Gun makers, violent film and video creators benefit aplenty from tax breaks in Florida

What do violent video games, gory movies and high-powered assault weapons have in common?

They have all been blamed for tragic mass shootings, including last month’s at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. — and are all subsidized by Florida taxpayers.

With Florida’s tax code more business-friendly in recent years, economic incentives and tax breaks have flowed to companies and industries currently under fire for their roles in America’s gun violence.

Meanwhile, the state has cut funding for mental healthcare and school safety programs, two areas at the forefront of the national gun control debate.

While it has become more difficult and expensive to access mental health care in Florida, it is getting easier and cheaper to obtain high-powered weapons. Last year, the Legislature cut the cost of obtaining a weapons license by $5, and a string of gun-friendly measures has boosted the number of concealed firearms carriers past 1 million.

As the White House, Congress and states across the country look at new measures for curbing gun violence, Florida’s tax code and budgeting measures could be having the opposite effect.

“I think the state of Florida has a role to play in preventing gun violence and in gun regulation,” said Sunrise mayor Mike Ryan, who has pushed for gun control but acknowledged that the controversial companies receiving tax breaks are all helping to create jobs in the state. “When you get to the issue of assault weapons, you get to a thornier issue.”

Nationally, Florida ranks 49th in mental health funding, and first in gun ownership. The state has been a trailblazer in providing lucrative tax incentives to a smorgasbord of companies in return for promises to create jobs.

In 2012, a tough budget year when the Legislature cut funding for school safety by $1.8 million and Gov. Rick Scott vetoed $5.7 million for mental health programs, lawmakers were able to find more than $10 million for economic incentives that went to violent film productions, bloody video games and gun manufacturers.

In South Florida, that meant millions of fewer dollars for mentally ill prisoners, while movie-maker Michael Bay received $4.2 million in tax breaks to produce Pain & Gain, an action film about South Beach bodybuilders who become violent criminals.

Tax breaks for gun dealers

The Legislature and powerful business groups are pushing to boost the state’s manufacturing industry, a sector that includes makers of military-style weapons.

At least three gun makers have been on the receiving end of lucrative tax break deals aimed at spurring job creation. Colt Manufacturing Co. was approved for a $1.6 million deal in December 2011, after it opted to open a new regional headquarters in Osceola County, bringing 63 jobs. Scott hailed the tax credit program as a “clear message that Florida is both open for business and a defender of our right to bear arms.”

More tax breaks for gun makers would soon follow.

Kel Tec CNC, a Cocoa Beach company that manufactured the handgun used in the controversial Trayvon Martin shooting last year, received nearly $15,000 in taxpayer cash to train its employees. The company, which also makes the types of high-powered assault weapons used in recent mass shootings, did not have to create any new jobs in return for the money. Repeated efforts to reach company officials were unsuccessful.

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Raspberry Pi creator says sequel unlikely in 2013

Raspberry Pi’s $ 35 Linux-based computer is a runaway success. Creator Eben Upton told ZDNet in a recent interview that his team thought they would sell 1,000 units when they were designing the mini PC, but sales have now topped 700,000. ”We honestly did think we would sell about 1,000, maybe 10,000 in our wildest dreams,” Upton said. “We thought we would make a small number and give them out to people who might want to come and read computer science at Cambridge.” On a slightly disappointing note to those hoping for an upgraded model in 2013, Upton said in the interview that the company has no plans to launch a sequel to the latest Raspberry Pi “Model B” this year.

[More from BGR: BlackBerry 10 browser smokes iOS 6 and Windows Phone 8 in comparison test [video]]

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Manti Teo ESPN Interview on Lennay Kekua

Given the worldwide attention given to Manti Te'o and his fake girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, since it was inevitable the football star would break his silence sooner rather than later. Last night, Te'o sat down for an off-camera interview with ESPN's Jeremy Schaap, where he admitted to lyng about actually meeting Kekua because he believed his friends, family and coaches would think he was "crazy" for engaging in an intense relationship with someone he'd never met. But, throughout the interview, Te'o maintains he was not complicit in perpetuating the story for personal gain.

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"I wasn't faking it. I wasn't part of this," Te'o tells ESPN's Jeremy Schapp, insisting he was duped by the online hoax, now commonly referred to as "Catifshing," thanks to the documentary and MTV show of the same name.

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"She friend requested me on Facebook the winter of my freshman year at Notre Dame," Te'o explains. "We spoke on the phone. We spoke on the phone and talked on the phone, texted. But it's always as acquaintances, as friends. And then she contacted me that Purdue game and she just said 'Hey, how are you doing? I'm going through some hard times with my boyfriend' -- at the time she had a boyfriend at the time. And just want you to be there for me, just be my friend. I said sure, I'll be here for you."

Te'o clarifies that the duration of the relationship has been widely misreported, saying that their were large chunks of time they went without speaking throughout the four year period in question.

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Then, during Te'o's junior year at Notre Dame, Kekua (who is now believed to be a man named Ronaiah Tuiasosopo and at least one female accomplice) reconnected with him. "We spoke on the phone. We spoke on the phone and talked on the phone, texted. But it's always as acquaintances, as friends ... And eventually we just kept talking and kept talking and kept talking. Everything kind of changed a little when her dad passed away. She told me her dad passed away, and I was there. I was just being that shoulder to cry on ... And so our relationship kind of took another level. But not the kind of exclusive level yet. I was trying to get to know her and get to know a whole bunch of other people. And for that period of time we talked and talked and got to know each other better and better and better. And everything changed April 28th. I got a phone call from her brother that she had got in the car accident."

Te'o says that Kekua's brother acted as an intermediary between them throughout her hospitalization. "I would ask to talk to her, and the only communication I had was through her brother and he used her phone," Te'o says. "He would put me supposedly right next to her mouth and I could hear the ventilator going. And she would be breathing ... They were telling me, 'Bro, she recognized your voice. We know she's there. We know she can hear you.' She would quicken her voice. And I heard it on the phone. They would do it to me. And so that was my communication while she was in a coma."

When asked by Schaap why Te'o didn't think to visit her, he says, "It never really crossed my mind. I don't know. I was in school. I was finishing up my year and I was going home. It was towards the end of my junior year. End of my junior year, and I was about to go home. When I decided to go home, the day that I decided to -- the day I left to go home -- they called me and said that that was the same day that they were going to pull the plug. And so it intensifies the whole thing. I'm on the plane. I figured they're about to pull the plug on someone ... All my focus went just to her, in caring for her. Making sure she was OK. Whenever you feel that you're about to lose somebody, you know, reality kicks in, and it's like, okay, I'm going to be here for her, take care of her. And so my focus turned straight to Lennay."

Te'o not only recounts pieces of the elaborate backstory he was fed, but also explains there was a seemingly endless array of photos; all of which convinced him Kekua was real.

Then, in early July, Te'o is told that Keuka has leukemia, which only intensifies his feelings for her. Throughout her treatment, Te'o constantly spoke to Keuka via phonecalls and online chats. Then, on September 12, Te'o's parents called to say his grandmother had passed away, hours later, Keuka called. "I had already found out that grandma is dead. I was angry. I didn't want to be bothered. So Lennay was just trying to be there for me. I just -- I just wanted my own space. We got in an argument. She was saying, you know, I'm trying to be here for you. I didn't want to be bothered. I wanted to be left alone. I just wanted to be by myself."

"Later that day I get a text message from her brother, just saying 'Bro. That was it.' I wondered why her brother was contacting me. Couple minutes later, I get the call from her brother. He's telling me, he's crying, screaming, and he's just telling me, 'She's gone! She's gone!' He's mumbling, 'She's gone, she's gone, bro', she's gone.' And I'm sitting there wondering who is gone? Why is he telling me that somebody's gone. Lennay's supposed to get home on September 11th, the day before. She was fine, you know? She was going home, she was fine. People were saying that she's getting better. I get a phone call that she's gone. They tell me Lennay's gone."

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"I dropped the phone. I walk around the corner to get to the hall way where nobody is... I started crying and crying, punching the wall." Te'o adds, "Looking back on it now? I don't know. I really don't know. One, to lie about it, and two, to coordinate this death on the same day that I lost my grandmother, I don't know."

For those who believed Te'o created this entire scenario to garner sympathy in a big to win The Heisman Trophy, their biggest piece of evidence is that Te'o didn't attend Keuka's funeral. He tells ESPN the reason he didn't go was because her funeral fell on the same day as a big game. "Before Lennay passed away, we had a conversation where she asked me if she passed away, if I could go to her funeral? I told her no, I'm not going to talk like that. I'm not going to talk like that. She said tell me this, if anything happens, promise me that you'll send me white roses and say you'll play. She said all I want is white roses. And leading up to the funeral, her siblings kept telling me that their mom told them she didn't want me to come. They didn't want -- and I didn't want myself -- I didn't want that to be the first time that I saw her was lying in a coffin. That's why I didn't go."

Months pass, and Te'o begins dating a girl named Alex del Pilar. Then, on December 6, he gets a phonecall from Lennay's sister U'i. "She said, 'Hey, I've got to tell you something that's very important.' So she goes through this whole spiel how my family's involved with drugs and like bad people. And we have to hide and make sure that everybody's -- she's giving me this background about their life. She just basically said I think you know. And I said what do you mean? I don't know anything. She said, well, Manti, it's me. That's all she said."

"I eventually just gave up and said, who is me? And she said, it's Lennay. So we carried on that conversation, and I just got mad. I just went on a rampage. How could you do this to me? I ended that conversation by saying, simply this: You know what, Lennay, my Lennay died on September 12. I don't know who you are, but Lennay died on September 12th and that conversation ended."

Another fact detractors point to as evidence Te'o was complicit in the lie is that he continued to talk about Lennay in subsequent interviews as if she were real. Te'o cites his initial confusion as the reason behind those incidents. 

Since then, Te'o has continued to speak with U'i and Ronaiah in a quest to find out the truth. However, once the story broke, Te'o says his been contacted by several people who were similarly duped by the duo. "Multiple people that he's done it to me contacted me ... and said hey, he's done the same thing to me with the same girl, with the same story. And if you need any help, I'm here."

Te'o, for one, is hoping this saga comes to a close much faster than I believe it will. As for what he'd like to see happen to his hoaxers, Te'o says, "To be honest with you, it doesn't seem real. I hope he learns. I hope he understands what he's done. I don't wish an ill thing to somebody. I just hope he learns. I think embarrassment is big enough."

To read Manti Te'o's entire and all-encompassing interview with ESPN, click here.

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Heat's on this guy: Near-naked 'burglar' arrested outside Calif. home — he had been using the sauna

SAN ANDREAS, Calif. — Authorities in Northern California say a man arrested in nothing but a trench coat and socks after a break-in told investigators he had been using the homeowner's sauna.

Calaveras County sheriff's deputies arrested 49-year-old Robert London this week after they responded to a report of a burglary at a home in San Andreas. He pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges of burglary and possession of stolen property.

Sheriff's Sgt. Chris Hewitt says arriving deputies found the homeowner on top of a nearly naked London on the driveway.

The homeowner said he discovered London going through his kitchen cabinets and chased him out the door.

Hewitt says London told investigators he thought the house was vacant, and he had used the sauna there in the past.

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Miami-Dade considering support for Dolphins’ tax plan

The issue of tax-funded sports stadiums will soon be back on the Miami-Dade County Commission’s agenda.

Commissioner Barbara Jordan is slated to introduce a resolution Wednesday backing the Miami Dolphins’ plan to use a state subsidy and local hotel taxes to fund about half of a $400 million renovation of Sun Life Stadium. The resolution urges Florida lawmakers to pass a bill allowing the funding, and cites the upgrades’ ability to attract Super Bowl and other major events to the stadium.

The discussion comes roughly three years after a divided Miami-Dade commission backed borrowing about $360 million to build the Marlins a new $640 million baseball park in Little Havana. (The Marlins contributed $155 million, and Miami paid $120 million toward the complex, including a garage.)

The vote is widely credited with helping fuel the 2011 recall of then-mayor Carlos Alvarez. Dolphins insiders cite Marlins backlash as a major obstacle to winning tax dollars for the Sun Life renovation.

“If you give everything a little time, hopefully it heals a little bit,’’ said Rep. Erik Fresen, the original sponsor of the Dolphins’ stadium bill during the 2011 bid for a tax-funded renovation. “Last time, it was literally on the heels of the recall and everything that was so specific to the Marlins’ stadium.”

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has pledged private dollars would fund the majority of the $400 million upgrade of the privately owned stadium. The bill would qualify Sun Life for $90 million in state tax dollars over 30 years, and allow Miami-Dade to increase mainland hotel taxes to 7 percent from 6 percent for the renovations. The tax increase would generate about $10 million a year under the current market conditions.

In recent days, the Dolphins have released endorsements from large hotels in the area, including the Fontainebleau, Intercontinental, Trump Doral and, most recently, a string of Marriotts owned by the MDM development firm.

The baseball debate continues to hover over local politics. Last fall, Jordan was targeted by an anti-Marlins group for defeat in a reelection campaign supported by the Dolphins. She was not immediately available for comment Friday evening.

Norman Braman, the auto magnate who tried to block the Marlins plan and targeted Jordan and other baseball supporters for defeat, said he expected the commission to back public dollars for the Dolphins, too.

“I think they’ve got all the chutzpah you can imagine,’’ he said of incumbent commissioners. “I would be shocked if the commission didn’t do this.”

Fresen, a Miami Republican and co-sponsor in the House of the new Dolphins bill, said he needs the commission to endorse the legislation before he pushes it will fellow lawmakers. Rep. Eddy Gonzalez, a Republican from Hialeah and co-sponsor of the bill, said he gives the Dolphins plan a 50 percent chance of passing the House.

“The entire delegation is not on board. We need a product everyone can live with,’’ he said.

The bill would create a special $3 million yearly stadium subsidy designed for Sun Life. The Dolphins currently receive $2 million a year from Florida under the current stadium subsidy program, tied to retrofitting the Miami Gardens facility to house the Marlins in the 1990s. The team moved out in 2011, and the Dolphins $2 million payments end in 2023.

While the bill opens up the subsidy to any renovation project where public dollars make up a minority of the funding, the language also restricts Florida from paying it to more than one stadium. Ron Book, the Dolphins’ lobbyist, said limiting the bill to one $3 million payout a year should make the proposal more palatable amid Florida’s continuing budget squeeze.

“You have to manage the economic impact to the state,’’ he said.

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Freed imam returns to his Margate mosque

The sermon to celebrate Izhar Khan’s acquittal on federal charges of aiding the Pakistani Taliban urged the Muslim faithful gathered in a Margate mosque for Friday prayers to do right, care for others, and lead a life for all to see that Islam teaches brotherhood and peace.

“Let the world see what Islam is about,’’ exhorted Maulana Roshan, who led the service. “The opportunities we have here, we don’t have them in the countries we come from. ... Set an example. Do the right thing.’’

Kneeling on the floor among the faithful inside the mosque was Khan, 26, who returned to the Broward mosque he led for nearly three years on Friday for the first time since his arrest in May 2011. Worshippers filled the floor of the mosque and two additional, elevated platforms.

Dressed in black prayer clothes and a black-and-white smagh headdress, Khan stepped to the front following the sermon. He smiled broadly, spoke softly, and expressed gratitude to his spiritual community for their support during the 20 months he spent in a Miami federal detention center on charges of funneling money to terrorists.

Then he tried to explain the circumstances that led to his arrest — and the loss of his home and his savings — and ultimately his acquittal Thursday by U.S. District Judge Robert Scola, who cited a lack of evidence in the U.S. government’s material-support case against Khan and his father, Miami imam Hafiz Khan.

The case, which drew national media attention, will continue against Khan’s father, who is the lead defendant in the trial. But the judge found that the prosecution, which rested its case Wednesday, failed to prove any wrongdoing by the younger Khan, imam of Masjid Jamaat Al-Mumineen Mosque off Sample Road in Margate.

As he stood before his followers Friday, Khan expressed bewilderment over the substance of the government’s charges.

“I know you are thinking there must have been something I’ve done to make them suspicious,’’ he said. “I don’t even know. ... I’m more interested in sports than politics. I don’t even know who the prime minister of Pakistan is.

“I just want to let you be assured,’’ he said, “it was all based on speculation. Basically, because I wear a robe and a scary beard, it was all based on that.’’

Khan’s defense lawyer, Joseph Rosenbaum, also was at the Margate mosque on Friday, where he thanked members for their support — and urged them to help Khan readjust to life as a free man.

“You all have come through big time in your support,’’ he said. “Your prayers, your emotional support, whatever you did, it helped. ... We’d like you to welcome him back, to help him adjust, and to put him back on the road he was on when he left here.’’

Members of the mosque, which was founded a decade ago, said the path the younger Khan followed was one of peace and tolerance — and not what prosecutors alleged when they said Izhar Khan knew that two suspicious fund transfers of $300 and $900 were intended for the Pakistani Taliban, a U.S.-designated terrorist group.

Fazal Deen, secretary of the Margate mosque, said the transfers were remittances to Khan’s family in Pakistan.

“He was sending it to his sister to help the poor and the needy,’’ Deen said. “He’s been doing it for years.’’

Despite the government’s charges, Deen said, members of the mosque remained convinced that the younger Khan was a man of peace. Deen and others interviewed at the Margate mosque Friday said they did not know the elder Khan, and that the two mosques did not interact.

The younger Khan, a U.S. citizen, left Pakistan for South Florida with his family in the 1990s and developed into a beloved Muslim scholar with an interest in American culture and sports.

Deen said Khan built a volleyball court next to the mosque, and frequently played basketball with the children.

“He was a fun-loving person,’’ he said. “He always had a smile on his face. ... We never heard him say anything political or anything against the government or about terrorism. That’s not in his vocabulary.’’

Azan Badrudeen, 51, of North Lauderdale nodded in agreement.

“Since he came here, he’s been a very peaceful guy,’’ he said. “All his speeches are about peace — the way a Muslim should live his life, peacefully and mannerly.’’

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In Which Actual Joe Biden and ‘Onion’ Joe Biden Pal Around on Reddit and Twitter

The Onion‘s brilliant creation, “Diamond” Joe Biden, stopped by Reddit, in character, for one of the site’s signature Ask Me Anything sessions on Friday afternoon. And, hey, look who asked something over Twitter just as the AMA began:

Q for @reddit AMA with my @theonion pal: A Trans-Am? Ever look under the hood of a Corvette? #imavetteguy –VP…

— Office of VP Biden (@VP) January 18, 2013

So that happened, and it’s so beyond meta that our heads hurt. It confirms that the vice-president (or at least his office) is aware of his satirical alter-ego: the foul-mouthed, Trans-Am-driving, skirt-chaser known to hundreds of Onion articles. And, of course, “Diamond” Joe answered:

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So why would Actual Joe Biden indulge the funniest incarnation of the Uncle Joe Biden whom the Internet loves so much? Maybe he thinks he’s funny! After all, Actual Joe Biden is pretty funny himself, and “Diamond” Joe’s answers on Reddit this afternoon didn’t disappoint. Some highlights:

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And another:

RELATED: How Joe Biden Stages Those Average-Joe Pictures… in Pictures

8eade  4f2570aadcda87ffa174c9e396a9a743 640x138 In Which Actual Joe Biden and Onion Joe Biden Pal Around on Reddit and Twitter

One more:

8eade  d8f4bc9006a58d7fb7023f4b958f4ba5 640x137 In Which Actual Joe Biden and Onion Joe Biden Pal Around on Reddit and Twitter

And, yes, there’s a theme here:

8eade  95a4b46ca936267d4f43e3122923cd2d 640x188 In Which Actual Joe Biden and Onion Joe Biden Pal Around on Reddit and Twitter

Social Media News Headlines – Yahoo! News

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Lance Armstrong Movie in the Works with JJ Abrams

Well, that was fast!

Less than 24 hours after his history making confession to Oprah Winfrey, a biopic detailing the rise and fall of disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong has already made some serious headway towards the big screen.

Related: Lance Armstrong Admits to Cheating: Winning's Impossible Without Doping

ET has learned Paramount Pictures & Bad Robot (J.J. Abram's production company) have secured rights to Cycle of Lies: The Fall of Lance Armstrong, a book proposal penned by Juliet Macur. The author, a sports reporter from The New York Times, has covered the athlete over the span of a decade throughout Armstrong's struggle with cancer, years of doping allegations and ensuing lawsuits.

In a no-holds-barred interview Thursday with Winfrey, Armstrong finally admitted to doping during all seven of his Tour de France victories. Last year, the shamed cyclist was stripped of his titles following a damning report from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. Until recently, Armstrong vehemently maintained his innocence.

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Probation in 'buzzed' crash that killed pregnant woman

An admitted buzzed driver dodged up to seven years in prison today when she plead guilty for losing control of her car, killing her pregnant friend and injured other passengers.

Denise Finley was driving "fast under unsafe weather conditions" with Dominique Jamison and four others home from a party when her SUV slipped over, landing in a marsh near Kennedy Airport on Dec 30, prosecutors said.

Everyone got out of the car except 25-year-old Jamison, who died from brain trauma and drowning.

"They were friends from their neighborhood, both families know each other, its a tragedy all around," said Finley's attorney, Robert DiDio, who said his client will be sentenced to 60 days in jail and released on Feb 7.

Finley, 32 of Arverne, admitted to detectives that she drank a cup of cranberry juice and vodka before driving.

The blood alcohol test results were unknown at the time of Finley's arrest where she was originally charged with vehicular manslaughter, driving while intoxicated and without a license, according to court papers.

"I'm sorry," said a tearful Finley when she plead guilty to third-degree assault and driving while impaired, her blood-alcohol level was slightly under the NYS legal limit of .08.

The maximum sentence for third-degree assault -- a misdemeanor -- is up to a year.

Jamison's mother, Lenay declined to comment about the case outside of court.

A Queens judge will sentence Finley to a conditional discharge, three years probation and a $500 fine. She must also attend a drunk driving program, install an ignition interlock to her vehicle and attend a victim impact program for a year.

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Coconut Grove Village Council comes out against trolley project

The Coconut Grove Village Council on Thursday joined the chorus of opposition to a new trolley-bus fueling and maintenance garage now under construction on Douglas Road in the predominantly black West Grove.

Meanwhile, West Grove residents have lined up lawyers to fight the project, and a University of Miami law professor is asking federal authorities to assist the residents with possible civil rights issues.

The garage is part of a deal between the city of Coral Gables and Astor Development to build a luxury mixed-use complex on a site that includes the existing trolley garage. It would sit in the 3300 block of Douglas Road amid a single-family, residential neighborhood.

Although its members are elected by Grove voters, the council has no authority over land use. The Grove is a part of the city of Miami bordering the city of Coral Gables.

Council vice chair Kate Callahan cited “improper notice and improper zoning” as the reasons for the council’s objection to the facility. Members also agreed to provide funding “to help defray legal costs to stop the project immediately.” The council’s resolution will be drafted and presented at the next [Miami] City Commission meeting.

“If the Gables is going to have the luxury of the trolleys, then they should have the negative aspect as well — gas and oil spills, maintenance, the beast as well as the beauty. West Grove village is tired of having the beast dumped on their community without public discourse,” Callahan said, referring to the fact that she and other council members learned of the facility’s development through news reports rather than from City Hall.

Meanwhile, council members learned that neighborhood groups opposed to the garage have lined up lawyers to help them.

Pierre Sands, president of the Village West Homeowners and Tenants Association, or HOTA, said he met with two local attorneys and a third by conference call who had agreed to provide pro bono counsel to affected West Grove residents.

“There is a land use attorney on board and very excited about taking us on. They’ve indicated it’s pro bono. That’s the first victory this community has had,” Sands told the council.

Coral Springs-based land use and zoning attorney Ralf Brookes said he is one of the lawyers who has agreed to take the case.

“The minority neighborhood would bear the burdens of trolley maintenance including public health impacts, but has been denied the benefit of federally funded trolley service for years,” Brookes said in an email on Friday.

Also volunteering his services was Lowell Kuvin, who became a lawyer after Coral Gables cited him for violating a city ordinance against parking a pickup truck overnight in a residential neighborhood. Kuvin lost his case in court, but city voters repealed the law at the polls in November.

"I believe there are many issues here,” Kuvin said Friday. Is the West Grove being singled out as a receptacle for industrial complexes that other cities don’t want? Did the city follow its own zoning laws? Were people properly noticed?"

Meanwhile, students under University of Miami professor Anthony Alfieri, who directs the law school’s Center for Ethics and Public Service, have been conducting legal research into some of the issues surrounding the trolley facility, including questions of civil rights.

“We are reaching out to the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District [of Florida] to assist in providing community education and civil rights workshops to residents in the West Grove. We’ll be asking them to explain to affected homeowners and nonprofits how they can initiate a civil rights investigation of the cities of Coral Gables and Miami,” Alfieri said.

Gables officials asked Astor to find a new site for the trolley garage in exchange for the old one. Unable to find a suitable site in Coral Gables, the company found the site in the Grove. Under Miami’s 2010 zoning ordinance, called “Miami 21,” approval of the project did not require a public hearing, according to the city.

Plans call for the garage to be completely enclosed and air-conditioned to contain noise, fumes and odors, and work will be limited to basic maintenance, the city said.

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Sen. Bill Nelson doesn't get his python, but he bags plenty of media attention

Bill Nelson didn’t kill any pythons in the Everglades.

But Florida’s senior senator bagged something bigger Thursday: the rapt attention of the news media.

With a Florida Wildlife commissioner who goes by "Alligator Ron" Bergeron and snake hunters — including one snake wrangler called "Python Dave" — Nelson and a team of biologists and naturalists roamed the River of Grass to raise awareness about the invasive snakes that are gobbling up the creatures of the Everglades.

The wildlife commission has launched a “Python Challenge” cash-prize contest, which began last Saturday, to get more people to kill more of the snakes.

"These pythons eat everything in the Everglades: bobcats, deer, even alligator and maybe endangered Florida panther," Nelson said.

"These snakes are dangerous. There was a child killed in Central Florida by one of these kept as pets," he said. "The pythons don’t belong here."

But Nelson does.

The Everglades is a piece of Florida history and a place for threatened and endangered species. And Nelson, the only statewide elected Florida Democrat, has been a threatened political species since he first won his Senate seat in 2000.

Nelson, 70, has endured and thrived in a state dominated by Republicans. And Thursday’s excursion showed why. Nelson champions and raises awareness of popular causes and knows how to attract press on issues of the day — from the Gulf oil spill to high gas prices to the threat of Chinese drywall to the proliferation of Burmese pythons.

"He has a gift. He knows the value of media exposure and he can earn it," said Rick Wilson, a veteran Republican strategist in Florida who briefly helped run a campaign against Nelson last year.

"Where else but in Florida do you have a U.S. Senator going out to hunt an invasive exotic species that eats alligators and strangles children in their cribs?" Wilson laughed.

Wilson said that, in some ways, Nelson is like the old-time politicians of Florida, a “character” like former Democratic Gov. “Walkin Lawton” Chiles. During his Thursday excursion, some wondered what Nelson’s nickname should be.

Papa Gator? The He-Snake? The King Snake?

“The Last Panther,” said Dan McLaughlin, Nelson’s longtime aide.

“Senator Python,” said Bergeron.

Nelson’s day began as he and Bergeron, a developer and Davie-born Florida cracker, disembarked from the commissioner’s black-and-gold H2 emblazoned with Alligator Ron logos.

As cameras clicked and whirred at a dock off Alligator Alley, Nelson held a brief press conference with Bergeron, who held the head of a live 13-foot python while three others kept it from constricting him. The snake had been captured in a Palmetto Bay swimming pool and brought to the dock as an example of what they hoped to catch and kill.

“These snakes can actually eat an alligator up to about eight feet,” Bergeron said, tightly gripping the python as its tongue occasionally slithered out to taste the air

A TV reporter soon did a stand-up with the snake, warning of the spread of the menace.

But though the snake appears to be spreading at an alarming rate, finding them on a warm day like Thursday is a needle-in-the-haystack exercise.

There could be more than 150,000 pythons in the Everglades and Big Cypress ecosystems that originally covered 4 million acres. So, if the weather isn’t cold and the pythons aren’t sunning themselves on land, they’re almost impossible to find in the shallow, flat expanse of the Everglades, where the snakes blend into the sawgrass and murky water.

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Intel’s revenue forecast short of expectations

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Intel Corp forecast current-quarter revenue that was slightly below expectations as the personal computer industry grapples with falling sales and a shift toward tablets and smartphones.

PC makers are struggling to stop a decline in sales as consumers hold off on buying new laptops in favor of spending on more nimble mobile gadgets.

Microsoft Corp‘s long-awaited launch of Windows 8 in October brought touchscreen features to laptops but failed to spark a resurgence in sales that Intel and many PC manufacturers had hoped for.

Intel said its capital spending in 2013 would be $ 13 billion, plus or minus $ 500 million, exceeding what many analysts had expected.

In the fourth quarter, Intel’s revenue was $ 13.5 billion, compared with $ 13.9 billion a year earlier. Analysts had expected $ 13.53 billion in revenue for the fourth quarter, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Intel estimated first-quarter revenue of $ 12.7 billion, plus or minus $ 500 million. Analysts expected $ 12.91 billion for the current quarter.

Net earnings in the December quarter were $ 2.5 billion, or 48 cents a share, compared with $ 3.4 billion, or 64 cents a share, in the same quarter last year.

(Reporting by Noel Randewich; Editing by Richard Chang)

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The Wanted I Found You Third Strike Max George Music Video

The Wanted's Max George lights up the stage in our special preview of the band's I Found You music video, releasing next week.

PICS: Stars Set to Perform at Grammys

In the video, the 24-year-old singer -- who has been linked to Lindsay Lohan -- is seen belting out lyrics over the roar of hysterical teenage girls.

The single, from the group's upcoming album Third Strike, has been performed at the 2012 American Music Awards as well as Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve. Fans will be happy to know that the full video will premiere on Tuesday, January 22 on ET! But in the meantime, check out the snippet above.

You can see the video in its entirety on and on Tuesday night.

VIDEO: The Wanted Teases I Found You Video

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No charges to be filed in July 4 boat accident that killed three children on LI

No charges will be filed in the July 4 Long Island boat accident that killed three children, law enforcement officials said yesterday.

“No criminal charges are appropriate’’ against the adults on the capsized boat, said Nassau DA Kathleen Rice’s spokesman, John Byrne.

Victoria Gaines, 7, Harley Treanor, 11, and David Aureliano, 12, died in the accident.

“The investigation uncovered a unique combination of circumstances that led to this specific boat’s capsizing,’’ in the Long Island Sound after a fireworks display, said Byrne, who would not elaborate on what the circumstances were.


The FBI dive team and Nassau County Police pull alongside of the Kandi Won after the vessel was raised from the floor of Oyster Bay off New York's Long Island.

The investigation “also uncovered gaping holes in the maritime regulatory system and contributory design flaws in the vessel,” Byrne said.

The boat’s manufacturer suggested a maximum load of 10 people but there were 27 aboard on the night of the tragedy.

“The combination of these factors proved to be deadly but cannot support criminal charges that require proof beyond reasonable doubt,’’ said Byrne.

The DA will continue investigating, he said and will have “recommendations at a later date,’’ said Byrne.

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New look unveiled for evolving American Airlines

Even as American Airlines continues to mull a merger with competitor US Airways, the carrier on Thursday announced a brand new look for its fleet and logo.

The first new design since 1968 includes red, white and blue stripes on the tail and the word “American” in blue letters on the body, which is painted silver.

All new planes delivered to the airline will bear the new look, and the existing fleet will be updated over the course of the next several years. American Eagle planes will be repainted as well.

Thomas Horton, CEO of parent company AMR Corp., told the Associated Press in an interview that planning for the change began in the summer of 2011, when American announced it would buy hundreds of new planes from Boeing and Airbus. The company filed for bankruptcy in November of 2011. Art Torno, American’s vice president for Mexico, Caribbean and Latin America, said the changes go beyond a paint job and new branding to a host of new amenities, including a new interior for international widebody planes, a new “main cabin extra” class and new ways to book flights.

“Really what we unveiled today is a clear view of a new American,” he said. “It’s us building a more exceptional travel experience. It’s really much to do about modernizing and refreshing the airline in everything we do.”

A decision is expected within weeks about whether AMR will move forward with a merger with US Airways or remain on its own; a merged company would be called American Airlines. Horton told the Associated Press that the redesign doesn’t tilt the company toward either outcome.

US Airways spokesman Ed Stewart praised the “compelling result” of the redesign.

The pilots union at American, which supports a merger that would put US Airways executives in charge, was less enthusiastic.

“A new paint job is fine but it does not fix American’s network deficiencies and toxic culture,” said Dennis Tajer, a spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association.

This report was supplemented with information from the Associated Press.

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An Operation Pedro Pan veteran to give benediction at Monday’s inauguration

The legacy of the Cuban children who took part in the famed Operation Pedro Pan will be center stage at Monday’s inauguration.

Rev. Luis Leon of St. John's Episcopal Church, located across the street from the White House, will give the benediction to President Barrack Obama as he begins his second term.

Back in 1961, Leon arrived alone in Miami as an 11-year-old — part of the legion of 14,048 children sent without their parents to the U.S. to escape indoctrination by Fidel Castro’s new regime.

Leon was selected for the honor after the Rev. Louie Giglio, an Atlanta pastor, stepped aside when it was revealed he made an anti-gay sermon he gave in the mid-1990s.

When interviewed in 2009, Leon said: ''I don't think President Obama knows my story,'' said the 63-year-old clergyman, who occasionally hosts the presidential family at his church.

But previous president George W. Bush knew that the Episcopalian clergyman had been sent alone without his parents from Cuba by his parents who feared how he would fall under Communist indoctrination. ''He talked to me about it during a function at the White House,'' he said. ``He was very interested.''

Castro’s rise to power seriously impacted the Leon family — all but disbanding it.

Leon’s father died in Cuba in 1963 after his children left the island. By the time his mother made it to the U.S., Leon was at the Berry Academy in Georgia and his sister was off to college, all thanks to the Catholic church.

His mother landed a job at Agnes School College in Decatur, GA. and they saw each other on weekends,

''We did not live together again as a family,'' he said. ``The clan was never re-gathered. That always bothered my mother.”

Leon said he feels his parents rescued him from the Communist island: "They did the right thing in getting me out of Cuba.'' But adds: "I don't know if I could do the same thing for my children.''

Leon is the second Cuban-American playing a major role at the inauguration. Poet Rick Blanco, whose parents are Cuban but was born in Spain, is the inaugural poet.

