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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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The small town for sex offenders near Pahokee in South Florida

Making the rounds are some new photos of Miracle Village. Readers of Floridian know Miracle Village.

In 2009, Ben Wolford wrote last summer, an activist preacher named Richard Witherow decided he needed to do something about the men he called "modern-day lepers."

In Florida, state law forbids sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school, park, designated bus stop, day care center or playground. Some local laws push the buffer to nearly half a mile.

Witherow saw the consequences of these regulations.

The town of San Antonio, north of Tampa, virtually banned sex offenders two years ago. In Miami, a few dozen lived for years under the Julia Tuttle Causeway. The Bradford County Sheriff's Office stakes big red warning signs in front of sex offenders' homes. …

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8 things former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll wrote in her new book, When You Get There, about Rick Scott

She doesn't like him.


She doesn't like him.

According to Reuters, the Tallahassee Democrat and the Times' Steve Bousquet:

1. "... during the inauguration, I was treated like an unwanted stepchild. That night at the ball, I was even instructed not to go out into the crowd. ... I think his staff was afraid he'd be upstaged."

2. "I wondered if they just wanted me on the ticket to win, and after that were trying to push me out of the position by making me an agency head. That way, the governor wouldn't have to deal with me regularly or have to share the spotlight."

3. "The work environment in Governor Scott's administration reminded me, at times, of the male-dominated environment of the military. It was a boy's club."

4. "Although I was elected second-in-command, when the establishment mentioned the names of those who might be governor after Scott, they never mentioned mine. The list was always of good old boys."

5. "During my entire time in office, I never received a birthday card or an anniversary card or anything that showed a personal touch. No matter what I did to try to establish a relationship with the governor, nothing worked." …

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Jeff Klinkenberg on the couple and the crocodile in the canal

An American crocodile of Florida.

Times file

An American crocodile of Florida.

You heard, yes, about this unprecedented "attack" earlier in the week in a tony part of South Florida? The state's foremost nature and culture writer had this to say about it for the blog:

A tough place, Metro-Dade County. Horrific traffic, no place to park, too much crime, rude waiters, overweight men in thong bathing suits, iguanas eating your prized hibiscus. In late summer, even the land crabs can get on the nerves. On roads along Biscayne Bay, they sometimes swarm out of burrows by the thousands and migrate across roads looking for mates and for trouble. Some stretch 15 inches from claw to claw. Pop! There goes your tire, dummy.

There's something Darwinian about my old home county. Make a mistake and you'll pay for it. Let's say you're in your twenties. Let's say you're at a party in Coral Gables, south of downtown Miami. Maybe you're drinking, maybe you're high on life. Anyway, it's the middle of the night. You're sweating. You're immortal. Look: there's a canal in the backyard. Why not cool off? …

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Click to watch mentions of the following:

1. Adam Smith: The single-biggest obstacle to Crist this year is voter turnout history. In 2002, 40 percent of Democrats turned out to vote and 46 percent of Republicans turned out. In 2006, 40 percent of Democrats showed up, and 45 percent of Republicans. In 2010, Scott won when just 38 percent of Democrats voted and 46 percent of Republicans did.

2. "Just as signs of memory loss may signal brain changes related to brain disease, apathy may indicate underlying changes. The fact that participants in our study had apathy without depression should turn our attention to how apathy alone could indicate brain disease." Tom Valeo.

3. More Adam Smith: If you're tired of the negative ads now, wait until Nov. 4 finally arrives.

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Top manatee expert: Keep 'em on the endangered species list!

James Powell, Ph.D., the founder and executive director of Sea to Shore Alliance:

I grew up in Crystal River. I saw my first manatee 55 years ago when I was 5 while I was fishing with my dad. It glided under our boat and my dad was frightened that it would tip us over. To me they were magical and on that day, I became fascinated by these gentle, lumbering creatures.

I have spent a lifetime studying the manatee -- the African manatee in Ivory Coast and the West Indian manatee of which there are two sub-species -- the Antillean manatee in Cuba and Belize and the Florida manatee here in Florida.

About 5,000 manatees are known to inhabit the waters of our state, and two areas have had the highest population growth, Crystal River on the Gulf Coast and Blue Springs on the St. Johns River. These areas were also the first to implement manatee protections.

The future health, well-being and protection of Florida manatees is going to be decided in the coming months. …

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'... as nasty as anything Florida has ever seen'

"I can't remember a governor's race that was so focused on the negatives of your opponent, rather than what you thought you could bring to the people if you were elected governor," said Bob Graham, a Democrat who served two terms as Florida governor and three as a U.S. senator. "All of American politics, unfortunately, are getting more negative, but it's also the personalities and the decisions the candidates have made to put all their energy and money toward attacking the other candidate." Click.

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Falcon's Fury at Busch Gardens in Tampa sounds like a terrible idea




A freefall designed to mimic a falcon's dive? Six windswpet seconds at 60 miles an hour? With the use of high-powered magnets and a 68-ton countwerweight inside the tower? Midair face-plant? The first drop tower in the world to put riders face-down as they hurtle toward the concrete?

"The worst part of the ride is on the way up," Joseph Pringle, a tourist from the United Kingdom who was taking a moment to catch his breath before getting up the courage to ride again, told the Times' Sharon Kennedy Wynne. "There's something wrong with you if you aren't scared."

Mmm. No thanks.

Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey opened its newest attraction July 4, Zumanjaro: Drop of Doom, which plunges riders 415 feet straight down at 90 mph — the world's tallest and fastest drop. But pursuit of the most extreme may be hitting up against the limits of human tolerance, said editor Robert Niles of Celebration-based, an online consumer's guide to theme parks.

"You're getting to the point where instead of making an attraction more popular by having it achieve some type of record, you're actually limiting the audience for that," he said. …

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