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ALACHUA COUNTY ‒ Alachua County Public Schools announces that Alachua County children and their families are invited to attend the 22nd annual Stop the Violence/Back to School Rally on Saturday, July 31 from 10 a.m. to noon.

The event will be held at Citizens Park, behind the MLK Center off NE 8th Ave. and Waldo Road. The event is once again being organized by People Against Violence Enterprises (PAVE) and is supported by a wide variety of local sponsors, including primary sponsor Meldon Law.

Gun violence will be the main focus of this year’s rally.

“With the recent increase in gun violence in our community involving our youth, it’s necessary for us to wrap our arms around them like never before by working together in the area of intervention promoting gun safety,” said Reverend Karl Anderson, the founder of PAVE.

The rally’s keynote speaker will be actor Todd Bridges, who rocketed to fame as Willis Jackson in the popular TV sitcom Diff’rent Strokes and had many other roles on TV as a child. Bridges will talk about overcoming struggles with drug addiction and trouble with the law to again become a successful actor, director and producer.

The event will feature entertainment and other speakers, as well as information provided by community organizations about gun safety, counseling and other topics. Free COVID vaccinations and testing will also be available.

The first 3000 school-aged children in attendance will receive a free backpack filled with school supplies, provided by Meridian Behavioral Healthcare. Children must be present to receive the backpacks.

More information about the rally is available at 352-505-6839 or at www.pavingpeace.org

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ALACHUA COUNTY ‒ More nurses will be deployed to Alachua County Public Schools this fall to support COVID mitigation efforts thanks to a new collaboration between the district and the Alachua County Health Department.

The Health Department has hired 30 nurses to work in local schools for the upcoming academic year. They will be joining the nurses who already work at each of the district’s schools.

The additional nurses will be taking on most of the COVID-related tasks at schools, including contact tracing, testing, vaccination support and education. During the last school year, much of that work had to be done by school administrators and other staff members.

“This will be an enormous benefit for our schools,” said Superintendent Dr. Carlee Simon. “With this additional support, principals and other staff members can focus on the educational needs of students while still promoting the health of everyone at their school.”

Paul Myers, administrator of the Health Department, says the ongoing collaboration between his department, the district and other partners is critical to mitigating the impact of COVID. Those partners include the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners, the Florida Department of Health, the University of Florida and UF Health.

“We are collectively building upon the successful reopening of our local K-12 schools,” said Myers. “We have demonstrated that through coordinated efforts, the detrimental effects of COVID-19 can be minimized and the critical in-person instruction of our children can continue.”

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GAINESVILLE ‒ Santa Fe College Coordinator of the Academic Advisement Center, Thomas Beckwith, was honored as a “Best of State” winner by the Florida Academic Advising Association (FLACADA) for his session at the 2021 FLACADA conference entitled “The Benefits and Challenges of Being a Black Male Academic Advisor in an era where Black Lives Matter.”

“Thomas has continued to show why SF stands for ‘Students First,’” SF Vice President for Student Affairs, Dr. Naima Brown said. “His dedication to our students, his innovative approach toward serving students and his constant focus on the network of support our students need is what makes him invaluable to our team and is one of the reasons why our students excel both in the classroom and in their careers.”

FLACADA serves as a statewide network of advisors, counselors and faculty who work to enrich the educational development of students. FLACADA’s national partner, the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA), named Beckwith to its Emerging Leaders list earlier this year.

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ALACHUA COUNTY – The Florida Department of Health in Alachua County has rescinded a rabies alert for N.E. Gainesville. This was in response to a stray cat that tested positive on Friday, May 14, 2021.
 Although the alert is being rescinded, all residents and visitors in Alachua County should be aware that rabies is present in the wild animal population and domestic animals are at risk if not vaccinated. The public is asked to maintain a heightened awareness that rabies is still a concern.
 The center of the rabies alert was 3400 N.E. 53rd Avenue and included the following boundaries in Alachua County:
  • N.E. 15th Street, Gainesville
  • N.E. 39th Avenue, Gainesville
  • N.E. Waldo Road
  • N.E. 73rd Avenue
 An animal with rabies could infect other wild or domestic animals that have not been vaccinated against rabies. All domestic animals should be vaccinated against rabies, and all wildlife contact should be avoided, particularly raccoons, bats, foxes, skunks, otters, bobcats, and coyotes. Rabies is a disease of the nervous system and is fatal to warm-blooded animals and humans. The only treatment for human exposure to rabies is rabies-specific immune globulin and rabies immunization. Appropriate treatment started soon after the exposure will protect an exposed person from the disease.
 Residents and visitors are advised to take the following precautions:
 Keep rabies vaccinations up to date for all pets.
  • Keep pets under direct supervision, so they do not come in contact with wild animals. If a wild animal bites a pet, seek veterinary assistance for the animal immediately and contact Alachua County Animal Services at 352-264-6880.
  • Call the local animal control agency to remove any stray animals from neighborhoods.
  • Do not handle, feed, or unintentionally attract wild animals with open garbage cans or litter.
  • Never adopt wild animals or bring them into your home.
  • Teach children never to handle unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, even if they appear friendly.
  • Prevent bats from entering living quarters or occupied spaces in homes, churches, schools, and other similar areas, where they might come in contact with people and pets.
  • Persons who have been bitten or scratched by wild or domestic animals should seek medical attention and report the injury to the Florida Department of Health in Alachua County at 352-334-7930.
 For more information on rabies, visit the Florida Department of Health’s rabies website, call the Florida Department of Health in Alachua County at 352-334-7930, or contact Alachua County Animal Control at 352-264-6880.

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HIGH SPRINGS ‒ High Springs, Florida has hosted visitors from all over the world as they discover and “Enjoy Our Good Nature” since 1892.­­ The city’s gateway signs welcome weary travelers, excited shoppers and explorers and returning residents alike.  This year, Heart of High Springs, Inc., a local 501c3 nonprofit, has revived a project that originally began in 2007, committing to updating these signs at gateways to the community and to work with the property owners and local government regarding easements for legal access ensure there is a long-term maintenance plan so the signs remain a positive reminder of the pride and investment in the community.

