Miami Herald

'A wake-up call': Miami hotel workers resist going back to low-wage normal

For 10 years, Norlando Saavedra left his house in Kendall, Fla., at 4 a.m. to arrive at the Fontainebleau Resort in Miami Beach by 5 a.m. The 58-year-old worked for eight hours making omelets, bacon, waffles and pancakes for hotel guests. Then, he got back into his car and drove to the Hilton Double Tree Hotel in Doral, where he worked from 2 until 10 p.m. making tacos, hamburgers, pizzas and churrascos. Most days, he arrived home at 11 p.m. Two jobs. Sixteen hour days. Six days a week. It took both jobs for Saavedra to earn close to the $31.41 per hour that, according to MIT’s calculator, con...

Ex-Miami prosecutor who ran the US Capitol riots probe loved by Barr — but then hit a snag

MIAMI — In September 2019, Michael Sherwin won a widely publicized criminal case against a Chinese woman accused of trespassing at President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida. Soon after, the seasoned South Florida prosecutor would get a call from the Justice Department about a temporary assignment advising U.S. Attorney General William Barr on national security matters related to China and other foreign countries. For Sherwin, who had served in the Middle East as a naval intelligence officer during the 9/11 era, it was an offer he could not refuse. It was also a first-time...

On the island, Cubans are watching the US election as if it were their own

MIAMI — Even with a potential hurricane on Cuba’s doorstep, the dominant issue on the island is the U.S. presidential election. With increasingly broader access to the internet, Cubans are staying informed on what’s happening in their neighboring country, which they say may largely determine their own future.Cuban economists and others have followed the election almost minute by minute, reflecting the importance of relations with the United States, which have suffered since the election of Donald Trump.Pedro Monreal, an economist who favors changes in the island’s Soviet-styled economic model,...

36,000 immigrants in Florida won't get their citizenship in time to vote, data show

MIAMI — Up to 300,000 lawful permanent residents nationwide — about 36,000 of them in Florida — will be prevented from completing their naturalization process in time to vote in the upcoming November election, data show.The staggering government data — analyzed by the Immigrant Legal Resource Center and Boundless Immigration, a non-partisan tech company that helps immigrants obtain green cards and citizenship — shows that immigration policies implemented by the Trump administration since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis slowed down naturalization applications, creating a record backlog in a ti...

Miami-Dade is one storm away from a housing catastrophe. Nearly 1 million people are at risk

MIAMI — As the tail end of one of the most active hurricane seasons in history nears, Miami-Dade County appears once again poised to emerge unscathed. The region dodged hurricanes and tropical storms that posed a potential threat to South Florida. But what will happen when that luck runs out?Housing advocates have long feared that the city is one storm away from disaster; nearly a third of all housing structures in Miami-Dade County built before 1990 are at risk of wind damage, mold contamination and even complete devastation from a hurricane.According to U.S. Census Bureau figures, nearly 1 m...

Proud Boys try to assimilate into Florida GOP as Trump denies knowing extremist group

MIAMI — Donald Trump isn’t alone in distancing himself from the Proud Boys. Florida Republicans who’ve snapped photos with the group’s members say they don’t know much about the self-described militia group either.About 48 hours after the president told the organization to “stand back, and stand by” during the first presidential debate, U.S. Sen. Rick Scott condemned “all forms of racism, violence, or discrimination, including the Proud Boys” when asked about a picture he took two years ago with the group’s Miami-based chairman. Also Thursday, a spokeswoman for Miami Congressman Mario Diaz-Bal...

Every Year Brings Us Closer to 1984

In the beginning was the fingerprint.

It was in the 19th century that scientists realized the ridged whorls on the tip of the finger constituted a unique marker that could be used to tell one person from another. And eventually, the FBI built a massive database of fingerprints.

Then came DNA. In the 20th century, scientists learned to use the double helix nucleic acid molecule as a means of identification even more definitive than the fingerprint. And the FBI built a DNA database as well.

Now the feds are building yet another database. And it has some folks worried.

Maybe you missed it in the run-up to Super Duper Tuesday, but CNN and the Associated Press reported last week that the FBI will soon award a $1 billion, 10-year contract for construction of an electronic file that would store not just fingerprints and DNA, but a vast compendium of other physical characteristics. We're talking eye scans, facial shape, palm prints, scars, tattoos and other biometrics, all for the purpose of identifying and capturing bad guys.

But at least one privacy advocate thinks even good guys -- and gals -- have cause for concern. Barry Steinhardt, director of the ACLU's Technology and Liberty Project, told CNN, "It's the beginning of the surveillance society where you can be tracked anywhere, any time and all your movements, and eventually all your activities will be tracked and noted and correlated.''

I know what you're saying and it makes a certain amount of sense: If you haven't done anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about. Well, I haven't done wrong, but it worries me just the same.

Still, I am forced to admit that in a way, there is nothing new here. The government has for years collected fingerprints -- not just of criminals, but also of certain job applicants. And no one raises any concerns about that.

What's happening now, it could be reasonably argued, is only a high-tech extension of that. Except that instead of just your fingerprints, the government will also have on file the shape of your iris, that scar from your childhood appendectomy, and the butterfly tattoo on your inner thigh.

What troubles me is the comprehensiveness of the information the feds propose to gather. It calls to mind discomfitting reminders of the totalitarian states so chillingly depicted in Fahrenheit 451 and 1984, oppressive regimes that saw everything, knew everything, regulated everything. Given the advances in technology and the ominous, Orwellian turn our government has lately taken, the comparison seems far less far-fetched than once it might have.

It's not just the government, though. In recent years, the right to privacy, the right to simply be left alone, has also been eroded by the corporate community -- everything from supermarket discount cards that track your buying habits to online businesses that install secret spyware in your computer to monitor your behavior online. And we haven't even mentioned that there is a camera on every street corner nowadays.

''I always feel like somebody's watching me.'' That used to be just the hook from a schlocky '80s song. Increasingly, it is an apt description of modern life. Now the FBI proposes to collect and collate still more personal information. It swears that information will be protected, will be used only to ferret out criminals. It's hard to argue with that: Who doesn't want law enforcement to have every available tool for smoking out criminals?

But I can't help a certain wariness when I consider the ease with which the program could expand far beyond that mission. As Steinhardt sees it, first criminals, then job applicants and then, "Eventually, it's going to be everybody.''

I admit, he might be wrong.

But you know something? He might not.