A cold chill for Florida residents

Luke 21:25,26 “There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

Important Takeaways:

  • Arctic chill to bring 30’s for first time in 11 years to Miami
  • In some areas, the duration of temperatures of 32 degrees or below could be as much as 4 hours
  • A 1966 record in Lakeland could be broken Sunday morning when temperatures reach a low of 27 degrees. Orlando, Fort Myers and Fort Lauderdale could also see record cold.
  • Temperatures in Orlando will struggle to reach 50 degrees

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Air taxi startup Lilium’s first U.S. hub to be in Florida

By Douglas Busvine

BERLIN (Reuters) – Flying taxi startup Lilium will set up its first U.S. hub near Orlando, putting more than 20 million Floridians within range of the winged electric aircraft that can take off vertically and cover 300 km (185 miles) in a single one-hour hop.

Munich-based Lilium said on Wednesday its first U.S. Vertiport would be at Lake Nona, a futuristic smart city being built near Orlando International Airport by the Tavistock Development Group.

The hub, due to start operations in 2025, would be Lilium’s second after a similar Vertiport planned in Duesseldorf, capital of Germany’s most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

Startups are racing to develop, certify and manufacture electric aircraft in a bid to revolutionize short-range travel. Five-year old Lilium – with $375 million in investor funding – is one of the best backed.

Its five-seater Lilium Jet has undergone flight tests and, if approved for service, would offer travelers a way to skip traffic and quickly reach their destinations for around the cost of an Uber, said Chief Operating Officer Remo Gerber.

The fixed-wing aircraft, powered by 36 electric engines which point down for takeoff and tilt to the rear for horizontal flight, would be steered by a qualified pilot.

“It’s a hundred times safer than helicopters. Pricing is five to 10 times cheaper,” Gerber told Reuters in an interview.

Power use for distance covered is similar to electric vehicles while, because there is no runway, the cost of a Vertiport is far lower than a traditional airport, ranging from 1-2 million euros for a basic landing zone to 7-15 million euros ($8-$18 million) for a major rooftop hub.

“Lilium’s core mission of transport which not only supports bringing the region together, but also provides a solution to environmental issues, is incredibly impressive,” said Tavistock Managing Director Ben Weaver.

The City of Orlando is also backing the project, which Mayor Buddy Dyer described as an “expansion of safe, efficient and environmentally friendly transportation options throughout one of the fastest growing regions in the country”.

(Reporting by Douglas Busvine; Editing by Mark Potter)

United Airlines bets on Florida, adding dozens of flights a day starting November

By David Shepardson

(Reuters) – United Airlines is adding up to 28 daily nonstop U.S. flights to Florida starting Nov. 6 as the Chicago-based airline bets on a rebound in leisure travelers heading to sunny skies.

The direct flights are from non United hub cities in Boston, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, New York/LaGuardia, Pittsburgh and Columbus, Ohio to four Florida destinations.

United said it is part of its “continuing strategy to aggressively, and opportunistically manage the impact of COVID-19 by increasing service to destinations where customers most want to fly.” But the carrier said it could reduce the number of flights if COVID-19 infections in Florida remain high.

New Florida flights will go to Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Orlando and Tampa.

Ankit Gupta, United’s vice president of domestic network planning, said the new flights represent “United’s largest expansion of point-to-point, non-hub flying and reflects our data driven approach to add capacity where customers are telling us they want to go.”

United can adjust up or down. Gupta said the added Florida flights could amount to more than 400,000 additional seats this winter season. He said many U.S. travelers are picking Florida instead of international destinations.

There are modest signs of improving air travel demand. The Transportation Security Administration said it screened 831,789 people on Sunday — the first time it screened more than 800,000 people since March 17. That is still down 70% over prior year figures.

Still, Florida has reported 542,792 coronavirus cases, the second most of any U.S. state behind only California, according to a Reuters tally, and more than 10% of all reported U.S. cases. If coronavirus cases in Florida remain high, “we will adjust our plans,” Gupta said.

Southwest Airlines chief executive Gary Kelly said at a Texas Tribune forum on Wednesday the airline is still trying to figure how many flights to offer as it works to reduce its $20 million a day losses. “It is pure guesswork at this point” Kelly said.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by David Gregorio)

Disney to shut Hong Kong Disneyland again as coronavirus cases rise

By Helen Coster

(Reuters) – Walt Disney Co. is temporarily closing its Hong Kong Disneyland theme park from July 15 amid rising coronavirus cases in the Chinese-ruled city, the company said Monday.

The announcement came two days after Disney reopened its biggest resort, Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, as coronavirus cases surged in the state.

