TIME animals

Millions of Genetically Modified Mosquitoes Could Be Released in Florida

Jason Garcia
Jason Garcia, a field inspector with the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District, tests a sprayer that could be used in the future to spray pesticides to control mosquitos in Key West, Fla., on Oct. 4, 2012 Wilfredo Lee—AP

"This is essentially using a mosquito as a drug to cure disease"

Scientists could release millions of genetically modified mosquitoes in the Florida Keys in an attempt to kill off insects that spread the diseases dengue and chikungunya — if their proposal wins regulatory approval.

The male mosquitoes, created by British biotech firm Oxitec, are engineered to keep their partners from producing offspring when they mate in the wild, the Sun Sentinel reports. The number of mosquitoes capable of spreading the diseases would be reduced if enough wild mosquitoes mate with the genetically modified population.

“This is essentially using a mosquito as a drug to cure disease,” Michael Doyle, executive director of the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District, told the Sun Sentinel.

Despite the benefits of reducing incidences of dengue and chikungunya, two viral diseases that cause a number of uncomfortable conditions, many are wary about releasing genetically modified organisms into the wild. More than 130,000 people have signed a Change.org petition opposing the release of the mosquitoes in the Florida Keys.

[Sun Sentinel]

TIME

2-Year-Old Fatally Shoots Self With Father’s Gun in Florida

Kaleb Ahles was in the car while his parents Kevin Ahles and Christina Nigro loaded boxes

(TARPON SPRINGS, Fla.) — A Tampa Bay area toddler is dead after finding his father’s .380-caliber handgun in the family’s car Wednesday afternoon and shooting himself, officials said.

Kaleb Ahles, 2, was in the car while his parents Kevin Ahles and Christina Nigro, both 23, loaded boxes as they prepared to move, according to Pinellas County Sheriff’s deputies. Somehow, the boy opened the glove compartment, where his father had stored the gun.

The child lifted the gun, turned it so that it faced his chest and squeezed the trigger, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

His parents told deputies they heard a loud pop and ran to the car. The mother performed CPR, and the boy was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

“He probably barely got the trigger pulled,” said Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. He described the gun as a lightweight weapon usually carried in a pocket or on a hip.

Gualtieri called the incident a “tragic situation.”

“It’s just one of those things that happens where everything happens the wrong way,” he said.

The sheriff said the parents won’t face criminal charges — no one could punish them more than they’ll punish themselves, he said.

The child’s grandfather, a retired Tampa police detective who is also named Kevin Ahles, stood near the police tape outside the house Wednesday evening. “A great little kid was killed today,” he said. “That’s all there is to say.”

TIME Crime

Kentucky’s ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ Teens Will Face Charges in Their Home State

Missing Teens Crime Spree
In this December 2014 file photo provided by Tammy Martin, her son Dalton Hayes poses with his girlfriend Cheyenne Phillips at his family's home in Leitchfield, Ky. Kentucky authorities say two teenage sweethearts suspected in a crime spree of stolen vehicles and pilfered checks across the South have been apprehended in in Panama City Beach, Fla., on Jan. 18, 2015 Tammy Martin—AP

They're being booked for burglary and trespassing related offenses

After a two-week-long crime spree, Dalton Hayes, 18, and his 13-year-old girlfriend, Cheyenne Phillips, will be returning home to Kentucky to face multiple charges.

Hayes, who was captured in Florida, relinquished his right to an extradition hearing and will be charged with burglary, criminal trespassing and custodial interference, according to NBC News.

Grayson County Sheriff Norman Chaffins said Phillips will be charged with similar crimes “but she’ll be treated differently than Dalton because he’s an adult.”

The couple is suspected of stealing three cars during a two-week crime spree that covered multiple states and drew media comparisons to the infamous 1930s criminal couple Bonnie and Clyde. On Facebook, the Grayson County Sheriff’s office distanced themselves from the comparison, however.

Hayes’ mother, Tammy Martin, said she doesn’t know what went through her son’s mind but was happy he was found.

“The first thing I’m going to do when I see him is hug him and tell him I love him, and then I might smack him,” she said.

[NBC News]

TIME Crime

Florida Cops Used Mugshots of Black Men for Target Practice

Someone recognized her brother among the bullet-riddled mugshots

A Florida woman discovered North Miami Beach Police had been using images of black men for target practice after recognizing her brother’s mug shot at a shooting range.

Sgt. Valerie Deant, a musician with the Florida Army National Guard’s 13th Army Band, arrived at a shooting range with her fellow soldiers just after police snipers had been practicing on the same range last month. Deant was shocked to see her brother’s photograph among the mug shots of black men apparently used as target practice by the police. Woody Deant was arrested in 2000 in connection with a deadly drag race when he was just 18 years old.

“I was like why is my brother being used for target practice?” Deant told NBC Miami on Friday. “There were like gunshots there.”

“Nobody expects to come across their family member as a target at a shooting range,” Andell Brown, an attorney for the Deant family, told TIME. “She was concerned about why he was there, and what that meant for his safety.”

