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The Sunshine State remains the undisputed lightning capital of America

Don't tell the tourists.

TheAtlanticCities.com

Don't tell the tourists.

The Atlantic Cities' John Metcalfe: One moment you're strolling across the golf course, pointing a 9 iron at a funny-looking cloud. The next your body is wracked with the searing pain of 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit and you've got the beginnings of a weird scar shaped like a fractal.

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13 things that happened in February that would've been called SO FLORIDA had they happened in Florida

I did it for January. Now it's a thing.

1. A 10-foot python was found dead under a tree.

2. Students at a girls' Catholic high school marked Black History month with a menu of fried chicken and watermelon.

3. Two men who dress up as superheroes got into a spat.

4. A realistic statue of a man in his underwear made people uncomfortable.

5. Cops questioned a man holding a rifle and dressed as a banana.

6. A snake-handling pastor died from a bite.

7. College kids took to spanking bears.

8. A woman killed her mother because she thought she was the leader of a satanic cult.

9. Two men were accused of having sex with cows.

10. A baby elephant got stuck in a sinkhole.

11. A guy tried to get his candy out of a vending machine using a forklift.

12. Two joyriding dogs crashed a pickup truck into a river.

13. A high school boy brought a beer to school for lunch.

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Is Florida's biggest backyard swimming pool in ... East Lake?

Handmade fake rock!

My Florida Regional Multiple Listing Service

Handmade fake rock!

America's best real estate reporter is on the case.

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A year ago yesterday, Florida raided the homes of citizens and made 13 arrests for buying and selling arrowheads

Ben Montgomery pointed it out on Twitter. Good time to re-read his Floridian piece.

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Did you see the Times' PunditFact folks did one of those Reddit AMAs?

Read the whole thing -- but this is my favorite answer, from Aaron Sharockman, the editor of the enterprise: I think it's our job to give you the truth. Plain and simple. If we know someone is lying or saying something that is inaccurate, I think it's the responsibility of a journalist to make that clear. We're more than stenographers.

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It's hard to transition from prisoner to non-prisoner and harder if you're a mother whose mother has been taking care of your kids

Mom.

CAROLYN VAN HOUTEN | Times

Mom.

The Times' Caitlin Johnston in Sunday's Floridian:

Two cars wait beneath the bright lights and barbed wire of Lowell Correctional Institution.

In a black Ford 500, Mary Harris watches the clock creep closer to 1 a.m.

"It's like giving birth all over again," Mary says. "I'm like, 'When's the baby coming?' "

Mary has waited years for the moment when her oldest daughter would walk free. Nichole, 38, was sentenced to five years for possession and trafficking of drugs and car theft. She still blames it on her former husband, who is also the not-around father of the girl Nichole gave birth to just weeks before she went away.

Responsibility for caring for this child fell to another family member, as often happens when women are incarcerated. In this case it was Mary, 60, who already had custody of Nichole's older son.

"I figure when Nichole gets home, I'll be able to take care of myself," Mary says, hope evident in her voice.

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The man who's seen 63 death row inmates killed in Starke

"It's gory. I hate it. It's not fun watching people die whether they deserve it or not. I can feel the soul being wrenched early before it's time. I sense all of that, but I put that aside and I've got 30 seconds to tell you a very important story." Click.

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The good news is a Burmese python in the Everglades probably won't squeeze you to death and try to eat you whole

When's the next Python Challenge?

MELISSA LYTTLE | Times

When's the next Python Challenge?

At least not until they eat everything else. But the bad news? "As people wade through shallow water, they produce ripples that move ahead of them ..." It's like Marjory Stoneman Douglas (maybe) said: "The Everglades is a test. If we pass it, we may get to keep the planet."

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Not Real Florida but SQUEAL FLORIDA!

Klink being Klink.

DON MORRIS | Times

Klink being Klink.

