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These scientists keep wanting to help Rick Scott

From Mary Ellen Klas:

TALLAHASSEE — If Florida's climate scientists have proven anything this summer, it is that they are careful listeners.

After Gov. Rick Scott told them last month that he is "focused on solutions," 42 scientists from Florida colleges and universities crafted a letter asking the governor and state policy leaders to convene a "Climate Science & Solutions Summit" to be held this fall to come up with an action plan for Florida.

"As scientists, we would like the opportunity to contribute scientific information to a plan which would address what is at stake for our state,'' the scientists wrote.

The letter, to be released on Thursday and obtained by the Times/Herald, comes a month after five of the state's top climate scientists met with Gov. Scott to discuss climate change.

The scientists asked for the meeting after Scott said that he did not have an opinion on the issue because he was "not a scientist." …

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It rained a lot yesterday but at least Melissa Lyttle made this lovely picture

A reminder for rainy days?

MELISSA LYTTLE | Times

A reminder for rainy days?

Says the cutline that ran with the image on 1B of my paper this morning: On a dock at Demens Landing Park, Steph Davis of St. Petersburg pauses under her pink umbrella Wednesday afternoon to look at the city’s downtown skyline. "I'm a Pisces," said Davis, explaining why she was drawn outdoors on such a wet day. "I love water in any form — streams, lakes, the ocean, rain." The Tampa Bay area got a good soaking Wednesday.

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More guns

The Pinellas County School District has purchased 28 M-16 assault rifles from the federal government and is preparing to assign them to school police officers in the coming weeks, the chief of the police unit said Wednesday, according to Lisa Gartner today on 1A.

"If, God forbid, something's happening on a campus, you don't want to have to get up close to shoot," the chief said.

Colleges, too: USF was one of four universities in the state to receive rifles. The others were Florida International University, the University of North Florida and the University of Central Florida.

The procurement program — officially called the 1033 Program, named for a section of the National Defense Authorization Act — has been active in its current and previous forms since the 1990s. It allows the federal government to sell surplus equipment to local law enforcement agencies.

Ongoing Gunshine.

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The University of Central Florida has a grenade launcher and Florida International University has 50 assault rifles

Nine things I underlined in this recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

1. Should the campus police at the University of Central Florida ever need a modified grenade launcher, one sits waiting in the department's armory. Retooled to fire tear-gas canisters, the weapon was used several years ago for training purposes, according to Richard Beary, the university's chief of police. It hasn't left storage since.

At Central Florida, which has an enrollment of nearly 60,000 and a Division I football team, the device was acquired, a police spokeswoman said, for "security and crowd control." ...

2. At least 117 colleges have acquired equipment from the department through a federal program, known as the 1033 program, that transfers military surplus to law-enforcement agencies across the country, according to records The Chronicle received after filing Freedom of Information requests with state governments. …

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Tampa's Lee Cook on Jeff Klinkenberg's Sunday story about Florida panthers

A goat killed by a panther.

Naples Daily News

A goat killed by a panther.

You read it, right? Here's the letter to the editor from today's paper:

It is unfortunate that Arturo Freyre did not take the time to educate himself about his new South Florida home before he moved here from New Jersey. That could have saved him and his goats a lot of trouble. When the panthers predictably eat the goats Freyre helpfully placed in ever-dwindling panther habitat, he predictably complains to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The FWC must then repeatedly waste time and taxpayer resources educating Freyre and helping him pen his goats.

Vast amounts of interagency government resources have been spent over the years to bring the beleaguered Florida panther back from the brink of extinction. They are the umbrella species of South Florida. Protecting the Florida panther by conserving habitat indirectly preserves the ecological diversity and integrity of all of South Florida ecosystems on which people depend.

As for Arturo Freyre, I did the research for him. There are no documented populations of mountain lions in New Jersey.

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The real Captain Citrus is a professor in Texas named Erik Mirkov

I thought this fellow was fine.

Florida Department of Citrus

I thought this fellow was fine.

Captain Citrus was born in 2011 as a big, fat talking orange wearing a green cape, writes the AP's Tamara Lush. Now he's being transformed into a buff Marvel Comics superhero who will fight evil alongside the likes of Captain America.

