TIME animals

This Giant, Pink Goblin Shark Caught in Gulf of Mexico Will Haunt Your Dreams

This creature was caught on April 19 off the coast of Key West, Florida. Carl Moore—Courtesy of NOAA

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water

Last month, while working in the Gulf of Mexico, a crew of fishermen accidentally caught a very rare (and very terrifying) beast.

The crew had cast a net 2,000 feet into the water just off the coast of Key West, Fla., and noticed a peculiar creature mixed in with their usual load of shrimp, the Houston Chronicle reports.

“I didn’t even know what it was,” lifelong fisherman Carl Moore told the Chronicle. “I didn’t get the tape measure out because that thing’s got some wicked teeth, they could do some damage.”

This creature, it turned out, was a rare goblin shark, estimated to be about 18 feet long. Moore snapped a few photos before hoisting the creature back into the sea (yes, it’s still out there). Though More and his crew caught the shark on Apr. 19, they didn’t report it to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration until last week.

“This is great news,” John Carlson, NOAA shark expert, told the Chronicle. “This is only the second confirmed sighting in the Gulf, the majority of specimens are found off Japan or in the Indian Ocean and around South Africa.”

So when that razor-toothed pink monster haunts your dreams tonight, at least you can console yourself with a reminder that this is good news for science.

TIME

Pictures of the Week: April 25 – May 2

From tornadoes and floods across the US to the canonization of two popes, to preparations for the Kentucky Derby and witches on a train, TIME presents the best photos of the week.

TIME States

Florida Inches Closer to Passing Immigrant In-State Tuition Bill

Florida senators voted in favor of a bill to allow undocumented immigrants to qualify for the same in-state tuition rate at public universities that U.S. citizens do. Representatives are due to approve several minor changes before Gov. Rick Scott is expected to sign it into law

Florida is on track to be the latest state to offer the children of undocumented immigrants residential rates on tuition at public universities, after a bill cleared the senate on Thursday.

Following a highly charged debate on the floor where lawmakers quoted the likes of Langston Hughes and Aristotle, Florida senators voted 26-13 in favor of the legislation, according to the Associated Press. If the bill is signed into law, Florida would be the 20th state in the Union to offer in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants.

Governor Rick Scott called the passage of the bill through the senate “historic.”

“It’s an exciting day for every student that dreams of a college education,” he said at an impromptu press conference. “Children who grow up in this state now get the same tuition as their peers.”

Scott is up for re-election at the end of the year but currently lags 10 points behind his Democratic opponent and former governor Charlie Crist, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released on Wednesday. Analysts say he is attempting to curry favor with the state’s large Latino population.

And more than a dozen fellow Republicans were less than enthused about potentially losing out on an estimated $50 million if the bill is implemented.

“I know it feels good giving benefits away,” said Republican Senator Aaron Bean. “We are giving so many benefits to noncitizens … Does it matter even being an American citizen anymore?”

The bill is now headed back to the house, where representatives will vote to approve the minor changes in the senate before it is sent to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.

If approved, undocumented students would pay the same tuition rates as residents if they have attended a Florida school for at least three years prior to graduating from high school.

[AP]

TIME States

Gas Explosion at Pensacola Jail Kills 2, Injures More Than 100

A gas explosion ripped through a Florida correctional facility after severe rains deluged the southeast, killing two and injuring more than 100 inmates and staff. More than 400 other inmates were transferred to jails in neighboring counties

A gas explosion at a Pensacola jail killed at least two and injured more than 100 inmates and correctional staff Wednesday night — one day after historic floodwaters devoured roads and ruined homes across the panhandle.

The explosion reportedly erupted at about 11 p.m. local time near the facility’s book center, causing part of the structure to collapse, according to the Associated Press. There’s no word if the accident was caused by the week’s heavy storms, which did flood portions of the jail.

The injured were taken to hospitals and more than 400 uninjured inmates were transferred to jails in neighboring counties.

On Wednesday, Florida Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in 26 counties and called on state and local agencies to respond rapidly to the needs of affected families.

“We’re continuing to work with local leaders on the ground to give them the support they need to keep families safe and get them back on their feet,” he said in a statement.

“To support our local leaders, early this morning I instructed the National Guard to deploy 24 high-water vehicles to the impacted counties to assist with rescue and recovery operations.”

At least one woman in Pensacola, Florida, died after her car was swept into a drainage ditch, according to authorities.

On Tuesday night, more than 15 in. of rain fell before midnight at Pensacola Airport — setting a new record for the rainiest single day in the area.

“We’ve seen flooding before, but never flooding that washes the back of a house away,” said CNN iReporter Matt Raybourn of Pensacola. “There are no words for what we are seeing here.”

Elsewhere in Escambia County, local officials responded to 281 emergencies while fire rescue teams answered more than 266 pleas for help on Wednesday. According to the county’s official website, the local 911 dispatch received more than 4,000 calls between the start of the emergency at 4 p.m. Wednesday.

