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Associated Press

Technology elevates new theme park experiences

For more than a moment, you feel the way “Avatar” hero Jake Sully felt plunging down the side of a floating mountain and coming just close enough to a giant wave to feel the mist on your face – all while on the back of a flying banshee that then swoons and soars high above the land of Pandora.

Flight of Passage, the new signature ride of Disney World’s $500 million Pandora-World of Avatar experience, has been designed to make riders feel like they are in an alien land. And it delivers.

Not to be outdone, however, all of the major theme parks in Orlando are using technology this year to give park-goers that immersive feel of a simulated reality. Guests can speed through the streets chasing “Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon at Universal Orlando on the new Race Through New York attraction. Young theme park visitors can karate-chop their way to victory at Legoland’s Ninjago World. And next month SeaWorld will unleash its first virtual reality roller coaster when Kraken reopens.

“Technology is really playing a key role,” said Arthur Levine, a theme park expert for About.com. “All of these things are really incorporating technology to be able to tell stories in very unique ways.”

Easily the most powerful and immersive experience is Disney’s Flight of Passage, where riders are thrust into the land of gigantic Na’vi aliens with the use of state of the art 3-D simulated technology. Sure, you are strapped onto a motorcycle-shaped seat in front of a blue screen, wearing 3-D glasses, but you feel like you are there in Pandora experiencing a Na’vi rite of passage.

“It creates a new sense of immersion for guests where they really have a sense of place,” said Jon Landau, executive producer of the movie “Avatar,” which inspired Disney’s Pandora land, located at Animal Kingdom. “You are literally going to another world, figuratively and literally.”

Levine says without question Disney has raised the technology bar with Flight of Passage.

“Like all motion simulations, you really don’t move more than a couple of inches in any direction, but the experience is so convincing,” he said. “This is the ultimate to this point.”

But the technology revolution isn’t just on the rides. Visitors to Universal’s new water park Volcano Bay will get an experience they’ve never had in a packed amusement park: No lines! There are no areas to stand in line because park-goers will be in line virtually, thanks to new wearable technology, TapuTapu, that will allow them to enjoy the rest of the park until it’s their turn. The Jimmy Fallon ride will also have virtual line capability.

Here’s a look at some of the best new attractions in Florida this summer.

WALT DISNEY WORLD

Pandora-World of Avatar

Walt Disney World’s 12-acre land inspired by the “Avatar” movie opens in Florida in late May at the Animal Kingdom park. The marquee attraction at the half-billion-dollar land is Flight of Passage, where a 3-D simulator plunges riders into a cinematic world. You feel like you’re riding on the back of a banshee, a bluish, gigantic, winged predator that resembles something out of the Jurassic era. At night, Pandora transforms into a sea of color with glowing lights on artificial plants and even in the pavement. The enormous blue Na’vi aliens from the “Avatar” movie appear sparingly, really just on Flight of Passage and a second attraction called Na’vi River Journey.

UNIVERSAL ORLANDO

Volcano Bay

Volcano Bay is Universal Orlando’s new water-themed park with a huge, exploding volcano as its centerpiece. The resort is calling Volcano Park its “third park,” after Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. Universal closed the nearly-40-year-old Wet ‘n Wild water park to make way for the more intensely-themed Volcano Bay, whose story line is that visitors are entering a Pacific island belonging to the Waturi people. The opening of the water park in May marks the debut of the TapuTapu wearable wristband which can pay for food, open lockers, trigger special effects, set spending limits on the kids and eliminate waiting in lines by sending alerts when it’s your turn for a ride.

Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon

At the Jimmy Fallon attraction, which opened in April, visitors enter an area made to look like the lobby of a Rockefeller Center building. On display are photos, videos and memorabilia from decades of past “The Tonight Show” shows. The ride is pioneering the use of virtual lines, which allows visitors to watch live entertainment or hang out in a lounge instead of waiting in line. When it’s their turn to go on the ride, visitors are alerted. The 3-D simulator ride gives visitors the experience of drag-racing through the streets and in the clouds above New York City.

SEAWORLD ORLANDO

Kraken

Virtual reality is coming to a roller coaster at SeaWorld’s Orlando’s Kraken 17-year-old ride. Visitors wanting the virtual reality experience can choose to wear a virtual-reality headset that make them think they’re going on a deep-sea mission alongside sea creatures. It is SeaWorld’s first digitally-enhanced ride experience and is set to debut June 16.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Florida Highway Patrol dealing with trooper shortage

The number of speeding tickets issued by the Florida Highway Patrol has dropped for three straight years as the agency deals with a shortage of troopers.

