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'... the most expensive leather in the world ...'

Folks say their blood holds a certain smell on your hands.

Times file

Folks say their blood holds a certain smell on your hands.

Chad Gillis from the Fort Myers paper:

LABELLE — Thousands of hunters are plying Florida waters every night this time of year, searching the swamps for a prize alligator to take during the state's annual 11-week public hunt.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission issued nearly 6,000 permits to the public this year, with each permit allowing a hunter to take two alligators from an assigned waterway. Private hunts on farms and managed lands occur year-round, but between now and Nov. 1 the public gets its chance at gator glory.

Driven by TV reality shows like "Swamp People" and "Gator Boys" — which feature Louisiana alligator hunters and nuisance trappers in the Miami area — the sport has grown four-fold in the last decade, from 2,164 hunters in 2002 to 8,103 in 2011. The popularity of such shows has boosted the number of hunters as well as increased demand for alligator products and meat.

"Every little restaurant wants to serve alligator," said Kelvin Townsend, an alligator farmer and processor in LaBelle. "And now that they've seen the TV shows, everyone wants to kill an alligator." Keep reading.

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Rick Scott hates Charlie Crist and Charlie Crist hates Rick Scott

What Scott says:

"Charlie ran the state into the ground. It's Barack Obama in Florida. Barack Obama thinks money grows on trees. Charlie Crist thinks the same way."

What Crist says:

"He's trying to be more like me, and I understand it because we do what's right for people and he does what's right for corporations."

What Scott says:

"Charlie is a slick politician. He is a smooth talker and I'm not. Charlie Crist will promise everything. He is all talk and he's absolutely no action. He'll tell you whatever you want to hear but nothing will happen. His four years here, he was a big-talker, lost 800,000 jobs, $8 billion more debt, cut education funding, didn't focus on the environment. He was no action, but he's a good talker."

What Crist says (this from the Bradenton fundraiser from the profile that ran last month in the Times):

"He doesn't care about our beautiful Florida. Well, I do. Charlie Crist cares. Rick Scott doesn't. And that’s the difference. ... I have common sense. He's nonsense. ... On ethics, we're good, he's bad; on education, we're good, he's bad; on the environment, we're good, he's bad."

They're all tied up. More to come.

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The State of Working Florida 2014 in one paragraph

Put this one in the "rich get richer" category, Jeff Harrington wrote in the paper this weekend. I asked him to send me the annual dispiriting Labor Day report from Florida International University. I read it, and here's the main thing I underlined, which is more evidence that Florida's just like America, only more so:

When comparing the wages of the top and bottom wage earners a troubling trend emerges. The pay gap between high and low wage earners increased drastically between 1980 and 2013, and it was large to begin with. In 1980 the pay disparity between high and low wage earners was $47,992 and this ballooned to $74,607 in 2013. This trend is troubling because wages directly shape the quality of life of most Floridians and a growing gap between high and low wage earners means that Florida's workers are living in increasingly separate worlds.

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Today's letter to the editor from the president of the J.C. Newman cigar company in Ybor City

J.C. Newman Cigar Co.


J.C. Newman Cigar Co.

Eric M. Newman:

On behalf of our 130 employees and the entire "Cigar City" of Tampa, I want to thank the Tampa Bay Times for covering our struggle to prevent the U.S. Food and Drug Administration from regulating Tampa's last operating cigar factory out of business.

Your wonderful and compelling stories and editorials are now part of the official FDA review record. It will take the agency six to nine months to make their final ruling. I don't know how all this is going to work out, but I have never been more proud of our community. The way that so many Tampa and St. Petersburg residents have joined us in our battle is so gratifying.

Thank you again for bringing a spotlight to this issue. In your news coverage and editorials, the Tampa Bay Times has been a champion for our community.

The last time Tampa was without an operating cigar factory, its population was only about 700. That was quite a long time ago — we are hopeful that it won't happen again.

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David A. Dorsey's Fourth Down in Dunbar

Something I underlined in what I've read so far of Dorsey's forthcoming book from University Press of Florida:

Before Fort Myers was established in 1886 with a population of fewer than five hundred, its most famous part-time resident and most prominent snowbird, Thomas Edison, bought property there in 1885. Until his death in 1931, Edison spent his winter months on a Fort Myers estate along the banks of the Caloosahatchee River. Marks of his unfluence remain throughout the area. A statue of him and his winter neighbors, automobile icon Henry Ford and tire titan Harvey Firestone, sits in the middle of Centennial Park in the Fort Myers River District. Edison's last name adorns the football stadium at Fort Myers High School and a street that cuts through the black community. The intersection of Edison Avenue and Ford Street lies not quite a mile south of the original Dunbar High School. Few whites ventured there ...

