with the accomplishment but knew she played just a small role.

Danica Patrick won the pole Sunday at Daytona 500 qualifying, becoming the first woman to claim Sprint Cup's top starting spot. (AP Photo)
The 30-year-old Patrick had already set several historic benchmarks for women in racing, including the only woman to win an IndyCar race, the highest finish of any female in the Indianapolis 500 (third), the highest finish of any female in a NASCAR national touring series race (fourth) and the highest season-ending finish of any female in a NASCAR national touring series (10th).

PHOTOS: NASCAR's beautiful people | Wives, girlfriends of racing | Daytona 500 crashes
So she knew the significance Sunday when she became the first woman ever to win a pole for the Daytona 500 and in the 2,354-race history of NASCAR’s premier series.
“I was brought up to be the fastest driver, not the fastest girl,” Patrick said.
“That was instilled in me from the very young, from the beginning. . … I've been lucky enough to make history, be the first woman to do many things. I really just hope that I don't stop doing that. We have a lot more history to make.”

LINEMAKERS: Danica's odds drop from 125-1 to 22-1 with pole win
She made history while also knowing that winning a pole at Daytona, even one for the Daytona 500, often tests the limits of the car and not the driver’s expertise.
A driver keeps the gas pedal pressed to the floor the entire lap and must concentrate on hitting their marks just right over the 2.5 miles around Daytona International Speedway.
That’s why Patrick, a rookie who has run just 10 Sprint Cup races and only one Daytona 500, deflected much of the credit to Stewart-Haas Racing crew chief Tony Gibson.
“I appreciate the recognition, but it really falls 90 percent on Tony and his guys, everybody that gives me the car to go out there and be fast,” Patrick said, “and maybe 10 percent on me.”
Patrick, fastest in practice Saturday, turned a lap of 196.434 mph to win the pole Sunday by 0.142 mph (0.033 seconds) over four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon.
“There's a lot of people that benefit from this because of the big platform that it is,” Patrick said. “It's not just like the high point of my name or what I've done. There's going to be a whole story here.
“It's a cool day. I've been lucky enough and very blessed in my career to have had a lot of really, really cool days.”
She hopes next Sunday will be one of her coolest days as she runs the Daytona 500 for just the second time.
Only Patrick and Gordon are locked into their starting spots for the Daytona 500 as they will start on the front row.
Rows 2-16 will be determined by the results in the two qualifying races Thursday, with speed and provisionals determining the remaining 11 positions.
Patrick, whose team is ranked 42nd among the 45 teams entered in 2012 owner points it bought from a now-defunct organization, has the comfort of knowing she’s locked into the Daytona 500.
That gave her and Gibson, who has won Cup titles as a car chief for Alan Kulwicki and Gordon, as much relief as excitement in winning the pole.
Gibson has used Patrick’s status as a NASCAR rookie to bring an underdog mentality to his team.
“I told her, ‘We know there's going to be low points, but the key to success for us is to enjoy the highs and pat each other on the back and enjoy it. When we hit our lows, pick each other up and get to the next one,” Gibson said.
“Right now we're enjoying this and it's real big for me. I've accomplished a lot of things, but this ranks up there in the top two or three.”
Patrick didn’t have the only fast SHR car as teammates Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart ranked fourth and fifth on the chart, behind her, Gordon and Trevor Bayne.
“That (pole) is a huge accomplishment,” said team co-owner and three-time Cup champion Stewart. “It's not like it's been 15 or 20 years she's been trying to do this. It's her second trip to Daytona here in a Cup car.
“She's made history in the sport. … There's only one person that can be the first to do anything.”
Going fast at Daytona is nothing new for Patrick, who sat on the pole for the Nationwide Series race a year ago at Daytona.
Patrick is entering her second full-time NASCAR season and first in Cup after two partial Nationwide schedules and then a full-time year in Nationwide in 2012.
“I think when pressure's on, when the spotlight is on, I do feel like it ultimately ends up becoming some of my better moments, better races, better results,” Patrick said.
“I don't know why that is. I'm grateful for it because the opposite of that would be, I'm guessing, I probably wouldn't be here today.”
She hopes, in some ways, that her records will be broken or her influence will make future gender-standards fall.
“It's … nice to hear families talk about the fact that a little girl might say, ‘But, mommy, daddy, that's a girl out there,’” Patrick said. “Then they can have the conversation with their kid about you can do anything you want and being different doesn't by any means not allow you to follow your dreams.
“I love to think that conversation happens in households because of something I'm doing.”