Since 2010, the agency has lost 993 troopers – or about half of its workforce of 1,946 troopers, to retirement or resignations, the highway patrol’s director Col. Gene Spaulding told the Tampa Bay Times.

“That’s a big turnover,” said Spaulding, a 24-year veteran of the agency. “That’s really tough.”

This spring, for example, Spaulding said the agency has 240 vacancies and the reinforcements aren’t filling the void. The trooper academy typically has 80 recruits per class three times a year. He said the current class doesn’t even have half of that number.

Meantime, Spaulding said the agency does what it can to provide public safety, patrolling areas that include Interstates 4, 75 and 95 and Florida’s Turnpike in the nation’s third most populated state that also doubles as a tourist destination.

The Herald cited low pay as a possible reason for high turnover. A starting trooper in Florida makes about $34,000, the same wage that’s been in effect since 2005. In Mississippi, starting pay for a trooper is $38,000 and $47,000 in Louisiana.

It’s been three years since the last pay raise for most of state law enforcement. The $82.4 billion budget passed this year by the Florida Legislature includes a 5 percent raise. Even so, the salaries will remain behind troopers in surrounding states. And, the Herald noted, local police and sheriff agencies are luring troopers with pay increases. In Miami-Dade County, for example, the starting salary is over $50,000.

“This is crisis,” state Sen. Jack Latvala told the newspaper. He’s been advocating for two years for across-the-board pay raises for state workers.

Spaulding said response times for troopers are getting longer as the workload increases. In 2011, the state reported 229,000 crashes. In 2016, the number increased to 395,000 crashes. And the number of tickets written by troopers has dropped about 18 percent from 317,000 in 2011 to 258,000 in 2016.

Local governments are picking up the slack, said Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight, who spent 20 years working for the highway patrol. In 2008, for example, Knight said the sheriff’s department worked 38 percent of the crashes in Sarasota County. Now it’s up to 71 percent.

“It’s not the fault of the highway patrol,” Knight said, adding that the Legislature is not stepping up to take care of the highway patrol.

Rays beat Twins 5-2; Chris Archer fans 11

Chris Archer struck out 11 while pitching into the eighth inning and the Tampa Bay Rays hit three home runs in a 5-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Friday night.

Archer (4-3) gave up two runs and five hits in 7 2/3 innings and reached double digits in strikeouts for the fourth time in five May starts. Logan Morrison, Kevin Kiermaier and Steven Souza Jr. all went deep, and Alex Colome got four outs for his 13th save, winning a battle with slugger Miguel Sano with two on in the eighth inning.

Hector Santiago (4-3) gave up three runs and four hits and struck out six in 5 1/3 innings. Kennys Vargas and Brian Dozier drove in runs for first-place Minnesota, one of the surprise teams in the league this season.

Morrison and Kiermaier each hit two-run homers to put the Rays up 4-0 after six.

Routinely hitting 97 mph with his fastball and mixing in a knee-buckling slider, Archer set down 10 straight between an infield single from Jason Castro in the third inning and a sharp single from Joe Mauer in the seventh.

Vargas drove Mauer in to put the Twins on the board, ending the Rays’ pitching staff’s streak of scoreless innings at 23.

Archer now has 51 strikeouts in May and has one more start to break David Price‘s club record of 54 set in June 2014.

The Twins had life in the eighth with two on and two out and down three runs. But Colome got Sano to strike out for the fourth time in the game to escape the jam.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Rays: RHP Brad Boxberger, on the 60-day disabled list with a right flexor strain, is scheduled to throw a bullpen on Monday in Florida.

Twins: Closer Glen Perkins, who has been on the disabled list all season with shoulder problems, threw a bullpen on Friday. He will throw again on Tuesday before departing to Florida for extended spring training. … Hard-throwing prospect Nick Burdi will undergo Tommy John surgery.

FLASHING LEATHER

Archer got some help from his defense to put the clamps on a team with the fifth-best batting average in the American League.

Souza made a lunging catch at the wall in right field to take a hit away from Vargas in the second inning and Corey Dickerson sprinted to catch a liner from Mauer off of his shoelaces in the fourth inning.

