DAY CARE CENTER-CRASH
Car slams into Tampa day care, 2 women hurt
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - Authorities say two women were seriously injured after their car crashed into a Tampa day care center.
The crash happened early Friday morning, well before any students or workers arrived at the Achievement Center for Early Learning.
Police say the driver of the car apparently lost control and skidded across the road and slammed into the day care center. Two women in the vehicle were taken to Tampa General Hospital. Their names or conditions were not released.
Officials say the center will be closed on Friday. It serves children through age 11 in pre-k, kindergarten and before and after school care.
Police are investigating.
SunRail service resumes after body found on tracks
SANFORD, Fla. (AP) - SunRail service has resumed in central Florida following a brief suspension after a body was found on the tracks in Sanford.
SunRail made the announcement on its official Twitter account Friday morning.
Few details were immediately available.
The commuter train service began earlier this year and service was affected in Volusia, Seminole and Orange counties due to police activity.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA DEBATE
Lakeland hosts debate over medical marijuana
LAKELAND, Fla. (AP) - A debate organized by The Ledger of Lakeland featured two of the loudest voices in the campaign over Amendment 2, which would legalize medical marijuana in Florida.
Thursday night's debate pitted Orlando attorney John Morgan who bankrolled the effort to get the measure on the ballot against Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, the spokesman for the Don't Let Florida Go to Pot coalition.
The amendment, which requires 60 percent approval by voters, will be on the ballot in November's general election.
Morgan says he saw how marijuana helped his father as he was dying of cancer and his brother, who has faced chronic pain since an accident left him paralyzed.
Judd lamented what he called "multiple loopholes that's going to create a de facto legalization" of recreational marijuana.
DEPUTY SHOOTS DOG
Florida deputy fatally shoots suspect's dog
MERRITT ISLAND, Fla. (AP) - A Brevard County Sheriff's deputy fatally shot a dog after it bit his hand during a domestic violence call.
Sheriff's spokesman Dave Jacobs told Florida Today that deputies responded to a Merritt Island home on Thursday and learned that the victim had been battered by a man and bitten by his dog.
Deputies spotted the suspect driving nearby and stopped his vehicle. They say the large, short-haired tan dog jumped out of the vehicle and charged. Deputy Anthony Mustante shot the dog after it bit his left hand.
The deputy was taken to the hospital for treatment. Animal services took the dog to be tested for disease.
Deputies arrested 45-year-old Reginald Tyler Harris Jr. on an aggravated battery domestic violence charge. It was unclear whether he's hired an attorney.
Boy, 2, struck and killed by truck near Tampa
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - Authorities say a 2-year-old boy died after being struck by a Tampa water department truck at an apartment complex.
Tampa police spokeswoman Janelle McGregor says Demetric Laynton darted between two vehicles Thursday night and the truck driver wasn't able to stop before hitting him.
McGregor says the driver was "visibly shaken."
The child was taken to a hospital where he died a short time later.
Police say the child was being watched by a friend of his mother while she ran errands. Cousin Ali Muhammad told media outlets that the child was being held outside but at some point wiggled loose and ran into the road. An investigation continues.
It was not clear whether the driver was on city business when the incident occurred.
Manatees may soon lose endangered species status
MIAMI (AP) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering changing the manatee's status from endangered to threatened.
As part of that process, the agency is seeking public comment on its finding that a petition to reclassify the manatee has merits. The deadline for comments is Tuesday.
The majority of the more than 700 comments submitted so far urge the government to keep the manatee listed as endangered.
The groups behind the petition say those responses only prove that emotions drive manatee-related policies, not facts or the wildlife service's own rules. The Citrus County group Save Crystal River Inc. and the conservative Pacific Legal Foundation say excessive regulation protects manatees at the expense of businesses relying on waters where manatees swim.
Reclassifying the manatee wouldn't immediately change any of its protections.
GIANT AFRICAN SNAILS
USDA seizes more than 1,200 illegal giant snails
WASHINGTON (AP) - The giant African snail damages buildings, destroys crops and can cause meningitis in humans. But some people still want to collect, and even eat, the slimy invaders.
The Agriculture Department is trying to stop them. Since June, department authorities have seized more than 1,200 live specimens of the large snails, all of them traced back to someone in Georgia who was selling them illegally.
After receiving a tip, the department in June seized more than 200 snails from a person on Long Island, New York, who identified the seller in Georgia. The department then interviewed the seller and seized almost 1,000 more snails.
Authorities say it's important to capture the snails without delay because they multiply quickly, producing 1,200 or more offspring a year.
Amazon's new regional fulfillment center opens
LAKELAND, Fla. (AP) - More than 400 employees have reported to work at Amazon's new regional order fulfillment center in central Florida.
The Internet giant's first order shipped from its new Lakeland center on Wednesday. The CreativeWare 2-Tier Buffet Server went to a customer in New York.
The 1-million-square-foot warehouse is the company's first in Florida. Employees pick, pack and ship large items to customers.
A second warehouse will open soon in nearby Hillsborough County and will process smaller items, such as books and CDs.
2 shocked, 1 fatally, in St. Augustine
ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. (AP) - Authorities say two men were shocked - one fatally - after one used a chain saw in an attempt to clear fallen tree branches from a power line.
The St. Johns County Sheriff's Office reports that someone on Thursday reported a fire after hearing three loud booms behind a house in St. Augustine.
Neighbors responded and found 42-year-old Chad Janes lying on the ground. He had been cutting branches from a power line and was electrocuted.
A neighbor, 51-year-old Joseph Sheffield, tried to move Janes and was also shocked.
Sheffield survived his injuries and was being treated at an area hospital.
DEATH BENEFITS FRAUD
Sentencing day for chief of $800M insurance fraud
MIAMI (AP) - The mastermind of an $800 million insurance scam that stands as one of the largest fraud schemes in Florida history is being sentenced by a federal judge.
A hearing is set Friday for Joel Steinger, former chief of Fort Lauderdale-based Mutual Benefits Corp. Steinger faces up to 50 years behind bars after pleading guilty in March to mail and wire fraud conspiracy charges. Steinger's lawyer is seeking a more lenient penalty.
Prosecutors say Mutual Benefits was a massive fraud scheme in which investors lost about $830 million between 1994 and 2004. There were about 30,000 victims around the world.
The now-defunct company bought life insurance policies from people with AIDS, cancer and other chronic illnesses and sold them to investors. Prosecutors say the numbers were manipulated and investors misled.
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