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

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

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State recommends SW Florida oil drilling approval

NAPLES, Fla. (AP) - The state's Department of Environmental Protection has told a judge that it will not rescind a permit for a Texas company that wants to drill an exploratory oil well in southwest Florida.

The agency decided against following the recommendation of an advisory committee charged with providing advice and ensuring compliance for drilling in the Big Cypress Swamp area.

Assistant Deputy Counsel Jeffrey Brown wrote in an agency's court filing this week that the "committee's observations are generally beyond the department's purview in its consideration of the pending application."

Local residents and environmental advocates challenged the permit issued in September to the Dan A. Hughes Co. of Beeville, Texas. They say drilling threatens aquifers and habitat vital to the endangered Florida panther.

A state administrative judge is reviewing the permit challenge.


Fla. gives preliminary approval to lionfish ban

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - A ban on imports of lionfish into Florida has won preliminary approval from the state's wildlife commission.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission also wants to make it easier for more people to catch lionfish in the wild. Aquarium shops would be allowed to obtain new lionfish from divers.

The changes proposed this week in Tallahassee will be considered for final approval at the commission's June meeting in Fort Myers.

Florida lawmakers also are working on bills that would implement the ban.

The invasion of lionfish throughout the Atlantic is considered as menacing to native wildlife as the Burmese python's incursion into Florida's Everglades. Both invasive species have thrived far from their native habitats, and their numbers have grown largely unchecked by anything except cold temperatures.


Fla wildlife officials limit sea cucumber harvests

(Information in the following story is from: Tampa Bay Times (St. Petersburg, Fla.),

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Florida wildlife officials have voted to limit how many sea cucumbers can be harvested in both state and federal waters.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission voted Wednesday to limit the number of sea cucumbers collected to 200 per boat per trip. The limits take effect June 1

The Tampa Bay Times reports the decision was criticized by the owner of the only sea cucumber processing plant on the American east coast, who said it would force him to shut down.

The sea cucumber, a long and lumpy invertebrate, is extremely popular in Asian countries, particularly China, where it is used to treat joint pain and as an aphrodisiac. The demand is so heavy that worldwide 20 percent of sea cucumber fisheries have been fully depleted.


Fla. woman sentenced for leaving pets to die

(Information in the following story is from: Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal,

MILTON, Fla. (AP) - A Florida Panhandle judge sentenced a woman to a year and a day in prison for leaving six starving pets in her Gulf Breeze home

On Wednesday, 41-year-old Toni Phelps repeatedly told Judge John Simon that she didn't leave three dogs and three cats inside the home that she packed up and left after it was foreclosed in 2012. Simon wasn't sympathetic, saying Phelps was "going to jail because this is just terrible."

Prosecutors say bags of dog food were among the trash found inside the home.

The Pensacola News Journal reports neighbors called animal services multiple times, but workers weren't able to enter the home without Phelps' permission, which was denied.

A sheriff's deputy obtained a warrant to go inside after seeing a dead animal through a window.


2 South Fla. museums awarded Kellogg grants

MIAMI (AP) - Two museums in Miami-Dade County are recipients of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation grants for programs that encourage family engagement in early childhood education.

The Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum and the Bass Museum of Art are among 30 organizations awarded $13.7 million in grants by the Michigan-based foundation. Officials say they received 1,100 applications.

The Miami Herald reports the Bass Museum will get $500,000. It was the only art museum to receive the funding, which will be used to expand efforts to reach out to more diverse audiences with young children.

The Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science is receiving $450,000 to support the Early Childhood Hands-On Science Family Engagement program. It assists preschool teachers, assistants and families get more acquainted with science education and the museum.


Ex-US Attorney heads Gulf spill claims audit panel

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A former U.S. attorney in Baton Rouge heads up a new three-member audit panel appointed to review the settlement program arising from the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Raymond Lamonica, now a law professor at LSU, was appointed Wednesday by the federal judge overseeing litigation that followed the spill. Also named to the panel were accountant Lloyd Tate and LSU accounting professor Larry Crumbley.

The panel was appointed in response to a motion by claims administrator Patrick Juneau's office. The panel will review the work of a firm hired to do an audit of the claims process. It also will make recommendations for a quality control system aimed at preventing errors in paying claims from a property damage and economic loss settlement.


Sharper's attorneys to question Arizona evidence

PHOENIX (AP) - Lawyers for former NFL All-Pro safety Darren Sharper will return to a Phoenix courtroom Thursday to question the evidence being used to keep him in jail without bail on charges that he drugged and sexually assaulted two women.

A judge began a hearing on the subject Wednesday, and it's expected to conclude Thursday.

The hearing is the latest development in several ongoing sexual assault investigations involving Sharper in Louisiana, California, Florida, Arizona and Nevada.

Bail in Sharper's California rape case was set at $1 million, but he was denied bail in the Arizona case.

Sharper hasn't yet entered a plea in Arizona, although one of his attorneys says Sharper will deny the allegations.

He also has pleaded not guilty in the California case.


2 nurses honored for trying to save man's life

SPRING HILL, Fla. (AP) - Two nurses were honored by the Pasco County Sheriff's Office for trying to save the life of a man who was shot in a movie theater in January.

Derek Friedhoff and his girlfriend, Jennie Manera, both nurses, were given the award.

Friedhoff and Manera were at a movie theater in Wesley Chapel on their day off when they heard a shot.

Authorities say 71-year-old Curtis Reeves shot 43-year-old Chad Oulson after a dispute over texting.

Friedhoff and Manera said they switched from off-day mindset to the focus of a trauma room. Friedhoff took off his shirt and pressed it against Oulson's entry wound.

Manera checked for a pulse. Oulson, who was shot in the chest, died.

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