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13-FOOT PYTHON PROBABLY WAS SOMEONE'S PET

People had been calling for weeks, warning of a large python lurking near the Wal-Mart on State Road 64 in east Manatee County. On Monday, wildlife rehabilitator Justin Matthews discovered the callers weren't exaggerating. He caught the 13-foot reticulated python, which is native to Asia, as it lay coiled in a culvert. "It was someone's pet, so somebody either got sick of this animal or it got away from them," Matthews told the Bradenton Herald. The snakes aren't venomous, but they are dangerous. "This snake here has a mouthful of teeth, about 88 of them, that are half-an-inch long," Matthews said. "It is a painful bite followed by constriction. At 13 feet long, it is totally capable of swallowing people, dogs and cats." He said the python was female and appeared to be about 4 years old.

For the FCAT, leave the iPod at home

FCAT takers, beware: Your test will be voided if a cell phone or iPod is found in your pocket during the exams. The tougher enforcement begins Tuesday, when students in fourth, eighth and 10th grades take the writing section of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports. The state Education Department is worried about cheating because of camera phones and other devices that can record or transmit information. Officials want to "make it impossible to text a message and e-mail a picture of the test to someone else," said Bill Thompson, assessment director for Palm Beach County schools. Statistics on cell phone-type cheating are unavailable because school districts don't track them, but educators have said they need to be one step ahead of tech-savvy kids.

Tax rebate scam has already begun

Floridians beware: The latest scam involves people asking for personal information to help consumers obtain their federal tax rebate check. "Congress hasn't even approved a tax rebate plan yet," warned Charles Bronson, the state's agriculture and consumer services commissioner. "If you receive a phone call or e-mail with a promise of assistance in getting a check, hang up ... or delete the e-mail." The scam began sweeping the country in recent days. One variation involves a company calling itself the Federal Commission Refund Department, offering to help get a refund for a $29 fee deducted from your bank account. Another involves a phony IRS agent asking for your Social Security number and other information that would allow him to get a credit card in your name.

Correction

Anyone with information about the stolen bronze bust of Adela Gonzmart, matriarch of the Columbia Restaurant, should call the restaurant at (813) 248-3000, ext. 22. A story Tuesday gave an incorrect phone number.

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