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The plight of the Florida grasshopper sparrow

Scientists are racing against time to save the Florida grasshopper sparrow, one of the most endangered birds in the United States, Margaret G. Zackowitz writes in this month's National Geographic.

Says Audubon Florida: The Florida Grasshopper Sparrow is a federally endangered bird found nowhere else in the world. Despite public land managers' efforts to recover the bird its population continues to decline steeply on the very lands where it should be thriving. Without immediate intervention the outlook is dire for this diminutive Florida prairie specialist.

Adds the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission: The Florida grasshopper sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum floridanus) is a fascinating grassland bird found only in the dry prairies of south-central Florida. This non-migratory subspecies is critically endangered as a result of range wide habitat loss, restricted distribution and population decline. Its secretive behavior makes this bird a challenge for biologists and land managers who work hard to slow its decline by identifying limiting factors and implementing management actions.

Here's Craig Pittman in the Times last year: …

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What the Times' Craig Pittman wrote about Florida for Departures magazine

One of my favorite paragraphs in the piece: One of the things I love about Florida is that it embraces so many contradictions. We call ourselves the Sunshine State, but many of our cities get more rainfall than Seattle. Our economy depends on attracting millions of tourists a year and yet our first state flag said, "Let Us Alone." And our state animal is a tawny-furred predator that numbers no more than 160 cats in the wild. There are thousands more Florida panthers on our license plates than there are actual panthers. But do read it all.

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Marc Caputo's 10 takeaways from Florida's 2014 elections

Here's all of 'em. I'd say this one in particular:

TV ads are still king in Florida. In the modern election world, there are any number of consultants and experts hawking the latest sophisticated research showing campaigns how to get an edge in social media or on-the-ground organizing. But the midterms showed that TV ads are still king. When Scott started his heavy TV advertising in March, Crist's favorable ratings started to nosedive in the polls. The Crist campaign's internal poll tracking showed Scott's last-week ad buys made a difference, too. Scott outspent Crist at least $70 million to $34 million on TV. So it ain't just what ya say in Florida that matters, it's what ya say in 30-second spots in the 10 major media markets that really counts.

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Everything about this story about snails

South Florida's stucco-sucking mollusks.

Getty Images

South Florida's stucco-sucking mollusks.

Do read Craig Pittman's latest:

MIAMI — At a little-known government laboratory in South Florida, they keep the snails under lock and key. Sure, any escape would be sloooooow. But giant African land snails are such a threat to humans that the rules say they have to be kept locked away, just in case.

The aptly named snails can grow to be more than 6 inches long. Wherever they go they leave a trail of smelly excrement. They eat 500 kinds of plants. They produce up to 500 eggs two or three times a year and because they're hermaphrodites they don't need a mate. If they aren't getting enough lime from the soil for their shells, they will gobble the stucco off the side of a house. They also carry a parasite that can infect humans with meningitis.

Often Florida officials don't know for sure how an invasive pest gets loose in the state -- the pythons taking over the Everglades, for instance. But they are pretty sure the giant African land snails that the state has spent more than $6 million to capture and kill were smuggled in by a religious cult that used the snails' mucus in healing rituals. …

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Video: The corpse in the house in Cape Coral

The Eleanor Rigby of SE 19th Lane. Heard from folks yesterday who said this reminded them of the story of Kathryn Norris. Cape Coral makes some sense too.

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Jitka Hyniova of Brooksville: big fan of Floridian

Her letter to the editor in today's paper:

If the Times keeps running stories like "Girl Falls for the Teacher," "This Is Bill" and "The Vasectomy King," I will consider canceling my New Yorker subscription.

This is excellent writing and photography, not like the usual third-grade-level writing so often utilized in newspapers.

Thank you.

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The Vice News assessment of our complicated state

From earlier in the week:

Florida is a geographic microcosm of America — in reverse.

Its south, centered on the Miami area, is a bit like New York City: a diverse metropolis with large communities of Jews and African-Americans, Cubans, Dominicans, Haitians, and transplants from the five boroughs.

Its center is like the Midwest. The I-4 corridor — the swing region that runs from Tampa Bay to Orlando — is home to a crop of Midwestern transplants set among military bases and homages to Americana like Disneyworld.

Its North, the Panhandle that runs underneath Georgia and Alabama, is like the South. In fact, it is the South.

The entire state — a low-lying peninsula already subject to rising sea levels and intensifying storms — is under severe threat from climate change. Read it all.

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People in Florida should read this

Indian Rocks after Tropical Storm Debby in 2012.

CHERIE DIEZ | Times

Indian Rocks after Tropical Storm Debby in 2012.

John R. Gillis, professor emeritus of history at Rutgers, author of The Human Shore, on A19 of this morning's New York Times:

To those of us who visit beaches only in summer, they seem as permanent a part of our natural heritage as the Rocky Mountains and the Great Lakes. But shore dwellers know differently. Beaches are the most transitory of landscapes, and sand beaches the most vulnerable of all. During big storms, especially in winter, they can simply vanish, only to magically reappear in time for the summer season.

It could once be said that "a beach is a place where sand stops to rest for a moment before resuming its journey to somewhere else," as the naturalist D. W. Bennett wrote in the book Living With the New Jersey Shore. Sand moved along the shore and from beach to sea bottom and back again, forming shorelines and barrier islands that until recently were able to repair themselves on a regular basis, producing the illusion of permanence. …

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Still your governor

Last night at a fancy Hyatt in Bonita Springs.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

Last night at a fancy Hyatt in Bonita Springs.