It’s not Leon’s first time at an Obama inauguration. Before the 2009 oath taking , Obama and his wife Michelle attended services led by Leon.

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RIM says users line up to try new BlackBerry 10 platform

TORONTO (Reuters) – BlackBerry maker Research in Motion is helping customers prepare to switch to its soon-to-be-launched BlackBerry 10 smartphones that it hopes will help it reclaim market share from rivals such as Apple Inc.

RIM is betting that the new range of touch-screen and keyboard devices, set for a January 30 launch, will revive its fortunes.

The company was “very enthused by the engagement and response of our customer base” to a program aimed at persuading them to adopt the BlackBerry 10 devices, Bryan Lee, senior enterprise accounts director, told Reuters on Wednesday.

Indeed, whether it will be successful in clawing back market share will depend on the response from RIM’s top clients, like companies and government agencies, who have long valued the strong security features that BlackBerry devices offer.

Lee said more than 1,600 customers in North America had registered for its recently launched BlackBerry 10 Ready Program and more than a thousand were actively using the program, which offers customers access to services, information and tools to ease their transition to the BlackBerry 10 and the BlackBerry Enterprise Server 10.

RIM also said its BlackBerry Enterprise Server 10, which runs the new devices on corporate networks, was in beta testing with more than 130 major government agencies and corporations in North America.


Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM, a one-time pioneer in the now ultra-competitive smartphone industry, has bled market share to Apple’s iPhone and devices powered by Google’s market-leading Android operating system, even among enterprise clients who once used BlackBerry devices exclusively.

Early adoption of the long-awaited BlackBerry 10 devices by government and corporate clients will help breathe new life into the struggling company, whose shares are down 90 percent from an all-time high of more than $ 148 in 2008.

Still, shares of RIM, which fell as low as $ 6.22 in September, have more than doubled in value over the last four months as the BlackBerry 10 launch approaches.

Lee said clients that were beta testing the new BlackBerry Enterprise Server 10 included more than 60 Fortune 500 companies and top North American government agencies.

RIM promises that its new line of devices will be faster and smoother than existing BlackBerry phones and will boast a large catalog of apps, crucial to the success of any new line of smartphones.

Shares of RIM were up 3.8 percent at $ 15.03 in afternoon trading on the Nasdaq on Wednesday, after Visa approved the smartphone company’s method of handling secure mobile payments; the technology will potentially allow users to tap their smartphones on credit card readers and pay for purchases.

RIM’s Toronto-listed shares were up 3.9 percent at C$ 14.83.

(Editing by Janet Guttsman and Bernadette Baum)

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Shaun White is California Dreaming

Snowboarder and two-time Olympic gold medalist Shaun White attributes part of his tremendous success to the place where he was born -- California.

VIDEO: Katy Perry is Truly a California Girl

"Being from California just really allowed me to do whatever I wanted," says Shaun.

Growing up in California, Shaun could take advantage of surfing the waves of the Pacific Ocean and hitting the mountian slopes.

Shaun explains that his passion for snowboarding started as "a family thing."

"My parents were just like, 'Oh this would be fun for the kids. Let's bring them up there,'" Shaun says. "And I just figured it out."

The 26-year-old has also added entrepreneur to his list of professions with the Shaun White Supply Co., which sells action sports equipment such as skateboards, bikes and more.

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Man pinned by car in critical condition

A 55-year-old man is in critical condition after being pinned to a wall by a car in Brooklyn Heights, fire officials said.

The car rammed the pedestrian near Old Fulton Street and the entrance of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, according to the FDNY.

The victim was rushed to Lutheran Hospital in critical condition, officials said.

Shop owners and workers nearby said they did not witness the accident, which occurred near the ramp to the expressway, where the tall brick wall that the victim was pinned against obscured their view.

A traffic agent said the pedestrian was hit by a car that sped around the turn but police said they did not believe there was any criminality.

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Miami Dolphins bill would bring state money to aging stadiums

A bill drafted by the Miami Dolphins would give Florida sports teams $3 million a year in state money to improve older stadiums, provided the owner pays for at least half the cost of a major renovation.

Under the law, the stadium would need to be 20 years old and the team willing to put in at least $125 million for a $250 million renovation. That’s less than the $400 million redo of Sun Life Stadium that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross proposed this week, which he hopes will win state approval thanks to his offer to fund at least $200 million of the effort to modernize the 1987 facility.

Miami-Dade and Florida would fund the rest through a mix of county hotel taxes and state general funds set aside for stadiums. Sun Life currently receives $2 million a year through the program, and the Dolphins want to create a new category that would give them an additional $3 million.

While the Miami Marlins and Miami Heat both play in stadiums subsidized by county hotel taxes, the Dolphins receive no local dollars. The bill would change that by allowing Miami-Dade to increase the tax charged at mainland hotels to 7 percent from 6 percent, and eliminate the current rule that limits the money to publicly owned stadiums. Sun Life Stadium, in Miami Gardens, is privately owned but sits on county land.

The bill pits enthusiasm for one of Florida’s most popular sports teams against a lean budget climate and lingering backlash against the 2009 deal that had Miami and Miami-Dade borrow about $485 million to build a new ballpark for the Marlins. Ross also must navigate a Republican-led Legislature that has twice rebuffed his requests for public dollars.

“I would be surprised if that bill even got a hearing in committee,” said Mike Fasano, a Republican representative from the Tampa area and a critic of tax-funded sports deals. “I’m a big Dolphin fan, and have been for years. But with all due respect, we’ve got people who are struggling throughout this state right now . .. The last thing we should be doing is giving a professional sports team or facility additional tax dollars.”

While the bill would open up the $3 million subsidy to other the teams, the Dolphins see it as unlikely that another owner would be willing to put up as much money for renovations as Ross, a billionaire real estate developer.

If the bill were enacted today, any stadium opened before 1993 would be eligible for the money, provided it could show the proposed renovation would generate an additional $3 million in sales taxes.

Ross and his backers are pitching the renovation as a boon to tourism, with Sun Life a magnet for the Super Bowl, national college football games and other major events. The National Football League is considering South Florida and San Francisco for the 2016 Super Bowl, and the Dolphins say approval of renovation funding is crucial to winning the bid.

Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, who sponsored the Senate bill, said the funding makes sense because when Sun Life hosts a Super Bowl, the entire state benefits from both tourism dollars and publicity.

“It’s a small price to pay for economic development, and for all the shine we get from major sporting events,” said Braynon, whose district includes Sun Life. Rep. Eduardo “Eddy” Gonzalez, R-Hialeah, is the sponsor on the House side.

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FIU to take over underwater lab in Keys

The last underwater research lab in the world, an 81-ton yellow pressurized steel tube anchored 60 feet down next to a Key Largo reef, won’t be scuttled after all.

Florida International University announced Tuesday that it will take over operation of Aquarius, an aging but unique underwater facility the federal government had considered putting on the chopping block because of budget cuts.

“For our students and our marine sciences program, Aquarius offers fantastic new possibilities and is a natural fit for the work we are doing in the Florida Keys and throughout the world,’’ said Mike Heithaus, executive director of FIU’s school of environment, arts and society.

Last year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which owns the lab, had called for ending Aquarius’ operation, even though it cost a relatively paltry $1.2 million to $3 million a year to run.

But after backlash from scientists and a campaign led by South Florida political leaders — including Republican Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart — NOAA awarded FIU a $600,000 six-month grant to cover basic maintenance of the facility, which boasts six bunks, a bathroom, galley, science lab and “wet porch” allowing divers easy entry and exit.

Ultimately, the Obama administration agreed the lab was a valuable asset that couldn’t simply be left to rust. Removing it could run up to an estimated $5 million, said FIU biology professor Jim Fourqurean, who will take over direction of Aquarius.

“This is a big, expensive piece of hardware on the bottom of the ocean,’’ he said. “You just can’t leave it there.’’

To continue its operation, however, FIU plans to develop a new business plan for the lab that will rely on financial support from other government agencies, private industry and groups and other universities, Fourqurean said.

Aquarius, the last of more than 60 underwater habitats once in operation around the world, allows scientists to literally immerse themselves for hours, days or weeks in a coral reef community without having to worry about repeatedly surfacing for air or decompressing from long dives. The facility, previously managed by the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, has hosted 117 research missions and also served filmmakers, Navy divers and 40 NASA astronauts who trained for the working conditions of space stations and zero gravity.

Fourqurean said the lab offers a perfect platform for students, faculty and outside researchers to study many of the problems plaguing South Florida’s water, from climate change to pollution and over-fishing.

It also will raise FIU’s profile in the Florida Keys, said Fourqurean, who is director of FIU’s new marine education and research initiative for the Keys. The school will close Aquarius’ current land base, hidden in a neighborhood, and intends to open a new more visible office along the main highway, he said.

“This fits the strategic vision of FIU growing into the Florida Keys,’’ Fourqurean said.