The behemoth three-day storm system cut through large swaths of the Great Plains and South as tornadoes, hail and floods left more than 30 people dead.

TIME poverty

Disney World Has a Homeless Problem

Merida's Royal Celebration
Magic Kingdom on May 11, 2013 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Gerardo Mora—WireImage

Some employees at the Disney World theme park and many others at local businesses in Florida's Osceola County reportedly say they can't afford the area's average $800 per month rent making $8.03 an hour

Updated 11:56 a.m. on April 28

Those employees at the happiest place on earth? Some of them are homeless parents, according to the Associated Press. Many Walt Disney World employees cannot afford the average $800 per month rent while being paid a starting minimum pay of $8.03 per hour working at the park. Meanwhile, any one person pays about $100 just for admission to Orlando’s theme parks.

1,216 families in Florida’s Osceola County are living out of hotels because they cannot afford to live anywhere else and because the county does not have any shelters. Many small hotel owners—running mom-and-pop businesses—have complained to the county sheriff that families are overcrowding rooms and unable to pay long-term. Some have even filed lawsuits. (Larger, more expensive hotels that house many of the tourists visiting Disney World don’t have to deal with the same issue.)

Advocates blame the problem on low wages and comparatively high rent given those salaries in the 300,000 person county. According to census figures, the median income in Osceola County is just $24,128 a year.

A Disney spokesperson said it’s “a stretch to make a connection between our strong collective bargaining offer to Cast Members and the homeless issue in Central Florida.”

“Walt Disney World is actively involved with community organizations to help address homelessness in Central Florida and its underlying causes,” spokesperson Jacquee Polak. “Our efforts range from financial contributions and in-kind support to volunteer service.”

 

Walt Disney World, the area’s largest employer, may end up forking over more money (up to $10) to its employees as contracts are being negotiated with the resort’s biggest union group.

[AP]

TIME 2014 Election

The Republican Woman Loses, Again

Lizbeth Benacquisto
Lizbeth Benacquisto, facing, hugs supporters after losing to opponent Curt Clawson in the special Congressional District 19 Republican primary during her election night party in Fort Myers, Fla., on Tuesday, April 22, 2014. AP Photo/Naples Daily News, Carolina Hidalgo

It's starting to look like the GOP won't have many female candidates left standing by November

Voters in a Florida congressional district went to the polls Tuesday to elect a new representative following Trey Radel’s resignation this year after pleading guilty to cocaine possession. The winner was millionaire businessman and Tea Party darling Curt Clawson, who self-funded his campaign to the tune of $2.65 million. But the story of who won isn’t much of a surprise: A rich, white Tea Partier is not a new breed in Washington these days. It’s the story of who lost that’s more telling for the GOP: Florida state Senate Majority Leader Lizbeth Benacquisto.

Benacquisto was the establishment favorite for the seat and had the most political experience by far. Her supporters in Tallahassee spent almost $300,000 in Super PAC money to help get her elected and she received money from Republican Reps. Aaron Schock and Jason Chaffetz. Not to mention former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin came and campaigned for her.

But while she raised almost $1 million in less than three months, Benacquisto couldn’t compete with Clawson’s self-funding. Nor could she keep pace with the nastiness of the special election.

During a midterm election cycle in which establishment candidates are generally beating back Tea Party challengers, it’s striking how many female House GOP candidates have lost primaries or are trailing in both polls and in fundraising. In statewide elections this year, Republicans have succeeded in attracting a host of qualified women who are running strong campaigns. But House candidates continue to lag. To date, House Republicans have 33% less women running this cycle than in 2012.

Theoretically, Benacquisto should have gotten help from Project GROW, the National Republican Congressional Committee’s push announced last year to help elect women. But that program has done little since failing to help Kathleen Peters, a Florida lawmaker, win a primary in another special election earlier this year. And the NRCC’s director of strategic initiatives and coalitions, Bettina Inclan, who ran Project GROW, made a rare mid-cycle jump from the NRCC earlier this month to a Florida consulting firm. Jessica Furth Johnson, the NRCC’s deputy executive director and general counsel, has taken over running to program, according to NRCC spokeswoman Andrea Bozek.

As I wrote earlier this week in a story about another neglected female House candidate, highly qualified Republican women are struggling to break through in House races this cycle. Female lawmakers on the state level tend to be more moderate and thus have a harder time competing in highly gerrymandered districts where primaries favor the most conservative candidate. And even if they are as conservative, women candidates also tend to be less bombastic, making it tough to break through on a rhetorical level. “The NRCC doesn’t endorse candidates in primaries,” Bozek says. “We work with all candidates in competitive races put together strong campaigns.”

At this rate, there won’t be many Republican women left standing come November.

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.”

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