TIME Environment

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

The inelegant art of hunting an invasive snake

“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

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Elizabeth Fechtel was crowned Miss Florida on June 21, but enjoyed her title for only a few days before it was revoked Friday due to the discovery of an “error in the tabulation process.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

TIME Death Penalty

Georgia Convict First to Be Executed After Botched Oklahoma Lethal Injection

Death row inmate Marcus Wellons is seen in an undated picture from the Georgia Department of Corrections
Death row inmate Marcus Wellons is seen in an undated handout from the Georgia Department of Corrections. Reuters

Convicts in Florida, Georgia and Missouri were set to die within a 24 hour period for the first time since the botched lethal injection in Oklahoma last month

Updated on 06/18/2014 at 12.01 a.m.

(JACKSON, Ga.) — A Georgia inmate became the 1st executed convict in the U.S. since an execution-gone-awry in Oklahoma led to a defacto national moratorium on the practice seven weeks ago. The state used one drug in the execution.

A group of convicts were set to be put to death in three state over the next 24 hours.

With Georgia’s inmate executed, the other convicted killers set to die by lethal injection are from Florida and Missouri.

The states had all refuse to reveal the source of their the drug cocktail to be used in the executions or if those drugs have ben tested. Lawyers for two of the men have challenged the secrecy surrounding the drugs.

States with the death penalty have long grappled with how to continue executing prisoners in a humane way. After the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in late May, human rights activists have upped the urgency of their call to force states to release information about the drugs used to kill prisoners.

In Georgia Tuesday night, Marcus Wellons was scheduled to be executed at 7 p.m. ET for raping and murdering his 15-year-old neighbor in 1989. However, two hours later, the Associated Press reported that “officials were waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on an appeal.”

Just after midnight CT, John Winfield, who shot three women in the head in 1996 killing two and blinding the third, is scheduled to be executed in Missouri.

Finally, John Ruthell Henry is set to die at 6:00 p.m. ET in Florida on Wednesday. Henry was convicted of stabbing his estranged wife to death just before Christmas, 1985, then murdering her five-year-old son from a previous marriage days later. Testing has shown that Henry has an IQ of 78, the AP reported. The state says that anyone with an IQ over 70 does not qualify as mentally disabled.

[AP]

 

 

TIME justice

First Openly Gay Black Male Federal Judge Confirmed

The Obama appointee was approved unanimously by the Senate

The U.S. Senate on Tuesday unanimously confirmed the first openly gay black man to the federal bench.

Judge Darrin P. Gayles will serve the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, a famously busy jurisdiction, Reuters reports.

President Barack Obama appointed Gayles, a native of Peoria, Ill., to the federal bench after another openly gay black nominee was rejected last year due largely to the opposition of Republican Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who said he had concerns about the judge’s sentences in a murder and drinking-and-driving case.

The Senate also confirmed the federal bench’s second openly gay black woman, Judge Staci Michelle Yandle.

[Reuters]

TIME Disease

Concerns of U.S. Mosquito-Borne Disease Outbreak Heightened

Health officials are concerned it's just a matter of time before the illness spreads within the U.S.

Cases of Chikungunya, a debilitating mosquito-borne disease, have now been reported in Tennessee and North Carolina, leading to increased concerns of a potential outbreak in the U.S.

As we reported earlier this month:

The Florida Department of Health announced 24 confirmed cases of dengue fever as of last week, and 18 confirmed cases of chikungunya, both viruses that do not have vaccines to prevent them and have not typically been found in North America, the CDC says.

All Floridians infected had traveled to the Caribbean or South America, and officials believe they may have contracted the diseases there, but epidemiologists worry that Florida mosquitos may be spreading the illnesses, which could lead to a potential outbreak, Reuters reports.

 

TIME justice

Court: Warrantless Cell Location Tracking Is Unconstitutional

A federal appeals court has for the first time said law enforcement can’t snoop on phone location records without a warrant

A federal appeals court has for the first time ruled that law enforcement must have a warrant in order to track a person’s location data from nearby cell phone towers.

“There is a reasonable privacy interest in being near the home of a lover, or a dispensary of medication, or a place of worship, or a house of ill repute,” the three judges of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals wrote in a unanimous opinion Wednesday. “That information obtained by an invasion of privacy may not be entirely precise does not change the calculus as to whether obtaining it was in fact an invasion of privacy.”

The ruling is a landmark victory for privacy activists.

“This opinion puts police on notice that when they want to enlist people’s cell phones as tracking devices, they must get a warrant from a judge based on probable cause,” said American Civil Liberties Union Staff Attorney Nathan Freed Wessler. “The court soundly repudiates the government’s argument that by merely using cell a phone, people somehow surrender their privacy rights.”

The case was originally brought in Miami by Quartavious Davis, who is serving more than 160 years in prison for several violent armed robberies. Davis appealed after phone location data was used as evidence in his case, but a judge declined to vacate his sentence, finding that the police acted in “good faith” in their investigation.

The U.S. Supreme Court has not yet issued a ruling on the question of law enforcement access to suspect cell phone location data. However, in a 2012 opinion — upon which the 11th Circuit judges based their opinion delivered Wednesday — the court found that using a GPS tracking device to follow a suspect’s location does constitute a search and thus Fourth Amendment considerations apply.

MONEY Housing Market

WATCH: Cities with the Most Underwater Homes

In some cities, a huge number of homes are worth less than what their owners owe on their mortgage. See where the market is hardest hit — and how first-time homebuyers are suffering.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser