Environmentalists appeal Florida water ruling
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Environmentalists are appealing a federal judge's approval of Florida's water pollution rules.
In January, a federal judge in Tallahassee ruled that state and federal authorities could move ahead with an agreement that allows Florida to take the lead in writing and enforcing water pollution rules.
Environmental groups argued that the state rules had loopholes and that the ruling meant that stricter federal Clean Water Act protections would not apply to two-thirds of Florida waters.
The nonprofit environmental law firm Earthjustice filed an appeal Thursday in the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. In a statement, Earthjustice attorney David Guest says the state and federal agreement is "doing the bidding of the big polluters and selling out the public."
State environmental and agriculture officials hailed the Jan. 7 decision.
Police video of Bieber's urine test released
MIAMI (AP) - Miami prosecutors have released police video of Justin Bieber giving urine for a drug test, with sensitive portions blacked out as ordered by a judge.
The clips released Thursday show the 20-year-old singer standing behind a low partition to provide the sample. A black box is imposed over his lower half to conceal his genitalia.
The drug test is key to Bieber's driving under the influence case because it found evidence of marijuana and the anti-anxiety drug Xanax in the singer's system. Bieber also was charged Jan. 23 with resisting arrest and having an expired license. He has pleaded not guilty.
Court records also show Bieber was scheduled Thursday to give a deposition in an unrelated Miami lawsuit filed by a photographer who says he was roughed up by the singer's bodyguards.
Fla. sues BP over oil spill environmental damage
PANAMA CITY, Fla. (AP) - Florida has joined a multistate lawsuit stemming from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, seeking to hold British oil company BP accountable for damage to the state's natural resources.
The complaint was filed Wednesday in Panama City federal court by the state's secretary of environmental protection and the head of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
It's separate from a lawsuit Florida's attorney general filed against BP last year over economic losses related to the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.
Along with BP, the new complaint lists minority partner Anadarko and rig owner Transocean as defendants responsible for harm the spill caused to Florida's ecosystems and wildlife.
BP spokesman Geoff Morrell says the company is reviewing Florida's lawsuit and continues to evaluate potential spill-related environmental damage.
Bill would give nurse practitioners more authority
MIAMI (AP) - With a shortage of primary care physicians across Florida, state lawmakers are pushing a bill to expand the powers of nurse practitioners. It would allow them to prescribe controlled substances and work without supervision from a doctor.
The bill's champion is Rep. Cary Pigman, an emergency room physician who has supervised nurse practitioners for decades. He says Florida has thousands of trained nurse practitioners who can help fill the gap. But the Florida Medical Association and many independent doctors have spoken out against his bill. They say even nurses with advanced training need a doctor's supervision.
Pigman, an Avon Park Republican, calls the current supervision mandate a "sham." He added that he could wind up supervising a nurse practitioner working hundreds of miles away and still be paid for it.
Insurance discrimination bills ready for floor
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - A House and Senate committee both approved a bill that would prevent insurance companies from discriminating against gun owners.
The bill flew through the Senate Appropriations committee, but did meet some resistance in the House.
Some insurance companies would prefer not to insure gun owners and others have a different set of rates. Supporters of the bill say it's illegal to discriminate against a citizen who is exercising their constitutional right to own firearms.
Both House and Senate versions of the bill have gone through all committees and are ready to be heard on the floor.
National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer said the bill gives teeth to established anti-discrimination laws and provides recourse for victims. Some insurance companies say there is greater risk of claims from gun owners.
Fla. could increase private school vouchers
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - A substantial expansion of one of Florida's private school voucher programs is advancing in the state Legislature.
A House panel on Thursday voted for a bill that would increase which students would be eligible for the program, as well as make more money available for the private schools that accept the vouchers. The changes could make vouchers available to middle income families in the state.
The vote for the bill was split along party lines.
Republicans said they want to give more families a chance to choose which schools they want to send their children. But Democrats questioned the scope of the expansion and whether it would come at the expense of public schools.
Rep. Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah, insisted that the bill helps public education because "the kids are public."
Cruise ship rescues Cuban migrants adrift at sea
GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands (AP) - The government of the Cayman Islands says 24 Cuban migrants rescued by a cruise ship appear to be in good health.
A government statement issued Thursday says the 23 men and one woman were being detained by immigration authorities in the British territory. They are to be returned to Cuba under an agreement between the countries.
Carnival Cruise Lines says one of its ships rescued the group Tuesday. Their vessel had been adrift for several days in the Caribbean when the Carnival Paradise stopped to pick them up.
Miami-based Carnival Corp. says the crew gave the stranded migrants food, water and fresh clothing and then took them to the ship's next destination in Grand Cayman. The Paradise is on a five-day cruise that departed Tampa on Monday.
Principal charged with sexually assaulting staffer
POMPANO BEACH, Fla. (AP) - The former principal of a South Florida charter high school has been charged with sexually assaulting a female employee in October.
The Broward Sheriff's Office reports that 55-year-old Peter Nicholson was arrested Wednesday and charged with sexual battery. He was released Thursday on $5,000 bail.
Accelerated Learning Solutions Inc., which operates the school, said in a letter to parents Thursday that Nicholson has resigned.
The woman told detectives that she was working in the office at Flagler High School in Pompano Beach one Saturday in October when Nicholas forcibly pulled her pants down and had sex with her against her will.
The woman reported the crime Feb. 21. She said she waited nearly four months to report the attack because she was afraid she would lose her job.
Jail records didn't say whether Nicholson had an attorney.
Man gets life for fatally shooting ex-girlfriend
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) - A central Florida man has been sentenced to life in prison for killing his ex-girlfriend after she kicked him out of her house.
A Volusia County judge sentenced 26-year-old Scott Austin Stuut II on Thursday after jurors took about 18 minutes to find him guilty of first-degree murder.
Authorities say Stuut returned to 59-year-old Margaret Gee's DeLand home in March 2012 and shot her with a .38-caliber revolver. The Daytona Beach News-Journal reports that prosecutors showed jurors a video of Stuut confessing during an interview with police several weeks after the slaying.
Stuut's attorney said his client made up the confession as a game. The defense argued there was no physical evidence tying Stuut to the crime.
Hubble Telescope captures shattering asteroid
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) - The Hubble Space Telescope has captured the first pictures of a disintegrating asteroid.
Asteroid P/2013 R3 was detected in September in the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. It appeared as a fuzzy object. Further observations by ground telescopes revealed three bodies. Hubble uncovered 10 objects, each with dusty tails. The four largest fragments are up to 656 feet across.
Scientists say the asteroid began coming apart early last year. They theorize sunlight is slowing pulling the asteroid apart by increasing its rotation.
A planetary scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, David Jewitt, led the investigation. He says seeing the rock "fall apart before our eyes is pretty amazing."
The pictures were released Thursday.
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