Captain Jack Young, who oversees the shooting range, confirmed that the targets are selected by whoever is renting the range. Police chief J. Scott Dennis told NBC that the decision to use mugshots of black men was ill-considered, but that no rules had been broken. He said his department includes minority police officers, and said the use of actual photographs for target practice is very common. Requests for further comment from Dennis were not immediately returned.

“These young men are literally being used for target practice,” Brown said. “And if those in the leadership don’t see anything wrong with that practice, then we have a very serious issue.” Brown said that the family is weighing their legal options.

Woody Deant, who spent four years in prison after his arrest, told NBC he was disturbed at his sister’s discovery. “Now I’m being used as a target?” he said. “I’m not even living that life according to how they portrayed me as. I’m a father. I’m a husband. I’m a career man. I work 9-to-5.”

“The picture actually has like bullet holes,” he said.

TIME Crime

Father Throws His 5-Year-Old Daughter Off a Bridge

This image provided by the Pinellas County Jail shows a booking photo of John Nicholas Jonchuck Jr.
This image provided by the Pinellas County Jail shows a booking photo of John Nicholas Jonchuck Jr. AP—AP

The 25 year-old faces a first-degree murder charge for killing his daughter

A Florida father charged with hurling his 5-year-old daughter from a Tampa Bay bridge just after midnight Thursday had filed a domestic violence injunction against the girl’s mother last month, police revealed. That request was declined.

A motive for the heinous act, however, wasn’t immediately clear after the suspect — 25-year-old John Jonchuck Jr. — refused to talk after his arrest, St. Petersburg Police Chief Tony Holloway said at a news conference Thursday morning.

Jonchuck, who had custody of his daughter, had been sitting in his Chrysler PT Cruiser at the top of the Dick Misener Bridge moments after speeding…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

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TIME space

SpaceX Aborts Launch of Falcon 9 Rocket

The Falcon 9 rocket to be launched by SpaceX on a cargo re-supply service mission to the International Space Station sits on launch pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station  in Cape Canaveral, Florida
SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket sits on launch pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla. on Jan. 5, 2015. Scott Audette—Reuters

The soonest SpaceX can try again is Friday

(CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.) — SpaceX has called off its flight to the International Space Station.

The unmanned Falcon rocket was supposed to blast off before sunrise Tuesday. But the countdown was halted with just one minute remaining. The soonest SpaceX can try again is Friday. No reason was immediately given for the launch abort.

The Dragon capsule aboard the rocket contains more than 5,000 pounds of supplies and experiments ordered up by NASA. That’s the primary objective for SpaceX. But the California-based company was to attempt an even more extraordinary feat once the Dragon is on its way: flying the booster rocket to a platform in the Atlantic. No one has ever pulled off such a touchdown.

SpaceX’s billionaire founder Elon Musk says recovering and reusing rockets could speed up launches and drive down costs.

TIME Florida

After Miami’s Kickoff, Gays Marry Across Florida

john, Shel Goldstein
John and Shel Goldstein hug during the group wedding in Delray Beach, Fla., on Jan. 6, 2015 J Pat Carter—AP

U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle ruled that Florida's same-sex-marriage ban is unconstitutional

(KISSIMMEE, FLA.)— Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage ended statewide at the stroke of midnight Monday, and court clerks in some Florida counties wasted no time, issuing marriage licenses and performing weddings for same-sex couples overnight.

But they were beaten to the punch by a Miami judge who found no need to wait until the statewide ban expired. Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel presided over Florida’s first legally recognized same-sex marriages Monday afternoon.

Still, most counties held off on official ceremonies until after midnight early Tuesday, when U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle’s ruling that Florida’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional took effect in all 67 counties. Florida’s attorney general, Pam Bondi, is still pursuing state and federal appeals seeking to uphold the ban voters approved in 2008, but her effort to block these weddings until the courts finally rule was denied by the U.S. Supreme Court.

And now that same-sex marriage is a reality in Florida, Bondi’s spokeswoman told The Associated Press “the judge has ruled, and we wish these couples the best.”

The addition of Florida’s 19.9 million people means 70 percent of Americans now live in the 36 states where gay marriage is legal.

“It’s been a long time coming. We’re just so excited and so happy,” said Osceola County Commissioner Cheryl Grieb moments after she married Patti Daugherty, her partner of 22 years, at the Osceola County Courthouse in Kissimmee, just south of Orlando. Dressed in matching white pants and white embroidered shirts, the couple stood under a canopy of lace and ribbons as County Clerk of Court Armando Ramirez officiated and U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., served as a witness. A countdown clock was placed in the front of the room, and supporters counted down to midnight 10 seconds before the clock struck 12.

“I’m hyped up at the moment,” said Grieb, whose marriage was the first in Osceola County and was followed by 27 others in the early morning hours.

Outside the courthouse, about 20 protesters held signs reading “God says male and female should be married” and “Sodom and Gomorrah,” but same-sex marriage supporters ignored them.

In Key West, at the southern tip of Florida, Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones, exchanged nuptials early Tuesday dressed in matching black tuxedos with blue vests, shortly after getting the first marriage license issued to a same-sex couple in the Florida Keys. Several hundred people attended the wedding staged on the steps of the Monroe County Courthouse.

