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What Florida's mangroves are telling us

In today's New York Times:

Much of the Florida shoreline was once too cold for the tropical trees called mangroves, but the plants are now spreading northward at a rapid clip, scientists reported Monday. That finding is the latest indication that global warming, though still in its early stages, is already leading to ecological changes so large they can be seen from space.

Along a 50-mile stretch of the central Florida coast south of St. Augustine, the amount of mangrove forest doubled between 1984 and 2011, the scientists found after analyzing satellite images. They said the hard winter freezes that once kept mangroves in check had essentially disappeared in that region, allowing the plants to displace marsh grasses that are more tolerant of cold weather.

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Sunshine

Good morning. It's Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, which means it's New Year's Eve, which means not much is going on, and which also means -- programming note -- no Sunshine tomorrow morning.

But here's Gawker being Gawker:

When people think of weird crime stories, they think of Florida. And that's fair—the strange Southern state has certainly earned the right to call itself (or be called) the Stupid Criminal Capital of the World. But to say Florida has a monopoly on dumb criminals does a great disservice to other idiot states, like Ohio and Oklahoma, and otherwise respectable countries, like Canada and Sweden.

And here? Additional itemization of shenanigans if that's all you want Florida to be. Adam Weinstein does, however, call our attention to a professional wrestling dinner theater in Kissimmee, which merits acknowledgment and perhaps at some point some deeper observation.

Meanwhile, in Ybor City, a man who's not a police officer pulled over a man who is. A man in Hernando County allegedly hit his wife with a turkey neck and a woman in Bradenton was charged with battery after her boyfriend didn't want to cuddle.

Katharine the great white shark is in the neighborhood! She's being watched. …

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One of my great failures as a person who lives in and thinks about Florida is that I've read none of Carl Hiaasen's books

The Men's Journal Q&A I linked to this morning was a reminder. Anyway, it's unacceptable, and so my New Year's resolution is to in 2014 read every book he's written. Where should I start?

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The best of 2013 from the photographers who work for the Times

Good training.

MAURICE RIVENBARK | Times

Good training.

Maurice Rivenbark made this picture during a reporting trip to Elizabeth City, N.C., for the Bounty story. The most Florida photos of the magnificent lot, meanwhile, at least to me, based only on my sense of some hazy, state-specific look or feel, are Rivenbark in the muck of the Fakahatchee, Carolina Hidalgo at the mermaid convention, Edmund Fountain at the Bradfordville Blues Club, Melissa Lyttle at Fort De Soto and also alongside Tamiami Trail in the Everglades, plus Doug Clifford's image of the dude dragging the hog, Will Vragovic's of the Anna Maria tanner, Skip O'Rourke's of the white ibis in Thonotosassa and Chris Zuppa's of the Clearwater Threshers' mascot rappelling down the side of a building in St. Pete. And Scott Keeler's picture of the Boyd Hill screech owls? Awesome.

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7 things I underlined in the Rolling Stone story about the Port St. Lucie teenager who killed his parents and then had a party with their bodies in the house

Read it yet? Here.

1. Port St. Lucie was not built for teenagers. Named after the patron saint of people with eye problems, the town was the brainchild of three Jacksonville brothers — Frank, Elliot and Robert Mackle — who were determined to profit from the massive migration of retirees to south Florida. In 1961 the Mackles bought approximately 40,000 acres of swamp and pine flatwood forest a hundred miles north of Miami, subdivided the land into plots measuring 80 by 125 feet, and placed full-page ads in Life and Newsweek that promised fulfillment of "the Florida dream." A young girl with a blond ponytail held a gigantic beach ball in her arms beneath a palm tree; a man with graying temples helmed a motorboat, accompanied by two young beauties; blueprints touted the modern designs of "fun filled, sun filled. . . Space Age Homes." The images were fantasies, of course — the land was still swamp — but the price was right. You could buy a house in Port St. Lucie for just $10 down, and $10 a month, much cheaper than the more expensive retirement communities farther down the coast. But you would keep paying for the rest of your life. …

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The sentence of the morning has to do with Florida and America and 'the dishonor and shame of capital punishment'

All 80 death sentences in 2013 came from only about 2 percent of counties in the entire country, and all 39 executions — more than half occurred in Texas and Florida — took place in about 1 percent of all counties, according to a new report by the Death Penalty Information Center. Click.

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Lane DeGregory and Melissa Lyttle teamed up to tell a story and the results are of course remarkable

A mother holds the hand of her daughter for the last time.

MELISSA LYTTLE | Times

A mother holds the hand of her daughter for the last time.

Part One:

When Charla Moye finally found her daughter sprawled on a friend's bed, naked and blue, she knew Liane was dying. "Call 911!" Charla screamed to her daughter's friends, who were just standing there. "Someone, call 911!" Charla planted both hands on her daughter's chest and started pumping. When that didn't work, she leaned down and covered her daughter's mouth with her own. She could taste the bile, what was left of the vomit. Charla, a 58-year-old cardiac nurse, had spent decades caring for strangers, from South Tampa to South America. But on that Saturday afternoon in April, the week before Easter 2011, she couldn't save her only child. She followed the ambulance to the hospital. Through tears, Charla asked the emergency room doctor to do something other parents might not have thought of during such a crisis: "At least save her organs."

