TIME Environment

Spending Earth Day at Ground Zero for Climate Change In America

We’ve all seen the iconic Blue Marble photo of the earth from space, the image that launched a thousand nature essays, but Bill Nelson and Piers Sellers are among the few people who have enjoyed that perspective on the planet in the flesh. Nelson is now a U.S. Senator from Florida, Sellers is a top NASA science official, and this morning, at an Earth Day hearing in my Miami Beach neighborhood, I got to hear the two former astronauts reminisce about the view from 10 million feet.

Senator Nelson recalled the color contrasts in the Amazon that illuminated the growth of deforestation. “The earth looked so beautiful, so alive—and yet so fragile,” he said. “It made me want to be a better steward of what the good Lord gave us—and yet we continue to mess it up.” Dr. Sellers remembered catching a glimpse of the Florida peninsula between his boots during a spacewalk. When you go around the world in ninety minutes, he said, you realize it’s a very small world.

“My take-home impression was that we inhabit a very beautiful but delicate planet,” said Sellers, a meteorologist who is NASA’s deputy director for science and exploration. “And the dynamic engine of planet Earth is the climate system that allows all life here to prosper and grow, including us humans.”

Now that climate is changing, and as Nelson said at the start of the South Florida hearing: “This is Ground Zero.” Scientists have documented that the seas along the Florida coastline have risen five to eight inches over the last fifty years, and Biscayne Bay now floods the streets of my neighborhood just about every month at high tide. “It’s real. It’s happening here,” Nelson said. “Yet some of my colleagues in the Senate continue to deny it.”

It is real, and it’s already a problem in my low-lying part of the world. Saltwater intrusion is increasing in the freshwater Everglades, which is causing problems for farmers in southern Miami-Dade County, and will make the government’s $15 billion Everglades restoration project even more expensive. The Army Corps of Engineers has estimated that over the next fifty years, Miami-Dade’s beaches will need about 23 million cubic yards of new sand to deal with erosion. Mayor Philip Levine says Miami Beach alone plans to spend $400 million to upgrade drainage infrastructure to prepare for a warmer world. The Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change’s “likely scenario” for 2010 includes seas rising as much as three feet; our county has $38 billion worth of property at three feet elevation or less. And while it’s too early to tie any particular storm to climate change, all the models predict more intense hurricanes coming through the Sunshine State. “The risk posed by coastal flooding is indisputably growing,” testified Megan Linkin, a natural hazards specialist at the reinsurance giant Swiss Re.

That’s incorrect. The risks posed by climate change, while real, are not at all indisputable. Lots of people, including most Republican politicians in Washington, still dispute them. As Senator Nelson said after the hearing, even Republican politicians in coastal areas—he cited Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina—rarely acknowledge the danger their constituents face from rising seas. “That would not be a popular topic in a Republican primary,” Nelson said.

But as Dr. Sellers pointed out, the IPCC believes the main cause of climate change is the burning of fossil fuels. And as Senator Nelson pointed out, it will take government action—he mentioned the possibility of a carbon tax—to reduce the burning of fossil fuels. “Otherwise, the planet will continue to heat up,” Nelson said.

Unfortunately, there is no chance of Congress passing a carbon tax anytime in the foreseeable future. President Obama couldn’t even get a cap-and-trade program through Congress when Democrats controlled both houses. Global warming has no juice as a political issue; people don’t think it really affects their lives.

That’s why Nelson held a hearing here at global warming’s Ground Zero, to try to show that global warming is already affecting lives. It was worth a shot, I guess. South Florida isn’t as threatened as those vanishing Pacific islands, but it’s basically America’s canary in the coal mine. Maybe my neighborhood’s outrage over the monthly lake in our Whole Foods parking lot will help spark a broader movement for change.

I doubt it, though. I get the political instinct to boil issues down to How It Can Affect You, but climate change is so urgent and invisible that if Congress has to wait for it to affect most Americans in tangible ways before taking action, Congress will be too late. Burning rivers and disappearing eagles helped build support for laws like the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act; rising temperatures—all of the ten warmest years on record have occurred since 1998—and extreme events like Superstorm Sandy don’t seem to be having much of a political impact. President Obama has helped launch a clean energy revolution, and he will soon propose new regulations on carbon emissions, but the public has shown little interest in the issue.

