Tagged: Florida

Saving avocado trees with drones and dogs

In Florida, a devastating disease threatens the nation’s nearly half-a-billion dollar avocado industry. That’s leading researchers to use extreme measures: drones and dogs…

The hunt for the deadly fungus begins in the air. A drone scans a seemingly healthy avocado grove and in just minutes, its multi-spectral camera spots trees in trouble.

Trees indicated in yellow or red may be infected by a fungus, carried by the microscopic ambrosia beetle that causes laurel wilt…

Once the drone has narrowed the search area, the dogs set to work. The fungus spreads through a tree’s interior and is invisible to the human eye, but the smell is inescapable to the sensitive noses of these trained dogs. They check every tree at risk and sit when the disease is detected…

Laurel wilt has killed an estimated 6,000 avocado trees in Florida in the last few years. The state is the second-largest avocado producer in the nation, and a $64 million industry is now at risk…

Scientists hope to stop the disease in Florida. One of their biggest fears is that it will spread to California, the country’s largest producer of avocados. For now, growers in Florida are hoping to get through this season, as they start harvesting groves in June.

Scary enough for me. I generally have an avocado every day.

In this neck of the prairie, I’m probably eating one from Mexico or California. In fact, we’ve already had some from California already.

Hostage uses smartphone pizza app to summon 911 help

Florida-woman-uses-Pizza-Hut-app-to-request-911-assistance

A Florida woman being held hostage with her children used a Pizza Hut ordering app to ask store employees to call 911 on her behalf.

The Pizza Hut in Avon Park received an online order about 3:40 p.m. Monday from regular customer Cheryl Treadway and Chef Alonia Hawk noticed the comments section for the order of a small hand-tossed classic pizza with pepperoni read, “Please help! Get 911 to me,” and “911 hostage help.”

Manager Candy Hamilton printed the order and contacted police…

Police said Treadway and her children were being held in their home at knife-point by the woman’s boyfriend, Ethan Earl Nickerson, 26.

A Highlands County Sheriff’s Office negotiator arrived on the scene and Treadway came out of the home with one of the children, but two others remained inside with Nickerson.

“She comes running toward us but two kids are still in the house with a person who’s on narcotics and you don’t know how their mindset with a knife, and we need to get them out,” the negotiator, Lt. Curtis Ludden, told WTSP-TV.

Nickerson was arrested without incident about 20 minutes later, police said. Treadway and her children were not injured.

Treadway told police she and Nickerson had been arguing and he had taken her phone away after threatening her with the knife. Treadway said she convinced Nickerson to let her use the phone to order pizza and he took the phone back after the order.

Quick thinking, Ms. Treadway. You deserve a reward for saving your kids. A super geek solution.

Sleazy hospital of the week


They haven’t a leg to stand on in their defense. Har!

A south Florida man is suing a hospital for emotional distress, saying his leg was amputated and thrown in the garbage with his name tag still on it.

John Timiriasieff, 56, had his right leg amputated below the knee in October at Doctors Hospital in Coral Gables.

“Rather than properly disposing of the plaintiff’s limb as expected and as required by Florida law, Doctors Hospital threw the Plaintiff’s amputated limb into the garbage, with tags indicating it belonged to the Plaintiff,” according to the lawsuit filed…in Miami-Dade County Circuit Court.

A month later, Timiriasieff said his family was contacted by homicide detectives investigating if he had been the victim of foul play…

Doctors Hospital Inc, part of the Baptist Health South Florida Inc, said it could not discuss the incident in detail because of patient privacy considerations…

Normally, amputated limbs are incinerated by hospitals, said Clay Roberts, a lawyer for Timiriasieff…

The leg was discovered at a waste management facility and reported to police.

The medical-industrial complex has attitudes as disgusting and anti-human as the military-industrial complex.

Florida scientists discover super termites


A hybrid colony of Coptotermes termites. A king C. gestroi (nutty-brown abdomen) is shown on the left, and a queen C. formosanus (orange abdomen) on the right. They are surrounded by their hybrid offspring, including eggs, larvae, workers, and soldiers.

Formosan subterranean termites (Coptotermes formosanus) and Asian subterranean termites (Coptotermes gestroi) are the most damaging pest species in the world. Both are highly invasive and have spread throughout many areas of the world due to human activity, and their distributions overlap in some areas.

