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Photo by Monivette Cordeiro,  Darcel Stevens, orlandoweekly.com
From the Pages of Orlando Weekly

By night, Orlando’s drag queens entertain the masses. By day, they lead the fight for LGBTQ rights


By now, the majority of America knows the difference between being told, “Shanté, you stay,” and the heartbreak of “Sashay away.” Drag has been around for centuries, but no one can deny the Emmy award-winning show, RuPaul’s Drag Race, has managed to overwrite the mischaracterization of drag queens as deviants, replacing it with the real-life dreams of queer performers trying to artistically combine the perfect lashes, wig and glittery gown into an iconic look for the gods. But drag has always been about more than just lip-sync performances, expensive makeup palettes and dazzling costumes. For decades, drag activists have been at the forefront of the LGBTQ liberation movement – their eye-catching outfits make the protest march behind them hard to …
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Image: People run from the Route 91 Harvest country music festival Sunday after a gunman opened fire from the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. David Becker/Getty Images, npr.org
From the Pages of Orlando Weekly

Mass Shootings are Becoming More Deadly and More Frequent


This isn’t normal. Sunday’s horrific event in Las Vegas is now the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. For 16 months, Orlando was burdened with this title. Awful as it was to be at the top of of that list, it wasn’t one we wished on anyone else. If it feels like mass shootings are becoming both more deadly and more frequent, it’s because they are. They’ve become such regular occurrences – five in just the last two years – that our reactions have become formulaic. When horror strikes we fall into a predictable cycle that ultimately achieves nothing but to make us just a bit more numb. Politicians and elected officials offer “thoughts and prayers.” Anyone calling for …
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Photo by Monivette Cordeiro
From the Pages of Orlando Weekly

Orlando’s Puerto Rican community gathers donations for hurricane relief


Karen Díaz de Suarez’s hands were trembling Sunday when she finally got the call from her brother that he and his family had survived Hurricane Maria. For days after the storm decimated buildings, flooded homes and knocked out power for the entire island, Díaz de Suarez didn’t sleep or eat much while she waited anxiously, to hear from her seven siblings who live in Puerto Rico. When her brother finally called, he said Maria sounded like a monster outside their home. While Díaz de Suarez waits to hear from the rest of her siblings, she and dozens of Central Florida residents were gathering food, water, monetary donations and other supplies in Orlando to send to Puerto Rico. As they worried …
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Image: How to Defuse a Bomb: The Project Children Story, peacefilmfest.org
From the Pages of Orlando Weekly

The Global Peace Film Festival


Watching movies doesn’t have to be an idle pastime. In fact, the organizers of the Global Peace Film Festival want it to be a revolutionary one. This annual festival of short films, features and documentaries hopes to inspire audiences to action, using movies as a catalyst for change. And in this, its 15th year, it feels like peaceful change is needed more than ever. Festival founder Nina Streich admits that 2017’s environmental devastation, global social inequality, and divisive politics are scary. But she’s counting on that atmosphere of heightened urgency to motivate her audience rather than turning them off. Streich says, “What’s exciting about the festival is at the end of a film, when people are kind of leaning forward …
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Image: The Pluris plant at Wedgefield ,orlandoweekly.com
From the Pages of Orlando Weekly

A private company wants to charge this neighborhood more for their water, even though some residents refuse to drink it


Pam DiMarzio’s three boys know the drill – when mommy sticks strips of blue painter’s tape over the bathroom faucets, the kitchen sink, the fridge and the shower, it means one thing: Don’t touch the water. DiMarzio and other residents have been fighting for years now against Pluris Wedgefield Inc., a private, Dallas-based company that has provided water to the neighborhood since 2009. Neighbors say the water can be cloudy and reeks of chlorine, and some, like DiMarzio and her three children, will only drink bottled water. After scores of complaints, some local residents were infuriated after learning the private company is actually trying to charge them more for water they won’t drink – Pluris filed documents with the Florida …
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Photo: Mayor Teresa Jacobs, flickr
From the Pages of Orlando Weekly