His first mission? Promote the benefits of orange juice in a country where carb-conscious dieters are increasingly turning away from even seemingly healthy beverages that nutritionists have slammed for having too much sugar.

The Florida Department of Citrus revealed its made-over mascot Tuesday at a comic book store. The agency paid Marvel Comics $1 million to create the new character in hopes of bolstering orange juice's reputation as a healthy and wholesome drink.

"Raising awareness of the amazing nutritional benefits of Florida citrus, especially among families, is a priority," said Doug Ackerman, executive director of the Florida Department of Citrus. "With a well-established audience and a proven track record of success, Marvel is the perfect partner to help make that happen on a global level." …

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In modern Florida, it's always been like this, and it's only getting worse

Every day in The Villages.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Every day in The Villages.

The AP's Mike Schneider reporting from Inverness:

Citrus County is one of eight counties stretching round the Orlando and Tampa metro areas in a band that might be called the Gray Belt. It has among the oldest populations in the nation, not to mention in Florida, which has long had the highest rate of seniors in the nation, and will for decades yet. The others include Marion, Martin, Indian River, Highlands, Sarasota, Charlotte, and Sumter counties, the last of which is home to the largest concentration of seniors of any county in the nation thanks to the retirement community called The Villages, northwest of Orlando.

By 2030, seniors in these counties, which are overwhelmingly white, will make up anywhere from a third to half of the residents.

North Dakota, Texas, and Michigan have pockets of seniors on par with the Gray Belt counties in Florida. But unlike the Florida counties, which have grown from the migration of new seniors, they have gotten grayer as a result of younger residents leaving. …

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Gainesville's Susan Bowles on why she did what she did

In today's Times:

I am the kindergarten teacher who refuses to administer the FAIR test to my students due to the great amount of instructional time that would be lost. In an email to Gov. Rick Scott, I invited him to come visit one of my fellow kindergarten teachers as she administers a complete FAIR test to one of our pupils. I think he might be surprised at the difficulty of the content of the test, along with the issues of time, use of technology and the problem of what to do with the other children while the testing is going on. It seems doubtful that this kindergarten assessment was field-tested in a school setting.

How much money has been poured into testing, only to have the tests changed and made more difficult? The talk in the teachers' lounges is that surely someone in the testing business must be in financial cahoots with government officials. I don't know if that is true. But I don't think you can deny that those making the tests and those making new curriculum to support what will be on the tests have had a great deal of job security in recent years. …

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The letter to the editor of the day? James W. Shiffer of Clearwater

Germany is trouncing Florida when it comes to solar energy, and Rick Scott's not really listening, but some citizens are looking around. See this in this morning's letters?

I just returned from a trip through Massachusetts and New York and was astonished at the number of solar panels on private residences and housing developments. Then there are the wind turbines that dot the landscape.

Now I look at Florida, the Sunshine State (Clearwater claims to have 361 days of sun a year), and it's hard to find a single solar panel, let alone a wind turbine.

Why not? Is Florida's Legislature looking out for the petroleum industry and not the ultimate consumer? What about energy conservation? And the negative effects that petroleum has on air quality?

Florida should be using the sun and wind that are free in our wonderful state.

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'Growers are ... watching their livelihood collapse in front of them'

Race against time to save a state icon.

New York Times

Race against time to save a state icon.

Can genetic engineering save the Florida orange? National Geographic asks the question that's on the minds of many these days:

Citrus greening, the plague that could wipe out Florida's $9 billion orange industry, begins with the touch of a jumpy brown bug on a sun-kissed leaf.

From there, the bacterial disease incubates in the tree's roots, then moves back up the trunk in full force, causing nutrient flows to seize up. Leaves turn yellow, and the oranges, deprived of sugars from the leaves, remain green, sour, and hard. Many fall before harvest, brown necrotic flesh ringing failed stems.

For the past decade, Florida's oranges have been literally starving.

Since it first appeared in 2005, citrus greening, also known by its Chinese name, huanglongbing, has swept across Florida's groves like a flood. With no hills to block it, the Asian citrus psyllid—the invasive aphid relative that carries the disease—has infected nearly every orchard in the state.