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Florida's coming killing spree

An editorial from the Palm Beach Post from the other day:

The list of Florida inmates living on death row is 393 names long.

It's about to grow shorter. Much shorter.

Florida's Supreme Court this summer found constitutional the state's Timely Justice Act, signed by Gov. Rick Scott in 2013.

Soon, the state could be poised for a killing season unlike any other. Do Floridians have the stomach for this? Or even the crude capability?

The act gives a governor 30 days to sign a death warrant once the Clerk of the Court certifies that appeals have been exhausted. After that, the state has 180 days to carry out the execution.

A point of debate has been whether the governor can manipulate this schedule by requiring the cases go through the formality of a clemency hearing before the clock starts ticking. That’s the Scott administration's position, and the executions are stalled. Neither the governor's press office, the Office of Executive Clemency or the Department of Corrections responded to questions about the source of the delay.

But make no mistake, the executions are coming. …

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Did you read Lane DeGregory's story on the front of yesterday's paper?

Dakota Rockwell.


Dakota Rockwell.

If you didn't, here:

TAMPA — He got the letter in July, at his mom's house in Seminole. She never would have believed it. Not after everything that had happened. Dakota Rockwell, 20, had applied to the University of South Florida as a long shot, hoping — but never dreaming — he would be accepted. Then the admissions office emailed. He could start in August, in the business school.

All summer, he sweated cleaning pools, painting condos, hacking vines off fences. He hauled boats at the marina, moved furniture at an auction house, caught ladyfish to sell at the flea market: $1 per pound. Working seven days a week, he saved $700.

He would need more than that just to buy books.

A $5,000 Pell Grant would cover about half of his expenses; a Rotary Club scholarship gave him another $750. But if he was going to take classes full-time, he would have to lose some of his jobs. Then he wouldn't be able to pay his bills, or earn the extra $5,000 for tuition and fees.

After working so hard, after defying everyone's expectations, Dakota decided he wouldn't be able to afford a degree from USF.

He hung the acceptance letter on his wall. …

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11 things that happened in August that would've been called SO FLORIDA had they happened in Florida

I did it for January, and I did it for February, and I did it for March, and I did it for April, and I did it for May, and I did it for June, and I did it for July, so now I'll do it for August.

1. A 150-pound tortoise on the loose was apprehended by police.

2. A woman drove drunk in a Toyota Prius with a stolen python wrapped around her neck.

3. A man killed his neighbor's rooster with rat poison because he thought the rooster was "mocking" him.

4. A teacher showed up for school drunk and with no pants.

5. Five family members caught a thousand-pound alligator.

6. A woman stole a $3.99 bottle of wine from a gas station so she could go see her boyfriend in jail.

7. A man was arrested after he drove a stolen electric shopping cart from Walmart to go meet with his probation officer.

8. A man who was wanted on two warrants rear-ended a police detective.

9. An attorney argued his client couldn't get a fair trial on account of his face tattoos and horn implants.

10. Somebody gutted and burned a baby goat outside an office building.

11. A 9-year-old girl shot and killed her shooting instructor with an Uzi.

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There's no cemetery in The Villages

America's fastest-growing metropolitan area.


America's fastest-growing metropolitan area.

Be sure to read Alex French on BuzzFeed:

Seventy miles northwest of Orlando International Airport, amid the sprawling, flat central Florida nothingness — past all of those billboards for Jesus and unborn fetuses and boiled peanuts and gator meat — springs up a town called Wildwood. Storefront churches. O'Shucks Oyster Bar. Family Dollar. Nordic Gun & Pawn. A community center with a playground overgrown by weeds. Vast swaths of tree-dotted pastureland. This area used to be the very center of Florida's now fast-disappearing cattle industry. The houses are low-slung, pale stucco. One has a weight bench in the yard. There's a rail yard crowded with static freight trains. The owners of a dingy single-wide proudly fly the stars and bars. …

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It's an outrage that Pancho the crocodile of Coral Gables is dead

The news today from near Miami:

Pancho — a 12-foot, 300-pound American crocodile that has made its home in the backyard waters of the exclusive Gables by the Sea community — is dead.

The croc died while fighting his capture early Friday morning, authorities said.

"He died fighting," said Jorge Pino, a spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife. "He was weak and lethargic and at some point died."

Pino said more than two trappers helped capture Pancho at about 3 a.m. Friday.