Part Two:

She kept expecting her daughter to come home. It wasn't denial. Or even hope. She just couldn't imagine her world without Liane.

Even while she was choosing a casket, even when she was selecting flowers for the funeral, Charla Moye was watching for Liane to walk through the door.

"I keep hearing her voice," Charla said. …

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Sunshine

Carl Hiaasen in the current Men's Journal: "Florida was a real estate deal pretty much from day one."

Shirley Davis in today's Tampa Bay Times: "The market dried up. It died. Now, they call and the first question is, 'Is it in a flood zone?' We just want to sell, and we're stuck."

The water is rising. And people know it.

A young woman in Ocala, meanwhile, punched and bit two loss prevention officers at a Walmart but left behind her purse with her ID after stealing five tablets to help her mother keep the lights on at home.

Not totally unrelated? This update about the Port Orange bank-robbing "Bad Santa" and the following sentence in the Orlando Sentinel: It was a long slide from a lengthy career as a top commercial-real-estate manager to a cell at the Volusia County Branch Jail, where London was being held Saturday on charges of armed robbery false imprisonment, displaying a hoax bomb and grand theft of between $5,000 and $10,000. These two, too: London, who once lived with his wife and family in an $800,000 house, was arrested Friday outside his apartment in Port Orange, where he lives alone. He had no criminal record before last week, authorities said. …

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Florida's about to pass New York as America's No. 3 most populous state!

We've known this. Now everybody does because it said so today on the front of the New York Times. The governor of New York likes seasons. The governor of Florida likes bragging. A couple thoughts: 1. If I had to pick between, oh, Buffalo and Jacksonville, I guess I'd pick Jacksonville. I guess. Rochester and Tampa? Harder. Manhattan and Miami? Easy choice. 2. Sunshine continues to not pay the bills. A question, too: In 50 years from now (100?), how many people in each state, what percentage of the populations, won't be able to live where they currently live because of inexorable sea level rise?

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The year Times and Floridian photographer Melissa Lyttle had in 2013

On her blog: "Best of" is so subjective. My best moments usually involve some sort of a unique experience. The awesome power of a store doing some good in the world. Getting to meet some amazing people. Fun to sit back and reflect on all the things seen, places gone, connections made and stories told this year.

In 2013, I got to ... CLICK.

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Did you read Lane DeGregory's story that ran on Christmas Day?

'Is that the real Santa?'

EVE EDELHEIT | Times

'Is that the real Santa?'

It was about an Egyptian family. I meant to post it on Christmas but then I didn't because it was Christmas. But you should still read it if you haven't.

For weeks, Bishoy had begged his parents. "Please, take me to see Santa!"

The other kids in his first-grade class already had gone. They talked about sitting in Santa's lap. They'd placed their orders.

"Well, we prayed about it," his dad kept saying. "Papa Noel knows you want a bike."

"No, no, no," Bishoy Hana, 6, kept trying to explain. "That's not how they do it here. You can't just pray. You have to go tell Santa what you want. At the mall."

His parents didn't believe him. In Egypt, where they fled from last year, Santa could never be in the mall. He would be shot.

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Florida has more tanning salons than McDonald's restaurants

Jeff Klinkenberg, the writer of "Real Florida," passed along this piece about the state's taste for fake sun.

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A Florida panther was a Florida panther and ate a delicious Chihuahua and now people are upset Fish and Wildlife won't go catch it and kill it

Did these folks look at a map before they bought where they bought?

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Once shot and buried alive, a pit bull named Phoebe grows into a gentle companion

Go, Phoebe, go!

JOHN PENDYGRAFT | Times

Go, Phoebe, go!

The talented John Pendygraft of the Times with the pictures and the words:

On a quiet Wednesday night a little more than a year ago, Mike DeWitt turned on the evening news and saw a picture of a pit bull buried up to her neck.

She had been shot twice and left to die. Trapped.

It flipped a switch.

"It was instant. It was profound," DeWitt said. "I get that."

DeWitt had been trapped once, too.

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Sunshine

Good morning. It's Friday, Dec. 27, 2013.

The Times' Ernest Hooper says you're a true Tampa Bay area denizen if, among other things ...

… had some out-of-state relative call and say, "Did your house get swallowed by a sinkhole?"

… seen the state's largest New Year's Eve fireworks show in Apollo Beach. Yes, Apollo Beach.

… gotten sunburned on Christmas Day.

Bobby Bowden's grandson died in a Mitsubishi Lancer submerged in a Polk County pond in the wee hours of Christmas Day.

A father and his son died diving in a Weeki Wachee cave using tanks that were given as Christmas gifts.

The 80 or so members of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tarpon Springs are gathering at a nearby Elks Lodge for services because of ... sinkholes.

Is that what Edible Arrangements is?

Don't do drugs.

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