Islamic Independence Day 

Being an American Muslim isn't easy. You can't even host an open-to-the-public Fourth of July party without drawing the flak of suspicious righties who think your party is just cover and what you really want to do is take over the world.

We refer here to WFLA 540-AM talk-show host Bud Hedinger, who questioned on air if the Islamic Society of Central Florida was sincere about celebrating Independence Day. "How much longer do we have to keep reaffirming our sincerity?" wondered ISCF communications director Areej Zufari.

In what proved to be a shrewd move, Zufari invited Hedinger to speak at the July 2 event. Not wanting to miss any of the action, we arrived early in the afternoon, in time to watch schoolgirls in hijab making cotton candy and men barbecuing chicken on a grill. There were voter-registration pamphlets and ROTC-clad youngsters collecting donations. A couple of fire trucks were in use, taking down the giant flag atop a building ahead of a nasty squall.

It was as American as apple pie; the only thing lacking was a hot-dog-eating contest and a speech from the mayor. We're convinced that Central Florida Muslims were genuinely proud to be partying for the Fourth.

Apparently, Hedinger was too. He read from the Declaration of Independence and concluded by thanking the ISCF for the invite. "Americans all," he said, waving from the podium.

Speaking of poop – which we weren't, but it's always a good way to introduce a segment – it's not unusual for Rock Springs in Kelly Park in Apopka to close a couple of times a year, particularly in the summer, after heavy poopage, er, usage. In fact, the state closed the place down July 5 due to an unacceptably high fecal bacteria count, leading us to wonder if we'd want to brave the waters when fecal bacteria levels were "acceptable."

As of press time it was too early to tell who dropped the kids off at the pool, but it appears that the culprit was ... some tot (or, more likely, many tots) in swim diapers. Luckily, officials counted approximately 500 people at the park July 4, way short of the 1,500 expected. Forecasts for afternoon thunderstorms may have kept people away from the water.

Another water sample was taken July 6 by Orange County's Environmental Protection Division, and the park people hope for a speedy midweek reopening. That's because Rock Springs naturally functions like, er, a flushing toilet. From the state website: "Rock Springs has no well-defined, deep head pool, and the principal discharge is from a cavern only partly submerged. The cavern is at the base of a 17-foot-high limestone bluff. The cavern opening is about 5 feet in diameter at its mouth. It tapers horizontally inward to a throat about 3 feet in diameter from which water discharges with considerable turbulence to a run about 20 feet wide."

Which describes almost exactly the commode here at Happytown™ HQ.

Last week, Happytown™ HQ received an urgent letter from an anonymous LYNX bus driver, informing us that the county was quickly moving toward privatizing LYNX. "Seems (Orange County chairman Rich) Crotty and his merry men are ballooning the idea to privatize Lynx," the letter reads. "This is a horrible idea."

Horrible, our letter-writer says, because a private company would be all about boosting profit margins, which could mean layoffs, pay cuts and gutted pension plans.

"Again, this is another idea of how the little guy gets stomped on by the BIG CORPORATION," the letter says. "Being an insider I know, management GOT a pay raise and I know, the organization is top heavy, and funds are spent frivolously, and don't get me started on their paratransit fiasco."

We tracked down Mr. Anonymous and asked him how he was aware of this nefarious scheme. He told us that it was all spelled out in a June 15 memo from LYNX's new executive director, Linda Watson. So we called Lynx and were told, basically, not to get our shorts in a wad.

"We haven't even studied it," says interim manager of media relations Brian Martin. "We probably won't study it for some time. This is soooo far down the agenda."

OK. But let's look at the memo itself.

"Many of you have heard about changes that the Board of Directors and I may possibly be making in the organization," Watson says. "These are just ideas for consideration and not actions to be taken at this time. It is important that we explore and consider all avenues and ideas in order to make certain that LYNX is operating as efficiently as possible and that taxpayers are truly receiving a return on their investment. It is my understanding that the possibility of privatizing LYNX has been considered a number of times over the years, and each time it has been rejected. Since we have a brand new Board of Directors, it is important that we broach this subject again for their benefit."

Sounds like a "maybe" to us.

It is with heavy (and thankfully unautopsied) hearts that we bid adieu to Shashi Gore, Orange-Osceola's lovable-but-bumbling chief medical examiner. Gore, the Floyd "The Barber" Lawson of MEs, retired June 30. But his work will live on.

For example, there's the case of Jennifer Kairis, a Rollins College sophomore found dead in her apartment in March 1998. An autopsy by an Orange-Osceola medical examiner (not Gore) found blunt-force trauma to Kairis' neck and forehead, as well as torn toenails and bruises on her inner thighs. Gore intervened and ruled the death an overdose, based on the toxicology tests of her blood. The case is now being reviewed in Miami.

Then there's the case of John Creamer, who spent 10 months in jail in 2003 for poisoning his wife, Jayne, based on Gore's finding that the woman had abnormally high levels of cadmium in her blood post mortem. Gore later changed his mind based on a Japanese study that shows cadmium blood levels rise after death. Trouble is, Gore neglected to mention that study to Creamer's lawyers for two months after he read it. Creamer later went free.

And who could forget the case of Baby Yurko? Certainly not Alan Yurko, who has been in prison since 1999 when he was convicted of shaking his infant son to death. Gore performed the autopsy on Baby Yurko himself, and he got a few things wrong in the report. He wrote that the white child was black, had the incorrect head size, and noted the condition of internal organs that weren't there at the time of autopsy because they'd been donated when the child died.

That one got him barred by the state in February from doing any more autopsies, the harshest discipline ever meted out to a Florida medical examiner.

So adios, Floyd, er, Shashi. Corpses all over Central Florida can rest a little easier now that you're gone.



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