SOUZA’S REVENGE

Souza didn’t have as much luck in the seventh inning, bizarrely diving for a ball struck by Vargas that landed at least 15 feet away from him. Souza shared a laugh with Kiermaier after both watched the replay.

When Souza stepped to the plate in the eighth inning, the Twins showed the replay of the dive on the video board. A good sport, Souza smiled as he stepped into the box, then belted a solo shot into the second deck in left field.

UP NEXT

Rays: RHP Jake Odorizzi (3-2, 3.14) will start Game 2 on Saturday. Odorizzi leads the majors with 20 no-decisions since the start of last season, 16 of which have come after yielding two earned runs or fewer.

Twins: Molitor said that LHP Adalberto Mejia (1-1, 4.96) will be recalled from Triple-A Rochester to start Saturday’s game. Mejia started for the Twins on Sunday, but was sent back down because Molitor has had to juggle the rotation due to so many rainouts early this season.

Republished with permission from the Associated Press.

Rays blank Angels 4-0

Matt Andriese allowed six hits over eight innings, Colby Rasmus drove in four runs and the Tampa Bay Rays salvaged a split of a four-game series with Los Angeles by beating the Angels 4-0 on Thursday.

Andriese (5-1) improved to 4-0 over his last five starts, holding the Angels to 1 for 11 with runners in scoring position. Los Angeles threatened in five innings against the right-hander.

Rasmus had a pair of key two-out hits with the bases loaded: a two-run single in the first and a fifth-inning double that made it 4-0.

Tommy Hunter got three outs to complete a six-hitter.

Daniel Wright (0-1), recalled from Triple-A Salt Lake to fill in for the injured Alex Meyer, allowed four runs — two earned — and six hits in 4 1/3 innings for the Angels, who had won the first two games of the series. Los Angeles finished 1 for 13 with runners in scoring position.

Meyer, placed on the 10-day disabled list Wednesday with back spasms, could return next week.

Mike Trout doubled in the first but was thrown out by right fielder Steven Souza Jr. on Andrelton Simmons‘ two-out single.

Trout went 1 for 4 as the designated hitter and was 4 for 14 in the series with three doubles and a home run. The 2016 AL MVP has reached base in 42 of his 44 games this season.

Cameron Maybin, who started in center field, left after five innings with right knee soreness.

PUJOLS POINTS

Angels DH Albert Pujols, who played the first three games of the series after missing three games with right hamstring soreness, was rested. Manager Mike Scioscia said a decision will be made daily on whether Pujols starts at first base during the three-game interleague series at Miami.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Rays: Hunter (strained right calf) was reinstated from the 10-day disabled list and RHP Jumbo Diaz (right arm fatigue) went on the 10-day DL. … RHP Brad Boxberger (right flexor strain) is to throw batting practice Monday.

UP NEXT

Rays: RHP Chris Archer (3-3) goes against Minnesota LHP Hector Santiago (4-2) on Friday night.

Republished with permission from the Associated Press.

Donald Trump lectures NATO members on cost sharing

The Latest on President Donald Trump’s first trip abroad (all times local):

4:48 p.m.

President Donald Trump is lecturing members of the NATO alliance to pay their fair share on defense during a ceremony at NATO headquarters.

Trump says NATO members must “finally contribute their fair share” and meet their obligations.

The president has been urging NATO leaders to live up to a 2011 decision to increase spending on defense to 2 percent of gross domestic product by 2024.

Trump says 23 of the 28 member nations are not paying what they should and he says it’s “not fair” to the people of the United States. He says many of these nations owe “massive” amounts of money from previous years.

The president spoke as the other NATO leaders looked on.

___

4:41 p.m.

President Donald Trump is calling for a moment of silence for the victims of the Manchester concert attack.

The president is speaking at a dedication ceremony for a new 9/11 memorial at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

He says that “today is a day for both remembrance and resolve” and that the attack demonstrates “the depths of the evil we face with terrorism.”

Trump has urged NATO members to spend more money on defense.

___

4:37 p.m.

President Donald Trump is attending a dedication service for two new memorials at NATO headquarters.

Trump stood on as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg unveiled two sections of the Berlin Wall that divided the German city until 1989.

The pieces, standing together, form a monument that symbolizes the efforts to end the division of Europe.

Trump and Stoltenberg are also unveiling a steel beam from the 107th floor of one of the World Trade Center towers that collapsed on Sept. 11, 2001.