Pancho died on shore after being retained. He was found in the lake in which the two swimmers were bittten, behind 1300 Lugo Ave., in Gables by the Sea.

His body was transported to a state facility for evaluation, Pino said.

The 24-hour hunt for Pancho, "Florida's most wanted crocodile," according to trappers, is now over.

Indeed, Pancho was accused of biting two swimmers who jumped into the canal early Sunday that runs through the manicured community, designated as a crocodile sanctuary. …

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The 'viral' Dunedin lemonade stand story started the way all 'viral' stories start

Kiddie capitalism and the ways of the world.


Kiddie capitalism and the ways of the world.

Keyonna Summers put the story in last Sunday's Times pitting the neo-Rockwellian T.J. Guerrero against the grouchy Doug Wilkey. This morning's follow almost couldn't have been better. This thing is everywhere -- Gawker, NPR, CNN, the Huffington Post, the Washington Post, ABC News, Fox News Latino, -- because now that's just how this stuff goes.

But here, always, is how this stuff starts:

"It came about through regular old beat reporting," Keyonna told me this morning in an email. "Once or twice a month, I stop by Dunedin City Hall to flip through the city manager's and commissioner's emails. I came across Mr. Wilkey's June email last month and was drawn in by the subject line, unusual nature of his complaint and his demand that the city compensate him for his troubles."

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No 'major' football school in America has had a steeper decline in student attendance over the last five years than USF

USF's football coach and not so much of a crowd.


USF's football coach and not so much of a crowd.

It feels like football's never been bigger. Certainly the NFL. Also college football. Tons of people waste giant chunks of their weeks this time of year watching it. Sorry. I'm just playing party pooper. We're inherently irrational animals and that's just the way it is and maybe even that's okay.

At the same time overall interest in college football is going up, though, student attendance is going down.

Average student attendance is down 7.1 percent since 2009, according to an analysis by The Wall Street Journal of stadium turnstile records from about 50 public colleges with top-division football teams. The decline was 5.6 percent at colleges in the five richest conferences.

The growing number of empty seats in student sections across the U.S. is a sign of soaring ticket prices, Ben Cohen wrote in the Journal, more lopsided games and fewer matchups against longtime rivals, and the proliferation of televised games that make it easier than ever for students to keep tailgating long after kickoff. …

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Florida's newest institution of higher education has a library with no books

The MIT of Orlampa.


The MIT of Orlampa.

Accreditation isn't the only thing Florida Poly doesn't have.

The library at the STEM-centric school in Lakeland features a sunlit arched roof and cozy reading chairs -- but not a single book, former Times reporter Letitia Stein wrote for Reuters.

A fully digital library is among the futuristic features of Florida Polytechnic University's striking dome-shaped building, designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.

"It's a boldly relevant decision to go forward without books," said Kathryn Miller, the university's director of libraries.

The inaugural class of 550 students, offered scholarships covering tuition to attend a public university so new it's not yet accredited, can access more than 135,000 ebooks on their choice of reader, tablet or laptop.

Chief Information Officer Tom Hull told the Library Journal it's part of a future "Silicon Valley East" between Orlando and Tampa. (Ha!)

Times columnist Sue Carlton says boo. …

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There are THREE articles in my paper this morning about St. Pete and its trouble with race

1. Kameel Stanley on 1B: A string of city workers, union officials and community members went before the City Council on Thursday to demand that the city do something about racial tension within its workforce.

"We have real issues here," said Robin Wynn, a stormwater worker who recently filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint against the city for what she calls discriminatory treatment. "This city promotes institutional racism."

2. Katie Mettler on 4B: A panel discussion at a black history museum Thursday night started on a heated note and only got hotter, reminding both the guests and speakers that conversations about race are almost always complicated.

Titled "Don't Shoot," the event at the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum invited locals to participate in a "community conversation" about gun violence after the shooting death of a young black man by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo. …

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E.O. Wilson, M.C. Davis, and the importance of Freeport, Florida

Tony Hiss in the new Smithsonian:

"Battles are where the fun is," said E.O. Wilson, the great evolutionary biologist, "and where the most rapid advances are made." We were sitting in oversized rocking chairs in a northwest Florida guest cottage with two deep porches and half-gallons of butter-pecan ice cream in the freezer, a Wilson favorite. He'd invited me here to look at what he considers a new approach to conservation, a new ecological Grail that, naturally, won't happen without a fight.

Wilson, 85, is the author of more than 25 books, many of which have changed scientific understanding of human nature and of how the living part of the planet is put together. …

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