TIME animals

Webcam Captures 100 Endangered Baby Turtles Hatching in Florida

The baby loggerhead sea turtles emerged on Friday night

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An endangered species just got a slight population boom. A live webcam in the Florida Keys captured the hatching of approximately 100 baby loggerhead sea turtles on Monday.

It is the first high-definition video to capture a sea turtle hatch, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. The national service and Florida’s state service of the same name have undergone a string of efforts to ensure the proliferation of the turtles, which have been listed as a threatened species since 1978.

“It’s so important here in the Keys to protect these nests and these turtles,” said Harry Appel, president of the Save-a-Turtle organization based in Florida. “They’ve been around for millions, maybe hundreds of millions, of years.”

The baby turtles emerged on Friday night and, guided by dim moonlight, made their way to the nearby Atlantic Ocean, where they will spend their days.

TIME republicans

Governor Rick Scott Shows What a Real Scandal Looks Like

Rick Scott, Will Weayherford
Gov. Rick Scott, left, and house speaker Will Weatherford speak at a news conference after session on Thursday, May 1, 2014, in Tallahassee, Fla. Steve Cannon—AP

The Florida governor has been questioned about his investment in a natural gas company and his aide's involvement in a rail project.

A few months ago, I wrote about an epidemic of fake Republican scandals that Democrats were hyping for 2014, starting with a nothingburger of a whatever-gate involving Florida Governor Rick Scott. My point was that political scandals rarely get traction, and shouldn’t get traction, without a semi-plausible link to significant public policies. Let me put it a different way: Damaging scandals look more like the two latest messes involving Governor Scott.

The first involves Scott’s support for a controversial Miami-to-Orlando rail project known as All Aboard Florida, when the company pushing it had financial ties to his chief of staff. The second involves Scott’s support for a controversial natural gas pipeline to North Florida, when he owned a stake in the company building it. You probably haven’t heard about these messes, because they’re pretty obscure. They’re also mini-messes, especially for Scott, who was once CEO of a hospital chain that paid a record $1.7 billion fine for fraud committed on his watch.

What could turn these messes into scandals is their potential link to public policies—in particular, to lame and unpopular policies that could look even worse if Scott’s probable opponent, Republican-turned-Independent-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist, can frame them as corrupt policies. There’s nothing inherently wrong with government support for a train linking Miami and Orlando—though my pal Carl Hiaasen is not an All Aboard Florida fan—but it looks pretty sketchy after Governor Scott (at the urging of his conflicted chief of staff) rejected $2.4 billion in federal money for a high-speed rail project that would have eventually linked Miami, Orlando and Tampa. Similarly, there’s a case to be made for a natural gas pipeline to Florida, but it’s hard to square with Scott’s support for utilities waging an outrageous war to prevent homeowners from going solar in the Sunshine State.

Asking questions about an opponent’s record can be good politics, but answering them can be even better politics. It’s one thing to ask why Scott rejected federal money for a shovel-ready high-speed train that promised 27,000 jobs and enjoyed strong support from Florida’s business community; it’s another thing to suggest that Scott was clearing the way for his crony’s speculative slow-speed train. It’s one thing to ask why the Sunshine State is intentionally skipping a nationwide solar revolution that is reducing carbon emissions while saving ratepayers money; it’s another thing to suggest that Scott has a personal interest in pushing gas instead.

Scott will have a dramatic financial advantage in the fall, and it’s not clear whether voters will accept Crist’s latest political change of clothes, especially in what’s shaping up as a Republican year. But Scott is unpopular—he’s still best known as the Medicare fraud guy—and so are his policies. The challenge for Democrats is to link the personal to the political. Real scandals can do that.

 

TIME Environment

The 5 Worst Invasive Species in the Florida Everglades

A most wanted list for alien pests in the Sunshine State

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As I write in a cover story in TIME this week, invasive species are a growing threat around the U.S. And there’s no place quite as thoroughly invaded as Florida:

“We are ground zero for the impacts of invasive species,” says Doria Gordon, director of conservation science for the Florida chapter of the Nature Conservancy (TNC) . “And our invaders are very good at finding new habitats.”

Often those habitats are in or around the Everglades, that vast “river of grass” that covers much of South Florida. Half of the original Everglades has been developed for farming or housing, and the sprawling wetland has been carved up by more than 1,400 miles (2,250 km) of canals and levees that divert water for South Florida’s 5.8 million people. That mix of suburbs and wilderness makes the Everglades an invasive free-for-all.