Passenger fired after allegedly using racial slur, hitting child during flight

Kootenai County Sheriff, file
Joe Hundley was charged with assault after allegedly hitting a 19-month-old boy who had started to cry aboard a Delta flight.
A man accused of uttering a racial slur and slapping another passenger's crying toddler during a flight has been fired in the wake of the alleged incident.
Joe Hundley, 60, from Hayden, Idaho, was charged with assault after he allegedly hit the 19-month-old boy who had started to cry during the airplane’s descent, NBC station KARE reported.
According to court documents, the child’s mother Jessica Bennett alleges Hundley leaned over and said, "Shut that [N-word] baby up!" before slapping the child. This caused him to bleed and cry even harder, his mother told KARE.
'Offensive and disturbing'The Boise Weekly reported that Bennett's story was supported by another passenger who was aboard the Delta Air Lines flight from Minneapolis to Atlanta on Feb. 8. That could not be independently confirmed by NBC News.
Hundley is no longer working for Idaho-based aircraft component manufacturer, Unitech, its parent company AGC Aerospace and Defense said in a statement on its website Sunday:
“Reports of the recent behavior of one of our business unit executives while on personal travel are offensive and disturbing. We have taken this matter very seriously and worked diligently to examine it since learning of the matter on Friday afternoon. As of Sunday, the executive is no longer employed with the company.
“We wish to emphasize that the behavior that has been described is contradictory to our values, embarrassing and does not in any way reflect the patriotic character of the men and women of diverse backgrounds who work tirelessly in our business.”

In an interview with KARE, Bennett said Hundley appeared intoxicated, accusing him of becoming increasingly obnoxious during the flight.
"He reeked of alcohol," Bennett said.  "He was belligerent and I was uncomfortable."
Hundley's attorney, Marcia Shein of Atlanta, told the station her client will plead not guilty to the charge.
The Spokesman-Review newspaper of Spokane, Wash., reported that Hundley had denied the allegations.
“I can only say it’s an absolute falsehood,” the Spokesman-Review quoted Hundley as saying.

Our dimwitted State Department

By Jennifer Rubin , Updated:

As I wrote earlier today, the Obama administration’s decision to send F-16s to Egypt suggests how obtuse the president is about the nature of the Egyptian regime.

Last week Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) wrote to the president expressing dismay about the F-16 transfer. He wrote, in part: “Under Muslim Brotherhood President [Mohamed] Morsi, there has been constant instability, and the systematic exclusion and silencing of all official minority political opposition.

This has resulted in massive street protests, and the passage of a new constitution that has been widely criticized as lacking any protection of minority political or religious rights. In addition, recent and repeated anti-Semitic and anti-Israel statements by Egyptian government leaders, including President Morsi, calls into serious question whether this government will uphold its commitments under the Camp David Peace Accords, which has kept the peace in the Middle East between these two countries for over four decades.”

Inhofe had called in December for a delay in the F-16 transfer, which the administration rejected.

Its letter in response to Inhofe this month is worth a look: “Egypt continues to play an important role in regional stability and peace, ” assured the State Department. It touted Morsi’s cancellation of a decree that amounted to a power grab and the scheduled elections this spring. No mention was made of Morsi’s series of egregious comments regarding Jews and Israel. The State Department closes by assuring Inhofe that canceling or even delaying the F-16 delivery would “undermine our efforts to address regional security interests. . . .and send a damaging and lasting signal to Egypt’s civilian and military leadership as we work toward a democratic transition in this key Middle Eastern state.”

It couldn’t be more obvious that the administration doesn’t have a clue what Morsi is all about or how to influence his behavior. It seems, I suppose, to the Foggy Bottom crowd that he is the only game in town in Egypt and in the regime. This is preposterous.

We should be deploring Morsi’s move and making clear that the special relationship Egypt enjoys is dependent upon the regime’s behavior. In the region, it’s time to get some new friends. We have elevated Morocco’s relationship with the United States, and we should continue to build on that relationship. Had we managed to leave troops in Iraq, we certainly would have been in a better position to check Iran’s ambitions. And of course there is Israel, our only solid, democratic ally in the region. Now is the time to show absolute solidarity, not to delivery pre-election insults to the Israeli people.

