Archive for July, 2007

Castro Not Dead and Still in control
July 31, 2007

Sometimes a good quote puts it all into perspective. I got a good one from Frank Hernandez-Trujillo the other day. Frank heads up a very low key U.S. Government organization that sends goods and material into Cuba. The story we were producing dealt with the one year anniversary of the transfer of power on the Island. It appears that the Castro Brothers passed the baton without a misstep. How could they do that, with the ailing Fidel in what appears to be permanent sick bay? How has Raul kept things in line.? After all Frank and I agreed nothing had changed in Cuba in the year Raul has run the show. Fidel occasionally writes a newspaper article and now and then appears on video tape. Here is how Frank put it: “Mao Zedong (the hard core Chinese Dictator known as Chairman Mao)…was writing his poems and people were deadly afraid of him and it is the same with Fidel Castro.” We can take that quote to the bank.

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Florida Vacaton: Day 7-Pack it up!
July 27, 2007

It was the quickest week in the world. We pack it up tomorrow morning early. The beach was a little too hot today. Spent the early part of the day in the water, the rest finishing up a true crime book that caught my interest. Luly, the lovely Mrs. Tester was on the phone with friends, family lining up next weeks appointments and activities. Yep, the reality has set in, vacation is almost done. Tonight we are off to one of our favorite Florida restaurants. That’s it for now…a wrap up article with facts, figures, and observations on what it is like to be a Florida tourist is already in the works. See ya on TV!

Florida Vacation Day Six: Shark Spotted
July 26, 2007

The water had been full of bait fish all day. In came the larger fish, in massive schools, churning up the water, dolphins began working closer to shore and as the sun dipped in the west, there was Mr. Shark. No one was in the water, it was the end of the day and we only caught on to him because we have a pair of binoculars and we were up on our condo balcony. It was classic as all the experts tell you, sharks like to feed in the twilight and this guy was right on time, but he kept right on heading north, not to be seen again. Not one person on the beach knew he was in the neighborhood.
The major news story in the local paper announces that baby turtles are hatching and a good number of them are making into the water. There was a short police chase, but the guy crashed into a cement mailbox and surrendered after being zapped by a tazer. It was a domestic beef and the guy’s wife had beat him up.
We were on the beach early after last night’s terrific dinner in a water-side restaurant. A so-Florida atmosphere, the restaurant is in a screened chickee hut. The breeze was cool, a surprise for this time of year, nice crowd, not packed and crazed like winters here. The restaurant’s owner/master chef is from Haiti, the waiters are Czechs, and the bartender is a Cuban! Just like home!
Our biggest two challenges today: fixing a broken umbrella and picking another cool dinner spot. So far the “Florida Drive Vacation” gets an “A.”

Florida Vacation Day Five-Breaking News!
July 25, 2007

My wife Luly was “carded” at last nights restaurant of choice! We had ordered a couple of glasses of Chardonnay and the waiter said, “before I serve you mam I have to see an ID.” Was this guy fishing for a tip or was he dead serious, then he looked at me and said, “I don’t need to worry about you sir!” “Wait a minute, don’t take that the wrong way,” he quickly added. By then all of us were laughing but he assured us that he was going to have to see a Florida Drivers license. My wife had to produce a picture ID or no Chardonnay. Mrs. Tester, who I consider and know for a fact is the most beautiful woman in the word presented her Florida drivers license and the kid about dropped his jaw. I, of course, will not reveal the birth date on the card but when we looked again the waiter had gripped the license with both hands and was looking at it in amazement. A nice act? Maybe but the always lovely Mrs. Tester reminded me that just a month ago at a Marlin’s game she was asked for an ID. The dinner was great, so was the service, I left a nice tip, and “mi esposa” is enjoying the heck out of her vacation and is out buying a new bikini!

Florida Vacation Day Four!
July 24, 2007

What’s great about Florida is all the free stuff you can see from a waterside balcony. Like dolphins at play and gathering dinner, pelicans diving into a school of bait fish, terrific early morning displays of lightning and pink and red sunsets laced again with searing bolts of lightning accompanied by the distant thunder. The beach is terrific and there are lots of nice folks around, many from Miami. Talking to the locals confirms what we hear all to often in Miami. High property taxes plus skyrocketing insurance rates have ground the real estate market to a near halt. Retirees are finding that holding on to their dream condo by the beach is becoming a slow spiral into debt they had not anticipated. “I am heading to Denver,” one young retired guy told me.
The upside is we rented this condo for a pretty good rate. “Got pay the nut,” The owner said.
We are off to breakfast and then to the beach.

Hank’s Florida Vacation Day One, Two, Three!
July 23, 2007

We are on vacation, our first since the “empty nest” phenomena hit our house. The lovely Mrs. Tester and I have a week off we decided to do what tourism guru’s Andy Newman and Bill Talbert are continually promoting, a “Florida Drive Market” vacation. We have driven, we have been shopping at a local Publix, we have the rented condo squared away, checked out the local attractions and most important the restaurants the locals frequent. I have ditched my watch, the cell phone is in the top drawer of the dresser and there is a stack of neglected New Yorker Magazines I brought along that are finely getting a shot at getting read.
Breakfast and lunch in the condo, nice dinner out on the town, mix that in with a early morning and late afternoon visit to the beach with a neck deep dip in the water and you get the picture!
Location? We will keep that a secret for now, just for fun maybe you can pick up a clue and take a guess. We will give you a daily report and at the end of the week….or maybe when the spirit moves I will will put together a full report including a break down of cost. I often report on Florida Tourism and since we are now “Official Florida Tourists” lets see what it costs, what it is like and share it with the the guys that promote it. P.S. don’t call, we will call you!