The primary Gateway Sign is located on the roadside of U.S. Highway 441 on property owned by High Springs Animal Hospital.  Secondary Gateway Signs are located along five additional gateway roadsides in cooperation with additional private property owners.  

High Springs-based creator, ThemeWorks, Inc. has been selected to partner with Heart of High Springs in this effort.  “We are very excited about this project.  It’s amazing how signs like these can really impact the way a community like High Springs is perceived, increase community pride, and really give visitors the sense of arriving in a special place,” said Ryan Kremser of ThemeWorks, Inc.

The signs will be durable and maintainable for many years and will be produced by ThemeWorks using the same high-quality materials and fabrication methods that they use when producing outdoor signs for the major Florida theme parks. Existing ThemeWorks signs that were similarly constructed and installed have continued to be useful for more than 20 years. The signs will be fabricated from PVC and marine grade aluminum and will be coated with high end outdoor sign paints with a UV clear coat.

Regarding maintenance, the biggest issue will be algae and lichens growing on the signs.  Occasionally washing the signs with some soapy water would be the best way to keep them looking good.  They should not be power washed because it could shorten the lifespan of the coatings.

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NEWBERRY ‒ For those folks who have been cooped up inside for way too long, relief is just around the corner. The City of Newberry approved a special use permit to allow Vivid Sky Vertical, LLC, to hold an outdoor carnival and concert in August.

Eric Lenasbunt of Vivid Sky Vertical, acting as agent for property owner Pat Post, made presentations before the Planning and Zoning Board and the City Commission on July 12 to explain what is planned for the event and discuss the site plan.

A carnival by Florida Carnivals and More will be open all three days of the event, Aug. 20 – 22. Carnival hours are 3 – 11 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Sunday.

Doors open for the Friday and Saturday night concerts at 5 p.m. and music will run until 10:30 p.m. both nights. Saturday night’s closing event will include a 15-minute fireworks display.

Knockin’ Boots Saloon in Gainesville will be serving alcohol and food vendors/trucks and souvenir event sales will also be included onsite.

Lenasbunt said he would be contacting the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office and will also have EMS services available. He also explained his parking plan for ingress and egress during the events.

The gate location is 28823 W. Newberry Road, but it is best described as being adjacent to the Gilchrist County/Alachua County Line on the southeast corner of West Newberry Road and Gilchrist County Road 20185 (Southeast 90th Avenue, Gilchrist County).

Approval was given for this event with several stipulations including proof of a valid liquor license, liability insurance for the outdoor carnival and two-concert event and also the policy must list the City of Newberry as an “additional insured.”

Lenasbunt was tight lipped about who would be performing at the concerts so that will have to be a surprise when the event is closer.

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JUPITER, FL — In a move designed to marry the clinical and educational expertise of the state’s flagship university with one of the world’s premier biomedical research enterprises, the University of Florida and Scripps Research today announced they are in talks to integrate the Florida-based branch of Scripps Research with the research arm of UF’s academic health center.

Discussions have proceeded swiftly because UF is ideally positioned to expand on Scripps Florida’s successful research track record to accelerate the translation of scientific discoveries into clinical advances that improve outcomes for patients in the state and around the world, said officials from both organizations.

“Our shared vision for propelling biomedical research forward is based on the great mutual respect our two institutions have for each other,” said Peter Schultz, Ph.D., president and chief executive officer of Scripps Research, based in La Jolla, California.

“UF is an outstanding partner for Scripps Florida — the two institutions have complementary basic and translational research capabilities and strengths which, when combined, will enhance their collective reputation and impact on Florida,” Schultz added. “We have built an outstanding research institute in Scripps Florida with generous support from the state and from local communities and we believe it will have its biggest impact on Florida and greatest opportunity for further growth as part of UF, one of the country’s leading research and educational institutions.”

Details of the agreement will be finalized over the next few months and will build on existing research collaborations UF has had with Scripps and the organizations’ complementary strengths, said David R. Nelson, M.D., senior vice president for health affairs at UF and president of UF Health, the university’s academic health center.

Initial efforts include appointing key leadership positions; UF and Scripps Research plan to name Patrick Griffin, Ph.D., to head the scientific arm of the new research endeavor. Griffin is currently chair of the department of molecular medicine at Scripps Florida and directs its Translational Research Institute.

“Our shared vision focuses on improving the health of humanity and developing innovations to optimize quality of life,” Nelson said. “With this venture, we will both be positioned to take medical research to the next level in a way that is win-win for the people of Florida and beyond.”

The 30-acre Scripps Florida campus in Jupiter is situated within Palm Beach County’s innovation corridor and houses more than 40 faculty-led laboratories supported by a 500-member team dedicated to understanding an array of illnesses and seeking to generate effective treatments. Its researchers are regularly heralded for their pioneering discoveries that have led to hundreds of patents and numerous spinoff companies. Scripps Florida has a robust research portfolio, with nearly $50 million in National Institutes of Health funding and over $67 million in total research funding, which includes industry support.

UF ranks among the top research-intensive public universities in the country, with research expenditures totaling more than $942 million during the past fiscal year.

Over time, the relationship will generate additional jobs, further catalyzing economic development, officials said. Other natural areas of collaboration could potentially include cancer, drug discovery, immunology and infectious disease, neuroscience (including Alzheimer’s disease and other aging-related disorders), and structural biology and molecular medicine.

UF President Kent Fuchs said the deal opens the door to building off Scripps Research’s platform of excellence and teaming up with other State University System institutions such as Florida Atlantic and Florida International universities on various programs.

“This would be the next logical step, adding to the impact Scripps Research has already made in Florida,” Fuchs said. “They have been great stewards of the state’s investment in biotech, and we look forward to partnering on this next phase to add value and grow additional research and tech collaborations.”