It’s a reminder of NATO’s commitment to its collective defense clause — so called Article 5. It has only ever been activated once, after 9/11.

___

4:35 p.m.

President Donald Trump is pledging to “get to the bottom” of leaks of sensitive information.

In a written statement Thursday, Trump called recent leaks “deeply troubling.” He said he is asking the Justice Department and other agencies to “launch a complete review of this matter.”

Trump adds that “if appropriate, the culprit should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Trump’s comments come amid anger from Britain over intelligence leaks and a decision by Manchester police to withhold information from the United States about the investigation into this week’s bombing.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has said she will make it clear to Trump that intelligence shared between law enforcement agencies “must remain secure.”

___

4:20 p.m.

President Donald Trump has arrived at NATO headquarters for an afternoon of meetings with fellow world leaders.

Trump was greeted by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the organization’s new headquarters in Brussels.

Stoltenberg visited the White House last month and touted NATO’s benefits at a joint news conference with Trump.

Trump had previously questioned NATO’s relevance.

___

4:15 p.m.

President Donald Trump has done an about-face on NATO, the military alliance he once dismissed as ineffective.

Trump says at a White House news conference with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg that the organization is “no longer obsolete.”

As a candidate, Trump said the 28-member organization had outlived its usefulness. Since taking office, he has expressed support for NATO but has reinforced his view that European members must meet a 2014 agreement for member countries to boost defense spending to 2 percent of gross domestic product within a decade. Just the U.S. and a handful of other countries are meeting the target.

Trump says NATO countries will be more secure and the partnership strengthened if other countries pay their fair share and stop relying on the United States.

He’s set to participate in a memorial dedication and dinner with other NATO member leaders.

___

4:04 p.m.

British Prime Minister Theresa May says she will press U.S. President Donald Trump on keeping shared intelligence confidential, after leaks from the investigation of the Manchester concert attack.

Speaking to reporters upon arrival at a NATO summit in Brussels, May said that the U.S.-British defense and security partnership is built on trust.

But she says, “part of that trust is knowing that intelligence can be shared confidently.”

She said that when she sees Trump at the summit Thursday she will stress “that intelligence that is shared between law enforcement agencies must remain secure.”

She said the Manchester attack shows why it’s important for the international community and NATO to do more about the fight against terrorism.

___

3:59 p.m.

President Donald Trump is on his way to NATO headquarters in Brussels for his first meeting with a group he criticized mercilessly during his campaign.

Trump has rattled the group with musings about pulling out of the pact because other countries aren’t dedicating enough money to defense and called the alliance “obsolete.”

But he’s softened his stance considerably since taking office in January.

Trump is set to deliver remarks at the unveiling of memorials dedicated to the Berlin Wall and one that will serve as a reminder of NATO’s commitment to its collective defense clause — so called Article 5. It has only been activated once, after 9/11.

He’ll also attend a working dinner with other member leaders.

___

3:32 p.m.

Several hundred protesters have gathered outside the NATO summit in Brussels to demonstrate against NATO and U.S. President Donald Trump.

The group was tiny compared to the 10,000 demonstrators who came out Wednesday to protest Trump’s visit. But the summit won’t start until late afternoon, so the crowds could still swell.

Security officials have cordoned off a large protest zone outside NATO headquarters. Protesters there are holding banners that say “NATO game over” and “peace.”

At one point, some 50 demonstrators tried to block a road using banners.

Stephanie Demblon of the “Agir pour la paix” pacifist group says Trump “makes people scared” and says he’s “shown over the past months that he isn’t a man of peace.”

The anti-NATO activist says she’s worried that Trump, who criticized NATO during his campaign, is now beginning to see the partnership as “something very useful to his aims.”

___

2:09 p.m.

The White House is condemning recent violence in the Philippines by militants linked to the Islamic State group.

In a statement released Thursday, the White House says, “cowardly terrorists killed Philippine law enforcement officials and endangered the lives of innocent citizens.”

It adds that the United States will provide “support and assistance to Philippine counterterrorism efforts.” The statement from the press secretary says the United States is a “proud ally of the Philippines.”

Army tanks packed with soldiers have rolled into a southern Philippine city to try to restore control after militants linked to the Islamic State group launched a violent siege. Thousands of civilians have been fleeing Marawi, a city of some 200,000 people.

___

1:38 p.m.

