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This Hour: Latest Florida news, sports, business and entertainment

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Fla. Rep. Dane Eagle arrested on DUI charges

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - A member of the Florida Legislature is facing drunken driving charges after he was arrested in Tallahassee.

The Tallahassee Police say Rep. Dane Eagle was arrested at 2 a.m. Monday after he was spotted driving erratically, striking a curb and running a red light.

The officer who pulled him over says he smelled alcohol on Eagle's breath, his eyes were bloodshot and he stumbled when he got out of his SUV. Eagle told the officer that he had not been drinking and was "good to get home." The officer said Eagle refused to take a field sobriety test or submit to a breath test.

The 38-year-old Cape Coral Republican was arrested on driving under the influence charges and later released. A message left Tuesday at Eagle's office wasn't immediately returned.


Stetson grads do best on Fla. Bar exam

MIAMI (AP) - Stetson University law school graduates had the highest passage rate on the Florida Bar's February exam for prospective attorneys.

The Daily Business Review reported Tuesday that Stetson had an 85 percent passage rate while Ave Maria University had the lowest passage rate with 30 percent.

Florida State had the second-highest passage rate at 83 percent and Florida International was third at 81 percent. University of Miami fell just short of 81 percent.

The University of Florida had a passage rate of 65 percent, a major drop from July's rate of 88. Administrators blamed it on the small number of UF grads who took the most recent test, 17 compared to 321.

Overall, 73 percent of the 805 prospective lawyers passed the exam.


Man gets 7 years for taped beating of disabled man

CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) - A St. Petersburg man who produced videos of scantily-clad women beating up homeless men has received a seven-year prison sentence.

A judge sentenced 61-year-old Jeffrey Williams on Monday after he was found guilty of the taped beating of a developmentally disabled schizophrenic. The judge also sentenced 27-year-old Zuzu Vargo to three years for administering the beating.

Williams had argued that the victim had signed a waiver but prosecutors and the judge doubted he could not tell that the man was mentally disabled.

Williams had produced about 1,000 similar videos and sold them to sadomasochism aficionados. He paid the homeless men $50 to be beaten and the women $300 to administer it.

Williams and Vargo are awaiting trial for the alleged beating of another disabled man.


Legislature argues DCF budget after child deaths

MIAMI (AP) - In the wake of dozens of child abuse-related deaths, Florida lawmakers are considering a bill that would add 400 new child protective investigators.

Critics, however, worry the bill overlooks funding to treat mental health and substance abuse problems that are at the root of most child deaths.

Gov. Rick Scott has proposed giving the Department of Children and Families $32 million to hire more investigators in hopes of reducing caseloads.

According to a report released last fall, Florida is failing to prevent child abuse deaths because welfare authorities overlook danger signs like drug abuse or domestic violence. Most of the children who died were 5 or younger.


Professor may have been beaten over grade

MIAMI (AP) - Police are investigating the beating of a Miami Dade College music professor to see whether it was ordered by a student angry over a bad grade.

The Miami Herald reported Tuesday that 31-year-old professor Marc Magellan was attacked last week inside a parking garage.

Magellan told police that the assailant called out "Professor Marc" and when Magellan turned around, sucker punched him in the face. Magellan fell to the ground and the assailant began punching him and smashing his head on the concrete floor, leaving him with a broken nose and hand and other injuries.

Magellan told police he did not recognize his attacker but speculated that the attack might have stemmed from a bad grade he gave to a student.


Deadlines, meetings set ahead of Jan. BP trial

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A federal court magistrate has issued a seven-page schedule of hearings, conferences and deadlines leading up to January's trial aimed at determining how much money BP will owe in Clean Water Act fines as a result of its 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

The Jan. 20 date for the trial was set earlier this year by U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier (BAHR'-bee-aye). It will be the third phase of litigation to determine penalties arising from the disaster

On Monday, a U.S. magistrate judge issued a lengthy schedule of pre-trial activities, including telephone conferences and deadlines for providing witness and exhibit lists.

Earlier phases dealt with causes of the 2010 rig explosion and estimates of the amount of oil that spewed into Gulf waters as a result of it.


Cuban-American leaders helped 'Cuban Twitter'

MIAMI (AP) - The Associated Press has learned that leaders with the largest nonprofit organization for young Cuban-Americans quietly provided strategic support for the federal government's secret "Cuban Twitter" program, connecting contractors with potential investors and even serving as paid consultants.

Interviews and documents obtained by the AP show Roots of Hope leaders were approached by the "Cuban Twitter" program's organizers in early 2011 about taking over the text-messaging service and discussed how to help it go private.

Few if any investors were willing to finance the service and Roots of Hope members dropped the idea. But at least two of its board members later worked as consultants, even though their group explicitly refuses to accept any government funding.

The disclosure could have wide repercussions for one of the most visible Cuban-American organizations.


Senate holds Miami Beach hearing on climate change

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (AP) - The U.S. Senate is taking a field trip to Miami Beach for a hearing on the coastal effects of climate change.

The Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation's subcommittee on science and space will meet Tuesday morning at Miami Beach city hall. Mayor Philip Levine and the president and CEO of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau are among the witnesses scheduled to testify about the economic impacts of sea level rise and climate change on Florida's tourism and insurance industries.

Miami Beach commissioners voted earlier this year to consider higher tides and rising sea levels when planning city projects. According to a regional plan to adapt to climate change, the waters off South Florida could rise up to 2 feet by 2060.


Fungus threatening Florida's avocado crop

(Information in the following story is from: The Ledger (Lakeland, Fla.),

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (AP) - A fungus poses a serious threat to Florida's commercial avocado industry, which is worth $55 million to the state economy.

The laurel wilt fungus was first detected in northeast Florida's Duval County in 2005. It moved rapidly through the state, striking Florida's commercial production area in south Miami-Dade County in March 2012.

Officials say since then, more than 3,000 trees found to be infested have been destroyed. That represents only a small fraction of the state's 650,000-tree commercial stock.

The Lakeland Ledger reports that the only way to halt the disease is to destroy a tree once the fungus is detected. It's a process that's costly in terms of sampling, testing and disposal.


31 sea turtles to be released in Jacksonville

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) - Nearly three dozen sea turtles that were rescued on Cape Cod last autumn will be released in Florida on Earth Day.

The 31 endangered and threatened sea turtles spent months at the New England Aquarium's rescue center near Boston. The group was transported to Jacksonville's Little Talbot Island State Park, where they will be released back into the ocean on Tuesday - Earth Day.

A statement from the aquarium says the turtles are mostly juveniles including 28 Kemp's Ridleys, the most endangered, two loggerheads and one green sea turtle.

They washed up last November and December in the frigid waters of Cape Cod Bay and slowly became hypothermic. At the aquarium's sea turtle hospital in Quincy, Mass., they were treated for malnourishment, dehydration, pneumonia and other blood and organ disorders.

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