“This news is welcome because it aligns with the commitment of Florida’s public universities to work together for the greater good,” said John Kelly, Ph.D., president of Florida Atlantic University. “FAU is looking forward to expanding on our existing collaborations with UF and Scripps Florida by identifying educational and research opportunities that leverage our shared strengths. These include exploring common interests in areas like autism, neuroscience, molecular biology and data science to advance medicine.”

Recent academic health collaborations with FAU span at least seven colleges at UF on a range of topics. Highlights include the 1Florida Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, which UF leads in collaboration with FAU and others. The 1Florida ADRC received a five-year $15 million NIH grant in 2020 to expand its work with a heightened focus on further understanding dementias in diverse populations. In addition, UF and FAU collaborate on the NIH-funded National Drug Early Warning System coordinating center to identify emerging drug abuse trends.

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TALLAHASSEE – Today, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), the state agency that regulates and inspects Florida’s gas stations and fuel pumps, is strongly encouraging Floridians to consider adding a fuel plan to annual hurricane preparations.

Surges in consumer demand due to hurricanes can cause disruptions in Florida’s fuel distribution system. Early preparation by consumers will reduce the strain on fuel distribution, ensure fuel is available as needed, and reduce the cost of fuels that can increase due to sudden higher demand.

“We have all seen how panic-buying and sudden surges in demand for gas can cause disruptions to the fuel supply – which unfortunately happened earlier this year following the cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline,” said Commissioner Nikki Fried. “Just as we encourage preparing for your family’s food, water, medical, and power needs before there is an imminent storm threat, we are also encouraging Floridians to keep their vehicles and generators fueled up throughout hurricane season. We can all take simple preparatory steps to help prevent a rush at the gas pump when hurricanes threaten, lessening the likelihood of potential supply shortages and pricing issues.”

Click here to download a sharable graphic with tips on fuel preparations and safety during hurricane season.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) recommends the following tips for hurricane preparedness, along with important fuel safety reminders:

  • Keep all vehicles at least half full during hurricane season.
  • Keep at least one vehicle filled with gasoline once the earliest predictions indicate a storm may threaten the state.
  • Pre-purchase fuels (LP gas and gasoline) for generators at the start of hurricane season – properly stored fuels will last at least six months, and can be transferred into a vehicle for use should no emergency arise
  • Use gasoline fuel stabilizer to keep gasoline fresh and ready to use when it is needed.

Fuel Safety:

  • Refill fuel containers on the ground, not in the truck bed or trunk.
  • Transport and store fuel ONLY in appropriate containers – look for DOT approved containers that close tightly and do not leak.
  • NEVER store or transport gasoline in milk jugs or open top containers.
  • Store fuel in a safe and well-ventilated location.

Report Outages/Quality: To report fuel outages or quality issues before or after a hurricane, consumers should contact the department’s Division of Consumer Services at 1-800-HELP-FLA, 1-800-FL-AYUDA en Español, or FloridaConsumerHelp.com.

FDACS is Florida’s state consumer protection agency, responsible for handling consumer complaints, protecting against unfair and unsafe business practices, and more. FDACS handles over 400,000 consumer complaints and inquiries annually, oversees more than 500,000 regulated devices, entities, and products like gas pumps and grocery scales, performs over 61,000 lab analyses on products like gasoline and brake fluid, performs nearly 9,000 fair ride inspections, and returned over $2.8 million to consumers through mediations with businesses last year.

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FORT LAUDERDALE/DAVIE – After a nearly seven-month journey spanning more than a combined 29,100 miles, Nova Southeastern University’s (NSU) Guy Harvey Research Institute (GHRI) has announced the winners of The Great Shark Race 2021, which began in January and ended at midnight on Shark Awareness Day, July 14.

The Great Shark Race 2021 was divided into two races: (1) shortfin makos, the fastest marine creatures on the planet that can swim up to 44 miles per hour, and (2) whale sharks, the gigantic shark species (the largest fish in the ocean), which, not surprisingly, are some of the slowest swimmers.

The wining makos, which traveled a combined 8,900+ miles, are:

  • Cuddles, sponsored by Penmanship, was declared the victor with 3,207 miles logged, followed closely by;
  • Caison, sponsored by Certified Contracting Group, Inc., traveling 3,073 miles; and
  • Fishangler, sponsored by Fishangler App, which finished third with 2,627 miles.

As for the whale shark category, there was an interesting “side race” within the division that pitted NBC national news anchor Lester Holt against NBC reporter Kerry Sanders, who is known for his affinity for sharks. Lester beat out Kerry, 4,718.73 miles to 3,058.14 miles.

The whale shark finished as follows:

As different as they may seem in terms of size and speed, both shark species in the Great Shark Race have something in common – they are endangered. The main goal of this unusual race is to further key scientific research aimed at saving these and other endangered shark species.

“Everyone loves a contest, so we thought this could be a great, fun, engaging way to raise public awareness about the dire status of both these endangered shark species and an effective way to attract sponsors to further fund this long-term research. The announcement was timed to Shark Week when the spotlight shines brightest on sharks,” said Mahmood Shivji, Ph.D., director of NSU’s GHRI and Save Our Seas Foundation Shark Research Center. “From the work we’ve done, we know that both these species can travel up to 12,000 miles in one year so our goal is to use new data to understand where they go, when they go and potentially why they travel to these specific locations.”

The latest in ocean wildlife tracking technology was used to measure race results. A fin-mounted SPOT satellite tag on each shark allowed them to be tracked in near real time on the GHRI Race Tracking Website. These SPOT tags relayed crucial data back to researchers, including the distance that each shark covered as they swam around the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico or Caribbean Sea.

The presenting sponsor for each race category were FishAngler App for the makos and The Moss Foundation for the whale sharks. In addition to the companies Certified Contracting Group, Inc., Advanced Green Technologies, Crawford Roofing, Inc., Miller Glass & Glazing, Inc., and Boatyard Restaurant, individual shark sponsors were Penmanship and Gordon James III.