It is worth asking Chuck Hagel and any other national security nominees a series of questions about Egypt:
  • Did the sale of F-16s encourage Morsi to crack down on his people?
  • Had we known he would crack down, would we still have sent the weaponry?
  • What is the military purpose for the F-16s?
  • What guarantees did we get from Morsi about his government’s conduct or its domestic behavior in exchange for releasing the planes?
  • How will we respond to Morsi’s anti-democratic moves and the rise in violence against Christians in Egypt — or, as will likely be the case, a failure to live up to Egypt’s security obligations regarding Gaza?
  • Why should any secular, democratic groups in the Middle East think we are serious about human rights?
  • Have we miscalculated the Muslim Brotherhood?
Really, one suspects that not even the latest crackdown will shake the administration’s confidence in Morsi. You have to wonder why, in the face of a mound of evidence to the contrary, the Obama team keeps enabling a Islamist despot.

F-16′s in hand, Morsi cracks down on Egptians

Egypt’s President Mohammed Morsi last April (Amr Nabil / Associated Press)
I  thought WaPo did spell check, and some of those f-16 fighters are from 1979
"F-16′s in hand, Morsi cracks down on Egptians"
F-35′s in hand, Netanyaho cracks down on Palestinians "

Cute.  Mubarak was kicked out by his loving citizens, we did not do it.  That is what happens when you want democracy, but putting Morsi in charge, I personally think that was rigged, but that is what the majority wanted.

By Jennifer Rubin , Updated:

t sure does not seem such a smart thing to have sent Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi those F-16′s. The Post reports: “Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi declared a state of emergency and nighttime curfew across three major cities Sunday after violence raged for a third straight day, leaving nearly 50 dead and hundreds injured nationwide. The deployment Saturday of government troops to the coastal cities of Port Said and Suez, which have seen some of the worst violence, failed to quell a public backlash against a court verdict and raised doubts about whether Morsi’s embattled government could contain the situation.”

To recap, we helped shove off the stage the dictatorial Hosni Mubarak and welcomed, indeed have enabled, the dictatorial Morsi — who, unlike Mubarak, is also a committed Islamist and overtly antagonistic toward Israel. So why exactly did we unconditionally release all that aid and provide top-grade aircraft to Morsi?

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) (before Morsi’s latest crackdown) sounded a heck of a lot more sane than does the administration on this subject: 

If only President Obama and his team were as informed and clear-headed we might not have given over the F-16′s, only to be humiliated by his anti-democratic crackdown days later.

Of course, it is entirely possible that the delivery of the F-16′s and the emergency crackdown were not unrelated. As one report noted: ”Egypt has concluded that the delivery of advanced F-16 multi-role fighters marked U.S. support for the Islamist regime of President Mohammed Morsi. . . . Sawfat Al Zayat, a retired Egyptian Army brigadier general, said the F-16 deal was a signal by Washington of support for Morsi in wake of Egypt’s mediation that ended war between Israel and Hamas in November 2012. Al Zayat said the message was meant to the Egyptian military as well as the opposition.” In other words, why wouldn’t Morsi think he could act with impunity?

The goal of the administration, we were told, was to support the aspirations of Egyptian and other Arab Spring people in the quest for more humane, more democratic and hence more stable regimes. But now we are aiding and abetting a leader who has turned a blind eye toward attacks on Christians, defamed Jews and the Jewish state, vowed to obtain the release from U.S. prison of terrorist Omar Abdel-Rahman and entirely failed to progress toward that freer and more pluralistic society Obama said we were supporting. We are not winning the hearts and minds of Egyptians; we’re been taken for a ride by their oppressor.

Isn’t it time to reevaluate our Egypt policy — or at least have one?

© The Washington Post Company

Egypt’s Morsi declares state of emergency, curfew after deadly clashes

By and Sharaf al-Hourani, Published: January 27

CAIRO — Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi declared a state of emergency and nighttime curfew across three major cities Sunday after violence raged for a third straight day, leaving nearly 50 dead and hundreds injured nationwide.

The deployment Saturday of government troops to the coastal cities of Port Said and Suez, which have seen some of the worst violence, failed to quell a public backlash against a court verdict and raised doubts about whether Morsi’s embattled government could contain the situation.