Now scientists in Florida have observed Formosan males mating with Asian females — in fact, they seem to prefer the Asian females more than females from their own species — and their hybrid offspring seem to grow colonies twice as fast as their parents…

Many hybrids are unable to reproduce…And many hybrids that actually can reproduce tend to lose vigor after one or more generations, which is why farmers often buy new hybrid seeds each growing season…But so far that doesn’t seem to be the case for these termite hybrids. In the laboratory, the Florida researchers are raising a hybrid colony that is growing twice as fast as same-species colonies, suggesting a potential case of hybrid vigor…

While these laboratory observations remain to be confirmed in the field, the results still raise a tangible concern about the hybridization of these incredibly destructive pests, which could have significant economic impacts…

However, even if they do not produce viable reproductives, the hybrids could still be problematic in the wild. A C. formosanus colony can grow to contain millions of individuals within five to eight years, and since the hybrid colony in the UFL lab is growing at least as fast as its parental species, it’s reasonable to assume that hybrid colonies will also contain millions of termites after five years or so…

What we are dealing with here is a termite colony that acts like a super organism,” said Dr. Nan-Yao Su, another UFL professor and co-author of the study. “Whether or not it produces reproductives, the colony itself poses a serious threat to homeowners.”

Florida’s Republican governor is a reasonably consistent thug. He’ll probably handle this threat to homeowners the way he handles climate change. First, he’ll deny it exists. Them, he’ll order all scientists on the state payroll to censor their work so there will be nothing on the record admitting to the danger.

Philosophical idealism is laughable outside the world of academia. Attempting to justify a causal relationship between concepts held in thought – and material reality – is always refuted simply by the absurdity of trying to prove something comes from nothing. In today’s Republican politics, molding the bigotry of neo-cons around a core of religion and superstition, politicians behave as if denying a problem will make it go away. Refusing to answer a question will somehow eliminate the physical processes that provoked the question in the first place.

This Week in God

When we last checked in with the fine folks in Orange County, Florida, home to Orlando among other communities, the school board had already agreed to allow an evangelical Christian group to distribute Bibles to school children. The Satanic Temple heard about the arrangement and asked for equal treatment – they had some Satanic coloring books they wanted to share.

If the board members refused, the Satanic Temple would sue and almost certainly win – the Supreme Court has already said public schools can’t discriminate based on religious viewpoints. If the doors were open to an evangelical group to distribute Bibles, then Orange County would seem to have no choice but to open the doors a little wider to accommodate every other religious group.

This week, Ian Millhiser explained the school board decided it’s time to close the doors altogether.
The school district, in other words, could allow Christians and Satanists alike to distribute literature to students. Or it could exclude both. But it cannot discriminate against the Satanists because it disagrees with the Satanic viewpoint. At a school board meeting Tuesday night, the board decided to go with a version of option B. Under their new policy, some literature may still be distributed, “but nothing that is religious, political or sectarian,” according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Every time these kinds of controversies arise, the underlying principle is always the same: when it comes to religion and public affairs, the government can’t play favorites. First Amendment principles demand that no American is treated as a second-class citizen.

The ideal solution, it would seem, is for public officials to stay out of the religion-promotion business altogether.

Let us return to separation between church and state.

Yes, I realize fundamentalists often believe this never was the case. They also believe the Earth came into existence 6000 years ago. I have no problem with someone wanting to believe silly crap. But, unless they can provide historical or scientific evidence to prove their case – they will be ignored.

Once we got past World war 2 and resumed our journey towards a modern new world appurtenances like religion quickly began to fall away from most useful political constructs – ranging from jurisprudence to public schools. Because some fundamentalist True Believers have fought successful rear guard battles in political backwaters has little or nothing to do with the course our nation should follow.

That includes the reactionary dullards stuck into the Supreme Court by opportunist politicians.

Pic of the Day

Cop marries ex-Marine
Cop marries ex-Marine

Detective David Currie, 50, and his now-husband Aaron Woodard, 33, tied the knot shortly after midnight on Tuesday, the 7th, when the state legalized gay marriage.

And after requesting permission from his superiors, Currie walked down the registry aisle with full support of the Broward County Sheriff’s to wed in uniform.

All the conservative True Believers in Florida must have their shorts in a truly world-class bunch over this. Meanwhile, a couple of people who love each other get to live a legally married life together.

Simple brief ceremonies wedding same-sex couples throughout Florida

Edgard Perez, Charles Windham
Wedding photo for Edgard Perez and Charles Windham

With arms interlocked, about 20 gay and lesbian couples, too eager to wait any longer, were married in a five-minute ceremony at 3 a.m. on Tuesday at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale as Florida marked a long, arduous journey to become the 36th state to legalize same sex marriage.

Now the nation’s third-largest state, Florida joined the list allowing same-sex unions just six years after the state, led by Republican lawmakers, voted to approve a constitutional ban on gay marriage, which garnered 62 percent of the vote.

“Do you take each other to be your spouse for life?” asked Howard C. Forman, the Broward County clerk of courts, slightly stressing the word spouse. Together, the couples uttered their individual vows to one another. “I pronounce you legally married,” Mr. Forman said.