Five things I underlined in the main article on today's front:

1. ... the second Republican since Reconstruction to win two terms as Florida governor.

2. The squeaker conclusion to the country's most expensive race of 2014 ...

3. Florida Democrats bet their future on a life-long Republican ...

4. ... Scott received 488,000 fewer votes than the unsuccessful medical marijuana initiative.

5. Voters without a college degree favored Scott over Crist, as did voters earning more than $100,000 a year and Catholic and Protestant voters.

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Have you voted yet?

This morning in St. Pete.

SCOTT KEELER | Times

This morning in St. Pete.

Numbed by all the attack ads, disheartened by lackluster choices, lots of people are in a mood not to vote. Bad idea, Carl Hiaasen wrote the other day in the Miami Herald.

Go vote.

"Washington is broken" is passive-voice bulls--t, Ezra Klein said this morning on Vox. Politicians in Washington do what they think will win them elections. If Washington is broken, then we voters bear some of the blame for breaking it — and everyone who is sitting back and complaining and not voting bears some of the blame for doing nothing to fix it.

Go vote.

"Democracy is a device that insures that we shall be governed no better than we deserve," Adlai Stevenson II said back in 1956. "Whose fault is it? ... It is the fault of you the people. Your public servants serve you right; indeed, often they serve you better than your apathy and indifference deserve."

Go vote.

And any disgust with ads, negative ads, positive ads, whatever ads, which after all are ads, is not a reason to not vote. It's a reason to turn off your TV.

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The health of the reefs in the Dry Tortugas is an exception among reefs in Florida

Dry Tortugas National Park.

CARLTON WARD JR. | Times

Dry Tortugas National Park.

"Perhaps the best thing we can do to protect the oceans is to take better care of the land. This is especially true in Florida, where continuing to invest in conservation and restoration of terrestrial ecosystems is essential for protecting freshwater and wildlife resources near our own back yards as well as the oceans to which they are all connected." Click.

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The Koch brother who lives in Palm Beach

... the yearning of a man who owns everything for something that doesn't come with a price tag.

JOHN PENDYGRAFT | Times

... the yearning of a man who owns everything for something that doesn't come with a price tag.

Times Washington bureau chief Alex Leary in Sunday's Floridian:

"I'll let Mr. Koch know you're here," says the man at the door.

Coffee or juice, he asks, then disappears. A small black orb protrudes from the ceiling — a security camera watching over artworks that would make a museum director drool: Monet, Picasso and Renoir. Sunlight animates an atrium in the distance, a statue of a nude woman rising from a pool.

The owner of these riches, William I. Koch, has one of the best-known surnames in American politics, and he's running late for a rare interview to discuss his life and his tumultuous relationship with his brothers. When Koch appears 15 minutes later, he has this on his mind:

"You know why a shower makes you feel so good?" asks the man with wet hair and three degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "It's because — this will tell you what a nerd I am — the nozzle squirts the water and separates the ions. It washes the positive ions down the drain, and the negative ions stick to your body and give you a slight charge." …

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Jeff Klinkenberg's farewell piece in the Times

You read it in Floridian in Sunday's paper?

When I started at the Miami News in 1966, I remember that reporters typed their stories with two fingers on cheap paper. If they needed to move paragraphs around, they did so with scissors and glue. They impaled finished stories on metal spikes for a psychopathic editor who forbade talking until sunrise.

The few female reporters wrote for the "women's section." I remember only one reporter of color. Everybody seemed destined for lung cancer; occasionally a wastepaper basket burst into flame from hot ash.

I remember reporters who kept whisky bottles in desk drawers and editors who punched writers who whined one too many times about changes to their precious copy. All-night poker games erupted Fridays at midnight in the news library.

Sometimes, late at night, the paper's star reporter ambled majestically through the newsroom, on his arm a buxom dame said to be a stripper who went by the name Helen Bed. Or was it Elza Poppin? He drove an XKE convertible and was probably the most foul-mouthed reporter I've ever known.

I was barely 17. I wanted to be him. There could be no more romantic business than this. …

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Florida from space

The Sunshine State at dawn.

CHRIS HADFIELD | NASA

The Sunshine State at dawn.

This ran in Sunday's paper in Perspective: …

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Always wanting the thing we can't have

Warm Mineral Springs.

MELISSA LYTTLE | Times

Warm Mineral Springs.

Three things I underlined in Sam Anderson's piece in today's New York Times Magazine on Florida's various Fountains of Youth:

1. I went to Florida recently to follow the traces of the traces of the legend of Ponce. Also, obviously, to drink the water, just in case the rumors were true — just kidding, ha-ha, I don’t believe in the Fountain of Youth — but really, just in case. What did I have to lose? I am old. I am fat. I have felt this way at least since I was 21 — a long time ago now. My hair is thin. My dog has died. My children’s fish have died. My body has been annotated, top to bottom, by injuries I can’t even remember suffering. I breathe hard when I walk up short flights of stairs. Sometimes I feel basically done

2. It occurred to me that I was seeing the remnants of an old and dying version of Florida, the kind of attraction that preceded Disneyworld and the Interstates: natural, shabby and on the edge of extinction.

3. Thirsty people seemed to prefer the Starbucks across the street.

To read too: Leonora LaPeter Anton in North Port. Jeff Klinkenberg in St. Augustine.

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