Ultimately, the local argument against climate change—it might flood your neighborhood—seems a lot less compelling than the global argument, the Blue Marble argument. This is a nice earth. It’s our home. It’s the only planet with ice cream and the Everglades and the NBA playoffs. We should try not to mess it up.

“Spaceflight allows one to stand back, or float, and literally take in the big picture,” Dr. Sellers said in his testimony. It’s a perspective we sometimes overlook back here on Earth. Otherwise, we might decide to stop broiling it.

 

TIME Crime

Florida Man Charged With Suffocating Son So He Could Keep Playing Xbox

Undated booking photo of Wygant released by the Citrus County Sheriff's Office in Inverness
Cody Wygant is seen in an undated booking photo released by the Citrus County Sheriff's Office in Inverness, Fla. Handout/Reuters

The 24-year-old Florida man said he was annoyed that his young son's incessant crying was preventing him from playing video games, according to investigators. He smothered the toddler until he became lethargic, and the child died after being left unattended

A Florida man has been charged with third-degree murder and child neglect after allegedly smothering his infant son to death while playing Xbox video games, authorities said Friday.

Cody Wygant, 24, said he was irritated that his 16-month-old son Daymeon Wygant’s incessant crying was preventing him from playing Xbox, investigators said. Wygant smothered the boy’s nose and mouth for several minutes until the child became lethargic then left him in a playpen unattended to for five hours, according to authorities. Daymeon wasn’t breathing when emergency responders arrived at the house Thursday morning and was declared dead at a hospital, the Associated Press reports.

“It is inconceivable that a father could kill his infant son—it just baffles the mind,” Sheriff Jeff Dawsy said.

Wygant’s girlfriend, the child’s mother, was not home at the time of the incident. The couple has a three-month-old daughter in the care of state social services.

[AP]

TIME Tourism

For an Extra $35 You Can Stay Inside Disney After the Park Closes and Drink

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Epcot Center in Disney World, Florida Adina Tovy—Getty Images/Lonely Planet Images

For an extra $35, Disney World guests get to snack on “cultural fare” and toss back a shot of tequila inside EPCOT—after the park has officially closed.

Walt Disney World in Orlando just introduced a new program called the “After Hours Wind Down” at its EPCOT theme park. Admission to what’s being billed as an “exclusive after-hours lounge” experience costs $35 plus tax and tip, on top of the regular park admission—which earlier this year was hiked to $99 plus tax at Magic Kingdom, and to $95 at EPCOT and the other parks, for a single-day’s entrance.

The extra $35 grants guests a single beverage and a selection of snacks in a choice of four restaurant-lounges, each in a different country-themed EPCOT location: La Cava del Tequila (in “Mexico”), Spice Road Table (Morocco), Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar (Italy), and Rose & Crown Pub (UK). While $35 may seem like a lot for a drink and some appetizers, the real draw here seems to be the “after hours” exclusivity. The late-night lounge sessions begin after the evening’s fireworks show has ended, and guests can stay as late as 11 p.m. The masses, meanwhile, must leave by 9 p.m., which is usually the time EPCOT closes its gates.

The new program, available through September 15 with reservations available up to 180 days in advance, is the latest example of Disney’s relentless strategizing of ways to siphon more money out of guests, during more hours of the day and night. It’s also part of a smaller but noticeable trend, in which alcohol is more readily available at Disney theme parks. Only on Disney’s family-friendly terms, of course. The new EPCOT experience only includes one alcoholic beverage per person, which simultaneously increases the chances of making profits and decreases the likelihood of guests getting tipsy.

“It’s more of an educational experience than it is a party-bar atmosphere,” an EPCOT representative said to the Orlando Sentinel of the new “After Hours” program.