With that, the couples, their families and friends roared, cheered and clapped, and Frank Sinatra’s “Love” blasted into the room. For Anthony Butera, 44, and Abdel Magid, 45, there was no doubt that marrying as soon as possible in their home state was a must-do. A couple for 12 years, the two donned wedding finery — Mr. Butera wore a cream tuxedo jacket with a black handkerchief and Mr. Magid a black tuxedo jacket with a white boutonniere — and infectious smiles.

“It’s special to be recognized and be treated like everyone else,” Mr. Magid said.

More victories in a nation that supposedly believes in equal opportunity, that preaches to the rest of the world that we are the bastion of democracy and reason – and there still are states and politicians, religions and zealots who believe they have a mandate to prevent equal civil rights for every American. They believed they could do it because of skin color, They believe they can do so because of sexual inclination.

Understanding their misbegotten belief doesn’t make it anymore defensible. Such bigotry belongs in history’s cesspool. Witnessing expressions of love and freedom from these newly-married folks is worth so much more than the hatred and fear of fools.

RTFA for more examples of a new kind of freedom creeping cautiously through the halls of Florida’s backwards government, a state which still tries to dignify the fascist time-warp infecting their brains.

Junkie visits junkie in hospital. Result = fire in the ICU

A Florida man was arrested for smoking crack cocaine with his hospitalized friend, causing a small fire in an intensive care unit where the patient was located…

Lee Vern Cook, 54, was arrested Christmas Eve on multiple charges, including arson, five counts of possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony.

Cook is accused of visiting a bed-ridden friend in the North Okaloosa Medical Center Intensive Care Unit, bringing with him crack cocaine, a pipe from which to smoke the drug and a firearm. The two smoked the cocaine together from a homemade device, police say, but the patient wore an oxygen mask and the flame from lighting the pipe mixed with the gas to rapidly cause a fire.

Burn damage was limited to bed linens, the patient’s gown and the oxygen mask itself. The patient suffered injuries and was transferred to a burn unit, but the hospital was not evacuated. Cook suffered burns to his hands and was evaluated before being taken to jail.

According to police, Cook admitted to bringing the drugs as well as the loaded firearm into the hospital. He showed authorities where he had hidden the gun in a bathroom before being taken to Okaloosa County Jail.

I’ll say it one more time. Junkies and crooks aren’t famous for decision-making.

90-year-old activist chef busted again for feeding the homeless

abbott-busted

…A 90-year-old activist and two pastors from two churches in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., were arrested at a park on Sunday and then again on Wednesday for doing what they’ve been doing there for years: serving meals to the homeless.

On Oct. 22, the city’s commissioners passed a measure that requires feeding sites to be more than 500 feet away from each other and 500 feet from residential properties. Only one group is allowed to share food with the homeless per city block…

Arnold Abbott, the 90-year-old Fort Lauderdale activist, began offering food to the homeless living on the city’s beaches in the 1990s. Then he formed his own nonprofit, Love Thy Neighbor, and has continued to serve food twice weekly to the homeless at the beach and in a park.

“These are the poorest of the poor. They have nothing; they don’t have a roof over their heads,” Abbot said Wednesday. He added that a police officer ordered him to drop the plate of food he was holding, as if it were a weapon, the AP reported.

Obviously subversive. Actually living up to slogans like Love The Neighbor isn’t acceptable in Florida.

If convicted…Abbott could receive a sentence of 60 days in jail or a fine of $500.

“I know I will be arrested again, I’m prepared for that,” Abbott said. “I am my brother’s keeper, and what they are doing is just heartless. They are trying to sweep the poorest of the poor under the rug.”

Seriously, does anyone expect our politicians to support care for the poor?

Yeah, yeah, there will be the expected blather about trickle-down this and that; but, when push comes to shove, the Republican governor of Florida was just re-elected after he kept over a million poor Floridians from having access to Medicaid.

Dumb Crook(s) of the Day

Family Values
Butt dial leads police to meth lab

Three Floridians were busted after one of them butt-dialed 911 while discussing their alleged drug operation.

The dispatcher heard Donna Knope, 55, Jason Knope, 32, and Thomas Stallings, 41, talk about “making and selling methamphetamine” for nearly half an hour on Saturday, authorities said.

Police traced the call to the backyard of the Knopes’ home on Roland Drive in Deltona, 30 miles north of Orlando…

Donna Knope is Jason Knope’s mother.

Volusia County Sheriff’s Office deputies looked inside an open window to a shed to find what appeared to be a meth lab…

They saw a “bottle that appeared to be smoking” and white smoke came streaming from the shed, according to police.

The trio was arrested at the scene where deputies say they found all the elements needs to operate a meth lab, including hypodermic needles, a butane torch, plastic tubing, coffee filters, lighter fluid and more.

All three suspects were charged with manufacturing methamphetamine and possessing methamphetamine with the intent to sell or deliver…

Har!