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ICYMI: SeaWorld and former CEO pay hefty fine, Rick Scott gets yelled at over red tide and more



Publix frees the beard: Publix made news last week when the supermarket chain announced it would reverse company policy and allow store employees to grow beards starting Sept. 29. For years, the Lakeland-based grocery chain has banned beards and long hair for male employees, though conservative upper-lip riders similar to the pencil mustache of founder George Jenkins have been allowed. The push for Publix to #FreetheBeard started in 2015 when Jacksonville Publix employee Brandon Wesley started an online petition asking the grocery chain to review its facial hair policies.

SeaWorld, former CEO fined $5 million after being accused of downplaying 'Blackfish' impact: SeaWorld Entertainment and its former CEO have agreed to pay more than $5 million in fines to settle federal charges accusing the theme park company of misleading investors by downplaying the impact of the 2013 documentary Blackfish. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission announced last week that SeaWorld and its former CEO Jim Atchison reached settlements with the agency without "admitting or denying the allegations." As Blackfish became more widely distributed, the SEC alleged that from December 2013 to August 2014, SeaWorld and Atchison made "untrue and misleading" statements or omissions to investors in SEC filings, earnings releases, calls and other statements to the media regarding the documentary's impact on SeaWorld's reputation and business. When SeaWorld finally admitted in 2014 that declining attendance was partially caused by negative publicity, the company's stock price fell about 33 percent, leading to a loss of about $830 million in shareholder value, according to the SEC complaint.

Orlando's new pro football team will be called the Orlando Apollos: The Alliance of American Football announced the name of the City Beautiful's new professional football team last week. The Orlando Apollos, named for the bow-and-arrow wielding Greek god of the sun, will dress in navy blue, dark orange and bright orange. The team will be led by head coach Steve Spurrier, former championship-winning head coach of the Florida Gators. The Apollos will join the Birmingham Iron, Memphis Express and Atlanta Legends in the east division.

Florida more likely to reject mail ballots from young voters, people of color: Florida rejected vote-by-mail ballots from young voters and people of color at higher rates during the past two presidential elections, according to a troubling new study from the ACLU of Florida. The report also found that mail ballots were more likely to be rejected than votes cast at polls during early voting or Election Day. The rejection rate for these ballots was about 1 percent during both the 2012 and 2016 elections, which is about 10 times higher than in-person voting, according to Daniel Smith, a political science professor at the University of Florida and the study's author. During the 2016 election, voters under 30 made up about 9.2 percent of all mail-ballot voters but accounted for almost 31 percent of all rejected mail ballots. In the 2012 general election, only 0.9 percent of all mail ballots cast by white voters were "rejected as illegal" by county canvassing boards – but those same canvassing boards rejected 1.5 percent of mail ballots from black voters and 1.3 percent of mail ballots from Hispanic voters.

After boos and protests, Rick Scott calls for red tide research center, task force: After a week of being targeted by protesters angry over Florida's toxic red tide crisis, Gov. Rick Scott is now calling for wildlife officials to create a state red tide research center and re-establish an algae bloom task force. The state has been dealing with toxic algae problems for years now for numerous reasons, including the environmental missteps of state officials. (Remember our goopy "guacamole beaches"?) In a letter to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Republican governor wrote that although the state has made "tremendous strides" in dealing with the red tide algae blooms currently killing marine life and causing respiratory issues on the Gulf coast, more must be done. Sounds to us like someone is trying really hard to avoid the "Red Tide Rick" nickname sticking to him during his U.S. Senate race against incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson.


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