Walt Precourt: Our community, our responsibility

Walt Precourt
Walt Precourt

Earlier this week, I addressed the Polk County Board of County Commissioners on the recent sinkhole and water loss incident at our New Wales production facility, and believe the updates and sentiments that I shared are pertinent to the entire west-central Florida community.

The most important thing for the community to know is that on behalf of Mosaic, I would like to express our sincere regret that the sinkhole and associated loss of water on our property have caused concerns for the community. We live, work and raise our families here too, so we take our responsibility to protect the public and the environment very seriously.

The health and safety of our 4,000 employees and our local communities is paramount across all of our work at Mosaic. When we realized we had major water loss at the gypsum stack Aug. 28, we quickly notified the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Polk County.

Using test wells surrounding our facility, we immediately increased the frequency of water quality monitoring and took steps to remove as much water as possible from the leaking process pond. On Sept. 6, water dramatically receded, exposing the sinkhole that we see today.  We have been operating a recovery well to remove this water from the aquifer.  We are committed to recovering this water from the aquifer, and preventing off-site impacts. To date, we have seen no such impacts.

Our Mosaic team continues to work around the clock to review the situation. We continue to work closely and constructively with state environmental regulators. FDEP is being updated daily and its representatives have been on-site regularly, providing us with diligent oversight and assistance in rectifying this situation.

Understandably some of our neighbors who live near the New Wales facility are concerned about water coming from their wells. We have reached out to our neighbors and are offering to pay for the cost of testing their wells, as well as provide bottled water to allay their concerns until their well tests are complete.  We want our neighbors to not just be safe, but to have peace of mind.

We continue to analyze the situation, and our response to it, and we realize we could have done a better job in providing timely information to our neighbors and the broader community. I regret and apologize for not providing information sooner, and am committed to providing regular updates to the public as we move forward.  As new information is available, we will be posting it on our website, and providing continued updates to regulators, the press, our local community and most importantly our neighbors.

Mosaic has a long history of working closely with our neighbors and the communities where we operate, and we will work hard to honor our commitment to them now and in the future.

More information on the New Wales facility is available at: http://www.mosaicco.com/florida/new_wales_water_loss_incident.htm.


Walt Precourt is senior vice president of Mosaic’s Phosphates Business Unit

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Marty Feldman: “I am too old to die young and too young to grow up”

In 1969 Marty Feldman was quite successful, in the second year of his own hit skit comedy show, so BBC gave him an hour of prime time television for a reality-based show. The result was One Pair of Eyes, a personal look at comedy and writing, with guests including Barry Took, Peter Sellers, and Dudley Moore. In 2011, almost 30 years after Feldman’s death, BBC looked back at the forgotten legend and “missing link” between the golden age of BBC Radio comedy, the hothouse of 1960s television comedy, and finally Hollywood in the documentary Marty Feldman: Six Degrees of Separation. For more, there’s The Official Marty Feldman (fan)site, which has a ton of great content, and has been posting television clips and movies from Marty’s career on Vimeo for almost a year.

Marty Feldman’s various careers had false starts until he turned to script writing for radio and TV with Barry Took. Together, they wrote a few episodes of The Army Game (1960) and much of the spin-off, Bootsie and Snudge (1960–62), then some Round the Horne (1964–67) for BBC Radio.

Feldman went on to write with others for The Frost Report, with such skits as the “Class sketch,” also known as “I Know My Place.” In 1976, Marty was a member of the cast of At Last the 1948 Show (YouTube playlist), the precursor to Monty Python and now considered a cult classic. Some skits were first aired on the 1948 show, including The Four Yorkshiremen Sketch (1948 show), which was later performed in Monty Python live at the Hollywood Bowl. Feldman’s success in this show paved the way for his own hit show, Marty, which had a 12 episode season, followed by a second season that was re-titled It’s Marty! in 1969. Much of the footage from those seasons was lost, but here’s an hour of material from It’s Marty!, and a playlist of 29 clips from both seasons. His favorite work came from this period, and his personal pick for the best bit was The Loneliness of the Long Distance Golfer, a piece of purely physical comedy, playing on the book title The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner.

That same year, One Pair of Eyes let Marty revisit personal, historic locations and muse upon the relationships between comedy, acting and jazz.