“As required by the government and health authorities in line with prevention efforts taking place across Hong Kong, Hong Kong Disneyland park will temporarily close from July 15,” a Disney spokeswoman said in a statement.

The Hong Kong Disneyland Resort hotels will remain open with adjusted services. They have put in place enhanced health and safety measures, the company said.

Hong Kong recorded 52 new cases of coronavirus on Monday, including 41 that were locally transmitted, according to health authorities. Since late January, Hong Kong has reported 1,522 cases and local media reported an eighth death on Monday.

Hong Kong is tightening social distancing measures amid growing worries about a third wave of coronavirus infections. The government will limit group gatherings to four people – from 50 – a measure last seen during a second wave of the outbreak in March.

Hong Kong Disneyland reopened in June. Hong Kong Tokyo reopened in July; Disneyland Shanghai reopened in May.

Disney’s reopening of its parks in Asia helped provide assurance about moving ahead in Florida, Josh D’Amaro, chairman of Disney’s parks, experiences and products division told Reuters in an interview on Saturday.

Florida has emerged as an epicenter of COVID-19 infections. Over the past two weeks, the state reported 109,000 new coronavirus cases, more than any other U.S. state.

(Reporting by Helen Coster in New York. Additional reporting by Lisa Richwine in Los Angeles, Editing by Nick Zieminski)

Local hero: Florida hotelier Harris Rosen keeps his giving close to home

By Beth Pinsker

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Harris Rosen has a chain of eight hotels bearing his name in the Orlando area, but he makes most of his headlines these days for giving away his fortune.

The 80-year-old entrepreneur of Rosen Hotels & Resorts, who grew up on the Lower East Side of New York, adopted the Tangelo Park neighborhood near his hotels and has paid for preschool programs and college for local students. Among some of his other many causes: He endowed the Rosen College of Hospitality Management at the University of Central Florida, and he has been involved in charity efforts in Haiti, the home country of many of his staff.

Rosen’s business also recently expanded its generous, self-funded health plan called RosenCare to cover the health clinic for teachers in Osceola County.

Rosen spoke to Reuters about how he came to make his fortune and then give it away.

Q: Who first taught you money values?

A: It came from my two granddads. Both of them came from Eastern Europe. One had a little restaurant on Lower East Side; the other made wooden barrels.

When my mom and dad got married, they went into business together to purchase little apartments where immigrants stayed. Unfortunately, there was a fairly significant depression in 1920s. They lost everything because they would not ask anyone to leave.

One night they came over, and said, essentially, you have something in your genes. You are going to be a businessperson, but don’t ever borrow money.

I’ve lived with that all my life: I’m going to be a businessperson, and I can’t borrow money. That’s impossible! The first hotel I bought, I put down $20,000 and assumed a $2.5 million mortgage.

I will tell you now with great pride 45 years later, though, with 7,000 rooms, we don’t have a penny of debt.

Q: What did your first job teach you?

A: When I was 10, I overheard fishermen talking about how badly they needed worms. So I went into the night crawler business. I hunted them with a flashlight, and then arrived early at fishing pier.

I learned that you try to find something that people need and want, charge a fair price and save as much as you can.

Q: Once you got some money together, what was your investing philosophy?

A: One of the first stocks I bought was Avon, because I met some of the ladies who ran the company. They said, “Harris, Buy the stock.” I couldn’t buy more than 10-15 shares, but I’d look at Avon every morning, and I did very well.

Then I bought Automatic Data Processing, because the grandmother of the company founder worked as a clerk in their sales office at the Waldorf Astoria where I also worked.

I don’t think I’ve owned anything other than my company for about maybe 45 years. I invest only in Rosen.

Q: When did you start getting very generous with employee benefits?

A: Early on, about 30 years ago, I discovered I wasn’t very happy with our whole health plan. I didn’t understand why our premiums would go up year after year.

We had a tiny little office where our accounting folks stayed, but they outgrew it. I said, we’ll convert it to primary care health center. I called a friend who knew insurance and said, ‘Help me start my own insurance company.’ Then I said: ‘Let’s look for a doctor.’

We focus on keeping people healthy.

Q: You have many charity projects, how do you decide how to give away your money?

A: About 25 years ago, sitting at my desk, I heard a voice and it said, “Harris, you have been blessed beyond anything you imagined, and now it would be appropriate to offer a helping hand to those in need.”

Q: How do you pass along this legacy of giving to your children and grandchildren?

A: I just think they need to do the kind of work that they enjoy. They need to be honest and treat people with respect, and if they are in the position to become philanthropic, what they need to do is express that generosity by helping others.

I’m very happy with the way things are working out. I love the opportunity that I have had to offer a helping hand to so many people.