French President Emmanuel Macron says he has a long list of issues to discuss with U.S. President Donald Trump, including the fight against terrorism, the economy and climate and energy issues.

The two leaders are meeting for the first time over lunch at the U.S. Ambassador to Belgium’s residence. They’ll dine on tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella, veal filet with potatoes, tri-colored vegetables, and a duo of Belgian chocolate mousse.

The two also shared an intense handshake, gripping each other’s hands so tightly that Trump’s knuckles appeared to turn white.

Macron has been critical of Trump in the past, including denouncing Trump’s musings on abandoning the Paris climate treaty. White House officials say Trump has not made a decision yet about whether the U.S. will fulfill its obligations under the deal.

___

1:25 p.m.

President Donald Trump is praising newly-elected French President Emmanuel Macron as the two leaders meet for the first time.

Trump and Macron met at the U.S. Ambassador to Belgium’s residence Thursday for a working lunch.

Trump says Macron had an “incredible victory, all over the world they’re talking about it.” He added that the two have a lot to discuss, including terrorism.

Macron has said he expects to discuss defense and security issues during the pair’s first face-to-face meeting. He has been critical of Trump in the past, including denouncing Trump’s musings on abandoning the Paris climate treaty.

___

1:19 p.m.

President Donald Trump did not respond to a shouted question about whether the British can trust America with intelligence following a series of leaks blamed on U.S. officials.

British authorities are livid over leaks related to the Manchester concert bombing. They include photos detailing evidence about the bomb used in the attack that were published by The New York Times. It is not clear that the newspaper obtained the photos from U.S. officials.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said she plans to raise the issue with President Donald Trump at the NATO summit in Brussels later Thursday.

She says she plans to “make clear to President Trump that intelligence that is shared between our law enforcement agencies must remain secure.”

___

1:15 p.m.

President Donald Trump is meeting with newly-elected French President Emmanuel Macron.

Trump and Macron are holding a working lunch at the U.S. Ambassador to Belgium’s residence Thursday.

Macron was elected over far-right opponent Marine Le Pen in the French presidential runoff earlier this month. Trump called him after his victory to congratulate him.

Macron has said he expects to discuss defense and security issues during the meeting. He has been critical of Trump in the past, including denouncing Trump’s musings on abandoning the Paris climate treaty.

___

12:43 p.m.

U.S. first lady Melania Trump cheered up children in a Belgian hospital with Dr. Seuss books and crepe paper flowers while her husband met with European Union leaders.

Young patients at the Queen Fabiola Children’s University Hospital used a sketch toy to make a sign reading “Welcome Mrs. Trump.”

The first lady, wearing a knee-length dusty rose leather jacket and skirt, toured the hospital Thursday and joined a group of children making paper flowers, a Belgian tradition. Two of the children sitting with her were hooked up to IVs.

They shared opinions on favorite flowers. The first lady said she likes peonies, tulips, roses and especially orchids.

Mrs. Trump also visited the Vatican’s children’s hospital earlier this week and gave the children Dr. Seuss books.

She’s expected to join the spouses of other leaders in town for a NATO summit for a visit to the Magritte Museum and the Belgian royal palace later Thursday.

___

12:31 p.m.

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis has joined President Donald Trump for the next leg of his trip and is participating in meetings with European leaders.

The composition of the U.S. delegation has evolved over the course of the president’s maiden foreign trip.

Chief of staff Reince Priebus, chief strategist Steve Bannon and commerce secretary Wilbur Ross all returned home after the president’s first stop in Saudi Arabia.

And Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner and daughter Ivanka Trump broke off before Trump traveled to Brussels, as previously planned.

The president will be returning to Washington Saturday after nine days abroad.

___

12 p.m.

European Union Council President Donald Tusk says talks with President Donald Trump reveal differences on key issues, including how to deal with Russia.

Tusk said Thursday that he was not “100 percent sure” the two leaders have “a common position, a common opinion, about Russia.” But he said that regarding Ukraine “it seems that we were on the same line.”

Trump met with European Union leaders Thursday morning in Brussels.

Tusk also said that “Some issues remain open like climate and trade,” where the EU is pushing for full respect of the Paris Agreement on climate and open multilateral trade deals.

But he insisted there was full agreement on many issues, including “first and foremost, on counter terrorism.”

___

11:30 a.m.

President Donald Trump got to meet two European Union Presidents at the same time.

