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

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3-day back to school sales tax holiday starts

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Florida's back-to-school sales tax holiday is kicking off.

Starting Friday shoppers do not have to pay sales and local sales taxes on clothing worth $100 or less. Sales taxes are also waived for school supplies worth $15 or less.

Shoppers also do not have to pay the state's 6 percent sales tax on the first $750 of any computer purchase. The exemption also applies to computer accessories.

The sales tax holiday ends on Sunday at midnight.

This year the amount of clothing exempt from taxes has gone up from $75 to $100. The other major change is that the sales tax break is applied to computer purchases worth than $750. This means that it will apply to Apple laptops this year.


Florida preserve brings wolves, people together

CHIPLEY, Fla. (AP) - At Seacrest Wolf Preserve in northern Florida, billed as the largest such facility in the Southeast, owners Cynthia and Wayne Watkins say they raise their wolves to become accustomed to humans.

For a $25 fee, they even let visitors mingle with a wolf pack.

They say it lets wolves become ambassadors for their species and helps people become advocates for wolves.

The Watkinses estimate that Seacrest, near the town of Chipley, gets 10,000 visitors a year.

But some wolf experts worry that Seacrest may allow wolves and humans to get too close.

Dave Mech, a federal research assistant who has studied wolves for decades, says letting visitors enter a wolf pack enclosure isn't safe.

Seacrest says it has safety measures in place, including an educational video and trained wolf handlers.


Construction worker killed in drunk driving crash

(Information in the following story is from: Sarasota (Fla.) Herald-Tribune,

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. (AP) - The Florida Highway Patrol says a drunk driver ran into two construction workers along U.S. 41 in Port Charlotte, killing one.

The crash happened late Wednesday as 22-year-old Mark Andrew Caton and 39-year-old Jemel Gardener were performing road maintenance.

Troopers say 26-year-old Christopher Allen Best didn't see a pickup truck with flashing overhead LED lighting signaling traffic to switch lanes. His Oldsmobile struck the men, pinning them between the car and the pickup truck.

Gardener died a short time later at a Fort Myers Hospital. Caton was taken to the same hospital in critical condition.

Best's 6-year-old passenger was taken to All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg with minor injuries.

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports Best is facing DUI manslaughter, DUI causing serious bodily injury and DUI property damage.


Deputies: Boy shot while riding bicycle in Cocoa

COCOA, Fla. (AP) - Deputies say a 12-year-old boy is recovering after being shot while riding his bicycle in Cocoa.

Orlando television station WESH reports deputies believe the child was targeted in the Thursday afternoon shooting, but they didn't say why they believe so. The child was reported to be in stable condition.

Witnesses told deputies the suspects fled in a red Chrysler 300.

No further details were immediately available. An investigation continues.

Deputies ask anyone with information to call Crimeline at 800-423-TIPS.


Trio charged with money laundering at MIA

MIAMI (AP) - Three people have been charged with operating a money laundering scheme out of Miami International Airport.

The Miami Herald reports law enforcement officials are accusing the managers of a small company at the airport of channeling millions of dollars that were supposed to go to Miami-Dade's Aviation Department and instead went to "shadow" bank accounts.

Investigators believe the three likely siphoned over $2.19 million over a two-year period.

International Airport Management Inc. employee Elena Iglesias, her husband Lazaro Iglesia and co-worker Malena Rodriguez were charged with organized fraud, grand theft and money laundering.

IAMI contracted with Miami-Dade Aviation to operate an exclusive waiting area for airline passengers.

Prosecutors say the money went toward paying off credit card bills, car loans, mortgages and to a prepaid college account.


Ban on importing lionfish into Fla. takes effect

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - A ban on importing live lionfish into Florida is taking effect.

Aquarium shops will be allowed to obtain new lionfish from divers instead.

The ban is one of several changes the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says will reduce the number of lionfish introduced into state waters.

Other changes taking effect Friday will make it easier for lionfish hunters to remove the spiny predators from the water. Now divers can use an air-recycling device called a re-breather while spearfishing for lionfish. Approved tournaments featuring spearfishing for lionfish also will be allowed in certain state parks or refuges where spearfishing is otherwise prohibited.

Experts say lionfish are menacing to native wildlife throughout the Atlantic, where they have no natural predators. The fish have venomous spines, but they are edible.


Snake bitten man recovers, but could land in jail

(Information in the following story is from: The (Fort Myers, Fla.) News-Press,

LEHIGH ACRES, Fla. (AP) - A 19-year-old southwest Florida man could land in jail after recovering from a poisonous snake bite.

Eddie Chamberlain told the News-Press of Fort Myers he was at his girlfriend's house July 23 and saw the snake threatening a neighbor's son and cat. He says he grabbed the snake and put it in a fish tank.

Days later it bit his thumb. When Chamberlain's parents realized it was a coral snake, they rushed him to the hospital where he was treated with anti-venom.

He is on probation for a 2013 breaking and entering charge. If the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission charges him with keeping the snake as a pet and issues a fine, he could be jailed for violation of probation.

The snake was released into the wild.


Gullah Festival being held on SC coast

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) - A three-day Gullah festival is being held in three cities along the South Carolina coast.

The Gullah-Geechee Nation International Music & Movement Festival begins in Charleston with Gullah-Geechee Night during the Charleston Riverdogs game Friday.

An event Friday at the Charleston Maritime Center features artisans, painters and a showing of the documentary "Wilmington on Fire," which chronicles riots that occurred in 1898 in Wilmington, North Carolina.

A 2006 report said white supremacist leaders started the riots to strip political power from black people. At least 14 blacks were killed.

The festival concludes with family events scheduled Sunday in Georgetown and Myrtle Beach.

The festival celebrates the culture of the descendants of sea island slaves. The culture is known as Gullah in the Carolinas and Geechee in Georgia and Florida.


Police: Hungry man steals food, beer in Fla

(Information in the following story is from: Daytona Beach (Fla.) News-Journal,

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) - Police say a 41-year-old man told them he broke into multiple Daytona Beach restaurants because he was hungry.

The Daytona Beach News-Journal reports Joel Rodriguez is accused of taking a cake, beer and bags of rice. He was being held in the Volusia County Jail on Friday morning.

Officials say Rodriguez also stole nurse uniforms from a medical supply store.

He told police he traded the beer for a place to stay in a local crack house. He said he also sold the nurses uniforms.

He faces multiples charges.

There was no word on whether he has an attorney.


2 escaped inmates back in custody in central Fla

KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) - Authorities say two inmates are back in custody after escaping from a central Florida work release center.

Osceola County Sheriff's deputies say 38-year-old Claudio Poillot and 26-year-old Sixto Martinez-Rodriguez were located Thursday night.

According to deputies, the pair left the Kissimmee Work Release Center Thursday morning to walk to a construction company where they work. The called the Department of Corrections at 6:10 a.m. to let them know they'd arrived at the site. But the owner of the firm notified corrections officials that the inmates were unaccounted for.

Officials didn't say where they found the pair.

Rodriguez's previous charges include grand theft, burglary and drug charges. Poillot was facing burglary, aggravated battery and cocaine possession.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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