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$149 Android Tablet from Asus Coming in April

By the end of this month, Amazon‘s Kindle Fire may no longer be the cheapest “real” tablet out there. PC hardware manufacturer Asus, the brand name behind Google‘s Nexus 7 device, is coming out with another 7-inch tablet called the Asus MeMO Pad, which will start at $ 149. The MeMO Pad will launch in “selected markets” this January, and will make it to the United States sometime in April, according to Phandroid’s Kevin Krause.

Here’s a look at the features the MeMO Pad has that the Kindle Fire and Nexus 7 don’t, and what got cut to bring it in under the $ 150 mark.

A look at the hardware

About the same size and shape as other 7-inch tablets, the MeMO Pad is powered by an underwhelming 1 GHz single-core processor from VIA, putting it roughly in line with a budget smartphone performance-wise. It has 1 GB of RAM, 8 GB of internal storage, and basic features like a front-facing webcam and a microSD card slot for expandable storage. The MeMO Pad will come in gray, white, and pink.

Jelly Bean under the hood

While the Kindle Fire runs Amazon’s proprietary version of Android (which is so heavily modified as to basically be a “Kindle OS”), the MeMO Pad runs the same up-to-date version of Android as the Nexus 7, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. Unlike with the Nexus device, however, which is loaded exclusively with Google apps to start with, Asus saw fit to bundle about a half-dozen of its own apps as well, like “SuperNote Lite” and “ASUS Studio.”

Unlike the Kindle Fire, which can only buy apps from Amazon’s store, the MeMO Pad will have the Google Play store (the former Android Market) preinstalled. It will be able to install the Amazon Appstore and Kindle app as well, just like other Android devices can.

Compared to other tablets

The device which compares closest, price-wise, to the MeMO Pad is Amazon’s $ 159 Kindle Fire. For the price, you get half the RAM but a dual-core 1.2 GHz processor, as well as another hour or so of battery life. The Kindle lacks the MeMO Pad’s webcam or expandable memory, but the biggest tradeoff may be the Kindle’s pure Amazon experience — complete with ads on your homescreen — versus the MeMO Pad’s almost-pure Android.

Asus’ own Nexus 7 starts at $ 199 and lacks expandable memory, but for the price you get 16 GB of storage instead of 8. (That’s more than double when you consider that Android and Asus’ apps take up part of it.) It has a much sharper screen than the MeMO Pad, and a much more powerful Tegra 3 processor, which is capable of playing “THD” enhanced games. Finally, it has (more expensive) 3G options, and is available now instead of in April.

Jared Spurbeck is an open-source software enthusiast, who uses an Android phone and an Ubuntu laptop PC. He has been writing about technology and electronics since 2008.

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Vogue's Andre Leon Talley Interviews Jennifer Lopez on Sidelines of the Golden Globes

Vogue contributor Andre Leon Talley was front and center at Sunday's Golden Globe Awards and was able to snag an interview with one of the night's fashion winners, Jennifer Lopez!

In addition to complimenting the singer/actress/entrepreneur on the amazingly sheer Zuhair Murad gown she wore on the red carpet, Andre also got an update on Lopez's two children. "They're good, they're great," she said of her twins Max and Emme. "They're going to be five, and it seems like they were just born. But they are going to be five next month."

VIDEO: Andre Crowns His Best-Dressed Star at the Globes

When asked whether she also takes the famous twins on shopping trips, J.Lo confessed, "they do know Target." She also said she spends a lot of playtime with the kids outside at various parks, even while taking them on tour all over the world.

VIDEO: Stars Hit Up ET's Golden Globe Platform

Addressing her two-outfit wardrobe change during the Golden Globes, the award-winning entertainer said it's always fun to switch things up. "You know, I go through phases -- a girl has to change it up every once in a while." She then revealed: "I had to change, it was tight -- that dress -- and I needed something open."

VIDEO: Stars React to Jodie Foster's Golden Globes Speech

Watch the video to also hear Jennifer reveal to Andre her favorite Vogue cover and for a preview of her upcoming crime thriller Parker, co-starring Jason Statham.

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NY passes nation's toughest gun law; Gov. Cuomo signs

ALBANY — Jumping out ahead of Washington, New York enacted the nation's toughest gun restrictions Tuesday and the first since the Connecticut school shooting, including an expanded assault-weapon ban and mandatory background checks for buying ammunition.

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the measure, the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act, or SAFE, into law less than an hour after it won final passage in the Legislature, with supporters hailing it as a model for the nation and gun-rights activists condemning it as a knee-jerk piece of legislation that won't make anyone safer and is too extreme to win support in the rest of the country.


Members explain their vote on New York's Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act in the Assembly Chamber at the Capitol in Albany.

"Common sense can win," Cuomo said. "You can overpower the extremists with intelligence and with reason and with common sense."

Owners of an estimated 1 million previously legal semiautomatic rifles, like the Bushmaster model used to kill 20 children and six adults in Newtown, Conn., a month ago, will be allowed to keep their weapons but will have a year to register them with police.

"When there's a pileup of events, when the federal government does not do it, the state of New York has to lead the way," said state Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, a Brooklyn Democrat and co-sponsor.

In addition to outlawing a broader array of military-style weapons, the measure restricts ammunition magazines to seven bullets, down from the current 10, creates a more comprehensive database of people barred from owning guns, and makes New York the first state to require background checks to buy bullets. The system will also help flag customers who buy large amounts of ammo.

In another provision, therapists, doctors and other mental health professionals will be required to tell state authorities if a patient threatens to use a gun illegally. The patient's weapon could then be taken away.

Richard Aborn, president of the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City, said Cuomo clearly understood gun violence is a complex issue requiring solutions more comprehensive than simply banning a particular weapon.

"I think that's an important message for the nation," he said.

In a statement, the National Rifle Association said: "These gun control schemes have failed in the past and will have no impact on public safety and crime."

"While lawmakers could have taken a step toward strengthening mental health reporting and focusing on criminals, they opted for trampling the rights of law-abiding gun owners in New York, and they did it under a veil of secrecy in the dark of night," the NRA said.

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Coral Gables culinary students learn the art of sushi making

Christian Rivas is still years away from becoming a professional sushi chef, but his hand-crafted California roll looks good enough to serve professionally.

“The hard part was getting the roll to be in good shape,” Christian, a 16-year-old junior at Coral Gables Senior High, said of his first attempt.

The Gables student was one of about 30 who stood in rapt attention inside the school’s kitchen classroom. He is a member of the school’s culinary arts program.

On Tuesday morning, chefs and executives from Sushi Maki, including CEO Abe Ng, volunteered to teach these students about the restaurant business. The main part of the presentation was Kingston-bred director of sushi education Steve Ho Sang’s instruction on how to make sushi rolls and hand rolls.

Sushi Maki goes through three tons of fresh salmon every week, Ng said. The succulent Norwegian fish in front of the class, expertly filleted via Ho Sang’s knives, looked like half a week’s supply.

The executives were there as part of the Education Fund’s Teach-a-Thon program which brings business professionals into Miami-Dade County Public School classrooms. These pros volunteer to teach a class at the elementary, middle or high school level to help raise money for school activities such as Coral Gables’ culinary program and to promote the value of public school teachers.

“What a lot of people don’t realize is that teaching is really brain surgery,” said Linda Lecht, president of The Education Fund. “We want to call attention to the fact that teaching is a hard job and we, as a community, have to rally around our teachers if we are going to improve education. We want to get out the message of how important teaching is to our whole economy.”

Mercy Vera, Coral Gables’ culinary teacher, sought a partnership with The Education Fund — a North Miami-based non-profit that helps fund programs at Miami-Dade public schools from Homestead to Miami Gardens — to help prepare her students for careers in the profession.

The Education Fund’s latest fundraising campaign currently has $23,202 to split among 26 participating schools.

But having pros come into the classroom is also invaluable, Vera said, because it is impractical, if not near impossible, to cram 30 or more teenagers into a professional restaurant kitchen. And, of course, they would not be allowed to use the knives and other utensils. Here, in the school’s carefully stocked kitchen classroom, the guests give the kids a taste of reality.

“This brings a totally different dynamic to the classroom. This is an experience they normally wouldn’t have and this is the only way to show the children industry,” Vera said.

“I love the energy of public schools,” said Ng, 39. “I’m excited to do a restaurant 101, and to ignite a spark in them would be a big thing to me.”

The experience met with much enthusiasm from senior Jorge Castro, 19, who says he hopes to follow in the footsteps of Food Network star chef Bobby Flay, one of his inspirations in the culinary world.

“This is one of those jobs where you meet a lot of people and you make people smile when you make them good food and that counts — to see them smile,” Castro said.

Ng, a Palmetto High and Cornell grad, is part of a family that opened the Canton chain of Chinese food restaurants locally in 1975. His mom and dad still work at the South Miami and Coral Gables locations and the family also operates the spin-off Sushi Maki chain, which opened in 2000.