“As we continue the long-term project of working with GHRI researchers at NSU, we learn more and more how important sharks are to preserving healthy ocean ecosystems,” said world-renowned artist, conservationist and scientist Dr. Guy Harvey, chairman of the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, which conducts scientific research and hosts educational programs aimed at conserving the marine environment, ensuring that future generations can enjoy and benefit from a properly balanced ocean ecosystem. “The Great Shark Race 2021 was a success and brought in much needed funds to continue our research. We sincerely thank all who supported us during this race. It is an amazing educational opportunity and a critical research initiative.”

According to NSU’s GHRI research, up to 73 million sharks a year end up in the global shark fin trade, and some estimates say that annually approximately 100 million sharks are removed from the world’s oceans. Case in point: approximately 30% of the mako sharks tagged by NSU’s GHRI research scientists have been lost. These are clearly not sustainable numbers, and it should alarm everyone. It’s why creating awareness about this issue is more important than ever.

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TALLAHASSEE ‒ Last week, investigators with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement (OALE), assisted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Lafayette County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO), and the Florida Department of Corrections (FDC), executed a search warrant at 1915 S.E. Calhoun Road, Mayo, Florida as part of “Operation Fowl Play,” a months-long investigation into illegal cockfighting rings illicitly operating in rural North Florida.

When law enforcement officers entered the scene to serve the search warrant, they discovered a gathering of participants and onlookers actively engaged in the illegal blood sport of fighting or baiting of animals and immediately began effecting arrests.  FDC canine assisted in apprehending several suspects who attempted to avoid arrest by fleeing on foot. 

After the scene was secured, the court-authorized search of the area resulted in the discovery of three deceased birds and the seizure of 41 birds that had been brought to the location for the sole purpose of pitting them against each other in cruel fights to the death.  Investigators also seized several firearms, large quantities of cash, and illegal controlled substances as part of the operation. 

“Every day, our department’s law enforcement professionals are working hard to track down and crack down on criminal activity in our state,” said Commissioner Fried. “Such abhorrent behavior will not be tolerated – be it illegal conduct hurting Floridians or cruelty against animals. Thanks to our law enforcement team and partners, this ring was broken up and the individuals involved are being brought to justice.”

A total of 29 adult defendants and one juvenile defendant were arrested and charged as follows:

  • Arrestee: Mario Martinez Alvarez, Hispanic male, DOB: 01/09/1977, At large; Charges: Violation of Section 828.122 (3) (h), F.S., Attending the fighting or baiting of animals, Third Degree Felony, 1 count.
  • Arrestee: Ronald Amburgy, White male, DOB: 01/30/1951, Ocala, Florida, Charges: Violation of Section 828.122 (3) (h), F.S., Attending the fighting or baiting of animals, Third Degree Felony, 1 count.
  • Arrestee: Juan Avilar, Hispanic male, DOB: 06/17/1986, Live Oak, Florida, Charges: Violation of Section 828.122 (3) (h), F.S., Attending the fighting or baiting of animals, Third Degree Felony, 1 count.
  • Arrestee: Octavio Besera, Hispanic male, DOB: 03/22/1984, Williston, Florida, Charges: Violation of Section 828.122 (3) (h), F.S., Attending the fighting or baiting of animals, Third Degree Felony, 1 count.
  • Arrestee: Preciliano Carrillo, Jr., Hispanic male, DOB: 10/22/1986, Valdosta, Georgia, Charges: Violation of Section 828.122 (3) (h), F.S., Attending the fighting or baiting of animals, Third Degree Felony, 1 count.
  • Arrestee: Jesus Cavillio, Hispanic male, DOB: 01/23/1980, Valdosta, Georgia, Charges: Violation of Section 828.122 (3) (h), F.S., Attending the fighting or baiting of animals, Third Degree Felony, 1 count.
  • Arrestee: Angeles Diaz, Hispanic male, DOB: 11/20/1970, DeLeon Springs, Florida, Charges: Violation of Section 828.122 (3) (h), F.S., Attending the fighting or baiting of animals, Third Degree Felony, 1 count.
  • Arrestee: Thomas Equi, Hispanic male, DOB: 06/17/1959, Reddick, Florida, Charges: Violation of Section 828.122 (3) (h), F.S., Attending the fighting or baiting of animals, Third Degree Felony, 1 count.
  • Arrestee: Omar Alonzo Martinez-Gonzales, Hispanic male, DOB: 02/06/1977, Mayo, Florida, Charges: Violation of Section 828.122 (3) (h), F.S., Attending the fighting or baiting of animals, Third Degree Felony, 1 count.
  • Arrestee: Juan Gerardo Hernandez-Menendez, Hispanic male, DOB: 12/07/1984, Mayo, Florida, Charges: Violation of Section 828.122 (3) (h), F.S., Attending the fighting or baiting of animals, Third Degree Felony, 1 count.
  • Arrestee: Adela Monroy, Hispanic male, DOB: 06/15/1985, Mayo, Florida, Charges: Violation of Section 828.122 (3) (h), F.S., Attending the fighting or baiting of animals, Third Degree Felony, 1 count.
  • Arrestee: Alejando Moreno, Hispanic male, DOB: 05/03/1992, Live Oak, Florida, Charges: Violation of Section 828.122 (3) (h), F.S., Attending the fighting or baiting of animals, Third Degree Felony, 1 count.
  • Arrestee: Alejandro Landaverde Moreno, Hispanic male, DOB: 05/03/1999, Live Oak, Florida, Charges: Violation of Section 828.122 (3) (h), F.S., Attending the fighting or baiting of animals, Third Degree Felony, 1 count.
  • Arrestee: Anthony Thomas Moreno, Hispanic male, DOB: 07/29/1996, Satsuma, Florida, Charges: Violation of Section 828.122 (3) (h), F.S., Attending the fighting or baiting of animals, Third Degree Felony, 1 count.
  • Arrestee: Gonzalo Munoz, Hispanic male, DOB: 08/22/1968, Morriston, Florida, Charges: Violation of Section 828.122 (3) (h), F.S., Attending the fighting or baiting of animals, Third Degree Felony, 1 count.
  • Arrestee: Ismael Nava, Hispanic male, DOB: 07/29/1974, Valdosta, Georgia, Charges: Violation of Section 828.122 (3) (h), F.S., Attending the fighting or baiting of animals, Third Degree Felony, 1 count.
  • Arrestee: Jose De Jesus Martinez Nunez, Hispanic male, DOB: 01/12/1978, Astor, Florida, Charges:Violation of Section 828.122 (3) (b), F.S., Owning, possessing, or selling equipment for use in Animal Fighting - Third Degree Felony, 1 count.Violation of Section 828.122 (3) (h), F.S., Attending the fighting or baiting of animals, Third Degree Felony, 1 count.
  • Arrestee: Juan Hernandez Oviedo, Hispanic male, DOB: 12/09/1985, Live Oak, Florida, Charges: Violation of Section 828.122 (3) (h), F.S., Attending the fighting or baiting of animals, Third Degree Felony, 1 count.
  • Arrestee: Juan Manuel Hernandez Oviedo, Hispanic male, DOB: 04/19/1986, Mayo Florida, Charges: Violation of Section 828.122 (3) (h), F.S., Attending the fighting or baiting of animals, Third Degree Felony, 1 count.
  • Arrestee: Renee Ruska Pelzman. White female, DOB: 04/15/1957, Ocala, Florida, Charges: Violation of Section 828.122 (3) (h), F.S., Attending the fighting or baiting of animals, Third Degree Felony, 1 count.
  • Arrestee: Juan Aguilar-Perez, Hispanic male, DOB: 07/17/1986, Live Oak, Florida, Charges: Violation of Section 828.122 (3) (h), F.S., Attending the fighting or baiting of animals, Third Degree Felony, 1 count.
  • Arrestee: Scott Phillips, White male, DOB: 09/11/1990, Lake City, Florida., Charges: Violation of Section 828.122 (3) (b), F.S., Owning, possessing, or selling equipment for use in Animal Fighting - Third Degree Felony, 1 count. Violation of Section 828.122 (3) (h), F.S., Attending the fighting or baiting of animals, Third Degree Felony, 1 count. Violation of Section 893.13 (1)(a)(1), F.S., Distribution of Cannabis (Weight 65 grams), Second Degree Felony, 1 count , Violation of Section 790.23 (1)(a) - Felon in Possession of a Firearm (AR-15), Third Degree Felony, 1 count.
  • Arrestee: Rickie Ramirez, Hispanic male, DOB: 03/11/1992, Tampa, Florida, 
  • Charges: Violation of Section 828.122 (3) (h), F.S., Attending the fighting or baiting of animals, Third Degree Felony, 1 count.
  • Arrestee: Jose Rodas, Hispanic male, DOB: 12/30/1981, Morrison, Florida, Charges: Violation of Section 828.122 (3) (h), F.S., Attending the fighting or baiting of animals, Third Degree Felony, 1 count.
  • Arrestee: Antonio Sanchez, Hispanic male, DOB: 10/14/1978, Ocala, Florida, Charges: Violation of Section 828.122 (3) (h), F.S., Attending the fighting or baiting of animals, Third Degree Felony, 1 count.
  • Arrestee: Jose Luis Cruz-Torres, Hispanic male, DOB: 08/17/1984, Pierson, Florida, Charges: Violation of Section 828.122 (3) (h), F.S., Attending the fighting or baiting of animals, Third Degree Felony, 1 count, Violation of Section 827.03 (2) (d), F.S., Child Neglect, Third Degree Felony, 1 count.
  • Arrestee: Rene Turgios, Hispanic male, DOB: 11/11/1975, Mayo Florida, Charges: Violation of Section 828.122 (3) (h), F.S., Attending the fighting or baiting of animals, Third Degree Felony, 1 count.
  • Arrestee: Reninel Tusio, Hispanic male, DOB: 05/22/1976, Charges: Violation of Section 828.122 (3) (h), F.S., Attending the fighting or baiting of animals, Third Degree Felony, 1 count.
  • Arrestee: Reymundo Cruz Zarate, Hispanic male, DOB: 07/03/1969, Crescent City, Florida, Charges: Violation of Section 828.122 (3) (h), F.S., Attending the fighting or baiting of animals, Third Degree Felony, 1 count.
  • Arrestee: Juvenile, Charges: Violation of Section 828.122 (3) (h), F.S., Attending the fighting or baiting of animals, Third Degree Felony, 1 count.

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TALLAHASSEE – The the State Board of Education has adopted new student performance standards to include Holocaust Education, Civics and Government, Character Education and Substance Abuse Prevention.

“The standards adopted today will ensure that every student has the skills and knowledge necessary to be a great student, a great citizen and a lifelong learner, ready to fulfil the responsibilities of citizenship and healthy living,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “As parents of three children, First Lady DeSantis and I are grateful to the State Board of Education for their actions today that will enable Florida’s students to become tomorrow’s leaders.”

“Thanks to Governor DeSantis’ leadership and the countless hours of Florida’s teachers and content experts who helped us develop these standards through multiple rounds of public feedback,” said Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran. “Thanks to Florida educators, these standards are elevating the quality of education for Florida’s students and equally supporting Florida’s world-class teachers.”

Standards adopted are Character Education Standards, Substance Abuse Prevention Standards, Civics and Government Standards, and Holocaust Education Standards.

Character Education Standards

While Character Education has been required for years in Florida statutes, these are Florida’s first standards for Character Education, setting expectations for students and teachers. The Character Education standards provide opportunities for students to learn how character contributes to the overall civic health of a society and understand the importance of resiliency, responsibility and respect.

Substance Abuse Prevention Standards

Substance Abuse Prevention instruction has been a component of Florida’s education standards for mental health and an element of required instruction. Adoption of these standards means Florida will now have clear expectations for students and teachers that are specific to Substance Abuse Prevention.