Goooooood Morning Miami!
July 17, 2007

Gooooooooood Morning Miami!

Yep that’s me out there in the early Mornings! I will be out in the streets for Today in South Florida all this week. Up at 2:30, a mad scramble to the scene of the morning’s story, and in an exact reverse of what we call “dayside,” we get on the air right away, no all day preparation for our story. Mornings are crazy. I should know.
Way back in 1994 WTVJ put the first morning reporter on the air. That would be me. In those days, as now, Bob Mayer was the anchor, there was my good friend Alicia Ortega sharing the anchor desk, Bob Weaver was our ace and veteran weather reporter.
Those were good times, we were breaking into new news territory. Cameraman Ricky Morris and I prowled the morning streets with a SUV that had a short microwave mask. Ricky, one of the most loyal and unique characters I have ever worked with, was cameraman, live truck operator, and bed rock of common sense.
We did well, the ratings were good and within months we had company out in the streets. Several stations fielded a morning reporting team. We had lead the way and within a couple of years the morning shows on all Miami channels were competitive and served the public well. To this day the mornings are the growth spots for local TV news as other day parts are slipping.
So it is fun to work for the next few days with cameraman Abel Aluret and live truck operator Adam Rice. Morning show crews are like family, we all look out for each other, even the folks at the other stations.
It is not unusual to see the morning photographers and reporters at breakfast together. There is something about the pain of dealing with the early hours that builds camaraderie. That’s not so say that we do not compete. There is nothing better than getting a scoop, then talking about it over eggs and grits.
So it is fun to be back for a short time. As I found way back in the mid 90’s the early hours do take their toll. It does wear you down and it becomes time to move on and your body thanks you. What’s funny is the audience seems to remember you as a morning reporter. I still get comments and an occasional, “I watch you every morning.”
Today I’ll be taking the introductions from Bob Mayer and Pam Gigante. Working with these two Anchor Pros makes getting up easy. You have to be on your toes, they have questions, they are funny, they and they do set ups as good as any in the business. Be lucky Miami that they are on the tube every morning. I watch every day. Bob and Pam wake me up. I am a big fan.
I’ll enjoy the week. Hope you do too and we’ll see ya on TV.


July 12, 2007

Two Dead not News in Miami Gardens

Two dead at a Miami Gardens apartment complex, police swam the area, bodies lay under yellow tarps for hours, apartment residents gather to gawk, friends and family of the two slain teens pound fists, and shriek in their grief. It was a nasty shooting. Witnesses say there were over forty shots from one or more automatic weapons. The victims were dead before they hit the ground. We worked the story all day and were set up for a live shot at 5:00PM.

Just before we went live a guy walked by, a young man carrying school books. Nice kid. “What’s going on,” he asked. “Two guys gunned down, both dead,” I said. He paused a moment then simply said, “in there?” “Yep,” I said. His reaction stunned me and it stuck with me the rest of the day. “That’s not news in there,” he said with sincerity and walked away.

I wrestled with that kids comments the rest of the day. What was eating at me was it was not my first visit to the complex, in fact I have covered several shootings and SWAT actions in and around the complex. What this kid was saying was shootings are so common that it was not news anymore, it was not out of the ordinary, it happens all the time, so why even do the story. The local paper had a small mention of the gun down on their web page, I did not see anything in my edition of the paper, and there were no other TV stations covering the incident by 5:00pm.

Residents we talked to complained about continual gun fire, fearing to go outside, gangsters running amuck. “My children don’t play outside,” Jennifer Munoz told me.

More than thirty, mostly young black men, have be killed in the last 21 months in the North End of Miami-Dade. A good portion of those homicides have occurred in Miami Gardens.

Maybe the kid had a point. I disagree, but I understand. We gotta cover it and I am glad we did. It was sad that these shootings, killings have become so routine that most folks are just numb about them. Such a sad commentary on what’s going on in the streets of South Florida.

Two More Dead in Miami Gardens
July 11, 2007

The address is too familiar. An apartment complex at 37th Ave and Northwest 186th Street, Miami Gardens. Two are dead, witnesses say 30-40 shots rang out around midnight. I have often covered homicides here and once there was a heist at the post office across the street where two gangsters jumped across the counter and held the place up. It was a federal caper and the FBI, Postal Service, with help from Miami-Dade Police set up a perimeter around the massive housing project. The robbers had “run back home,”according to the police. They vanished inthe complex. So here we are again, me and Robert Hernandez, the photographer who was here for the post office robbery. It is like old home week.
These kind of shootings and death are so routine in Miami Gardens that we are the only TV station here. “Not much interest,” a police spokesman told me. Sad, but true. And it is the same old story. No one saw or heard anything except for a couple of witness who a free-lance photographer grabbed just after the shooting. In the light of day no one sees, no one hears, no one knows despite the reality that it apparently sounded like a war last night and one source says “everyone knows who did it and everyone knows the dead guys.” We are set to do a noon live shot for the net broadcast but will we make the six o’clock news? It is after all a rather routine story.

New Chief at Hurricane Center
July 9, 2007

Ed Rappaport appointed acting director of the National Hurricane Center. It will be a popular choice within the walls of the center. Rappaport is a scientist, a forecaster and was Max Mayfield’s deputy for sometime. He will be the on-camera presence during hurricanes. He is low key, matter of fact, and will undoubtedly keep the Center out of the headlines. A federal assessment team was in the center when the announcement was made. Bill Proenza, the former chief, will continue to work for NOAA but as of now is unassigned.