What’s on the after-hours menu at each of these spots? Disney hasn’t released all of the details yet. But the (unofficial) Disney Food Blog managed to wrangle up a few examples of what’s to be served. La Cava del Tequila, for instance, will offer paying guests samplers of dishes such as “Tlacoyo de Puerco (Marinated Pork served over a grilled corn dough, garnished with mixed greens and crema),” along with a choice of booze, including a “Shot of Tequila Partida Reposado” or a “Shot of Tequila Ambhar Blanco.”

TIME Gun Control

Florida Bill Would Allow Concealed Weapons Without Permit During Emergencies

A bill that would allow Florida residents to carry concealed weapons without a permit during a state-declared emergency, like a hurricane, passed the state House of Representatives last week. A companion bill is currently in the state Senate

Florida state lawmakers want to let residents carry concealed weapons without a permit during evacuations because of hurricanes and floods, though some law enforcement officials say the idea would create more chaos in already turbulent situations.

A bill introduced by Republican Rep. Heather Dawes Fitzenhagen of Ft. Myers, Fla. would allow legal gun owners who lack concealed carry permits to carry their weapon on their person during evacuations triggered by government-declared states of emergency. Under current law, Florida residents can carry their weapons during an emergency evacuation only if they’re stored in a container or vehicle.

Fitzenhagen told TIME her bill is a common-sense proposal for a state that was hit by nearly half of all hurricanes that have made landfall in the U.S. since 1851 and where nearly 870,000 firearm background checks were performed in 2013 alone. Florida’s Department of Law Enforcement wasn’t able to provide the number of citizens who own a gun or guns but lack a concealed carry permit.

“This bill would allow residents to evacuate as quickly and safely as they can,” Fitzenhagen said. “It provides protection for someone who does not have a concealed weapons permit, but is told they need to evacuate.”

Fitzenhagen’s colleagues agree — her bill passed Florida’s House of Representatives 80-36 last Friday. Among the bill’s other supporters is the National Rifle Association, which has been lobbying for it and other gun bills making their way through the Florida legislature this session.

However, some law enforcement officials are raising questions about Fitzenhagen’s bill. Grady Judd, president of the Florida Sheriff’s Association and a Polk County Sheriff, for example, is concerned that if a person with a gun leaves a jurisdiction where an evacuation has been ordered and enters one where it has not, that person could be subject to arrest.

“Florida stretches from Key West to Pensacola,” Judd said. “What happens when they evacuate from the declared emergency counties? Are you illegally carrying a gun?”

Judd’s group is seeking clarification on that point. Meanwhile, others are concerned unclear language in one provision of Fitzenhagen’s bill could make it legal for citizens to carry concealed weapons without a permit during riots. Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualitieri told the Miami Herald last week the bill “would give me pause, as sheriff, in declaring a state of emergency.”

“If I know cops would have to deal with god knows what, I now have to worry about making a situation worse,” Gualitieri told the Herald.

Fitzenhagen, however, said Gualitieri’s fears are unfounded.

“We aren’t proposing carrying guns in a riot,” Fitzenhagen said. “Local governments may declare a state of emergency, but residents still must be in the act of evacuating in order for the law to take effect. We’re not simply saying that because there’s a state of emergency people are allowed to walk around with a weapon on them.”

Despite Fitzengaen’s reassurances, the state Senate stripped the unclear riot-related provision from its version of the bill, which has not yet passed. Even still, some Democrats have other concerns about Fitzenhagen’s proposal. Rep. Victor Torres, an Orlando Democrat, told Reuters after the House passed the bill that he’s worried it would allow Floridians to carry weapons into evacuation shelters.

“You are talking about introducing concealed firearms into an environment that is already teeming with tension,” Torres said after the House bill was passed. “I hope that tragedy will not be a byproduct of our decision here today.”

TIME Crime

Orlando Police Launch Manhunt to Arrest Suspect Behind Daycare Tragedy

Parents and onlookers stand behind police tape after a vehicle crashed into a child care center in Winter Park
Parents and onlookers stand behind police tape after a vehicle crashed into a child care center in Winter Park, Florida April 9, 2014. Stephen M. Dowell—Orlando Sentinel/Reuters

Authorities are looking for Robert Corchado, 28, identified by police as the suspected driver in a hit-and-run at a daycare center that sent another vehicle barreling into a KinderCare on Wednesday, killing one child and injuring 14 others

Updated at 1:25 a.m. ET

Orlando police launched a manhunt on Wednesday evening to track down a man authorities claim instigated the car crash that sent another automobile barreling into a daycare facility full of children, leaving one four-year-old girl dead and 14 others injured.

