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Florida’s I-4 Corridor Can Decide United States Election

North Florida is predictably Republican, and South Florida remains strongly Democratic, leaving a swath around Interstate 4 as the state's primary battleground

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Joe Redner, an independent candidate for the Florida Senate, owns the strip club Mons Venus in Tampa, Fla. He lives in the state's politically diverse and influential I-4 corridor. VOA
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The Interstate 4 corridor stretching from the Tampa Bay area through Orlando to Daytona Beach is a bellwether of the nation’s largest swing state, where both candidates campaigned vigorously last week and President Barack Obama on Friday called on voters here to support Hillary Clinton.

North Florida is predictably Republican, and South Florida remains strongly Democratic, leaving a swath around Interstate 4 as the state’s primary battleground.

The 6.5 million residents living around the 140-mile highway reflect the diversity of the state, and they account for a third of Florida’s registered voters. The large bustling metros of Tampa and Orlando are broken up by the citrus and cattle fiefdoms of Polk County.

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Kissimmee in suburban Orlando has become a destination for Puerto Ricans fleeing the deteriorating economy on the island. The suburbs of Orlando give way to the motors sports traditions of Daytona Beach and the gateway to the Kennedy Space Center.

More than a third of I-4 voters are registered Democrats, a third are registered Republicans and a quarter have no party affiliation.

Seeking a leader

John Long is looking for someone who will overturn the political apple cart, and sees Trump as the answer. He feels there are too many ties between Big Business and Washington politicians, and small businesses are overlooked.

Clinton is at the center of that nexus, and she hasn’t been held accountable for using a private email server as secretary of state, he said.

“That’s what I like about Donald Trump. He’s an outsider,” said Long, a former Kennedy Space Center worker, who now runs a bicycle shop on Florida’s Space Coast. “Hillary is too embedded in the political machine, in it for her own desire for power at the expense of the nation.”

Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson campaigns in Parker, Colo., in early October. VOA
Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson campaigns in Parker, Colo., in early October. VOA

Robert Thomas wants to do his civic duty and vote for president but finds shortcomings in both major-party candidates. So he is voting for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.

Thomas, who is African-American, worries about some of the racist views of Trump supporters. But he feels the Democratic administration of President Barack Obama only “has paid a lot of lip-service” to middle-class economic recovery from the recession, and it’s not enough for him to vote for Clinton, even though he respects her experience.

“I’m not voting for either,” Thomas, a retired soldier from the elite 101st Airborne Division who has voted Republican most of his life, said while fishing on the Cocoa Beach Pier. “I’m going to vote for Gary. Put him on the ticket.”

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Donna-Lynne Dalton, who is voting for Clinton, has two things on her mind: higher wages and better benefits for her workers.

Dalton, a business agent with Teamsters Local 385, who represents Walt Disney World workers, including costumed characters, worries that a Trump presidency would chip away at workers’ rights.

Workers “don’t have a lot of rights as it is, but a union contract does protect them,” Dalton said in her union hall office in Orlando. “Trump has made it clear that he’s not in favor of any of that.”

Jill Stein, the Green Party's presidential nominee, addresses supporters in August. VOA
Jill Stein, the Green Party’s presidential nominee, addresses supporters in August. VOA

Unhappy with major-party candidates

Robin Rowbotham insists she isn’t throwing her vote away by voting for Green Party candidate Jill Stein.

Rowbotham, who dances under the stage name “Tesla” at the Tampa strip club Mons Venus, said she wanted to support Clinton but changed her mind after the debates reinforced her belief that the Democrat is dishonest. She calls Trump’s discussion about groping women without their permission unacceptable.

“As a dancer, I get [that] guys say things but I do not condone it. I feel that if you say something, chances are you are going to do it,” she said in the club’s dressing room. “Do we want somebody like that leading the country?”

Club owner Joe Redner, an independent candidate for state Senate, agreed.

“My dancers here, they don’t allow these customers to treat them like that. Why the hell should a candidate for the president of the United States be allowed to treat women like that?” he asked.

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Diana Font had been wavering about who to support for president.

The Orlando-area event planner and executive director of the local Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce was a supporter of Marco Rubio in the Republican primary and wanted to stay true to her party. But Trump’s multiple bankruptcies raised red flags about his ability to lead the country, and the allegations that he had groped women without their permission also gave her deep pause.

The last debate was the final straw, said the lifelong Republican, since she felt he was whining “that everybody is against him.” She is voting for Clinton. (VOA)

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FIFA World Cup 2018: Indian Cuisine becomes the most sought after in Moscow

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Indian cuisine in FIFA World cup
Indian dishes available in Moscow during FIFA World Cup 2018, representational image, wikimedia commons

June 17, 2018:

Restaurateurs Prodyut and Sumana Mukherjee have not only brought Indian cuisine to the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2018 here but also plan to dish out free dinner to countrymen if Argentina wins the trophy on July 15.

Based in Moscow for the last 27 years, Prodyut and Sumana run two Indian eateries, “Talk Of The Town” and “Fusion Plaza”.

You may like to read more on Indian cuisine: Indian ‘masala’, among other condiments spicing up global food palate.

Both restaurants serve popular Indian dishes like butter chicken, kebabs and a varied vegetarian spread.

During the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2018, there will be 25 per cent discount for those who will possess a Fan ID (required to watch World Cup games).

There will also be gifts and contests on offers during matches in both the restaurants to celebrate the event.

The Mukherjees, hailing from Kolkata, are die-hard fans of Argentina. Despite Albiceleste drawing 1-1 with Iceland in their group opener with Lionel Messi failing to sparkle, they believe Jorge Sampaoli’s team can go the distance.

“I am an Argentina fan. I have booked tickets for a quarterfinal match, a semifinal and of course the final. If Argentina goes on to lift

During the World Cup, there will be 25 per cent discount for those who will possess a Fan ID (required to watch World Cup games).

There will also be gifts and contests on offers during matches in both the restaurants to celebrate the event.

FIFA World Cup 2018 Russia
FIFA World Cup 2018, Wikimedia Commons.

“We have been waiting for this World Cup. Indians come in large numbers during the World Cup and we wanted these eateries to be a melting point,” he added.

According to Cutting Edge Events, FIFA’s official sales agency in India for the 2018 World Cup, India is amongst the top 10 countries in terms of number of match tickets bought.

Read more about Indian cuisine abroad: Hindoostane Coffee House: London’s First Indian Restaurant.

Prodyut came to Moscow to study engineering and later started working for a pharmaceutical company here before trying his hand in business. Besides running the two restaurants with the help of his wife, he was into the distribution of pharmaceutical products.

“After Russia won the first match of the World Cup, the footfall has gone up considerably. The Indians are also flooding in after the 6-9 p.m. game. That is the time both my restaurants remain full,” Prodyut said.

There are also plans to rope in registered fan clubs of Latin American countries, who will throng the restaurants during matches and then follow it up with after-game parties till the wee hours.

“I did get in touch with some of the fan clubs I had prior idea about. They agreed to come over and celebrate the games at our joints. Those will be gala nights when both eateries will remain open all night for them to enjoy,” Prodyut said.

Watching the World Cup is a dream come true for the couple, Sumana said.

“We want to make the Indians who have come here to witness the spectacle and feel at home too. We always extend a helping hand and since we are from West Bengal, we make special dishes for those who come from Bengal,” she added. (IANS)