But which invasive species pose the biggest threats to the Everglades? Check out the video above

 

TIME Environment

How to Catch a Python, in Five (Sort of) Easy Steps

The inelegant art of hunting an invasive snake

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“Fear is a natural reaction.” That’s what the dangerous-animal expert Jeff Fobb told me stood in the backyard of his house in Homestead, Florida, waiting to tangle with a Burmese python. Fobb was right—even though Burmese pythons don’t really pose a threat to human beings, there’s something about the way a snake slithers, the way the muscles under the sheen of its scales ripple, that seems to strike a bell in the human amgydala. Almost as scary: the fact that there may be tens of thousands of invasive pythons slithering around the state of Florida.

But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to catch a python—provided you can find it. Here’s how:

TIME Environment

The Volunteer Army Hunting Florida’s Invasive Pythons

Finding an invasive python in the wild is difficult, which is why you need a volunteer army

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As I write in TIME’s cover story this week, Burmese pythons invaded Florida years ago, and they’ve thrived in the warm tropical climate. There may be tens of thousands of pythons slithering around south Florida, but the truth is that no one really knows. That’s because when they don’t want to be found—which is most of the time—Burmese pythons are all but impossible to locate. At a 2013 state-sponsored hunt, nearly 1,600 participants found and captured just 68 pythons. “For every one snake you’ll find, you can walk by at least 99 without seeing them,” says Michael Dorcas, a snake expert at Davidson College.

But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Just ask experts like Jeff Fobb, a dangerous-animal specialist with Miami Dade County Fire Rescue department. Fobb helps train volunteers for the Python Patrol, an initiative begun by the Nature Conservancy and now run by the state of Florida. Training as many people as possible improves the chances of actually capturing a python when one is found. But it’s not always easy, as this video shows.

To see the full cover story click here: Invasive Species Coming to a Habitat Near You

TIME Middle East

American Teen Beaten in the Middle East Returns to Florida

Tariq Abu Khdeir, 15, and his mother flew back to Tampa on a flight arriving from New York and were greeted by about 50 cheering supporters

(TAMPA, Fla.) — The Palestinian-American teenager who relatives allege was beaten by Israeli authorities returned home to Florida late Wednesday, saying he will never think of freedom in the same way again.

Tariq Abu Khdeir, 15, and his mother flew back to Tampa on a flight arriving from New York and were greeted by about 50 cheering supporters waving American and Palestinian flags. The Khdeirs had flown out of Israel earlier in the day.

“I am only 15 but I will never think of freedom the same as I did two months ago,” Tariq said upon arrival at Tampa International Airport. “No child, whether they are Palestinian or Israeli, deserves to die.”

The teenager said the thoughts and prayers of the supporters had helped him, adding “I got through these past two weeks because I knew you were all thinking of me.”

Now, he said, he just wanted time with friends and to relax. “It feels so good to be back in Tampa. Can I even put it in words? I can’t wait to go back to play with my friends and go fishing,” he added, speaking only minutes.

Hassan Shibly, the teen’s attorney and the executive director of the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, had said Tariq suffered head trauma and had to receive stitches on his face when beaten two weeks ago as he was arrested during a protest. Supporters say Tariq’s beating was videotaped. The Israeli justice ministry has said an investigation has been opened into the footage.

There were no immediately apparent signs of injuries to Khdeir on his arrival.

Israeli authorities released Tariq shortly after his arrest and sentenced him to nine days of house arrest while they investigated what they say was his participation in violent protests over the death of Tariq’s cousin, 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir. His family denied that he participated in the protests. Palestinians suspect Mohammed Abu Khdeir was killed by Israeli extremists exacting revenge for the abduction and killings of three Israeli teens in the West Bank last month.

His mother, Suha Khdeir, said Wednesday in Tampa that the last two weeks had been a “nightmare.” She wiped tears from her eyes as she spoke and added she was “grateful” for the support she received at home in the Tampa area.

“I cannot begin to describe to you the pain I felt when I looked at his face for the first time after that beating,” she said.

Friends and family have said Tariq went on a vacation to visit relatives he hadn’t seen in about 10 years — not to be part of a conflict. They have described him as a good student who likes basketball, soccer and video games.

Tariq’s arrest happened shortly before Israel attacked Gaza to stop Hamas members from launching rockets into its territory. Earlier Wednesday, Israel and Hamas agreed to a five-hour U.N. brokered “humanitarian” pause to their 9-day-long battle, offering the most encouraging sign yet that the fierce fighting could come to an end. Israel’s bombardment of Gaza has killed more than 200 Palestinians, including four boys struck on a beach Wednesday by shells fired from a navy ship.