His first thought was to do a film about one of his heroes. However, Buster Keaton had died and his second choice Louis Armstrong was in poor health. So Marty decided to stay local and centered the program around the creative process with guests such as Peter Sellers, Dudley Moore, Eric Morcecambe, Denis Norden and the jazz stylings of Kendick, Lambert and Ross.

In 1970, Marty Feldman appeared as a semi-regular guest on The Dean Martin Show, seen here with Dean in “The Restaurant”, and with Paul Lynde in “The Ballet Dancer.” His performances were a hit, as reported on both sides of the pond, which lead to a joint UK/US production, The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine (1971-UK, ’72-US). He also appeared on The Flip Wilson Show, as seen in “A Visit to the Vet, or a Beast in the Basket,” which Marty had performed previously in the UK.

Marty had at least three more self-referential skit shows, including Marty Amok (1970), Marty Abroad (1971) and Marty Back Together Again (1974). Together Again has the odd distinction of featuring Feldman and Derek Griffiths covering a few Tom Lehrer tunes together: Vatican Rag, National Brotherhood Week, and Pollution.

Marty dipped his toes into feature-length film in 1969 with The Bed-Sitting Room, an absurdist, post-apocalyptic, satirical black comedy. A year later, he had a starring role in Every Home Should Have One aka Think Dirty, about an ad man trying to make a sexy new image for porridge while his wife has become involved in a campaign to “clean up” television.

But most people will remember Marty Feldman most fondly for his role as Eye-Gor in Young Frankenstein. From that, Gene Wilder wrote, directed and acted in The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother the next year, because he wanted to work with Madeline Kahn and Marty Feldman again. Silent Movie came out in 1975, and is a satirical comedy film co-written, directed by, and starring Mel Brooks, serving as a thinly veiled joke on Gulf+Western’s takeover of Paramount Pictures.

Sex with a Smile (trailer) came out in 1976, and the Italian anthology film sex comedy featured Feldman in one of the five segments, which was filmed while scouting locations for the first of his five-picture deal with Universal Studios.

That film was The Last Remake of Beau Geste, a historical comedy film that didn’t do so well, but its “inexplicable success … encouraged the studio to humor Marty Feldman again,” which was In God We Tru$t, a biting religious satire, which bombed at the box office. Marty lost his bungalow at Universal, and his shot at directing major feature films was over.

In 1982, Marty starred in a comic science fiction film, Slapstick of Another Kind beside Jerry Lewis and Madeline Kahn. The story was based on the novel Slapstick by Kurt Vonnegut, but the film, released in 1984, “circumvents everything that is intelligent about Vonnegut’s fiction” (Google books preview).

Finally, it all went down with Yellowbeard, the pirate comedy, which Roger Ebert wrote “seems almost to have exhausted itself with its casting. This movie contains half the population of most of the movie comedies of the last decade.” The worst part is that the cast and crew clearly had fun, as seen in the making of feature, and that includes David ‘Sharkfin’ Bowie who was impressed by the cast.

Marty’s final photo session took place in London on August 29, 1982. This was for an intended piece in the Daily Mirror in which Marty made the now famous quote, “I am too old to die young and too young to grow up.”

After his death, Marty’s image faded greatly worldwide. In 1995 Jonatan Ross, a popular British TV personality, pushed to have a selection of Marty’s TV show It’s Marty re-broadcast in prime time. The response was ecstatic according to a BBC executive. Here now is that same collection of sketches from 1968-69.

Also, let’s look back a year before his death in 1982, to when he was featured on The Muppet Show. Or enjoy an undated short titled “Marty in the Garden,” and almost 2 hours of other Marty Feldman rarities.

Archaeology is my activism

“These people performed a critique of a brutal capitalistic enslavement system, and they rejected it completely. They risked everything to live in a more just and equitable way, and they were successful for ten generations.”

The Great Dismal Swamp straddles the Virginia-North Carolina border. From the 1600s to about the American Civil War it was a place of refuge, largely for escaped African and African-American slaves, and an important link in the underground railway.