In a televised address Sunday night, the president said the state of emergency, which allows security forces to arrest and detain at will, would cover Port Said, Suez and Ismailia for 30 days.

“The protection of the nation is the responsibility of everyone. We will confront any threat to its security with force and firmness within the shadow of the state of the law,” Morsi said.

Thousands took to the streets of Port Said on Sunday in funeral processions for more than 30 people killed Saturday in clashes between protesters and police, after a court handed down death sentences to 21 people for their involvement in a deadly soccer riot last year.

Officials said that at least seven more died Sunday in the city, where hundreds have been wounded in two days of fighting. Residents said security forces had contributed to the violence, instead of bringing the situation under control.

Growing frustration

The strife in Port Said roughly coincided with the second anniversary of the uprising that ousted President Hosni Mubarak and with a swell of opposition to Islamist rule. In Cairo, Suez and Ismailia, clashes spawned by anniversary protests against Morsi’s government on Friday carried into Sunday, and opposition groups called for further protests Monday.

At the heart of the crisis is growing national frustration over the pursuit of justice two years after Mubarak’s fall. Egyptians across the political spectrum complain that the abusive security forces cultivated under his rule have evaded punishment for crimes committed during the uprising and since his ouster.

Egypt’s court system remains opaque and marred by allegations of corruption and politicized rulings.

Although the clashes in Port Said occurred in response to the court verdict Saturday, Michael Wahid Hanna, a Middle East expert at the Century Foundation, said the city’s crisis also reflected Egyptians’ growing dissatisfaction with Morsi and the slow pace of reforms.

“People no longer have confidence in the institutions of the state, and they are willing to exercise that rejection through violence,” Hanna said.

Only two of the nearly 170 security officials and police officers charged with using violence against civilians during the past two years have been convicted, rights groups say.

A conflict last month over the religious character of Egypt’s new constitution that pits the Islamist government against a broad liberal and secular opposition has further degraded trust in Morsi.

The president urged the nation Sunday night to respect the court’s rulings, but Egyptians have increasingly vowed to take matters of justice into their own hands over verdicts deemed unsatisfactory.

Mayhem in city

The Port Said riot in February, the deadliest in Egypt’s history, followed a soccer match between Cairo’s al-Ahly club team and Port Said’s al-Masry club team and left 74 people dead. Ahly fans, who claimed most of the victims as their own, threatened violence ahead of Saturday’s verdict in anticipation of light sentences.

But when death sentences followed for the 21 Port Said residents charged in the case, it was Port Said that erupted in anger. Fifty-two security personnel also charged in the incident will not be sentenced until March.

More than two dozen people were killed Saturday in clashes in Port Said while trying to storm police stations and the prison complex where the defendants were being held.

“We either redeem them or we die like them,” protesters chanted Sunday during the funeral procession, al-Jazeera’s English-language channel reported.

Witnesses said the procession quickly turned to mayhem as the crowd approached two resorts used by the police and military and came under fire.

“The moment we got there, they started shooting at us and tear gas started coming at us from the resorts, so we started throwing rocks,” said protester Mohamed Wefky, whose friend died in the Saturday clashes. Wefky said some of the caskets never made it to the graveyard as the crowd dispersed and clashes ensued. “Some of the martyrs’ bodies are still on the ground, not buried yet,” he said.

Other witnesses reported seeing protesters and security forces exchanging fire during the clashes Saturday and Sunday. Local media reported that residents also opened fire on police stations.

Abdel Rahman al-Farah, the director of Port Said’s hospitals, said that about 200 people were injured in the unrest Sunday, most by “suffocation” in the chaos of the crowd. Ten were shot, he said.

The National Defense Council, a group of security chiefs led by Morsi, deployed military troops to Port Said and Suez on Saturday.

But as clashes erupted again Sunday, residents of Port Said said there was little sign of the police or the military on the city’s streets, beyond helicopter sightings. The troops mostly kept to their barracks and stations, residents said, as chaos reigned in the streets.

Meanwhile, violence continued to flare amid thick clouds of tear gas around Cairo’s Tahrir Square and close to government buildings, including the parliament and the state television headquarters. Those battles are a continuation of the violence that erupted between anti-Islamist demonstrators and police on Friday, as opposition groups marched through the city on the anniversary of Egypt’s revolution, calling for Morsi’s ouster.

© The Washington Post Company