By one estimate, 80 percent of Florida's citrus trees are infected and declining. …

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Sarasota's Pam Bournival on the end of retirement

What she wrote in a letter to the editor in the new Harper's:

Jessica Bruder describes the "three-legged stool" of pensions, savings, and Social Security that has historically supported our nation's retirees. Alas, with many states and corporations refusing to meet their pension commitments, and savings wiped out by Wall Street shenanigans, the third leg of the stool is often all that is left to even the best of planners. Social Security and Medicare need therefore to be expanded to ensure that our seniors can afford to live out their retirement years with comfort and dignity.

The dream of all parents is to see their children do better than they did, but no parent wants to be forced to rely on a child for support. What is wrong with America's social-welfare system and distribution of resources when so many of our seniors are faced with that prospect or, worse, left to fend for themselves? And what does it say about corporate greed when businesses line up to exploit this unfortunate circumstance, sending recruiters in search of potential employees who should be long retired rather than working jobs that require heavy physical labor and come with minimal benefits?

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Florida during Prohibition

This here Wednesday evening in Tampa sounds interesting:

We've all heard numerous gangster-related stories about the Roaring Twenties and the Prohibition era. But now you can take a look at this incredible period of time in U.S. history through a very different lens: the societal and cultural changes that took place.

Join TBHC Curator of History Rodney Kite-Powell as he leads a panel discussion of community experts on music, food and fashion (undeniably fun topics close to our hearts and stomachs) during this intriguing era. This session is free and open to the public and is in association with the National Endowment of Humanities traveling exhibit — Spirited: Prohibition in America —on display September 1–October 20.

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Tallahassee's Jeff VanderMeer on lighthouses

The St. Marks Lighthouse in 1926.

State Archives of Florida

The St. Marks Lighthouse in 1926.

Just a little something I spotted in Sunday's New York Times and so I'm passing it along:

This spring, alongside a park ranger, I had a chance to finally explore the inside of my own local lighthouse: St. Marks Lighthouse, in a wildlife refuge in northern Florida. St. Marks is the second oldest active light station in Florida. It sits on the edge of marsh and swamp, on a coastline where alligators have adapted to saltwater just enough to surprise wading fishermen. The danger to ships here is not jagged cliffs, but insidious shallows and inlets with a thousand hidden mouths.

Although an automated solar-powered light installed in 2000 emits a two-mile beam every night, St. Marks Lighthouse hasn't been fully functional for decades. The last keeper worked here in the 1950s. Now the inside is boarded up and the steps, spiraling above like a nautilus' shell, are no longer safe to walk on. …

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You read what Jeff Klinkenberg had in yesterday's paper?

A panther being a panther.

FWC

A panther being a panther.

If you didn't, here:

NAPLES — Arturo Freyre lives among the lions.

It's not the Florida he or hundreds of other nervous Collier County residents ever imagined. Florida is supposed to be about shopping centers, golf courses, theme parks and watching pelicans at the beach. Cardinals are pretty and welcome, but tree frogs are noisy unless you turn up the air conditioning.

Five years ago, Freyre and his wife retired to a spacious patch of southwest Florida that borders wilderness teeming with animals that make the couple think twice about nighttime walks — bears, coyotes, snakes.

And panthers, those sleek nocturnal hunters that Freyre calls "lions."

Freyre, 77, knows the panthers lurk in those woods because he wakes regularly to find that sometime in the night some beast has dragged off another one of his goats.

August was a bad month. A big cat was using his yard like a Taco Bell.

Freyre called Mark Lotz, the panther sleuth. He ought to have him on speed dial. Keep reading.

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Florida's a dangerous place

No. 1 for highest risk of property damage loss from natural hazards!

Florida ranks as the U.S. state with the highest level of risk exposure to multiple natural hazards, according to new data released Thursday by CoreLogic.

CoreLogic's rankings were based on data derived from nine natural hazards: flood, wildfire, tornado, storm surge, earthquake, straight-line wind, hurricane wind, hail and sinkhole. Each state was assigned a score ranging from 0 to 100 based on the level of composite risk exposure.

Of the top five riskiest states, Florida had the highest score at 94.51, followed by Rhode Island (79.67), Louisiana (79.23), California (75.56) and Massachusetts (72.12). The states that scored the lowest were Michigan (20.22), West Virginia (20.67), New York (24.97), North Dakota (27.5) and Vermont (28.31). …

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