Archaeologist Dan Sayers has been working in the swamp for more than a decade, and has a written a book on the little-known daily life of the “Maroons“: these “defiant people entirely undermined and left the racist and brutal modern world. They created a social and economic world of their own. This was the civil rights, occupy, and labor movements all rolled into one and made inspiringly manifest for more than two hundred fifty years. I marvel at it every day.”

Hillsborough PTC committee advances controversial new rule proposals for Uber and Lyft

A subcommittee with the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission has forwarded a recommended package of new rules for ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft – which neither company wants.

The proposed rules would include the following stipulations for Transportation Network Companies:

  • Background checks: Level II background checks, including fingerprinting
  • Insurance coverage: As required by current state law
  • Required wait time: 7 minutes
  • Required minimum fare: $7

The Rules & Policy Committee of the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission on Tuesday voted 2-1 to forward the proposal to the entire PTC board to vote on next week.  Temple Terrace City Councilman David Pogorilich and Plant City Commissioner Nate Kilton voted yes, while Tampa City Councilman Guido Maniscalco voted no.

Once rules are agreed upon by the PTC board, they will be scheduled for a public hearing to be held in October.  PTC officials say that anyone who would like to be heard on the rules will have the opportunity to do so at the public hearing.

“Our goal in creating these rules is to establish a framework that protects the riding public,” said Kyle Cockream, Executive Director of the PTC, in a statement. “Just as we focus on getting rogue taxi drivers off the road and helping drivers who’ve been towed illegally, our goal here is to provide the safest transportation experience possible for Hillsborough County residents.”

Officials from Uber and Lyft have said that the passage of these new rules, specifically the Level II background checks for their drivers which includes fingerprinting them, could be a deal breaker.

“We are not trying to keep anyone out of the marketplace,” Cockream insisted. “Instead, the focus is on getting consensus on regulations that ensure rider safety. We want to have a safe and solid framework that is not geared towards any one company, but rather welcomes all TNCs while making the safety of our riding public a priority. That is our goal with this proc

“The rules being considered by the PTC place unnecessarily burdensome requirements on individual drivers and fundamentally misunderstand how ridesharing works,” says Lyft spokesman Herbie Thiele. However, he emphasizes that this is the first step in a lengthy process, which includes requesting a state administrative review.

“That is a lengthy process and Lyft will continue serving people in Hillsborough County during that time,” he said.

Late last week a spokesman for Uber also blasted the new proposals.

“The rules being proposed by the PTC, if adopted, would be the worse regulatory framework for ridesharing in the country,”Uber spokesman Javi Correoso said last Thursday night. “For more than two years, the Hillsborough County PTC has shown itself to be unwilling or incapable of developing the modern regulatory framework for ridesharing that the community they represent deserves. The PTC seems intent to continue a dysfunctional process of picking winners and losers rather than follow the lead of policymakers in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach Counties, the cities of Tallahassee and Gainesville, and 29 states across the country that have passed sensible ridesharing laws.”

The PTC’s regular board meeting is scheduled for next Wednesday, September 14, at 9 a.m. at the County Center, 601 East Kennedy Blvd., 2nd floor in Tampa.


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“You can tell by their finger movements,”

Subway Reads: Free E-Books, Timed for Your Commute [The New York Times] “On Sunday, Subway Reads started delivering novellas, short stories or excerpts from full-length books to passengers’ cellphones or tablets. The idea is for riders to download a short story or a chapter and read it on the train. Subway Reads will even let riders choose what to read based on how long they will be on the subway – a 10-page selection for a 10-minute ride, a 20-page selection for a 20-minute excursion, a 30-page selection for a 30-minute trip. Delays not included.”

David Jolly wins CD 13, will face Charlie Crist in November – war of words has already begun

The war of words between David Jolly and Charlie Crist has already started, with Jolly accusing his Democratic opponent of lying about his support for Donald Trump.

David Jolly defeated Mark Bircher in the Republican race for Pinellas County’s 13th Congressional District earlier in the evening, and now looks forward to what could be one of the most interesting congressional races in the country as he faces Crist in November.

Jolly led Bircher, 75 to 25 percent, with not all the votes completely counted.

“This Republican primary season has been pretty frightening,” Crist said in a statement. “It saddens me to think that anyone who supports Donald Trump’s agenda could ever represent Pinellas County. And I look forward to sharing our vision for seniors, veterans, women, students, and our environment in the weeks ahead.”

