Friday's Afternoon Update
What You Need to Know About Florida Today
State Issues Ban on Fake CocaineFlorida's Attorney General Pam Bondi has made synthetic cocaine illegal, citing side effects that include paranoia, seizures and kidney failure. The white powder has been marketed as bath salts under names like Ivory Wave, Vanilla Sky and Purple Rain. The powder mimics cocaine and LSD when snorted. Now, an emergency rule is in effect that makes possession or distribution a third-degree felony. The rule will remain in place for 90 days, and legislators plan to pass a law making the substance illegal permanently. Formerly, packets of the powder were sold in convenience stores and head shops. They contain a chemical called methylenedioxypyrovalerone, or MDPV. Side effects include increased heart rate, nosebleeds, hallucinations, severe paranoia, seizures and kidney failure. [Source: Miami Herald]
Sen. Bill Nelson Wants Better Equipment for Law Enforcement Officers
Reacting to the shooting deaths of four Florida police officers in a week, Sen. Bill Nelson is asking the Department of Justice to consider giving law enforcement high-tech devices that can "see" through walls.
"My staff has informed me that the expanded use of appropriate technologies for agents on these federal task forces — law enforcement officers whose duties include serving warrants and apprehending wanted felons — could greatly shift the odds to the good guys, before they have to enter a building where a fugitive is hiding out," Nelson wrote Thursday in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder.
Thermal imaging is one technology, while devices designed for the military use radar waves to detect humans through walls or other barriers.
It's unclear whether the technology would have helped in the St. Petersburg shootings Monday, carried out by fugitive Hydra Lacy Jr. Police declined to comment on Nelson's letter. [Source: St. Petersburg Times]
Blind Driver to Debut New Technologies at Daytona
Saturday, Mark Riccobono, who is blind, will take part in a public demonstration, driving independently with the help of new nonvisual technology and a specially modified car. The event, spearheaded by the the National Federation of the Blind, is part of the pre-race activities of Saturday's Rolex 24 event at Daytona. Riccobono will drive a portion of the same course as the drivers in the race.
The NFB hatched the idea a decade ago when it began the Blind Driver Challenge. The challenge encouraged partnerships with universities and manufacturers to create technology that would enable a blind driver to safely operate a vehicle.
Peoples Gas Customers to Receive Refund
Peoples Gas System customers are slated to receive $3 million in refunds under a settlement the Florida Public Service Commission approved Tuesday. In March, residential customers using 20 therms will receive a one-time $3.74 credit on their bills. PGS, a business unit of Tampa Electric Co., provides natural gas to approximately 334,000 commercial, industrial and residential customers in three regions from Palm Beach County to St. Petersburg to Panama City. [Source: Palm Beach Post]
NASA Marks 25th Anniversary of Challenger Accident
Hundreds gathered at NASA's launch site Friday to mark the 25th anniversary of the Challenger disaster, receiving words of hope from the widow of the space shuttle's commander.
The chilly outdoor ceremony drew space agency managers, former astronauts, past and present launch directors, family and friends of the fallen crew - and schoolchildren who weren't yet born when the space shuttle carrying a high school teacher from Concord, N.H.., erupted in the sky.
The accident on Jan. 28, 1986 - just 73 seconds into flight - killed all seven on board, including schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe.
June Scobee Rodgers, the widow of Challenger's commander, Dick Scobee, urged the crowd to "boldly look to the future" not only in space travel, but in space and science education.
» Related: Remembering Christa: Teachers Consider the Loss, Opportunity of Challenger Disaster of 25 Years Ago
Dave Barry sings "I'm in Love With a Proofreading Woman"