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Hamlin wins 3rd Daytona 500; Newman hospitalized

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Denny Hamlin won the Daytona 500 for the third time when he beat Ryan Blaney to the finish line in the second-closest finish in race history. The win for Joe Gibbs Racing came as Ryan Newman was wrecked as the leader and crossed the finish line with his car on its roof, engulfed in flames. The race was pushed back a day by rain for just the second time in 62 years and Hamlin won after two red flags and two overtimes. He's the first back-to-back Daytona winner since Sterling Marlin in 1995.


Taylor Swift's father safe after fight with burglar

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Taylor Swift's father recently fought a burglar who broke into his $4 million Florida penthouse. The Tampa Bay Times reports that Scott Swift returned to his home in the Vinoy Place Towers on Jan. 17 just moments after 30-year-old Terrence Hoover used an emergency stairwell to climb 13 floors to enter it.  The paper says the men fought before Hoover ran. Hoover has a lengthy arrest record that includes burglary, aggravated assault and kidnapping. Swift picked Hoover out of a photo lineup, and police say Hoover called them to report the altercation. Hoover was found last week and charged with burglary.


Florida could extend time for NCAA on student-athlete pay

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida lawmakers are slowing down a move to give college athletes the right to profit from endorsement deals. That would give the NCAA more time to address the issue of compensation for the 450,000 athletes under its purview. The Florida Legislature appears on track to follow in the heels of California, which last year enacted a first-in-the-nation law allowing student athletes to make money off their names much like professional athletes now do. While the California law won't go into effect until 2023, the proposal in Florida would have become law this summer. But a state Senate committee on Monday sought to delay the law so the NCAA has more time to resolve the matter on its own.


SWAT team fatally shoots murder suspect after standoff

POINCIANA, Florida (AP) — A Florida SWAT team has fatally shot a murder suspect after a long standoff. The Polk County Sheriff's Office says it began with another shooting earlier Sunday night. The office says 40-year-old Rudy Arenas fatally shot Orlando Rivera and seriously wounded Rivera's wife before fleeing into a relative's home. A SWAT team negotiated with him for hours. He finally came out with his hand in his pocket, so they shot him with beanbags. That knocked him and his gun to the floor. Sheriff Grady Judd said his “last bad choice” was to grab the gun and point it at deputies, who fatally shot him.


211M gallons of sewage spilled into Florida city waterways

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Fort Lauderdale officials say 211.6 million gallons of sewage has spilled into Fort Lauderdale waterways in the past few months. The Sun-Sentinel reports that’s enough to fill 320 Olympic-sized pools. The city’s aging sewer pipes broke six times in December and spewed 126.9 million gallons of sewage — ranking as one of South Florida’s biggest spills ever. The spills fouled the Tarpon River, the Himmarshee Canal and streets in three neighborhoods. Officials also told the state Department of Environmental Protection that 79.3 million gallons spilled into nearby George English Lake over a 10-day period that began on Jan. 30 and ended on Feb. 8.


Manatee deaths in Florida drop to 606 in 2019

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — State wildlife officials say fewer manatees died in 2019 in Florida compared with the year before. Statewide, manatee deaths decreased to 606 deaths last year, down from 824 in 2018. Experts say it appears the main cause of the decline in deaths is the reduced effect of red tide algae on manatees. The Sun-Sentinel reports that boats and other watercraft were the biggest cause of manatee deaths last year, causing at least 136 of the fatalities — or about 22% for the year. A cause of death has not been determined in 119 cases.


Trump takes Daytona 500 warmup lap in presidential limousine

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — President Donald Trump is giving an election-year embrace to NASCAR and its fans. He's the second president ever to attend the Daytona 500 and as grand marshal, he had the honor of commanding drivers to start their engines. The presidential motorcade took to the track to join in a warm-up lap after he had told the crowd that the racers and their teams were competing “for pure American glory.” Trump made a grand entrance before the start of the race. He gave thousands of fans a flyover of Air Force One and then rode onto the track in the presidential motorcade as the audience roared with delight.


Florida AG grants reparations for wrongfully convicted man

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Florida Attorney General’s office has announced it was wrong to deny reparations to a Jacksonville man wrongfully convicted of murder. On Saturday, officials granted a petition to compensate Nathan Myers, who spent 43 years in prison for a murder Jacksonville prosecutors said he didn’t commit. A judge last summer granted Myers’ petition for reparations for his time in prison, but last month, the Office of Attorney General vetoed that court order. That veto said that even though a judge determined there was clear and convincing evidence of Myers’ innocence, the judge was wrong. The Times-Union reports the state should now pay Myers $2 million, the maximum allowed under the state’s Victims of Wrongful Incarceration Act, for his more than four decades behind bars.


Orangutan granted 'personhood' turns 34, makes new friend

WAUCHULA, Fla. (AP) — An orangutan who was granted legal personhood by a judge in Argentina and later found a new home in Florida celebrated her 34th birthday on Valentine's Day with a special new friend. The director of the Center for Great Apes says Sandra has adjusted beautifully to her life at the sanctuary. Prior to coming to Florida, Sandra had lived alone in a Buenos Aires zoo. The center is home to 22 orangutans and Sandra was a bit shy when she arrived. An Argentine judge's landmark ruling in 2015 declared that Sandra is legally not an animal, but a non-human person, and thus entitled to some legal rights enjoyed by people.


Florida deadline to register to vote, switch parties nears

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Eligible Florida voters have until Tuesday to register or switch their party affiliation if they want to vote in the March 17 Democratic presidential primary. Florida has closed primaries, which means anyone not registered as a Democrat by Tuesday will be unable to vote to choose the party’s nominee. The Orlando Sentinel reports that some areas, like Orange County, had extended hours this weekend to accommodate new registrations and party switches. Two million vote-by-mail ballots are also going in the mail. Early voting begins at the beginning of March and lasts through the weekend before the primary.