Ng enjoyed stepping out of the boardroom and into the classroom for his two-hour teaching experience.

“These students seem to have a good foundation,” he said as the students hustled to clean the kitchen. “The future generation of culinary, I’m optimistic about it.”

Follow @HowardCohen on Twitter.

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Florida colleges rank high in ‘sugar daddies’ paying student tuition

Imagine you’re a college student, struggling to pay steep tuition and living expenses.

Mid-bite of boxed macaroni and cheese, you stumble upon the option of joining a free, “mutually beneficial” online service that promises to pair you with a wealthy man or woman who will chip in for school costs.

Would you do it?

Apparently, an increasing number of Florida college students are taking up the offer.

Four Florida universities — Florida International University in Miami-Dade, the University of Central Florida in Orlando, the University of South Florida in Tampa, and Florida State University in Tallahassee — made the Top 20 list of fastest-growing “sugar baby” memberships for, a website with more than two million users worldwide.

The site matches “sugar babies” — who may or may not be in college — with well-to-do “sugar daddies” who are willing to help support them.

What do the sugar daddies get in return?

Companionship, the website says.

The University of Central Florida has the fastest-growing membership of all Florida schools, coming in at No. 4 on the list. UCF has 291 students using the site, 221 joining in the last year.

The University of South Florida ranked No. 5 on the list, with 212 new users in 2012, followed by No. 7 FIU and No. 14 FSU with 187 and 111 new users this year, respectively. FSU is new to the Top 20 list.

Many schools in the Top 20 are located in the South, a fact site organizers attribute to the economy in the region.

“I can see a lot of these families are not able to contribute to their children’s education like they used to,” said Jennifer Gwynn, the director of public relations for “I think it’s a hard time for families, and their kids are in college and have to fend for themselves.”

Last year, about 40 percent of the site’s membership was made up of college students. In 2012, it rose to 44 percent.

If college students register with a “.edu” email address, they are automatically given “premium” status on their profiles, which gives them privileges users typically have to pay to use such as reaching out to a prospective sugar daddy.

The site has been criticized for being a possible venue for prostitution. Gwynn says the site takes active measures to prevent that from happening, including screening every user’s profile.

“We are very, very strict about escorts,” she says. “If language on someone’s profile is talking about selling their body, they’re kicked off immediately. That’s not what our site is really about.”

Gordon D. Chavis, associate vice president for undergraduate admissions at UCF, said in an email that he and other administrators aren’t aware of students using the site and said the disclosure is “a complete surprise.”

In a news release, the site’s founder and CEO Brandon Wade said “the growth of southern female co-eds seeking the Sugar Lifestyle is a move in the right direction to bring back Southern charm.”

When asked what he meant by that, Gwynn said she believes being involved with a “sugar daddy” is a way that “people are cultivating these girls to become more successful later in life.”

“You have these southern gentlemen helping [sugar babies] find their way in life, as well as financially,” she said.

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Study Shows Gender Bias in Wikipedia, Linux

Today in the age of the “brogrammer,” whose frat boy tendencies are glorified and sought after by cutting-edge online startups, women in tech often find themselves objectified and excluded — especially in communities like Wikipedia and open-source software, where women make up even less of the population (around 13 percent and 1 percent, respectively) than in more mainstream technical fields.

That was one of the facts Joseph Reagle, an assistant professor at Northeastern University, drew on for his study about “Free culture and the gender gap.” He discovered that just because a community (like Wikipedia) says that it’s open doesn’t mean that it isn’t hostile to women.

Free for all?

The “Free Encyclopedia” Wikipedia’s claim to fame is that anyone can edit and contribute to it. To keep errors from cropping up, it has policies that let anyone flag part of an article for review, and allow trusted editors to decide how to present something.

The process by which those editors decide, however, is often highly combative and alienating to women, who “are socialized to not be competitive and avoid conflict” according to Reagle. Sue Gardner, the Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation (the project behind Wikipedia), wrote a list of “Nine Reasons Women Don’t Edit Wikipedia,” in which she noted Wikipedia’s “fighty” and “contentious” culture, where loud and assertive people drive others out regardless of their competence.

“Otherwise commendable features”

Reagle found that Wikipedia’s values of radical freedom and openness actually led to a culture that is more closed off to women. He noted that “implicit” power structures existed, even in the absence of formal ones; and that imposing few restrictions on how people treat each other can lead to “a chaotic culture of undisciplined vandals,” which disenfranchises women from participation just as surely as if there were rules against women participating.

Similar dynamics exist in popular open-source software projects like the Linux kernel. Open-source luminaries like Eric Raymond are legendarily combative and hostile to “idiots,” even while they they tolerate abusive personalities who drive female contributors away. Reagle’s study quoted numerous female writers with experience working in Linux and open-source software, who called its community “cliquish and exclusionary” as well as “more competitive and fierce than most areas of programming.”

How to achieve equality

Wikipedia’s new Teahouse page is “a friendly place to help new editors,” which is designed especially to encourage women to participate. Meanwhile, women like Denise Paolucci are creating their own startups like Dreamwidth, which are based on existing open-source programming code. Unlike most “proprietary” code, it’s still free for women to do what they want with it — if they can overcome the obstacles in their way.

Jared Spurbeck is an open-source software enthusiast, who uses an Android phone and an Ubuntu laptop PC. He has been writing about technology and electronics since 2008.

Linux/Open Source News Headlines – Yahoo! News

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School bus drivers to strike Wednesday

The wheels on the bus won’t go ‘round.

The school bus workers’ union announced that a citywide strike will begin Wednesday — a brutal work stoppage that will send families of 152,000 yellow bus-riding kids scrambling for new travel options.

Officials of Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union said at a midtown press conference that the strike was about making sure that the city doesn’t lay off experienced workers every time contracts for bus companies come up for bid.

The union, which represents 9,000 drivers, matrons and mechanics, has threatened a strike since mid-December, when the city put out bids for new busing contracts that lack the decades-old job protections.


School bus drivers are set to go on strike starting Wednesday morning.

The union insists the protections are vital because the Department of Education cuts hundreds of routes annually in an attempt to save money — but then eventually ends up reinstating the bulk of them.

The protections ensure that someone who loses their job when a route is cut is also hired back — in order of seniority — when it’s restored.

“We don’t want to go on strike — a strike doesn’t help anybody,” one Queens driver told The Post. “But we don’t have a choice, because if we don’t strike on this issue, we don’t have a job.”

City officials said a 2011 court ruling struck down those protections — known as Employee Protection Provisions — as illegal, so that the city can’t include them in new bids for yellow bus routes.

Speaking before the confirmation of the strike, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said a walk-out by the union would be irresponsible, costly and damaging to the education of students.

“If there is a strike, it’s a strike against our students,” he said at a City Hall appearance. “And this will have a devastating impact on our students

The December bids at the heart of the dispute, which account for roughly one-sixth of the city’s 6,900 school bus routes, would replace current contracts with bus companies that are set to expire this summer.

DOE officials say the job protections force companies that win new contracts to hire workers based on seniority from companies that lose routes — making it virtually impossible for the city to ever cut its costs.

The city pays $1.1 billion per year to transport students in kindergarten through eighth grade to school.

Officials have announced contingency plans that include handing out MetroCards to students, and to parents of the youngest kids.

Where public transit isn’t an option, private drivers and taxi or car services would be reimbursed.

The city tried to remove the employee protections from its yellow bus contracts in 1979 — which led to a paralyzing, three-month strike by school bus workers.

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.CO sets sights on changing ‘the fabric of the Internet’

For the millions of people who equate the Web with .com, . CO Internet is out to change that mindset.

The Miami company that manages and markets the .co domain is already making impressive gains — more than 1.4 million in 200 countries have hung their businesses, blogs, personal projects or dreams on a .co virtual shingle. Still, that’s just a tiny fraction of industry titan VeriSign’s 105 million .com registrants.

“We want to change the fabric of the Internet,” Juan Diego Calle, founder and CEO of .CO Internet, said during an interview in .CO’s Brickell office. “We can only make that happen not by changing what happened in the last 25 years of the Web, which is owned by .com. We want to change the next 25.”

About 2½ years after the launch of .CO Internet, .co — the country code of Colombia — continues to be one of the fastest-growing Internet domains in the world and grew by 24 percent in 2012. .CO Internet is profitable and is projecting to bring in more than $25 million in revenues this year, the company said. The early success of .CO Internet, with operations in Miami and Colombia, is powered by passion and perseverance.

Calle moved to Miami from Colombia at age 15 with his family. He started several businesses, including one he sold in 2005 providing seed capital for what would come next. “I can’t say I ever sat still.” When he learned Colombia would be commercializing the country's .co domain extension in late 2006, he said it hit him like a lightning bolt.