(Follow us @ReutersMoney or at http://www.reuters.com/finance/personal-finance. Editing by Lauren Young and Cynthia Osterman)

Judge denies motion to drop case against widow of Orlando gunman

FILE PHOTO: Investigators work the scene following a mass shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando Florida, U.S. on June 12, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo

By Joey Roulette

ORLANDO, Fla. (Reuters) – A judge on Monday denied a defense motion to dismiss charges against the widow of the gunman in the 2016 massacre at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, saying that the gunman’s father’s work an FBI informant was not relevant to the case.

Over the weekend, prosecutors disclosed that Omar Mateen’s father, Seddique, had worked with the Federal Bureau of Investigation before his son carried out the massacre of 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in June 2016.

In opening their case, lawyers for Mateen’s widow, Noor Salman, argued that the judge should dismiss the charges against her or declare a mistrial because prosecutors had failed to reveal the FBI’s relationship to Mateen’s father and other evidence related to him beforehand.

Salman, 31, is accused of helping her husband carry out surveillance of possible attack sites and doing nothing to stop him. Mateen, a U.S. citizen of Afghan descent who claimed allegiance to a member of the Islamic State militant group, was killed by police after more than three hours in the Pulse nightclub.

An FBI agent on Monday testified that years before Mateen carried out the attack, the agency considered using him as an informant, like his father.

Those discussions took place while the FBI was investigating comments made by the younger Mateen about overseas links to militants, Special Agent Juvenal Martin said in federal court in Orlando. That investigation closed without charges, he said.

Martin did not say why the FBI decided against enlisting Omar Mateen as an informant.

Salman’s attorneys say that the disclosure by prosecutors that Seddique Mateen had been an informant from January 2005 to June 2016 violated a Supreme Court ruling barring prosecutors from withholding evidence.

After resting their case, prosecutors said agents probing the nightclub rampage found receipts of money transfers made from the United States to Turkey and Afghanistan made by the elder Mateen. An active investigation was under way, they said.

If the defense had known about the transfers, it would have investigated whether Seddique Mateen was involved in the attack or had prior knowledge of it, Fritz Scheller, a lawyer for Salman, said in the motion to dismiss.

But U.S. District Judge Paul Byron said, “It is not clear whether the purpose of the transfers was illegal.”

He said the omission of any evidence related to Seddique Mateen had no bearing on the culpability of Salman.

Salman faces possible life in prison if convicted on charges of aiding her husband in the attack and obstructing an investigation.

(Reporting by Joey Roulette; Additional reporting and writing by Frank McGurty; Editing by James Dalgleish and Leslie Adler)

Wife of Orlando nightclub gunman arrested on federal charges

Police in front of apartment building

By Daniel Levine

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – The FBI on Monday arrested the wife of the gunman who killed 49 people at an Orlando gay nightclub last year, a massacre that intensified fears about attacks against Americans inspired by Islamic State, officials said.

Noor Salman, 30, is being charged with obstruction of justice and aiding and abetting by providing material support to a terrorist organization, Orlando Police Chief John Mina said in a statement.Salman’s arrest came seven months after her husband, Omar Mateen, went on a hours-long siege at the Florida club that ended when police killed him. She was due to appear in federal court in Oakland, California on Tuesday morning.

“Certainly I can confirm that an arrest did occur in this case,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch told MSNBC.

“We said from the beginning we were going to look at every aspect of this case, every aspect of this shooter’s life to determine – not just why did he take these actions, but who else knew about them, was anyone else involved?” Lynch said.

Salman, who has a young son by Mateen, was arrested at her home outside San Francisco, The New York Times reported, citing an unnamed law enforcement official. Salman has moved at least three times since the attack, attempting to avoid the news media, The Times said.

The daughter of parents who immigrated from the West Bank in 1985, Salman was repeatedly questioned by law enforcement interrogators after the club attack, telling them she was with Mateen when he bought ammunition and conducted surveillance of the club.

But she denied any involvement in the attack or any knowledge of her husband’s plans, she told the Times in an interview published on Nov. 1.

“I was unaware of everything,” Salman told the Times. “I don’t condone what he has done. I am very sorry for what has happened. He has hurt a lot of people.”Her husband, who was 29 at the time of his death, claimed a connection to or support for multiple Islamist extremist groups, including al Qaeda, Hezbollah, al Nusra and Islamic State, Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey told reporters a few days after the attack.

During the siege, Mateen spoke to a 911 emergency dispatcher and expressed solidarity with an al Nusra suicide bomber as well as Islamic State, also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh.

Representatives of the FBI could not be reached immediately for more details.