Under the convoluted rules of the 28-nation bloc, Donald Tusk presides over the Council of EU leaders and chairs summit meetings while Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker heads the EU executive.

“You know, Mr President, we have two presidents in the EU,” Tusk said as they started their meeting. “I know that,” Trump said.

Juncker joked: “There is one too much.”

Trump concluded his meeting at the European Union headquarters at about 11:30 a.m. He headed to the U.S. Ambassador to Belgium’s residence where he was set to have a working lunch with newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron.

___

11 a.m.

President Donald Trump is speaking with European Union leaders during a meeting in Brussels.

Trump sat down Thursday with Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, and other officials.

Trump publicly cheered for the dissolution of the body when the United Kingdom voted to leave the EU last summer.

Trump is in the midst of a nine-day international trip. It is his first foreign trip and has included stops in Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Vatican.

___

10:10 a.m.

President Donald Trump is meeting with European Union leaders.

Trump arrived at European Union headquarters Thursday morning. He was greeted by the group’s president.

Trump publicly cheered for the dissolution of the body when the United Kingdom voted to leave the EU last summer.

The visit comes as part of Trump’s first international trip. The nine-day tour has included rapturous receptions in Saudi Arabia and Israel, and a polite meeting with Pope Francis in Rome.

___

8:30 a.m.

U.S. President Donald Trump woke to a gorgeous spring morning in Brussels — and a huge flag from Greenpeace criticizing his policies.

Around 7 a.m., the environmental group got on top of a construction crane close to the U.S. embassy where Trump stayed overnight and unfurled a huge banner saying “#RESIST.”

Two activists were up in the air to make sure the flag hung straight and would be clearly visible.

Greenpeace has been an ardent critic of Trump’s environmental views on climate change and global warming. Those issues will take central stage at the G-7 summit in Sicily starting Friday.

___

6:15 a.m.

President Donald Trump will be in the heart of Europe Thursday to address a continent still reeling from his election and anxious about his support.

Trump is slated to attend his first meeting of NATO, the decadeslong partnership that has been rattled by the new president’s wavering on honoring its bonds.

Trump has mused about pulling out of the pact because he believed other countries were not paying their fair share. He also has so far refused to commit to abiding by Article 5, in which member nations vow to come to each other’s defense.

The president is slated to meet with the heads of European Union institutions after having publicly cheered for the dissolution of the body when the United Kingdom voted to leave the EU.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

2 southwest Florida cities among nation’s fastest-growing

Two southwest Florida cities were among the nation’s fastest-growing last year.

The U.S. Census Bureau on Thursday said Bonita Springs and Fort Myers respectively had the 8th and 15th fastest growth rates in the nation.

Both cities are located in the Cape Coral-Fort Myers metro areas, and both had growth rates just under 5 percent.

In pure numbers, the city of Jacksonville and the city of Miami were among the nation’s leaders in population gains from July 2015 to July 2016.

The city of Jacksonville increased by almost 13,500 people, and the city of Miami increased by almost 13,000 people.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Clearwater cop fired for using excessive force on teenager

A Florida police officer was fired after an internal review found he used excessive force on a 13-year-old boy who had been involved in a fight at a youth shelter.

Clearwater Police Chief Dan Slaughter told reporters that 33-year-old Michael Leonardo made mistakes that “cannot be overlooked” when he responded to the call on April 2.

Surveillance video shows Leonardo grab the teen across the chest and slam him face-first onto a sidewalk outside the shelter. The boy chipped a tooth and had scratches on his face.

Leonardo told investigators he thought the boy was trying to escape. The boy said he tripped on his shoe, which could have come across as resisting the officer.

Two backup officers were given training and counseling for conduct after the takedown.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Stephen Souza, Jr. homers twice in Rays’ 5-2 win over Angels

Steven Souza Jr. homered twice to rally the Tampa Bay Rays to a 5-2 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday night.

Colby Rasmus also went deep for the Rays and Erasmo Ramirez pitched six strong innings in his third start of the season.

Albert Pujols hit his 597th career home run, a two run shot in the first for the Angels. It was his sixth of the season.

Ramirez (3-0) gave up four hits and walked one while striking out two. Alex Colome got the last three outs for his 12th save.

Souza tied it with a two-run homer off Ricky Nolasco (2-4) in the second. Back-to-back doubles by Corey Dickerson and Kevin Kiermaier put the Rays up 3-2 in the third.