But Jolly has not come out in support of Trump, something he made sure that Crist – and everyone else – knows going forward.

“On Day 1 of the General Election campaign, Charlie Crist has already knowingly lied to the people of Pinellas County, Jolly said. “We each have strong convictions about the presidential candidates. I have not endorsed any candidate in the presidential race, and for Charlie to suggest otherwise is one more glaring reason why his dishonesty will lead him to defeat in November. You just can’t trust Charlie.”

Jolly comes into the race as an underdog, despite one internal poll he conducted earlier this summer that showed him leading in the contest.

The former Florida governor became the Democratic nominee after his only challenger, Eric Lynn, dropped out of the contest back in May to run for a state legislative seat. At the time, polls showed Crist with an overwhelming advantage over Lynn, a first-time candidate.

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How the Hunt Brothers Cornered the Silver Market and Then Lost it All

From a spot price of around $6 per ounce in early 1979, the price of silver shot up to $50.42 in January of 1980. In the same week, silver futures contracts were trading at $46.80. Film companies like Kodak saw costs go through the roof, while the British film producer, Ilford, was forced to lay off workers. Traditional bullion dealers, caught in a squeeze, cried foul to the commodity exchanges, and the New York jewelry house Tiffany & Co. took out a full page ad in the New York Times slamming the “unconscionable” Hunt brothers. They were right to single out the Hunts; in mid-January, they controlled 69% of all the silver futures contracts on the Commodity Exchange (COMEX) in New York.

How the Hunt Brothers Cornered the Silver Market and Then Lost it All

From a spot price of around $6 per ounce in early 1979, the price of silver shot up to $50.42 in January of 1980. In the same week, silver futures contracts were trading at $46.80. Film companies like Kodak saw costs go through the roof, while the British film producer, Ilford, was forced to lay off workers. Traditional bullion dealers, caught in a squeeze, cried foul to the commodity exchanges, and the New York jewelry house Tiffany & Co. took out a full page ad in the New York Times slamming the “unconscionable” Hunt brothers. They were right to single out the Hunts; in mid-January, they controlled 69% of all the silver futures contracts on the Commodity Exchange (COMEX) in New York.

Last year’s surprise hit – Monday, Monday – returns for another trip to the ’60s!

I call it the surprise hit of our 2015 summer season – the Palladium debut of Monday Monday in Hough Hall.  We had booked the band because two of the performers  – Liz Hollister and Ed Woltil – are some of the most talented folks I know.


But the performance that night surpassed my expectations – and so did the big crowd that showed up – some in ’60s gear – and cheered! The band will be back for another night of great songs and singing this Saturday, Aug. 20 at 8 p.m. at the Palladium. If there is some tie-dye, love beads, or bell-bottoms in your closet, break ’em out.


Monday-Monday_2016_rsMonday, Monday  recreates the songs of  The Mamas and the Papas, but they also pull out other great tunes from that ’60s f0lk-rock era and really bring them home. Just the cover of Suite: Judy Blue Eyes by Crosby, Stills & Nash made the evening for me. If you listen back so many of the ’60s hits were lifted up by great singing. Monday, Monday delivers those songs – by The Byrds, The Beatles, and, of course, the foursome behind California Dreamin’  and Go Where you Wanna Go – and the harmony takes the songs up where they belong.


There’s also some wonderful comic bits – mostly at the expense of the air-headed flower child played by Ms. Hollister.


And this time around another of my favorite musicians – Jeremy Douglass – will be part of the backing band. Jeremy just put together our sold-out “Bjorkestra” show earlier this summer and will be celebrating the birth of his brand-new daughter!


And though I didn’t know the rest of the band in advance – they were all top-caliber performers and singers. Singer Cindy Campione, band founder Michael Taylor-Powers, bassist John DeBellis (a member of another Palladium favorite – The Vodkanauts); and drummer Tommy Kennedy, were all essential parts of the mix.


If you lived through the ’60s or just want to hear some of the best songs ever recorded, join us Saturday night for Monday, Monday!


A few reserved VIP tickets are still available. The rest of the seats are general admission. For tickets call our box office at 727 822-3590 or follow this link to our website.



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