The Orlando massacre came about seven months after a husband and wife who sympathized with Islamic extremists opened fire in December 2015 on a holiday party in San Bernardino, California, killing 14 and wounding 22 others.

(Additional reporting by Frank McGurty and Daniel Trotta; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Cynthia Osterman)

Orlando 911 calls tell of fear inside and outside of Pulse club

The Pulse night club sign is pictured through a fence following the mass shooting there last week in Orlando, Florida, U.S., June 21,

By Barbara Liston

ORLANDO, Fla. (Reuters) – Panicked callers to 911 during June’s mass shooting in Orlando told police of buildings hit by stray bullets and wounded friends stuck inside the gay nightclub where a gunman pledging allegiance to Islamic State killed 49 people.

“Gun shots were just like crazy,” one caller outside the club told 911 operators, according to partial transcripts of the calls that were released on Tuesday.

Shooter Omar Mateen killed 49 people and wounded 53 at the Pulse nightclub in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

One neighbor near Pulse told 911 operators people were banging on his door to escape the shooting and others were seeking cover behind parked cars.

People reported on the carnage inside the club.

“One of our friends sent us a text and he said that he’s been shot and he’s in the bathroom and no one sees him,” one caller told 911.

A woman told an operator her husband was in the club and he reported shooting.

“He told me he cannot get out. He’s over there (and) he said he cannot get out,” the woman said.

A man said: “I just got home from the Pulse club … My friends texted me (to) tell me there is a shooting going (on) A lot of my friends got shot.”

The operator responds by saying not to text or call the friend.

Authorities did not release the names of those who called 911 or those who were mentioned as being inside the club.

Mateen, 29, was killed by police inside the nightclub.

He pledged allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State militant group during the rampage in which he used an assault rifle and pistol that had been legally purchased although he had twice been investigated by the FBI for possible connections with militant Islamist groups.

U.S. authorities believe that Mateen, who lived in Fort Pierce, Florida, with his wife and young child, was self-radicalized and acted alone without assistance or orders from abroad.

(Reporting by Barbara Liston; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Alistair Bell)

Florida gator that killed boy likely removed: authorities

Lane Graves killed by gator in Florida

(Reuters) – The Florida alligator that killed a vacationing 2-year-old boy at Disney World Resort has likely been removed from the area of the attack, authorities said on Wednesday.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said it had suspended trapping activities near where the boy, Lane Graves, of Elkhorn, Nebraska, was attacked last week.

The commission “is confident that the alligator responsible for the attack has been removed,” it said in a statement. Trappers have taken six alligators from the area.

The alligator snatched the toddler on June 14 as he played at the edge of the Seven Seas Lagoon, a manmade lake at the Walt Disney Co resort.

Police divers found Lane’s body underwater the following afternoon, not far from where he was taken. An autopsy found that he died from drowning and traumatic injuries.

At the time, the resort had “No Swimming” signs that did not mention alligators. Disney has since installed signs by the lagoon warning guests of alligators and snakes.

(Reporting by Laila Kearney; Editing by Daniel Wallis and David Gregorio)

Full Orlando 911 transcript released; gunman pledged allegiance to Islamic State

Makeshift memorial for victims of Pulse shooting

By Barbara Liston

ORLANDO, Fla. (Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department and the FBI on Monday released what they said was the complete transcript of the phone conversation between the Orlando, Florida, shooter and 911 police operators as he threatened to strap explosives to his hostages.

The release of the full transcript came a few hours after the FBI had issued an edited transcript of the calls.

In the full transcript, the gunman, Omar Mateen, is quoted pledging allegiance to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Mateen, 29, killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Florida on June 12, in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. He threatened to detonate a car rigged with bombs and to strap hostages into explosive vests, according to transcripts of the 911 calls he made while police tried to rescue people trapped in the club.

The FBI and Justice Department said they had released a redacted transcript of the conversations because of sensitivity to the interests of survivors and victims’ families, and the integrity of the investigation.

But the first transcript led U.S. House of Representative Speaker Paul Ryan and other politicians to call for the release of a full transcript after a political battle over gun violence brewed in the U.S. Congress.

Mateen’s conversations with a dispatcher and crisis negotiators were made public as police sought to fend off criticism that they may have acted too slowly to end a three-hour standoff at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

“You people are gonna get it and I’m gonna ignite it if they try to do anything stupid,” Mateen said during one of the calls, according to the FBI transcript.

(Additional reporting by Letitia Stein in Tampa, Frank McGurty in New York, and Eric Beech, Mohammad Zargham and Patricia Zengerle in Washington; Writing by Fiona Ortiz and Daniel Wallis; Editing by Bill Trott)