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Key West Cruises, Haiti Update, And Sugar Cane Burning In Palm Beach County

Before sugar cane is harvested, farmers set fire to it to burn away the leaves.
Dan Charles
Before sugar cane is harvested, farmers set fire to it to burn away the leaves.

Key West leaders want to fulfill the wishes of voters and limit the types of cruise ships that can port at the city. Another person was arrested in the ongoing investigation of the assassination of Haiti’s president. And, a Palm Beach Post investigation looks into how sugar cane burning affects residents of the county.

On this Tuesday, July 13, edition of Sundial

Keys Cruises

Key West officials decided to take up the hotly debated issue of cruise ships again Monday evening. Last November, voters on the island agreed to city charter amendments that limit the number of passengers and types of ships that can port in the city.

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During this year's legislative session, state lawmakers decided to overturn that vote and said that voters could not make that sort of decision. Monday night, city officials held a workshop meeting to discuss what options they have moving forward — Key West residents feel like their vote has been taken away from them.

“I don’t understand how they could do that, how they could preempt something that was a local issue. It’s our home rule,” said City Commissioner Jimmy Weekley on the state Legislature overturning the vote.

The amendments from last November limited the number of people that would be allowed to disembark by cruise ships to 1,500; no ship with a capacity of more than 1,300 people should be allowed to call; and the city should prioritize ships with the best health and environmental records.

According to Nancy Klingener, WLRN's Florida Keys reporter, state officials said that “10,000 people in Key West couldn't set a policy for the state of Florida.”

The pier which would have been directly impacted by the amendment, and where a majority of the cruise ships come into, is privately owned.

Keys Cruises

Haiti Update

Haiti officials have a South Florida doctor in custody, linked to the killing of Jovenel Moise. Now, the Miami Herald reports that one of the men in custody also happens to be a former long-time informant for the DEA. There are calls for more U.S. intervention, as Haiti remains without a solid leader in place.

According to a Monday press briefing from the White House President Joe Biden hasn’t ruled out sending troops to Haiti.

“Things are calm, but no one is saying they're going to remain that way,” said Miami Herald Caribbean Correspondent Jacqueline Charles, who is currently on the ground in Haiti.

Charles said that while people are slowly trying to resume their lives, there is still a surreal feeling amongst Haitians, who are left wondering who’s going to take charge of the country.

Acting Prime Minister Claude Joseph, who is one of three men vying to take charge of the country, announced in a press conference Tuesday that they are working on getting to the bottom of the investigation to find out who was behind the assassination.

Haiti Update
Haitian National Police Chief Leon Charles in Port-au-Prince Wednesday night

Sugar Cane Burning In Palm Beach County

Sugar cane burning is a fact of life in the western parts of Palm Beach County. The practice involves setting fire to sugar cane fields to burn away the outer leaves before the harvest. Every winter and spring, residents keep their children indoors to stay away from the smoke and ash — which has been linked to respiratory issues.

The Palm Beach Post and ProPublica teamed up on an investigation of this process and how it affects county residents.

South Bay Mayor Joe Kyles has lived in the area since the 1970s. He worked for the sugar company Florida Crystals for 20 years and said he hasn’t experienced any negative health effects and also doesn’t hear complaints from residents.

“This thing about sugar cane burning causing respiratory problems, I don’t understand that and why that’s going on,” he said.

But Lulu Ramadan, an investigative reporter for the Palm Beach Post who worked on this story, spoke to two young boys who have experienced the effects of sugar cane burning. She reported that they, among many other residents, have respiratory issues including asthma and trouble breathing.

The reporting found that some of the monitors measuring pollution levels were inaccurate, including one that had been flagged in 2013 for disparities with other measuring methods. She said the EPA tracks pollution using 24-hour or annual averages. What the reporters did was look at short-term pollution spikes.

“We basically found that that framework, that 24-hour average, was insufficient for capturing this pollution that experts later looked at our findings and linked to cane burning,” Ramadan said.

U.S. Sugar released a statement about the story from ProPublica and the Palm Beach Post. In it, they claim the story, “calls into question the authority and trust of publicly available data that is collected by local health departments and Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection.”

They declined to be interviewed on Sundial.

Sugar Cane Burning
Harvesting sugar cane in Florida's Everglades Agricultural Area.

Kristin Moorehead is a 2021 WLRN summer intern and recent graduate of the University of Florida with a B.S. in Telecommunication.