Florida Today from Cocoa, Florida on March 23, 2000 · Page 28
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Florida Today from Cocoa, Florida · Page 28

Cocoa, Florida
Issue Date:
Thursday, March 23, 2000
Page 28
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urn fe l j LOCAL NEWS INSIDE A tractor-trailer driver escapes serious injury when his rig veers into oncoming interstate traffic, then overturns in the woods. LOCAL NEWS INSIDE Brevard's spiritual leaders say the life of Pope John Paul II will never be the same after his visit to the Holy Land. TATE THURSDAY, March 23, 2000 SECTION B U Richard Sellers, news editor, 242-3622, 3-1 1 p.m. FLORIDA BRIEFS Computer errors stall license tag notices FLORIDA TODAY wires TALLAHASSEE Hundreds of thousands of Florida motorists who lease their vehicles or who moved last year may not have received their tag renewal notices because of computer errors, state officials said. The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles doesn't know exactly how many people were affected by the computer problems, but said it could be as many as 1.1 million. Department spokeswoman Janet Dennis said it appears less than 9 percent of the state's 13 million registered vehicles were affected by the computer glitch. People who changed their addresses from October to December are likely to be affected, officials said. Dennis said the problem was caused when employees entered data in the wrong field, and then a computer change duplicated the mistake. "It was human error made worse by a computer," she said. Postal workers' pay lost in mail PENSACOLA The paychecks of about 160 U.S. Postal Service workers are lost in the mail, leading postal employees to tout a more dependable payday option: direct deposit. Randy Rueb, a 20-year postal employee, admitted that the unofficial postal motto neither rain, nor snow, nor gloom of night will halt delivery doesn't always hold true. His check goes directly to the bank. "That's why it's good to have direct deposit, for instances like this," said Rueb, a window clerk at Pensacola's downtown post office. The more than 500 Pensacola-area postal workers who have direct deposit got their money on payday. But 160 paychecks printed and mailed from a postal data center in Minneapolis have been missing since Friday. Postal workers leery of delivery of the proverbial check in the mail received salary advances on Monday. Missing woman case reopened DEFUNIAK SPRINGS Police have reopened the case of an Atlanta woman who disappeared from a beachside motel parking lot in 1992. Authorities haven't said what prompted their renewed search for Pamela June Ray, 36, but officers using cadaver dogs have searched 400 acres of scrub and pine trees near DeFuniak Springs where the remains of another woman were uncovered four years ago. , ; Ray's sister, Rhonda Bishop, has repeatedly said the case is similar to the 1989 disappearance of pregnant, 29-year-old Donna Callahan from a nearby convenience store. Two men are serving life sentences at a Florida prison in Callahan's murder, convicted after her body was recovered from the search site in 1996. Florida Department of Law Enforcement spokeswoman Lisa Lagergren said some evidence has been gathered in the search area, but the material could just be animal remains. Porn tapes will be destroyed LAKE CITY The question of whether 1,304 videotapes confiscated from the Adult Movie Video store were obscene will never be answered because the tapes are being destroyed. Sheriffs officials had anticipated investigators having to spend weeks viewing all of the tapes to determine if they were legally obscene. Instead, an agreement between the State Attorney and store owner, James D. Cox, the tapes will be destroyed in exchange for Cox not being charged. Columbia County sheriff's deputies seized the tapes Feb. 25 after a local resident complained about obscenity. Cox said Tuesday the tapes were nothing more than cable-version, adult-oriented movies. Tuesday's Mega Money payouts TALLAHASSEE One ticket matched the four winning numbers plus the Mega Ball number to collect $383,134.50 in the Mega Money game, the Florida Lottery Department said Wednesday. Fifty-three tickets won $308.50 for picking 4-of-4; 119 tickets won $321 for picking 3-of-4 plus the Mega Ball number; 4,456 tickets won $36.50 for picking 3-of-4; 2,368 won $23 for picking 2-of-4 numbers plus the Mega Ball; and 80,792 won $1 for picking 2-of-4. The numbers drawn Tuesday night were 8-9-12-15. Mega Ball: 14. Tuesday's Fantasy 5 payouts TALLAHASSEE' Eleven first-prize winners of the Fantasy 5 game will collect $15,966.40 each, the Florida Lottery Department said Wednesday. And 1,006 tickets won $29 each for picking 4-of-5, and 20,638 tickets won $4 for picking 3-of-5. The numbers drawn Tuesday night were 3-4-17-21-23. : - J - !i i V. ;i; J"; 'fill I W f w Nation gets oranges, grapefruit this weekend Associated Press TALLAHASSEE A trade deal with China has borne fruit for Florida farmers. Millions of Chinese will get their first Florida oranges and grapefruit as shipments of fresh citrus to China begin reaching that nation under a recently signed trade agreement. Agriculture Commissioner Bob Crawford will take the first shipment of Florida citrus to China this weekend. "As the most populous nation on Earth, China offers abundant opportunities to our growers," said Crawford. "The doors have opened to China, and Florida citrus is going to soon be on the way." China has a population of 1.2 billion and the state Agriculture Department estimates that : up to 300 million of them might buy Florida citrus. The agreement follows talks last year in which China agreed to move toward opening its markets to a number of U.S. agricultural products that had long been banned in the Asian nation because of worries over plant diseases. Barriers to sales of U.S. wheat1 and beef also have been eased recently. For Florida citrus growers, the deal could mean more than $300 million in extra sales in the next five years. "There's excitement, a great deal of excitement about this," said Wendy Bourland, a spokeswoman for Lakeland-based Florida Citrus Mutual, the state's largest citrus grower's group. "This is a major development ' and a long time coming." Still, a 40 percent tariff will be imposed on anyone shipping Florida citrus to China. Some growers think that means they won't be able to afford to ship there. See CITRUS, Preceding Page ' "V - A AP FLORIDA AGRICULTURE Commissioner Bob state's first citrus shipment to mainland China. Crawford and Gov. Jeb Bush sign a commemora- Crawford will