Substance Use Prevention standards will give students an opportunity to develop an awareness of the dangers associated with the use and abuse of harmful substances and develop essential knowledge and skills that promote a drug free lifestyle, as well teach them how to support others to be drug free and obtain local valid and reliable substance use treatment services.

Civics and Government Standards

House Bill 807 in 2019 required the Florida Department of Education to complete a review of the statewide civics education course standards. The public was invited to evaluate then-current civics and government standards through an online review system; the responses were analyzed and a workgroup – comprised of Florida teachers, the Florida College System and specialized subject area experts – was formed to propose revised standards.

After a series of public workshops and webinars, civics and government standards were drafted, critiqued, improved upon and finalized to ensure Florida students have the highest quality civics education standards in the nation.

These developmentally appropriate standards are clear and concise so students, parents and teachers understand the learning expectations. Students will learn about the principles of the United States Constitution and other founding documents, and attain a well-rounded knowledge base.

Holocaust Education Standards

The 2020 Legislature directed the Department of Education to prepare and offer Holocaust Education Standards, prepare a roadmap for Florida to be the model state for Holocaust Education, and include teacher experts, state and national organizations, the public and the Commissioner’s Task Force on Holocaust Education, with the goal of creating comprehensive and in-depth standards that facilitate both high quality instruction of Holocaust education and antisemitism.

These developmentally appropriate and historically accurate standards support the teaching and learning of Holocaust education in Florida, including providing students with a deep understanding of antisemitism and help to reduce antisemitism in future generations. The standards are designed to assist teachers, school and district leaders with implementation of high-quality Holocaust education instruction.

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TALLAHASSEE - Consumers can purchase qualifying back-to-school supplies exempt from tax during the 2021 Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday. Passed by the Florida Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis, the sales tax holiday begins Saturday, July 31 and extends through Monday, Aug. 9. 

The sales tax holiday does not apply to the rental or repair of any of the qualifying items. Additionally, the sales tax holiday does not apply to sales in a theme park, entertainment complex, public lodging establishment or airport.

For more information on implementing the sales tax holiday, please see the Department of Revenue's Taxpayer Information Publication on the 2021 Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday or the 2021 Florida Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday FAQs for Businesses.

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With Memorial Day behind us and Independence Day on the horizon, I’m happy to report that our state parks have never been more popular.

Our beaches – two of which were recently named among the 10 best in America by beach guru Dr. Beach – and our springs have attracted a record number of visitors, and we expect that trend to continue in the weeks and months ahead.

Not only that, but our campsites are filling up too as more people discover the joys of camping and RVing.

As it turns out, now is a great time to plan an overnight stay. June is National Camping Month, and the Florida Park Service has just launched a new reservation system that provides our visitors with quicker, easier access to their favorite parks.

The new system shows clearly which parks and sites are available for camping and provides online users with a streamlined process for making reservations. Additionally, campers can now reserve same-day accommodations, which is something that we’ve been wanting to implement for a long time.

The changes will also be apparent at each park’s ranger station, as we’ve updated our point-of-sale system to be more modernized and, most importantly, faster. That means less time at the park gates and more time inside the park.

You might also notice welcome additions such as the ability to be notified when a site becomes available. And, in the future, we’ll be looking to add expanded reservation capabilities for Florida residents.

When thinking about your favorite parks, you might remember an unforgettable paddling adventure or boat tour. But take a moment to consider the park operations needed to offer our visitors the best experiences possible.

Food sales, camp stores, kayak rentals, ferries and trams are services that we could not provide if not for a specially selected group of businesses – many of them owned locally. These companies and their employees are a part of our park community, and they’re just as committed as regular park staff to making your visit safe and enjoyable.

The business that helps us with reservations is just one of our partners that help make 800,000 acres, 30 springs and 100 miles of beaches special places to visit.     

Eric Draper

Director, Florida State Parks


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World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is on June 15. On this day, and throughout the month, communities, seniors, caregivers, governments, organizations, and the private sector unite to prevent the mistreatment of and violence against older people.

Social Security imposter scams are widespread across the United States. Scammers use sophisticated tactics to deceive you into providing sensitive information or money. They target everyone – even the elderly – and their tactics continue to evolve.

Most recently, Social Security’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has received reports of phone scammers creating fake versions of the identification badges most Federal employees use to gain access to Federal buildings. The scammers may text or email photos of the fake badges to convince potential victims of their legitimacy. These badges use government symbols, words, and even names and photos of real people, which are available on government websites or through internet searches.

If you receive a suspicious letter, text, email, or call, hang up or do not respond. You should know how to identify when it’s really Social Security. We will NEVER:

  • Text or email images of an employee’s official government identification.
  • Suspend your Social Security number.
  • Threaten you with arrest or other legal action unless you immediately pay a fine or fee.
  • Require payment by retail gift card, wire transfer, internet currency, or cash by mail.
  • Promise a benefit increase or other assistance in exchange for payment.
  • Send official letters or reports containing your personal information via email.

We only send text messages if you have opted in to receive texts from us and only in limited situations, including the following:

  • When you have subscribed to receive updates and notifications by text.
  • As part of our enhanced security when accessing your personal my Social Security account.

If you owe money to us, we will mail you a letter with payment options and appeal rights.

We encourage you to report suspected Social Security imposter scams — and other Social Security fraud — to the OIG website at oig.ssa.gov. You may read our previous Social Security fraud advisories at oig.ssa.gov/newsroom/news-release. Please share this information with your friends and family to help spread awareness about Social Security imposter scams.

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The first drug developed to treat alcohol use disorder (AUD), the modern term for alcoholism, was disulfiram (Antabuse). Today disulfiram is still used, but as a second line William Garst HSdrug behind acamprosate (Campral) and naltrexone (Revia, Vivitrol). Disulfiram works by blocking the enzymatic breakdown of alcohol and allowing a metabolite to build up in the blood, producing very unpleasant effects. People taking disulfiram will be deterred from ingesting alcohol because they know they will become very ill. The drug is used as an aid to help alcoholics overcome their cravings and addiction.