Police identified Robert Corchado, 28, as the suspected driver of the Dodge Durango that slammed into another car that was sent careening into a KinderCare center on Wednesday afternoon.

While Corchado later ditched the Durango, authorities confirmed that the suspect then rented a small, black Mazda SUV from an Enterprise in Winter Park and is believed to be attempting to flee Orlando.

Local broadcaster WFTV reported that Corchado was cited for carless driving just last week and has served two stints in prison in the past.

Little news has surfaced about the condition of those hurt during the incident; however, authorities insisted that several people were severely injured.

A law enforcement spokesperson said some of the injured were in “very, very serious condition,” the Associated Press reports. The agency reported that 13 were hospitalized and two others were treated at the scene.

TIME animals

Two of the Stray Dogs From Sochi Have Found a New Life in Florida

Animal-rescue organizations from Russia and the U.S. picked up two Sochi-born pooches named Austen and Honey in Florida last week. The dogs managed to avoid any harm during the Olympics

Two stray dogs who managed to avoid being culled from Sochi’s streets ahead of this year’s Olympics have found a new home in sunny Florida.

Representatives from two animal-rescue organizations — Russia’s LAPA and Florida’s ARNI Foundation — picked up the pups in Orlando last week. Their names are Austen and Honey, and they’ll be staying at ARNI’s headquarters in Daytona Beach until they find a permanent home, central Florida’s News 13 reports.

They shouldn’t have trouble finding long-term living arrangements, because look at them! Look at how cute they are:

The pooches have already faced quite a journey. First, they took a 20-hour car trip to Moscow before boarding a flight to Orlando. But they’ve been welcomed quite nicely in Florida, and ARNI founder Nikki Linn said plenty of people had expressed interest in adopting them. Sixteen more dogs from Sochi will be arriving at the foundation in the coming weeks expecting love and sunshine and piña coladas, so we hope Florida is ready to deliver.

TIME March Madness

The Only Final Four Drinking Game You’ll Need Tonight

Patric Young
Florida center Patric Young dunks during practice for an NCAA Final Four tournament college basketball semifinal game, April 4, 2014, in Dallas. David J. Phillip—AP

It's a good time to be a sports fan as we prepare for today's big Final Four games: UConn vs. Florida and Wisconsin vs. Kentucky. To celebrate, TIME presents its inaugural Final Four drinking game. Enjoy, but don't forget to drink responsibly

Final Four parties are super fun. The games are played on a Saturday night, so unlike, say, parties for the Super Bowl, you don’t have to worry about work in the morning. And they’re also a celebration of something more: the best few weeks of the sports calendar. College hoops is about to crown a champ, baseball’s getting into the swing of things, the Masters is coming up, the NBA playoffs are approaching, the NFL Draft is in the foreseeable future. It’s a good time to be a sport fan, tax season be damned.

So, to help prep for today’s big games — Florida vs. UConn at 6:09pm EST, and Wisconsin vs. Kentucky at 8:49pm, both on TBS — and celebrate your good sports fortune, TIME presents its inaugural Final Four drinking game. Enjoy, but please do so responsibly. Obey all local drinking age laws, don’t overindulge and take a cab ride home if need be.

Here are TIME’s rules for a Final Four drinking game:

1. The first time Florida’s Michael Frazier makes a three-point shot, imbibe. It shouldn’t take that long: Frazier can catch fire quickly. Against South Carolina in early March, Frazier sank a school-record 11 three-pointers: this season, he led the SEC in three-point percentage field goal percentage, shooting at a 44.7% clip. He also led the SEC in an even more important stat, true-shooting percentage, at 65.1% (true-shooting percentage is an efficiency measure that takes into account three-point field goals, two-point field goals, and foul shots). Frazier models his work ethic after Ray Allen, the NBA’s all-time leader in three-pointers: on game days, he’ll launch upwards of 400 shots to get in rhythm.