TIME justice

Judge Dismisses Zimmerman’s Lawsuit Against NBC

George Zimmerman, Mark O'Mara
Defense attorney Mark O'Mara, left, talks to defendant George Zimmerman during a recess in Zimmerman's trial in Seminole circuit court in Sanford, Fla on June 17, 2013. Part of a lawsuit against NBC Universal that claims that the television network defamed Zimmerman in a 2012 broadcast was thrown out by a Florida judge Thursday, June 19, 2014, putting the entire litigation in jeopardy. Joe Burbank—AP

A defamation lawsuit filed by George Zimmerman against NBC and three reporters for causing him emotional distress and mental anguish was dismissed by a Florida judge on Monday.

(ORLANDO, Fla.) — A Florida judge on Monday dismissed the defamation lawsuit filed by George Zimmerman against NBC and three reporters, saying the former neighborhood watch leader failed to show the network acted with malice.

Judge Debra Nelson said the malice standard was appropriate because Zimmerman became a public figure after he shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford in February 2012, generating a national conversation about race and self-defense laws.

Zimmerman was acquitted last year for Martin’s shooting. He said he shot Martin in self-defense when the teenager attacked him. Martin was black. Zimmerman identifies himself as Hispanic.

Zimmerman “voluntarily injected his views into the public controversy surrounding race relations and public safety in Sanford and pursued a course of conduct that ultimately led to the death of Martin and the specific controversy surrounding it,” said Nelson, who presided over Zimmerman’s criminal trial last summer.

In his lawsuit, Zimmerman said NBC’s editing of a story on the shooting made it sound as if Zimmerman voluntarily told an operator that Martin was black. He was actually responding to a dispatcher’s question about the Miami teen’s race. Zimmerman said the broadcasts made his seem like a racist and exposed him to public ridicule and threats. He was seeking damages for emotional distress and mental anguish.

Zimmerman also said he was defamed when an NBC reporter said he uttered a racial slur during the call with the dispatcher. Zimmerman denied using a slur and law enforcement analyses of the call have been unable to conclude what he said and so defamation can’t be proved on that case either, the judge said.

Zimmerman’s attorney, James Beasley, was in depositions for another case Monday and didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

NBC News spokeswoman Ali Zelenko said in a statement that the network is “gratified by the court’s dismissal of this lawsuit, which we have always believed to be without merit.”

Zimmerman still owes his defense attorneys $2.5 million. Any award he could have gotten from the lawsuit was expected to help him pay those bills.

A spokesman for Mark O’Mara, one of Zimmerman’s attorneys, didn’t have an immediate comment.

TIME beauty

Miss Florida Just Lost Her Crown Because of a Voting Error

Beauty queen dethroned due to "error in the tabulation process"

Elizabeth Fechtel was crowned Miss Florida on June 21, but enjoyed her title for only a few days before it was revoked Friday due to the discovery of an “error in the tabulation process.

First runner-up Victoria Cowen was given the crown instead after an independent audit and review of the ballots revealed that she had actually earned the highest score, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

The pageant coordinators did not cite any specific details about the error in their official statement. The family was told that “in the last 15 seconds of the time allotted to vote, [one judge] drew lines to reverse his first vote,” mother Dixie Fechtel wrote in an email to the Times.

[Tampa Bay Times]

TIME Accident

Florida Man Killed in ‘Horrifying’ Wood Chipper Accident

Cleanup of the scene lasted well into the night

Authorities in Florida say a tree service worker died on Monday after he accidentally fell into a wood chipper.

“You hear about this stuff in the movies, but then all of the sudden it happens right outside your door step,” Joseph Horta, a nearby resident, told CBS Miami. “All the sudden I hear all these sirens and I look outside and I see some piles of blood. It was horrifying.”

The victim, whose name is being withheld until his family is notified, fell into the teeth of the machine and his body was pulled completely through. Cleanup on the street reportedly lasted well into the evening.

“This isn’t something you see every day,” Davie Police Capt. Dale Engle said. “It’s not something you can just go home and forget about.”

There were 11 wood chipper deaths between 2000 and 2013, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

[CBS Miami]

TIME U.S.

This Is What Democracy Looks Like: A Day at Ralph Reed’s “Road to Majority” Conference

Road to Majority conservative conference
Attendees recite the Pledge of Allegiance during the Faith and Freedom Coalition's "Road to Majority" conference in Washington, June 20, 2014. Drew Angerer—EPA

Members of FFC’s "Road to Majority" Conference come armed with faith and idealism to take on Washington.

Bronson and Misty Oudshoff came to Washington to wage war. “Every day there is a battle between opposing worldviews,” says Bronson, 36, a clinical research coordinator for a urology group with a self-described “conservative Christian worldview… [of] how the Bible instructs us and details the truth of God’s word.”