The inimitable Jeff Klinkenberg set for Floridian this weekend:

It can begin early if you grow up a little wild and more than a little barefoot in Florida: Something is going to bite you. Something is going to sting you. At the very least, you are going to touch something so horrible, and so repugnant, that you'll be scarred and scared for life.

It looks pretty cool here, just because of course it does with the artwork of Don Morris, but it looks really cool in print, in the actual paper, which you can purchase come Sunday for super cheap.

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New York mag on Marco Rubio and what's gone wrong

What's the opposite of the Midas touch?

Times

What's the opposite of the Midas touch?

Jonathan Chait in the new issue:

The Rubio Plan sounded awfully appealing to Republicans, not least of them Rubio himself, who set about constructing the fund-raising and advisory apparatus of a top-tier presidential contender. For a few months, the plan proceeded to near perfection. Then everything started falling apart, and it has kept falling apart ever since.

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Sunshine

Good morning. It's Friday, Feb. 28, 2014.

Let's start with some words from Jon Silman:

In the early hours of July 25, 2010, a Hillsborough jail deputy snapped a routine booking photo of Meagan Simmons, who had been arrested on a DUI charge. In the picture, her head appeared slightly and seductively cocked. Her hair, tousled just the right way. Her eyes, hazel and piercing.

The mug shot turned out like a glamor shot, and it launched a thousand memes. "Guilty of taking my breath away." "This is what a model inmate looks like." "Arrested for breaking and entering your heart." On countless websites, Simmons, 28, became known as the "attractive convict." …

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Julian Newman is the most marketed 12-year-old basketball player in the world

Ready or not.

EVE EDELHEIT | Times

Ready or not.

The March Floridian cover story set for Sunday's Times.

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The Sumter County company that makes realistic rubber female body suits for men who want to feel like dolls

"We don't have a storefront. We don't advertise. Nobody knows we're here, and that's the way we'd like to keep it. Let's face it, we're in the Bible Belt." Back-of-the-book quickie in the March Floridian.

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Sunshine

A woman from Wisconsin and a penguin from Africa seen here in Tampa.

EVE EDELHEIT | Times

A woman from Wisconsin and a penguin from Africa seen here in Tampa.

Good morning. It's Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014.

Here's Slate's Dahlia Lithwick in the back of the A section of today's paper:

The fact that "stand your ground" defenses have been staggeringly successful in Florida in recent years suggests that it's been embedded into more than just jury instructions. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a Tampa Bay Times study from 2012 shows that "as 'stand your ground' claims have increased, so too has the number of Floridians with guns. Concealed weapons permits now stand at 1.1 million, three times as many as in 2005 when the law was passed." Put bluntly: As Floridians sense that other Floridians plan to shoot first, they buy more guns.

The gun lobby has single-handedly made certain that the very definition of what one might reasonably expect from an altercation at a Walmart, a movie theater or a gas station has changed. By seeking to arm everyone in America, the NRA has in fact changed our reasonable expectation of how fights will end, into a self-fulfilling prophecy about how fights will end.

"We're bringing Silicon Valley here to Florida." Click. …

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17 things I underlined in the recent report about the state of the state that are sure to ruin your evening

I said I'd read it in full. Now I have.

1. ... the chances of Florida living up to its boundless potential are small indeed ...

2. No longer can Florida be a state that is cheap and proud of it.

3. ... only 21.6 percent of Florida's men age 25 to 34 have college degrees, compared to 27.1 percent of all men nationally.

4. The compounded difficulties of generational, racial or ethnic and cultural divides may make it even more difficult to build agreement on priorities of state and local government and to move forward in addressing the needs of all Floridians.

5. Falling educational attainment among young workers coincides with the arrival of a knowledge economy in which ideas have increasingly become the source of wealth.

6. Compared to today, the Florida of 2020 may need more hospital rooms than school rooms.

7. Retirees have different electoral interests than younger voters. They are more likely to emphasize, for example, health care, quality of life and cost of living over education and investment in infrastructure. …

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