2. Every time you hear the word “student-athlete” in an NCAA commercial during the games, drink. The NCAA has a habit of running propaganda ads during big events, touting how the organization is like a spirit squad for “student-athletes,” has the backs of “student-athletes,” etc. Drink now, cause that term may soon be disappearing. According to the National Labor Relations Board in Chicago, “employees” is the more appropriate name for college athletes — at least for football players at Northwestern.

3. Every time UConn star Shabazz Napier makes an outside shot with a defender harassing him — the kind of shot that makes you say “noooo, what are you doing?” – and that shot goes in anyway, chug away. Napier’s an expert at making the “holy s–t” shot.

4. Choose which mascot TBS will show first in each game. Pick one, and drink if you’re correct. I’ve got Albert E. Gator and Bucky Badger.

5. The first time an announcer mentions that UConn coach Kevin Ollie played for 11 different NBA teams during his 13-year career, start double fisting.

6. For CBS, the Final Four has traditionally served as one big promo for its upcoming coverage of the Masters, which starts next week, on April 10. So even though the games are being broadcast on TBS this year, the networks are partners on NCAA tournament coverage. You’ll surely hear the soothing Masters piano – “ding, ding, ding, ding,” — that accompanies the Masters plugs. So each time you hear the Masters theme song, dream of azaleas and Amen Corner and all the mythical beauty of the Augusta National, and take a few soft sips. You’ll have a healthy buzz.

7. Sip every time TBS shows Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan scowling on the sideline. Like this. Or this. Ryan’s always been a first-class all-tournament scowler.

8. Kentucky has reached the Final Four with five freshman starters. Michigan, led by Chris Webber and Jalen Rose and Juwan Howard, was the last team to win this much with five rookies, back in 1992. That Michigan team was christened “The Fab Five.” So during Kentucky-Wisconsin, the first time you hear a “Fab Five” reference from one of the announcers, you know what to do.

9. Ever since the NBA set a rule in 2005 essentially mandating that players spend a year playing college ball before entering the pros, Kentucky coach John Calipari has done a better job than any coach in the country of recruiting a collection of talented freshmen, molding them in to a championship-caliber team, and shuttling them to the NBA. So the term “one-and-done” is now stuck to Calipari’s suit. When the TV cameras show Calipari, and someone says the words “one-and-done,” you will drink.

10. Wisconsin’s most intriguing player is seven-footer Frank Kaminsky. His game, and personality, are a little quirky: Kaminsky can fool you with his awkwardness, as he’s just as comfortable firing threes as he is posting up around the basket. And he was always a bit of a class clown, earning the nickname “Frank the Tank” a decade ago, in homage to Will Ferrell’s character in the movie Old School. So when someone mentions “Frank the Tank” on Saturday, you may have to pull a Frank the Tank yourself.

But seriously, be careful. Don’t end the night like the original Frank the Tank did. Because on Final Four Saturday, you don’t want to miss the drama. If we’re lucky, Florida-UConn and Wisconsin-Kentucky will treat us to two classics. Let’s all raise our glasses to that.

TIME NCAA Tournament

The Final Four: 4 Predictions

Scottie Wilbekin of the Florida Gators scores against the Dayton Flyers during the Elite 8 Getty Images

Since Obama bombed his bracket, see how the pro predictors are calling the shots

The final rounds of the Big Dance tip off Saturday in Dallas with Florida playing UConn at 6:09pm and Wisconsin taking on Kentucky at 8:49pm. Kentucky’s thrilling upset over Michigan makes the 8-seed one to watch. And while Florida has only lost two games this season, one of those losses was to the team it’s now up against. The other? To Wisconsin. See who the favorites are below.

FiveThirtyEight and Nate Silver
The lead data-cruncher has Florida favored over Connecticut and Wisconsin over Kentucky with Florida winning it all. Silver, who called the 2012 Presidential election correctly, also accurately predicted Louisville as last year’s tournament champ.

