Thursday's Daily Pulse
What You Need to Know About Florida Today
Florida Space Coast hotels are sold out, residents are renting bedrooms and restaurants are doubling food supplies as thousands of tourists arriving for Friday's launch of space shuttle Endeavour are boosting a region fearing its economic future.
Endeavour Crew Portrait: Attired in training versions of their shuttle launch and entry suits, meet the astronauts of STS-134 (Endeavour). Click for an enlargement of this photo and to see more photos from Endeavour. [Photo: NASA]
Florida Commission on Ethics officials have tentatively OK'd the steps that attorneys for Gov. Rick Scott have taken to protect the wealthy businessman from running afoul of state ethics laws. In a draft opinion released Wednesday, attorney Philip Claypool, the commission's executive director, said that Scott's investments in companies and funds that own Florida businesses do not pose a conflict of interest. Nor would there be a conflict if an investment adviser running one of Scott's blind trusts were to put some of Scott's assets into a Florida company, he wrote. [Source: Palm Beach Post]
Smoking is the biggest preventable cause of death, but University of South Florida researchers believe a substance produced from tobacco leaves could stave off another killer, Alzheimer's disease. Mice bred to develop dementia were given cotinine, a compound derived from tobacco. They performed better on memory tests than similar mice that didn't receive the substance. And they had fewer of the brain plaques associated with Alzheimer's, according to a study led by researchers at USF and the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System. "The cotinine prevented the memory loss. That was the striking discovery," said lead researcher Valentina Echeverria Moran. "Taking cotinine when the first symptoms of the pathology arrive maybe could prevent the appearance of memory loss." [Source: St. Petersburg Times]
Changing demographics mean challenges facing Latino students are of importance to the entire nation, a senior U.S. Department of Education official presenting a report in Miami said Wednesday. "Our numbers have grown so large that the future of the U.S. is inextricably linked to the future of the Latino community," said Juan Sepulveda, director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans. Latinos are the largest minority group in America's public education system, numbering more than 12.4 million in Pre-K through high school, according to the latest enrollment figures available. Nearly 22 percent, or one in five, of all Pre-K through 12 students enrolled in America's public schools is Latino. Still, Latinos lag behind other groups in many indicators and have the lowest levels of education attainment. [Source: AP]
Lawmakers today continue racing against the clock to sew up spending gaps between the two chambers. To finish the session on time, they'll need a proposed budget by Tuesday. Meanwhile, the full House takes up a number of proposals to keep certain records out of the public eye. Among them: HB 7225, which would renew the state law keeping secret most information about the State Board of Administration's private investments. Other measures before the House include several school-related proposals, including one that requires athletic associations to adopt guidelines for dealing with head injuries in young players. [Source: St. Petersburg Times]
? More - LEGISLATIVE ROUNDUP ?
» Bill would make it harder for insurers to hide profits [Sarasota Herald-Tribune]
» Fla. House passes welfare drug testing requirement [Florida Today]
» New divide in Florida budget debate: the federal health care law [St. Petersburg Times]
» Another day, another immigration protest at the state Capitol [St. Petersburg Times]
» Estero Bay field office among six in Florida targeted for closure [Fort Myers News-Press]
» Tampa Bay area makes its own royal wedding plans
Thirty years ago, Jillian Frers traveled from St. Petersburg to her native England and woke up at 3 a.m. to secure a spot along Fleet Street to watch the royal wedding procession of Prince Charles and Diana. On Friday she will watch the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton at her restaurant, the Chattaway, where she will be serving British food throughout the day. "People want to see the fairy tale, the living happily ever after," said the 79-year-old who opted against fighting the crowds in London again. "I think the boys are going to do it for us. Kate is delightful."
» A royal wedding, and one in Sarasota
Dharshini Tambiah's mother — who lives in England — found herself in a sticky wicket when rumors of Prince William and Kate Middleton's nuptials began hinting at this Friday as the wedding date. Turns out, it's the very same weekend as her daughter's wedding here in Sarasota. Tambiah's mother, a big fan of the royals, could choose to fly to Florida to celebrate her daughter's wedding. Or, just maybe, she could stay in the United Kingdom and celebrate up close during the wedding spectacle that is a dear event to so many Britons. "I joked with her and said, 'If there's a conflict, will you attend our wedding?'" recalled Tambiah.
› Boca Raton-based Office Depot posts quarterly loss
Office Depot has reported a net loss of $5.4 million, or 5 cents a share for the first quarter ended March 26, compared to a profit of $29.5 million, or 7 cents a share, for the same quarter a year ago. The company headquartered in Boca Raton reported a net loss, after preferred stock dividends, of $15 million for the first quarter compared to net earnings of $20 million for the first quarter 2010. Total sales for the first quarter were $3 billion, a decrease of 3 percent compared to the same period a year ago. Excluding sales related to asset dispositions and deconsolidation in the fourth quarter of 2010 and an acquisition in the first quarter of 2011, total sales decreased 2 percent from a year ago.
Commentary: Legislature poised to repeal much of Florida's growth law
House Bill 7129 is a done deal. The House passed it on April 21 on a vote of 86-31, largely along party lines. Now it is up to the Senate to decide whether to go along. Here are some points of the House bill:
- Local governments no longer have to consider the need for roads, schools, parks and recreation when they permit growth. They can, but they don't have to.
- Local governments will be able to change their "comprehensive plan" whenever they want to allow growth.
- The state's power to review the decisions by local government will be reduced and speeded up. The state cannot take the side of citizens who are challenging a local growth decision.
› Ex-employee accused of stealing $600,000 from fitness guru Tony Little
Personal fitness guru Tony Little made a fortune hawking workout products. The St. Petersburg resident's companies have made millions, and Little's frequent TV appearances and infomercials have made the ponytailed bodybuilder famous. Now a former employee is accused of stealing nearly $600,000 from "America's personal trainer," as Little calls himself. Mark Schreiber, 50, of St. Petersburg was arrested Friday on a charge of grand theft of $100,000 or more. Pinellas Park police didn't say what happened to the missing money, but Schrei?ber told investigators that he was heavily involved in online horse wagering.
» Related, from Florida Trend:
An interview with Tony Little, part of Trend's ICON series (includes video interview)