Disulfiram (a compound that contains sulfur) was first synthesized in 1881 as an industrial chemical, and in the early 1900s was introduced in the manufacturing of rubber. Adding sulfur in rubber manufacturing produces varying degrees of hardness in the final rubber compound.

During the late 1930s sulfur compounds, including disulfiram, were being investigated because of the antimicrobial effects of drugs containing sulfur, and the search was intense. Two scientists at the Danish firm of Medicinalco, Erik Jacobson and Jens Hald, began investigating disulfiram for treatment of intestinal parasites. This company had a group of employees called the “Death Battalion” who would experiment on themselves.

During this phase of testing the drug on themselves, they discovered they became ill after ingesting alcohol. This discovery was made in 1945, but a few years later disulfiram was considered to be used in the treatment of alcoholism as an aversive-reaction drug therapy. Jacobson and Hald’s work was finally published in 1948 and disulfiram was approved by the FDA in 1951.

The discovery of disulfiram led to a renewed interest in the metabolism of alcohol in the body. It was known alcohol was metabolized in the liver and broken down to acetaldehyde then to acetic acid and carbon dioxide by unknown enzymes. In 1950 it was discovered that disulfiram blocked the action of the enzyme that converts acetaldehyde, thus causing an accumulation of acetaldehyde in the bloodstream, which is the cause of the unpleasant effects.

Effects that occur when disulfiram is taken with alcohol include flushing, sweating, nausea and vomiting, chest pain, shortness of breath, and lightheadedness. One should not take disulfiram within 12 hours of alcohol ingestion or 14 days from the last dose of the drug. In addition, products that contain alcohol such as aftershave, cologne, perfume, antiperspirant, and mouthwash can produce unpleasant reactions for people taking Antabuse. Other products to avoid are paint thinners, solvents, and stains, along with dyes, resins and waxes, because even small amounts of alcohol absorbed through the skin can produce the effects.

Other drugs can produce adverse reactions, commonly called the “antabuse-like reaction.” The most notable of these drugs are metronidazole (Flagyl, an antibiotic), griseofulvin (an antifungal), and some cephalosporin antibiotics. If a drug is known to have this side effect, it should be pointed out to the patient by the prescriber and the pharmacist. Always read the drug information given to you when starting a new medication that tells you about side effects that may occur and how to avoid them.

Substance abuse of any kind is not good, but alcohol abuse has been especially devastating to society, families, and individuals because of the convenient availability, relative inexpensiveness, and its association with festivities. In addition, the abuse of alcohol leads to lack of inhibitions and unpredictable behaviors, which are many times violent and destructive. When people take disulfiram, they are acknowledging their problem, and they know that very unpleasant reactions will occur if alcohol is consumed, thus it helps to deter the first drink.

The history of disulfiram is still being written. Currently, it is being studied to treat certain cancers, parasitic infections, HIV, and Covid-19.

Stay informed and stay healthy.

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William Garst is a consultant pharmacist who resides in Alachua, Florida. He received his B.S. in Pharmacy from Auburn University in 1975. He earned a master’s degree in Public Health in 1988 from the University of South Florida and a Master’s in Pharmacy from UF in 2001. In 2007, he received his Doctor of Pharmacy from the University of Colorado. Dr. Garst is a member of many national, state, and local professional associations. He serves on the Alachua County Health Care Advisory Board and stays active as a relief pharmacist. In 2016, he retired from the VA. Dr. Garst enjoys golf, reading (especially history), and family. He writes a blog called The Pharmacy Newsletter (https://thepharmacynewsletter.com/). William Garst can be contacted at communitypharmac

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When learning the ropes — and rods — of saltwater fishing, thorough preparation involves more than just a rich arsenal of gear and the appropriate attire. Open-water fishing is challenging and requires technique and prior research.  

If you’re embarking on an open-water adventure for the first time, keep the following saltwater fishing tips in mind.  

Research Your Destination

The key to discovering a spot rich in saltwater fish is ample research. At least a week before your trip, you’ll want to read up on fishing reports, tide charts and weather forecasts.  

For instance, while a rainy morning might deter most anglers, it can also surprise you with better catches — if you know where to look. 

Some areas are more crowded with fishing enthusiasts during different times of the year. Consider whether you are traveling in the spring, summer, fall or winter and do the appropriate research. You can get some ideas of  where to go at MyFWC.com/Marine by clicking “Where to Saltwater Fish.”

Think About Your Target Species

The type of catch you’re after will dictate where you anchor your boat. Targets, such as yellowfin or other tunas, for instance, are surface feeders. Thus, you’ll want to be on the lookout for weed lines and baitfish breaking the surface.  

On the other hand, some species including groupers and snappers are bottom feeders and prefer structures including reefs and wrecks. Angling for these species can require special equipment, such as a fishfinder, circle hooks, dehooking tools, descending devices and more. MyFWC.com/FishHandling explains much of this fishing gear.    

Stay up to date on the latest regulations for saltwater fishing at MyFWC.com/Marine by clicking “Recreational Regulations” or by downloading the Fish Rules app on your smart device. Learn about fish identification at MyFWC.com/FishingLines or by visiting MyFWC.com/Marine by clicking “Fish Identification.”

Use a Bathymetric Map

When it comes to open-water angling, you can never underestimate the usefulness of a map. Bathymetric maps are a type of underwater topographic map that indicates specific depths. Space between lines on the map illustrates whether an area is close to a steep slope, drop off, flat or shoal. Lines that are close together indicate a rapidly changing depth in the area. 

Keep in mind that bathymetric maps can be challenging to find at your local angling shop. If you have trouble coming across a bathymetric map, you can rely on other tools, such as nautical charts or satellite images.    

Speak to the Locals

While ample internet research might suffice, nothing quite compares to gathering input from local anglers. When you have a specific target species in mind, drop by the local bait shop for advice. Or join an online group focused on fishing in your area of interest. 

Some angling hot spots have knowledgeable fishing guides who can direct you to the ideal area for your specific catch. Hop on a trip for a chance to see the area up close with an expert who can teach you how to catch your target species. 

