Dolphin Expert Stephen McCulloch Fired by FAU, Seeks Reinstatement

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Stephen McCulloch wants his job back. A prominent master of the arcane art of dolphin rescue, for more than a decade, he was a leader and key force at the Marine Mammal Program at FAU's Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute (HBOI). On February 14, he was fired.

See also:
- Dolphin Guru Stephen McCulloch Fired; Uproar Ensues

McCulloch has filed a grievance against the school, asking to be reinstated, and has an April 29 hearing scheduled. McCulloch discussed his situation at great length with New Times. School officials -- despite an initial news release outlining their case in some detail -- have treated the matter as confidential.


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DEP Bends to Oil Company Seeking to Drill in Everglades, Blows Off Advisory Committee

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Department of Environmental Protection officials earlier this week told a state judge that they have no authority to deny a Texas oil company's plans to drill in the Everglades, in an area adjoining the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge.

See also: DEP Advisory Committee Says No to Oil Drilling in Big Cypress Swamp

In an April 15 status report to the state's Division of Administrative Hearings, where a challenge to the permit is under review, a DEP lawyer argued that a DEP advisory committee's recommendation against the permit was "beyond the Department's purview" and that "there is no basis, under its existing regulatory authority, to deny the application."

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Seminoles to Protest FPL Power Plant on Earth Day

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Under the banner of environmental preservation and with leading participation by the Independent Traditional Seminole Nation, Earth Day will see protests against FPL's plans for a power plant in the Everglades on the border of the Big Cypress Reservation.

See also:Welcome to the Everglades Ranch Where FPL Might Build a Big-Ass Power Plant

The 3,750-megawatt plant would cover more than 2,000 acres of Florida Panther habitat and is the target of a long-running lawsuit filed by the Seminole Tribe, which says the project "will bring disastrous consequences to the environmentally sensitive land and end the delicate balance of nature, history and culture for the Seminoles."

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Bikepath Country Florida: DEP Cuts Deal With Dodgy, Lobbyist-Heavy Company For Ads on Park Trails

Categories: Fire Ant

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In a controversial decision to allow advertising along trails and greenways in the state parks system, the Department of Environmental Protection on April 3 inked a deal with Bikepath Country Florida, a Fort Myers company whose managing partners include two powerful Tallahassee insiders.

See also:
- DEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard Cleared of EPA Violations Due to Statute of Limitations

The contract -- for one year, renewable -- calls for Bikepath Country Florida to develop and maintain a system of sponsored signs along seven of the state's recreational trails. Half the gross revenue from the sponsors goes to the state; the rest, less expenses, stays with the company.


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Pedophilia Rumors Roil Florida Pagan Community

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Pagans are unorthodox but they do have their limits, apparently, and rumors that some of their number have crossed the line by advocating pedophilia have cast a cloud over the Florida pagan community's big annual May Day shindig, the Florida Pagan Gathering.

See also:
- Local Pagans Get Down With Heavenly Hubba-Hubba

Now in its 20th year, the FPG -- "one of the top 10 Fire Festivals in the world" -- was founded by the Palm Bay-based Church of Iron Oak and is now overseen by the Temple of Earth Gathering Inc. This year's, in Lake Wales, a Beltaine celebration "will honor Aine, the Celtic Queen Under the Mound, and Aengus mac Og, the Celtic God of Love." For an admission charge of about $100, attendees will "pass through one of four gates of their choice (North, East, South, or West) and be smudged and asperged as they enter."


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Dolphin Guru Stephen McCulloch Fired; Uproar Ensues

Categories: Fire Ant

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Stephen McCulloch has gone into seclusion since FAU fired him last February from his job as program manager of the Marine Mammal Program at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute. We haven't been able to reach him or his attorneys.

See also:
- Navy Tests Could Kill Dolphins by the Thousands Off the Coast of Fort Lauderdale

Famously self-taught and -- judging by public reaction -- charismatic, McCulloch was let go by the school (which absorbed Harbor Branch in 2007) after a late-December Vero Beach dolphin rescue gone wrong. McCulloch had to improvise and ran afoul of federal regulations. His supporters -- many of them prominent in the scientific community -- question the school's decision.


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Florida Dems: GOP Failure to Expand Medicaid Equals Six Deaths a Day (Updated)

Categories: Fire Ant

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Heartened by Obamacare's hitting the 7 million enrollment mark needed to make the system work, Florida Democrats are making a renewed push for a key element of the program, Medicaid expansion. It is likely to be a major issue in the fall elections.

See also:
- Florida Is Becoming an Unlikely Obamacare Success Story

"We're losing out on seven to ten million dollars a day, tax money sent to the federal government that other states will now get," Fort Lauderdale Rep. Perry Thurston, House minority leader, told New Times in a phone interview yesterday. "It was rejected by the Republican leadership on purely ideological grounds."

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Tomorrow: Working Poor Rally Against Poverty Wages

Categories: Fire Ant

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The final, less-remembered phase of Martin Luther King Jr.'s life was his pivot from the pursuit of racial equality to economic justice -- the Poor People's Campaign. It was a turn even more threatening to the established order, gathering steam up until the date of his assassination in Memphis, where a sanitation worker's strike had become a centerpiece of the cause.

See also:
- Archbishop Wenski Supports Pope Francis, Hike in Minimum Wage

It is only right then, that tomorrow, the 46th anniversary of Dr. King's final speech to those workers, will be marked at Mary Saunders Park in Hollywood -- in the midst of a new Gilded Age -- by a mass gathering of working people seeking a living wage, decent working conditions, and a small measure of respect for their difficult labor.


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DEP Advisory Committee Says No to Oil Drilling in Big Cypress Swamp

Categories: Fire Ant

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Environmentalists took heart yesterday when a Texas oil company's request for official permission to drill deep into the Big Cypress watershed got a thumbs-down from an arm of the Department of Environmental Protection.

See also:
- Oil Companies Are Planning to Drill in Florida Panther Habitat

How great was the enviros' victory remains to be seen, however. Yesterday's panel, the Big Cypress Swamp Advisory Committee, has no veto power, and the well has already won preliminary approval from the DEP. The enviros' hopes now rest with state administrative law Judge D.R. Alexander, who must rule on legal challenges to the permit and who has indicated an interest in the advisory committee's opinion.


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Palm Beach County Dark Sky Festival Gives Back the Night

Categories: Fire Ant

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Stargazing! Owl presentations! Food trucks? Palm Beach County's second annual Dark Sky Festival sounds fun enough to postpone other evening activities and/or keep the kids up late. Not only that, it's a way to raise awareness of an under-recognized environmental issue with consequences for wildlife and human health.

See also:
- Light Pollution Contributes to Cancer, Says Dark-Sky Association

Jointly sponsored by county government and the South Florida chapter of the International Dark-Sky Association, this year's event is set for tomorrow night at Okeeheelee Nature Center in West Palm Beach, a place relatively free of "sky glow."


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