Rasmus led off the seventh with another home run and Souza, who came into the game in an 8-for-67 slump, followed with his second of the game and seventh of the season.

Nolasco gave up five runs on seven hits, including three homers, in six innings. He has given up 16 homers this season.

Trout doubled in his first two at bats, giving him 409 extra-base hits, tied with Ken Griffey Jr. for second-most among players through their age-25 season. Thirty of Trout’s 52 hits this season have been for extra bases.

Pujols needs three more homers to become the ninth player to reach 600 homers, and 12 more to tie Sammy Sosa for eighth all-time.

Evan Longoria became Tampa Bay’s all-time leader in walks when he drew his 543rd from Nolasco in the third.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Angels: Closer Huston Street (right lat strain) and RHP Matt Morin (neck tightness) threw perfect innings in a rehab assignment at Triple-A Salt Lake. Morin struck out two.

Rays: RHP Diego Moreno (right shoulder bursitis) was placed on the 10-day disabled list and RHP Ryan Garton was recalled from Triple-A Durham. … RHP Tommy Hunter (right calf strain) could be reinstated from the disabled list in the next few days.

UP NEXT

Angels: RHP Daniel Wright (0-0) will replace RHP Alex Meyer as Thursday’s starter against Tampa Bay. Manager Mike Scioscia is hopeful that Meyer, who went on the 10-day disabled list Wednesday with mid-back stiffness, will return next week.

Rays: RHP Matt Andriese (4-1), ejected in the sixth inning Saturday for hitting New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge with a pitch, goes against Wright.

Republished with permission from the Associated Press.

Tampa shooter tells police neo-Nazi roommates were planning terror

A Florida man told police he fatally shot his neo-Nazi roommates because he wanted to prevent a planned act of domestic terrorism.

Court documents filed Tuesday show that 18-year-old Devon Arthurs made the comment to police on Friday after leading officers to the bodies.

Arthurs, who told police he was a recent convert to Islam, said his roommates had disparaged his new religion and that their behavior also spurred his actions.

Investigators found bomb-making materials, Nazi propaganda and a framed photograph of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh in the apartment with the bodies.

Also arrested was a fourth roommate, Brandon Russell, an active member of the Florida National Guard who police say admitted to being a neo-Nazi and who gathered the explosives.

A court hearing for Arthurs was postponed Wednesday.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Zika hit Florida months before infections found, study says

Zika began spreading in Florida mosquitoes about three months before infections showed up in the Miami area last summer, and the virus likely was carried in by travelers from the Caribbean, new research suggests.

Mosquitoes there started picking up the virus from infected travelers as early as March last year, according to scientists who examined genetic information from samples from about 30 people with Zika as well as from mosquitoes. It wasn’t until July that Florida health officials said they had detected a local infection – the first in the U.S. mainland. Mosquitoes spread Zika by biting someone who’s infected, then biting another person.

The bugs may have been causing infections in Miami as early as March, too, said researcher Kristian Anderson of the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California. But there were likely few cases before July, and it’s not clear any of them sought treatment, he said.

Most people infected with Zika don’t get sick. It can cause a mild illness, with fever, rash and joint pain. But infection during pregnancy can lead to severe brain-related birth defects in babies.

Anderson said it likely took mosquitoes biting 30 to 40 infected travelers to produce the outbreak that flared last year in Florida. Most of the 256 cases reported in the Florida outbreak did not occur until late summer, he added. Health officials declared Miami-Dade County clear of continuing Zika infections by December, though isolated infections have continued, including this year.

Texas is the only other state that had homegrown Zika cases last year. All the other Zika cases in the U.S. have been connected to travel to areas with recent large outbreaks, mostly to South America and the Caribbean.

Zika that spread in Florida mosquitoes mainly came from the Caribbean, the genetic information studied indicated. About 3 million travelers arrived in Miami from the Caribbean during the first half of 2016. About 2.4 million of them came on cruise ships, but it’s not clear that cruise ship passengers were the main spark in the Florida outbreak, Andersen said.

The Florida research was one of three papers on Zika published Wednesday in the journal Nature. The two others concluded there was a lag of six to 12 months between Zika’s arrival and its detection in Brazil in 2015 and other parts of South America.

Screening efforts using new technologies – if developed further – could change that, wrote the University of Arizona’s Michael Worobey, in an editorial accompanying the Zika articles.

“We should be detecting such outbreaks within days or weeks” and not months or years, he wrote.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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