Alternatively, you can venture out into the ocean yourself and observe where other anglers are setting up shop. Just be sure to mind your distance and not crowd other anglers. Learn more about angler etiquette at MyFWC.com/Marine by clicking “On-the-Water Etiquette.”

Make the Most of Angling Technology

Nowadays, you won’t find any shortage of state-of-the-art angling technology available online and at your local bait shop. Make sure that a reliable fish finder is part of your staple arsenal.  

Fish finders use sonar to locate fish within your chosen area. When an echo transmits back to your device, it indicates the presence of fish immediately under or around your vessel. Some wireless fish finders are Bluetooth compatible and will quickly pair with your Android or iOS device.  

You'll want to consider other staple needs for open-water fishing: GPS, VHF 2-way radio, flares, noise-making device, first aid kit and life jacket for each person on board. Wearing a life jacket while on the water is a simple way to prevent you from drowning if you fall overboard due to a boating accident. Learn more about boating requirements and safety at MyFWC.com/Boating. Find more tips and tricks at MyFWC.com/Marine by clicking “How to Saltwater Fish.”

The Bottom Line

If you have recently taken an interest in saltwater fishing, knowing how to target your intended catch will go a long way in the open water. Make the most of your day out by researching your destination beforehand, coming well-equipped, and learning how to identify different kinds of saltwater fish. Consider sharing your catches with scientists through the iAngler app and submitting catches for recognition at FWC’s CatchaFloridaMemory.com

About the Author

Kenneth is an expert at saltwater fishing and the founder of Perfect Captain. He has been angling for over two decades and hopes to provide accessible resources for fishing rookies and veterans.

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Remember the old adage “April showers bring May flowers?” In Florida, April is typically a dry month when water demands are higher due to springtime planting and low rainfall amounts. For 22 years, April has been recognized as Water Conservation Month in Florida, a designation to heighten public awareness about the many ways we can reduce our water use until summer thunderstorms arrive.

Each spring, a renewed focus on our lawns and landscapes make it an ideal time to inspect our automatic sprinkler systems and timers. The St. Johns River Water Management District’s seasonal “Did You Set It and Forget It” message is a timely springtime reminder to give your automatic sprinkler system a checkup for leaks, timer adjustments, replacing the rain sensor battery and other maintenance.

The District’s annual Water Less outdoor water conservation campaign promotes easy ways to make water conservation part of your regular routine at home.

Consider this: More than half of all residential water is used outdoors for lawn and landscape irrigation. Studies show that up to half of that water can be saved and isn’t necessary for native and Florida-friendly plants to thrive.

Individually and collectively, you make a big difference when you take control of your water use. In fact, between 2010 and 2019, gross per capita water use in the St. Johns District decreased 12 percent, from 132 gallons per person per day to 116 gallons per person per day.

Changing old habits doesn’t have to be hard. Just follow our five easy ways to save water outdoors: Adhere to the District’s watering restrictions. Give your sprinkler system regular checkups and turn it off if there is rain in the forecast. Use water-efficient smart irrigation technology and replace thirsty landscape materials with drought-tolerant “waterwise” plants. Our waterwise plant database at www.sjrwmd.com/water-conservation/waterwise-landscaping is simple to access and use, too.

Year-round water conservation is an important way to help meet the state’s water supply needs, and you can still maintain a healthy and beautiful Florida landscape.

We’re grateful to all those helping us raise awareness of the small behavior changes that can lead to big water savings. I ask you to spend a few minutes visiting the District’s water conservation campaign website, WaterLessFlorida.com, to learn how you too can make a difference.

Ann Shortelle, Ph.D.

Executive Director

St. Johns River Water Management District

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Each year, thousands of Florida children enter foster care due to domestic violence.

And each October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, children's advocates like me remind the public that this scourge devastates children, families and communities – and we must respond.

For children, witnessing intimate partner violence can cause lifetime harm. It makes them more prone to addiction and at greater risk for dating violence, academic problems, post-traumatic stress disorder, aggression, and chronic physical health and developmental problems. They find it harder to interact well with peers, partners and, ultimately, with their own children.

They worry about the safety of their parents – which no child should have to do. Yet millions of children witness the abuse of a parent or caregiver each year. And males who batter their wives batter their children 30 to 60 percent of the time.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement data for 2019 show 105,298 domestic violence incidences and 66,069 domestic violence arrests. That year, according to the Department of Children and Families, there were 87,546 allegations of household violence or intimate partner violence received by the Florida Abuse Hotline.

In the Eighth Judicial Circuit, which includes Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Gilchrist, Levy and Union Counties, there were 169 dependent children from violent homes in the system as of August.

We also know violent households often involve substance abuse or mental illness as well, and that the combination heightens the harm done by each. What's more, child witnesses of intimate partner violence are at increased risk to become abusers or victims themselves.

So the cycle must be broken, and that is what we are trying to do at the Guardian ad Litem Program. We know the single most critical factor in how children weather their exposure to domestic violence is the presence of at least one loving, supportive adult in their lives.

Guardian ad Litem volunteers represent abused and neglected children in dependency court. We know their challenges. We also know children can recover from trauma given the right services and supports, and we advocate for trauma-informed, evidence-based screening, assessment and treatment.

We also work to support the child's relationship with his or her non-offending parent. For most children, a strong relationship with that parent is a key factor in helping them heal.

And as their advocates, we work to tell children the violence is not their fault and to show them they are lovable, competent and important.

Help us break the cycle.

To learn more about the Guardian ad Litem Program or become a volunteer, please contact Riley Ashmore-Volunteer Recruiter at (352) 384-3167 or visit www.GAL8Circuit.org.

To get help, call the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-500-1119, or find your local domestic violence program at www.myflfamilies.com/service-programs/domestic-violence/map.shtml. Florida's 41 certified domestic violence centers served more than 10,000 victims between March and June 2020, and they remain open and available to serve.

Angela Armstrong, Guardian ad Litem Circuit Director

for Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Gilchrist, Levy and Union Counties

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