The Oudshoffs and their three children, ages ten, twelve and twelve, are part of a group that has traveled from Florida to D.C. to attend the Road to Majority Conference, organized by Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition, in hopes of meeting with legislators from their state, including Representative David Jolly and Senator Marco Rubio.

“We’re not typical Floridians,” Regina Brown, founder of the biblical Christian activist group Transforming Florida, is quick to point out. “It’s a spiritual battle more than a political battle,” Misty Oudshoff, 38, says, and they’re here to challenge the idea that Washington gridlock can stymie even the most impassioned activists.

After the conference’s opening luncheon with remarks by Senator Ted Cruz, Ambassador John Bolton and Rubio, among others, attended by about 1,500 guests, the eleven in the Florida group pile onto buses with the other self-identifying ‘freedom warriors’ heading to the Capitol. The first stop for the Florida gang: a meeting with Jolly, who many of them worked for during his last campaign. FFC has armed its members with a packet of talking points for their meetings. There is a page on immigration reform, (“FFC opposes amnesty in any form”), a page on religious freedom and the Affordable Care Act, (“We oppose the employer mandates in Obamacare that force employers, including religious charities, to provide health care services that violate their faith and assault their conscience”), and a page on education, (“FFC opposes federal imposition of Common Core because of its one size fits all approach to education”).

Packets in hand, the Floridians go to Jolly’s office, where they are seated in a conference room. Jolly is still busy with the vote for the new House Majority Leader, so while they wait the group finds pictures of themselves at Jolly’s victory party to send to his office. They also eagerly discuss the vote – they are all rooting for Tea Party favorite Rep. Raul Labrador over current leadership team member Rep. Kevin McCarthy.

“We need to pray about this,” someone says.

“Can you tell us who he’s voting for?” Brown, 59, asks a staffer. The staffer claims he doesn’t know, and Brown responds, “Well, text him right now and ask!” Before he can respond, Mark Kober, an air-conditioner installer from Largo, gets a breaking news update on his phone: McCarthy has won the election. And in another disappointment for the day, the group is informed that Jolly won’t be able to join them. Brown immediately suggests another time for the meeting, and gets a “maybe” from the staffer. For now, that’s good enough for her. She does a little victory dance and says, “All you need to do is pretend you know what you’re doing!”

Next, the group heads across the street to take a tour of the Capitol before their appointment with Rubio, though Brown hasn’t been able to get confirmation they’ll actually meet him yet, just another “maybe.” As he walks through the Capitol, Kober, 35, marvels at how many famous men and women have walked these same halls, and how, at some point, reverence for that fact must wear off. “That’s why you need people like us,” he says. “To remind you of where you came from.”

Suddenly, Senator Ted Cruz walks by, and smiles. “Did you just see that?” “That was Ted Cruz!” “Did you see him?” The group titters. It’s the closest they’ve been to a lawmaker all day.

But such excitement is ephemeral. At this point it’s past four, so the rotunda is closed and sitting in the nearby gallery overlooking the floor of the Senate means looking down at a room full of empty chairs during a quorum call. The tour ends early. Disappointment begins to set in. “We’re just a day late and a dollar short everywhere we go today,” Misty says.

The group makes a final stop of the day at Rubio’s office. But there the tentative meeting “maybe” becomes “no” and the group meets instead with J.R. Sanchez, Rubio’s director of outreach and senior policy advisor. Still, this last meeting of the day is also their first, and they are eager to talk.

“Give me some solutions,” Sanchez says. “Tell me what I can relay back to Marco.” With an opening to bring up the talking points, someone mentions immigration reform. “Under the current administration, we’ve realized we will never be able to pass real, comprehensive immigration reform,” Sanchez replies.

The Oudshoffs then talk about how they feel the Left is infringing upon their religious freedom by not letting people express Christian religious views in schools.

“At the end of the day you can’t force your faith and values on people,” Sanchez says, “but you shouldn’t have your personal religious beliefs impaired.” How about the decay of the nuclear family unit in society? “We can’t legislate how people should conduct themselves in marriage or not,” Sanchez says, but that they should support laws that encourage the family structure.

The group seems disheartened by such non-committal rhetoric. Finally, Sanchez says, “At the end of the day, the best way you can deal with your outrage is by mobilizing grassroots and not staying at home.” That validation after a day of canceled meetings, “maybes” and truncated tours offers some solace. This group from Florida did not stay home.

But what did they accomplish by coming? That morning, when the buses pulled up and members of FFC got their first look at the Capitol building, Kober looked up and said, “It’s powerful just to be here.”

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