During vows, Huntsman and Jones exchanged handmade silver rings, embraced and kissed. Afterward, Jones removed a large silver-toned bracelet that completely encircled his left wrist. He called it “my shackle of inequality.”

“I’m elated. Overjoyed that I am finally legally recognized with the man I have loved for 12 years now,” said Jones, whose marriage was followed by nine others in Monroe County overnight.

In Palm Beach County, celebrity financial adviser Suze Orman showed up at a mass wedding of 100 couples at a Delray Beach courthouse to support two friends getting married. Orman, who married her wife, Kathy Travis, a decade ago in South Africa, said she was happy same-sex couples were finally being recognized legally in Florida, where she lives part of the time.

“This is an investment in validity,” Orman said.

Broward Clerk Howard Forman also planned to officiate a mass wedding overnight at his county courthouse, and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer planned to do the same at city hall later in the morning. Churches throughout the state were holding mass weddings for same-sex couples on Tuesday.

On Monday, gay and lesbian couples in Miami got a head-start when Zabel said she saw no reason why same-sex couples couldn’t immediately get their marriage licenses.

Then, she married two couples, Karla Arguello and Cathy Pareto and Todd and Jeff Delmay, in her chambers, packed with supporters and news media for the event.

“Finally, Florida recognizes us as a couple,” Pareto said. “It’s just — I don’t know, sweet justice.”

But while the news was largely met with cheers or even shrugs from Florida’s more liberal enclaves, signs of opposition were evident farther north, where more conservative Floridians live.

In Jacksonville, Duval County Court Clerk Ronnie Fussell shut down the courthouse chapel, saying no marriage ceremonies — gay or straight — would be allowed there. At least two other counties in northeast Florida did the same.

“The day is going to come very soon where America is going to wake up and say, ‘Whoa! Wait a second! I wanted two guys to live together. I didn’t want the fundamental transformation of society,'” said John Stemberger, president of the Florida Family Policy council. He led the petition drive to put the gay marriage ban on the ballot back in 2008.

Republican Jeb Bush, who opposed gay marriage while serving as Florida’s governor and who now may seek the presidency, sought a middle ground Monday.

In a statement, he urged people to “show respect for the good people on all sides of the gay and lesbian marriage issue — including couples making lifetime commitments to each other who are seeking greater legal protections and those of us who believe marriage is a sacrament and want to safeguard religious liberty.”

___

Associated Press staffers J. Pat Carter in Delray Beach, Curt Anderson in Miami, Tamara Lush in St. Petersburg, Jason Dearen in Gainesville, Matt Sedensky in West Palm Beach and Melissa Nelson-Gabriel in Pensacola contributed to this report.

TIME Bizarre

Couple Spent 2 Days Trapped in a Closet That Wasn’t Actually Locked

They called 911 saying they were trapped

We all struggle with locks sometimes, but usually the struggle ends before 48 hours have passed. A Florida couple called 911 on Tuesday saying they’d been chased into a closet on the campus of Daytona State College and had been locked in for two days. But when the police arrived on the scene, the door was not locked.

Police discovered human feces in the closet, as well as copper scouring pads that the Orlando Sentinel reports are sometimes used as crack-smoking paraphernalia. No drugs were found.

John Arwood, 31, and Amber Campbell, 25, were charged with trespassing. It is not the first brush with law enforcement for either person.

A police officer tested the door by entering the closet and closing it behind him. It did not lock.

[Orlando Sentinel]

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Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME States

Florida Surpasses New York to Become 3rd Most Populous State

USA Florida Miami South Beach Spring Break Crowded Beach
Robert Clare—Getty Images

And North Dakota is the fastest-growing one

Florida has overtaken New York as the third most populous state in the country.

The Sunshine State added 293,000 new residents between July 1, 2013 and July 1 of this year, according to the U.S. Census bureau, reaching a total population of 19.9 million. New York added only 51,000 people during the same period, amounting to a total of 19.7 million.

North Dakota saw the fastest growth at an increase of 2.16%, while the overall U.S. population increased 0.75% to 318.9 million. California and Texas remain the first and second most populous states, with 38.8 million and 26.95 million, respectively.

TIME Crime

Florida Cops Suspected of Deleting Internal Files Won’t Face Charges

Policeman
Luiz Felipe Castro—Getty Images

Accused of deleting computer records for officers who were under investigation by Internal Affairs

Two Florida cops suspected of deleting internal police department reports involving themselves or their friends won’t face criminal charges.

Hollywood Assistant Police Chief Ken Haberland and Maj. Norris Redding were accused of deleting computer records for officers who were under investigation by the police department’s Internal Affairs division, the Florida Sun Sentinel reports.

The records, deleted in December 2010 and January 2011, were meant to be kept public in accordance with state law. The officers apparently only deleted the electronic records but failed to get rid of the physical copies.

The two officers have admitted to violating state law and will have to pay a $500 civil fine, as well as to the Broward State Attorney’s Office for the investigation into their actions.

The two officers, initially relieved of duty with pay, won’t return to the Hollywood police department until an internal investigation is completed.

[Sun Sentinel]

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