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Two mobile home fires kill four in Polk County

Four people died early Thursday in two mobile home fires in Polk County.

A fire in the Crystal Lake area of Auburndale around 3:15 a.m. killed a man, woman and child. The Sheriff's Office identified them as David Kent, 59, a city mechanic, Carla Grosvent, 33, and her daughter Crystaline Hughes, who would have turned 3 next week.

All were found in the same room where they apparently tried to escape through a window, state fire marshal's Detective Kevin Shireman said. Neighbors said they heard an explosion but could not help; the dwelling was almost immediately enveloped in flames.

North of Polk City on State Road 33, Marlene J. Strickland, 73, and her dog died in a fire reported at 2:15 a.m.

The causes of both fires were being investigated.

Behavior drug foes push

for parental warnings

TALLAHASSEE - Opponents of psychiatric medicine rallied Thursday in support of a proposed law that would require schools, before evaluating a student for a learning disability or mental or behavioral disorder, to warn parents that behavior drugs have been linked to sudden death and suicide.

It would require that a parent of a child facing such an evaluation first read and sign a long statement saying that if the child is diagnosed with a mental or behavioral disorder, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, it could lead to treatment with drugs that might be ineffective and carry a risk of suicide.

House Bill 1213 is based in part on recent data from the federal Food and Drug Administration suggesting such risks exist, and in part on longtime opposition to psychiatric drugs by the Church of Scientology.

Those joining Rep. Gus Barreiro, R-Miami Beach, sponsor of the bill, at the rally included actors Kirstie Alley and Kelly Preston, both Scientologists.

Preston, a mother of two who lives near Ocala, said drug companies are behind the increasing use of psychiatric drugs.

"Parents need all the facts," Preston said. "Not just the facts that come from the industry that benefits from the . . . drugging of children."

Psychiatrists blasted the bill.

"While it is horrible that some children who take antidepressant medications commit suicide, putting the blame on medicines that help treat millions of persons with mental illnesses is irresponsible and is a blatant attempt to frighten parents, children and patients," said John Bailey, president of the Florida Psychiatric Society. "There are risks to antidepressant treatment, but the risks of untreated depression are worse."

Poll: Voters don't like

Bush teacher pay plan

TALLAHASSEE - Florida voters support Gov. Jeb Bush's push for more spending on classroom and beginning the school year later, but disagree by more than 2-to-1 with his proposal linking teacher pay to how well students do on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, according to a poll.

Nearly three-fifths of 1,076 voters surveyed by the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute in Connecticut backed a proposal to begin school the last week of August instead of earlier in the month.

Seven out of 10 liked Bush's idea of requiring schools to spend at least 65 percent of their budgets on direct classroom expenses, as opposed to administration, food services, transportation and other nonacademic expenses.

However, two-thirds said they oppose a related Bush proposal to modify a 2002 constitutional amendment and allow larger class sizes in public schools than it now permits.

Democrats and independents strongly disagreed with Bush's idea of basing teacher pay on student performance. Republicans were split on the issue.

Byrd Alzheimer's center

would get millions in bill

TALLAHASSEE - Florida would earmark $30-million for research in cancer, Alzheimer's disease and other diseases under a bill lawmakers will consider this year.

House Bill 1027, sponsored by Rep. Adam Hasner, R-Delray Beach, would set aside $15-million for the Johnnie B. Byrd Sr. Alzheimer's Center at the University of South Florida, which would in turn award grants to Florida researchers working on curing the disease.