With the right strategy and by “marketing the hell out of it,” the entrepreneur believed .co could solve a huge problem in the market — vanishing Internet domain names. If you’ve tried to nab a new .com address lately, you can relate — it’s difficult to find one that hasn’t been snatched up.

Calle thought that by appealing to the hearts and minds of the entrepreneur, .co could go where .info, .biz, .net or .me had never gone before. But first he needed the right team.

One of this first stops: The Big Apple, to visit Nicolai Bezsonoff, who had been an advisor and shareholder in Calle’s, a sort of Ask Jeeves for the Latin American market that was sold to Yahoo in 2005. At the time, Bezsonoff was the director of technology and operations at Citigroup.

“We went out for coffee, he started pitching me on a napkin. I said ‘really dude you want me to leave a big job at Citigroup for this?’ ” said Bezsonoff. “But he kept showing me the numbers … Later, that napkin was on my desk and it was one of those boring days and I kept looking at it and thought maybe I should.” He would become .CO’s chief operating officer.

Lori Anne Wardi, a lawyer and serial entrepreneur who was working at a venture capital firm at the time, became vice president in charge of brand strategy, business development and global communications. “She’s the heart and soul of the company,” said Calle. Eduardo Santoyo, based in Bogota, would become corporate vice president over policy and be the liaison with the Colombian government. “Some would say it was overkill talent but I needed the best. ... When you have a big dream, you have to think big and hire the right people,” Calle said.

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Investigators to determine cause of fatal MacArthur Causeway boating accident

Investigators on Sunday were looking into the circumstances surrounding the death of a woman killed after the boat she was passenger in slammed into concrete pilings underneath the MacArthur Causeway bridge.

Janette Africano, 35, of Hialeah, suffered severe blunt trauma to the head or body and died Saturday afternoon after being rushed to Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Ryder Trauma Center.

An autopsy will determine the exact cause death.

Africano and her boyfriend had been pleasure boating minutes before the 5 p.m. accident on the Intercostal Waterway near PortMiami, authorities said.

The accident occurred as the couple, traveling in an 18-foot white and red boat, were heading south. As they approached the MacArthur bridge, there was a cruise ship making a turn ahead of them. At that point, the couple decided to turn back north, said Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesman Jorge Pino on Sunday.

But the water currents near the bridge was rough and the couple began drifting toward the pilings. Africano may have stood up and tried to stop the boat from colliding. Somehow the boat violently slammed into the piling, fatally injuring her.

Why the boat roared out of control is under investigation, Pino said. He said the accident is considered “unusual“ because it involves a single boat and neither excessive speed or alcohol appear to be a factor.

No charges have been filed as of Sunday as investigators piece together what occurred.

“We’re looking at every possible cause, including mechanical failure and the experience of the driver,” Pino said.

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4 gadgets that defined Vegas electronics show

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The world’s largest gadget show wrapped up on Friday, and the organizers said it was the biggest ever, beating last year’s record in terms of the floor space companies purchased to display their wares.

What was it that drew more than 3,500 companies and 150,000 people to Las Vegas for this mega-event? Here are four gadgets that exemplified the top trends at this year’s International CES.

Sony‘s 55-inch ultra-high-definition TV

The introduction of high-definition and flat-panel TVs sent U.S. shoppers on a half-decade buying spree as they tossed out old tube sets. Now that the old sets are mostly gone, sales of new TVs are falling. To lure buyers back, Asian TV makers are trying to pull the same trick again. They’re making the sets sharper. This fall, Sony and LG introduced 84-inch sets with four times the resolution of regular high-definition sets. They provide stunning sharpness, but they’re too big for most homes, and at more than $ 20,000, too expensive. At the show, the companies unveiled smaller “ultra-high-definition” sets, measuring 55 inches and 65 inches on the diagonal. They will go on sale this spring. Prices were not announced, but will presumably be a lot lower than for the 84-inch sets, perhaps under $ 10,000.

Both the size and price of these smaller ultra-HD TVs should make them easier buys, but the higher resolution will be a lot less noticeable on a smaller screen, unless viewers sit very close. Analysts expect ultra-HD to remain an exclusive niche product for some years. There’s no easy way to get ultra-HD video content to the sets, so they will mostly be showing regular HD movies. However, the sets can “upscale” the video to make it look better than it does on a regular HD set.

Analyst James McQuivey of Forrester Research believes the TV makers are focusing on the wrong thing. He doesn’t think consumers really care that much about picture quality.

“What matters most is not the number of pixels or the quality of the pixels themselves … but the increasing convenience of the content’s discovery and delivery. This is why TV makers should be investing in a better experience rather than a bigger one,” McQuivey wrote in a blog post.

— LG’s 55-inch OLED TV

Organic light-emitting diodes, or OLEDs, make for thin, extremely colorful screens. They’re already established in smartphone screens, and they have a lot of promise for other applications as well. For years, a promise is all they’ve represented. OLED screens are very hard to make in larger sizes. Now, LG is shipping a 55-inch OLED TV set in Korea, and is expected to bring it to the U.S. this spring for about $ 12,000.

Beyond being thin, power-thrifty and capable of extremely high color saturation, OLEDs are interesting for another reason: they can bend. LCDs have to be laid down on flat glass substrates, but OLEDs can be laid down on flexible glass or plastic. The major obstacle here is that flexible substrates tend to let through air, which destroys OLEDs, but manufacturers seem to have tackled the problem. Samsung showed off a phone that can bend into a tube. It consisted of a rigid plastic box with electronics and an attached display that is as thin as a piece of paper. The company suggested that in the future, it could make displays that fold up like maps — big screens that fit in a pocket.

We’re likely to see the benefits of bendy OLEDs sooner in a less eyebrow-raising but more practical implementation. It may never have occurred to you, but all electronic screens, except for cathode-ray tubes, are flat. With OLEDs, they don’t have to be. LG and Sony showed TV sets with concave screens at the show — not very useful, but an interesting demonstration. In the future, you could have a phone with a screen that laps over onto the edges, providing you with “smart” buttons with labels that change depending on whether you’re in camera mode or music mode. You could have a coffee mug with a wrap-around news and weather ticker. A revolution in design awaits.

By the way, you won’t have to choose between ultra-HD and OLED screens — Sony, Panasonic and LG showed prototype TVs that combine the technologies.

— The Pebble Watch

The Pebble is a “smart” timepiece that can be programmed to do various things, including showing text messages sent to your phone. The high-resolution display is all digital, so it can be programmed with various cool “watch faces.” But what’s really interesting about the Pebble is how it came to be —and that it exists at all.

Young Canadian inventor Eric Migicovsky couldn’t find conventional funding to make the watch, so he asked for money on Kickstarter, the biggest “crowdfunding” website. In essence, he asked people to buy watches before he actually had any to sell. The fundraising was a blowout success. Migicovsky raised $ 10.3 million by pre-selling 85,000 Pebbles. At CES, he announced that the watches were ready to ship.

Kickstarter’s goal is to bring things and events into fruition that otherwise wouldn’t happen, by creating a shortcut between the people who want to create something and the people willing to pay for it. The effect is starting to become apparent at CES. At least two other “smart” watches funded through Kickstarter were on display. Some startups were at the show to drum up interest in ongoing Kickstarter campaigns, including a Swedish company that wants to make a speaker with a transparent body, and a California outfit that wants to produce a swiveling, remote-controlled platform for cameras.

— Creative Technology Ltd.’s Interactive Gesture Camera

This $ 150 camera, promoted by Intel, attaches to a computer much like a Webcam. From a single lens, it shoots the world in 3-D, using technology similar to radar. The idea is that you can perform hand gestures in the air in front of the camera, and it lets the computer interpret them. Why would you want this? That’s not really clear yet, but a lot of effort is going into finding an answer. CES was boiling with gadgets attempting to break new ground when it comes to how we interact with computers and appliances like TV sets. The Nintendo Wii game console, with its innovative motion-sensing controllers, and the Microsoft Kinect add-on for the Xbox 360 console, which has its own 3-D-sensing camera, have inspired engineers to pursue ways to ditch —or at least complement— the keyboard, mouse, remote control and even the touchscreen.

Samsung’s high-end TVs already let viewers use hand gestures to control volume, and it expanded the range of recognized gestures with this year’s models. Startup Leap Motion was at the show with another depth-sensing camera kit, this one designed to mount next to a laptop’s touch pad, looking upward.

So far, though, the “new interaction” field hasn’t had a real hit since the Kinect. Consumers may be eager to lose the TV remote, but there’s a holdup caused by the nature of the setup: to effectively control the TV, you need to take command not just of the TV, but of the cable or satellite set-top box. TV makers and the cable companies don’t really talk to each other, and there’s no sign of them uniting on a common approach. Only when both devices can be controlled by hand-waving can we permanently let the remote get lost between the couch cushions.

Gadgets News Headlines – Yahoo! News

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