deliver 10 cartons of Florida citrus tive plaque Wednesday that will accompany the when he flies to Beijing this weekend. '' 1 AP Agriculture secretary declares canker disaster AS LIME TREES burn in the, background, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman gets his feet sprayed to prevent the spread of canker as he tours infested citrus fields in Miami-Dade County with state officials Wednesday. Associated Press HOMESTEAD Visiting bulldozed groves in an area that once provided nearly all the nation's lime crop, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman warned Wednesday of the danger Florida's multibillion dollar citrus industry faces from an imported, incurable plant disease. Glickman also declared four South Florida counties an agricultural disaster area because the of disease, citrus canker, which can only be stopped by knocking the trees down and burning them. "This loss is just as devastating as a drought," Glickman said at a lime grove infected with canker. The state's $8 billion citrus industry recently fought canker infestations in the Tampa area and in Southwest Florida, and had hoped to have it contained. But inspectors then found several new outbreaks in a 70-mile swath from Homestead, southwest of Miami, to Boca Raton, near West Palm Beach. Farmers in Miami-Dade, Broward, Monroe and Collier counties are eligible for special fed-era! loans under the disaster-area declaration. South Florida lime growers say they have already lost more than half the fruit of their $20 million-a-year industry. Wednesday, local growers told Glickman that disaster-area loans won't be enough. Glickman, who visited grower Mark Philcox's grove as part of a nationwide tour emphasizing the dangers of exotic pests, said the USDA is also working on providing compensation to growers. He said there is a possibility of getting money from the Commodity Credit Corp., a revolving fund for agricultural emergencies. Trees infected with the canker show lesions on its leaves, fruit and stems. Burning the trees, even those exposed but not yet infected, is believed to be the only way to prevent its spread. Growers are not allowed to replant citrus trees, which take up to five years to bear fruit, for at least two years. 2000 Panel OKs tougher juvenile crime bill By Allsa LaPolt FLORIDA TODAY TALLAHASSEE Older teens who commit crimes with guns even if it's their first offense would be sentenced to at least 10 years in prison under a bill narrowly passed Wednesday by a House committee. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Bruce Kyle, R.- Fort Meyers, would make the state's so-called "10-20-Life" legislation apply to 16- and 17-year-olds who use a gun during carjackings, kidnappings and other crimes. "People are sick and tired of violent crimes committed by juveniles," said Kyle. "You're dealing with people who know right and wrong . . . they've picked up a gun or committed a carjacking." The House Crime and Punishment Committee passed the measure (HB-159) in a 4-3 vote. A similar bill (SB-1548) by Senate Criminal Justice Committee chairwoman Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Brooksville, passed a Senate fiscal committee Wednesday in a unanimous vote. And Kyle's law would take away decision-making by prosecutors in unusual cases for example, if an older teen commits a crime with a gun and throws the weapon to his younger brother sitting in the car as an unknowing accomplice. See BILL, Preceding Page Grandparents' rights bill advances Associated Press TALLAHASSEE A bill to restore the rights of grandparents to court-ordered visits with their grandchildren advanced Wednesday in the state Senate. Lawmakers are working on the issue in the wake of a string of rulings by the Florida Supreme Court. In recent years, the state's high court has restricted the scope of the current law. Every provision of the law that has been challenged has been found unconstitutional by the court, which ruled the sections violated the privacy rights of parents to raise their children without interference from either their own parents, in-laws or the government. Current law directs judges to consider the best interest of children in deciding whether1 to overrule parents and order visits between grandparents and grandchildren. Campbell's legislation changes the threshold to whether the child is "suffering or threatened with suffering demonstrable significant mental or emotional harm" because they aren't seeing their grandparents. Campbell Family, lawyers plan next step in fight to keep Elian Associated Press MIAMI Attorneys for Elian Gonzalez's great-uncle said Wednesday they will take their battle to the Supreme Court if necessary to keep the 6-year-old boy in the United States, while some Cuban-Americans prepared to take action if the boy is forced to go back to Cuba immediately. "This an extraordinary case that could reach the highest levels of our court system," said Kendall Coffey. "I've never seen a more compelling or dramatic 1 1 story in my life." For now, the legal team is focusing on the next step. The attorneys filed a notice of appeal with the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta on Tuesday only hours after U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore dismissed a lawsuit filed by Lazaro Gonzalez, affirming the government's decision to Coffey send Elian back to his father in Cuba. The court acknowledged receiving the notice Wednesday. "Elian has been saying over and over again that he doesn't see why he has to go back," said the boy's cousin, Georgina Cid Cruz. "I don't think sending him back is in his best interest," an emotional Cruz said Wednesday. Cuban groups supporting the cause to keep Elian in the United States met Wednesday to make plans, saying they would take any measures if any drastic actions are taken. "Should a decision come where something happens that the people don't like, let's demonstrate so that our message can get to Washington," said Ramon Saul Sanchez, of the Democracy Movement. "Protests won't start now. We are observing the appeal," said Armando Perez-Roura, news director of Radio Mambi, WAQI-AM, which is the largest Cuban-American station in Florida. "We are giving room for the necessary legal steps." On the Web The judge's decision: www.netside.netusdcfls publicationselian.pdf INS home page: www.ins.usdoj.gov Web site by son of Miami relatives' spokesman: libertyforelian.org Coverage of Elian's case : from the Cuban Communist Party newspaper, Granma: www.granma.cusitioelian indexing.html

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