Sports Illustrated
The magazine’s new issue might be cursing Kentucky by putting the team on its cover. The issue puts Kentucky and Florida in the finals with the overall estimate that Billy Donovan will bring home his third ring for the Gators.

ESPN’s Top Bracket
ESPN’s current bracket leader mike_opheim24 (who has 10 different brackets) earned a perfect prediction score for the Elite Eight. For this weekend’s match up, he has Florida and Kentucky meeting on Monday ending with the Wildcats cutting down the net.

Warren Buffett Bracket
Though nobody won Warren Buffett’s billion-dollar bracket challenge, the top scorer thus far puts Florida and Kentucky in the finals game, predicting Florida will win 72-64.

TIME Crime

Man Fakes a Burglary Because He Just Really Didn’t Feel Like Going to Work

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Getty Images

So like, can you really blame him?

You know when you just really don’t want to get up and shower and be a functional human being and put on a clean shirt and go to work? For Florida man Dwayne Yeager, that feeling was apparently so strong that he staged a burglary just to avoid going to his job, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Shortly after 7 a.m. Monday, the 31-year-old called authorities and said his home in Brandon, Fl., had been broken into. When deputies arrived, they said the house appeared ransacked — but they saw no signs of forced entry. They questioned neighbors, who said they had seen Yeager leave his house for a little while. When he returned, they saw him open some windows.

Basically, authorities weren’t buying his story, and soon enough, he admitted that he’d made the whole thing up to avoid going to his fabrication job (the irony!) at Dooson Hydro Technology. He was promptly arrested and taken to a nearby jail on one count of providing false information to law enforcement. He was released later that day on bail.

But at least he didn’t have to go to work!

TIME 2014 Election

Role-Playing GOP Candidate Takes Heat Over His Occult Fantasies

Jacob Rush is challenging the tea-party incumbent in Florida’s 3rd congressional district, but his past as a role-playing supernatural fantastist is shaking up the race. The 35-year-old attorney insists he’s a "straight shooter" and his critics are making a fuss over nothing

Vampires, live-action occult role-playing games and forcible sodomy/cocaine fantasies have become major issues in the GOP primary in Florida’s 3rd congressional district.

Bet you didn’t think you’d read that when you woke up this morning. And no, this isn’t an April Fools hoax.

Jacob Rush, a 35-year-old attorney and former sheriff’s deputy for Alachua County, Fla., announced last month he is challenging incumbent tea-party Republican Rep. Ted Yoho for Florida’s 3rd congressional seat. Days later, according to the Miami Herald, an anonymous emailer began sending messages tipping off a local political blog to Rush’s longtime participation in the occult fantasy scene, Mind’s Eye Society, where players engage in both virtual and live-action roles, playing in a sort of Dungeons & Dragons world of magic, vampires and other supernatural creatures.

In the community, Rush, whose other hobbies include acting, took on various personas with different names. According to Saintpetersblog.com, Rush wrote on a message board in 2010, under the moniker Chazz Darling, the following graphic post [WARNING: Not suitable for children]:

At first I thought you were just stupid and I wanted to stick my dick in your mouth to shut you up while I snorted a line off my new machete that was blessed by Rui (sic) but then I remembered that you were typing so my dick would really have to be in your hands to keep you from typing but since you are walking in Omaha that’s not really realistic right now.

I’m sorry, I tried.

Rae tells me that you are a Maiden, and it’s your job to be kind of stupid and that I’m not supposed to have intercourse with Maidens.

You shouldn’t believe everything that people tell you or you’re going to end up naked and sore, tied to the floor of a van marked “Free Candy.”

And stop letting people torpor (sic) you.

Rush responded to the news with a statement that brushed off the revelation as overhyped and irrelevant, calling himself a “straight shooter.”

“As a practicing Christian, I am deeply offended that the opposing campaign and their supporters would take a gaming and theatre hobby and mischaracterize it,” Rush said in a statement. “Bottom line— there is nothing wrong with being a gamer. It’s kinda nerdy, but North Central Florida deserves a legitimate debate on the issues instead of Ted Yoho’s usual sideshow distractions.”

[Miami Herald]

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