Florida’s opioid crisis is about to get deadlier. Orange County officials plan to fight back


In 2012, Stephanie Muzzy was driving around Orlando looking for the worst neighborhood she could find in search of prescription pills. She didn’t find pills, but the batch of heroin she tried from Lake Downey trailer park plummeted her into the depths of addiction and landed her in the Orange County jail. As the months turned into years, Muzzy was in and out of rehabs in Florida and Nevada, gaining and losing jobs, apartments, cars, cats and boyfriends along the way. Overdose after overdose, Muzzy was able to recover and is currently now on her way to getting better – but the same can’t be said for more than 2,664 Floridians who overdosed on opioids and never woke up during …
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Image: Screen shot of @MarcoRubio tweet, twitter.com
From the Pages of Orlando Weekly

Group Demands Marco Rubio Stop Tweeting his Daily Bible Verses


Florida Senator Marco Rubio has a penchant for waking up early and tweeting a daily Bible verse to the 3 million followers of his Twitter account. But an organization devoted to the separation of church and state has asked him to stop, claiming that he’s breaking the law. Last week, the Freedom From Religion Foundation sent the request in a letter to Rubio’s Washington D.C. office. They cited the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in June that tweets from President Donald Trump’s personal Twitter account are, in fact, official statements. “We have no issue with people reading and discussing the Bible,” says Andrew Seidel, the foundation’s director of strategic response. “But it is not for the government in our …
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Photo via Sabal Trail Transmission, orlandoweekly.com
From the Pages of Orlando Weekly

A Federal Appeals Court Dealt a Blow to the Sabal Trail Pipeline


A federal appeals court dealt a blow to the Sabal Trail pipeline this week after it ruled in a 2-1 decision that regulators did not adequately consider the environmental impact. Two months ago, the 515-mile Sabal Trail pipeline started pumping natural gas to plants owned by Florida Power & Light and Duke Energy Florida. The $3.2 billion project snakes through Alabama, Georgia and down to Central Florida. The pipeline tunnels under forests, wetlands, ranches, rivers and several pieces of private property to sit above the Floridan aquifer, which is the primary drinking source for millions who live in the state. Environmental advocates have long said the pipeline could potentially jeopardize the source of clean water for millions and threaten Florida’s …
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Image: Photo by Allen Sheffield via Flickr, orlandoweekly.com
From the Pages of Orlando Weekly

A Farmers Market is Coming to Parramore this Fall


A federal grant awarded to the city of Orlando last year is finally coming to fruition. City officials say they are working to open a new farmers market in Parramore by October, giving residents a more convenient option to buy fresh produce. Parramore has been deemed a “food desert,” meaning at least 33 percent of the population lives more than a mile from a supermarket or large grocery store. In October 2016, the city won a USDA grant to expand healthy food options in West Orlando. The grant initiatives include creating 10 to 15 large vegetable gardens in residential front yards, based on the Fleet Farming model; teaching classes on healthy cooking in partnership with Hebni Nutrition; and establishing a …
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Image: Max Gracia’s funeral, courtesy of Willine Gracia, Orlandoweekly.com
From the Pages of Orlando Weekly

Max Gracia died in Orange County jail after being bitten by a police dog. His family wants answers.


The last time Willine Gracia saw her son alive was at the beginning of August 2015. The mother says she took 22-year-old Max Gracia to the courthouse to get his passport because he was soon leaving for airline training. Days later, on Aug. 6, Max Gracia would be arrested by Orlando Police officers who accused him of robbing a convenience store with a gun. Gracia tried to escape by hiding in Lake Mann, but officers sent in a K9 after him. The police dog bit him multiple times before he was captured and taken to Orlando Regional Medical Center for treatment and then the Orange County Jail. Four days after his arrest, detectives told Willine her son was dead, killed …
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