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Monday's Daily Pulse

El Niño helped steer storms away from U.S. this hurricane season. What about next year?

Supercharged sea surface temperatures are linked with more frequent and more intense storm activity, and the global weather phenomenon El Niño often brings a chill to the Atlantic Ocean that slows down storm formation. The collision of these two major factors in 2023 was unprecedented, forecasters said. By meteorological measures, the hot Atlantic won out, based on the number and longevity of storms this active season. But by practical measures, at least for those of us in Florida, El Niño did help steer most storms away from landfall. [Source: Phys.org]

Florida's lobbying restrictions get go-ahead

A federal appeals court Thursday allowed Florida to enforce — with one exception — a 2018 constitutional amendment imposing restrictions on lobbying while a legal battle continues to play out. A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals approved a request by Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office for a partial stay of an injunction that U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom issued this summer to block the restrictions statewide. [Source: News Service of Florida]

Opinion: Florida cattle ranches critical to preserving environment

As 1,000 people move to Florida every day, it’s more important than ever that lawmakers focus on ways to protect water, native wildlife and natural landscape. Agricultural lands supply wide, open spaces of valuable habitat and include wetlands that act as natural water storage helping to clean our drinking water. However, Florida's ranch country is disappearing quickly. [Source: Fort Myers News Press]

Space flight without the rocket fuel? A Florida-based company is aiming for the stars.

No single automobile, vessel, or aircraft can possibly match the pollution potential of the fuel-driven rockets used to put astronauts and satellites into space—making extraterrestrial exploration and space tourism dirty propositions in the age of climate change. Now, the minds behind a luxury travel venture want to send customers closer to the stars while leaving no carbon footprint via a creative approach: They skip the rocket in favor of a balloon. [Source: Barrons]

World’s largest cruise ship coming to Florida in 2025

The next world’s largest cruise ship will call Florida home. Royal Caribbean’s newest ship, Star of the Seas, will be the largest cruise ship in the world, according to the Canaveral Port Authority. The ship will start sailing from Port Canaveral in July 2025. “This is tremendous news, and we are very proud to be the homeport for this remarkable new ship. Star of the Seas will add even more excitement to the Royal Caribbean fleet that calls Port Canaveral home,” Capt. John Murray, Port CEO said. More from WFLA and the Orlando Sentinel.

ALSO AROUND FLORIDA:

› Two popular Kendall malls are making big changes. What they’re doing to lure customers
What is it about The Falls and Kendall’s Palms at Town & Country that captures our hearts — and wallets? Maybe we grew up hanging out at these malls. Perhaps we had a first date at the AMC Kendall Town & Country 10. Or frozen strawberry daiquiris and rounds of free chips and salsa at The Falls’ El Torito restaurant. Or trailed our parents on a Christmas shopping run. For decades, these two outdoor landmarks have managed to survive the turmoil in retail — as well as the steamy South Florida weather.  

› A look at what Brevard's Citizen of the Year finalists do for the community
Seniors. Surfing. Setting organizations up for successful collaboration. Though their areas of work vary widely, the three finalists for FLORIDA TODAY's Citizen of the Year Volunteer Recognition Awards share a passion for helping people in Brevard, whether that's through providing aging residents with resources, raising funds for a new aquarium or simply by bringing a smile to their face through a holiday tradition.

› Snow in St. Petersburg, kind of, at Snowfest event
It’s rare to find real snow in St. Petersburg, but families got the next best thing on Saturday when machines pumped out enough icy crystals to create toboggan slides. With a $5 wristband, families were able to go sledding in North Straub Park as part of the city’s Snowfest. There were also inflatables, arts and crafts tents and food trucks. The event featured at least 65 tons of artificial snow.

› Central Florida school opens for orphaned Ukrainian refugee children
On a night that was to be a milestone, 15-year-old Uliana Filonchuk took refuge in the basement of her school in Kyiv, Ukraine after air-raid sirens went off alerting her school dance of a possible Russian attack. “I was very scared,” Uliana said. “We just had the rest of the dance in the basement.” That same night, in February 2022, her school handed out ninth grade certificates of completion to everyone at the dance, a golden ticket to start school somewhere new. That new school turned out to be Varyvoda Christian Academy in downtown Orlando.

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› In a first, a Tesla shipped from Florida will be driving through the streets of Havana
Elon Musk’s most iconic product has finally made it to Havana. A Tesla electric car, the first exported directly from the United States, will be driving through streets in the Cuban capital after an American company recently sold it to a couple with residences in the U.S. and Cuba. The Tesla, a 2021 Model Y with a $38,850 price tag, is already in Cuba, according to John Felder, the head of Premier Automotive Export Ltd., a company based in Maryland with offices in Miami that sold the vehicle.

› Indictment details $4 million construction fraud at Bay Pines VA cancer center
A grand jury returned an indictment this fall accusing four men of perpetrating a fraud scheme that compromised construction of a cancer treatment facility at the Bay Pines Veterans Affairs Medical Center in St. Petersburg. The fraud, prosecutors say, ripped off taxpayers of more than $4 million. The alleged scheme took advantage of a federal law designed to give preference to businesses owned by disabled veterans in the awarding of government contracts.

› Glitzy lights have gone dark at landmark garage on Fort Lauderdale beach. Will city spend millions to fix?
This is no plain-Jane, square-box, gray-faced garage at the beach. No sir, Fort Lauderdale’s Las Olas Garage has that “wow” factor others don’t: Decorative pulsating lights that can simulate everything from ocean waves to holiday fireworks. But the lights that give the glitzy garage its landmark status have gone dark.

› GRU reduces electric, natural gas rates in December. See how much.
Gainesville Regional Utilities reduced its electric fuel charges Dec. 1, the fourth time this year residents have seen a decrease in their utility bills. The change, which is based on lower current and projected natural gas prices, is expected to save residential electric customers — who use 1,000 kWh — about $5 a month, according to a news release. The utility is also dropping its gas charges, saving a natural gas customer who uses 25 therms about 75 cents a month.