Latest Florida news, sports, business and entertainment


Last-minute insurance shoppers given grace period

CHICAGO (AP) — Monday's deadline for signing up for insurance under the new health care law has effectively been extended through Tuesday in case of heavy demand on the government website.

Julie Bataille, a spokeswoman for the federal agency overseeing the Obama administration's health overhaul, says the grace period is being offered to accommodate people from different time zones and to deal with potential technical problems that could result from a last-minute rush of applicants.

Monday was the deadline for Americans who wanted coverage that started on Jan. 1.

The federal system serves 36 states. Some other states have also extended enrollment deadlines slightly.


Immigrants carol at Fla. Rep. Diaz-Balart's home

MIAMI (AP) — A dozen young children dressed in their holiday best and donning Santa hats made a surprise visit to South Florida U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart's home to serenade the Republican congressman and urge him to push for immigration reform.

The children waved signs reading "more action, less talk," as they sang Monday. They were accompanied by their parents and local immigrant advocates. Diaz-Balart did not appear to be home. Police quickly arrived but asked the group merely to stay on the public sidewalk.

Immigrants are frustrated with the congressman who has long worked on immigration reform with little to show for it. Diaz-Balart has said he supports a process to legalize many of the 11 million people living in the country illegally but faces staunch opposition from many in his own party.


Fla. university won't appeal court ruling on guns

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A Florida university is going along with an appeals court ruling that says universities can't regulate guns on campus.

University of North Florida President John Delaney on Friday told students and faculty that the university would not appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court.

Delaney's message also stated that effective immediately campus rules would allow students to store guns in their cars.

Earlier this month the 1st District Court of Appeal sided with a UNF student and a gun rights group that had challenged a rule regarding guns in cars.

Florida law currently prevents anyone from possessing or exhibiting guns at schools and universities. That ban doesn't automatically apply to guns kept in cars although school districts are allowed to enact their own ban on guns in cars.


Reptile keepers want US python ban overturned

MIAMI (AP) — A reptile industry trade association wants to overturn a nationwide ban on importing four giant snake species or transporting them across state lines.

The North Carolina-based United States Association of Reptile Keepers says the ban is unnecessary and is costing reptile breeders, handlers, hobbyists and vendors millions of dollars.

The group filed a lawsuit last week in federal court in Washington, D.C., against U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The attorney representing the reptile keepers says the ban applies a one-size-fits-all approach to a problem primarily affecting South Florida alone.

A Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman says the ban will help prevent non-native snakes from spreading and protects native wildlife.

The ban applies to Burmese pythons, yellow anacondas and northern and southern African pythons.


FBI: Man with NY, Fla. ties wanted for bank jobs

MINEOLA, N.Y. (AP) — The FBI has put out an alert for a bank robbery suspect with ties to suburban Long Island and Florida.

The FBI says Luis Alomar is wanted for at least 20 robberies along the eastern seaboard in places including New York, New Jersey and Delaware.

Alomar, who speaks Spanish, has ties to the Mastic and Shirley areas of Long Island. He also is believed to have ties to southern Florida, specifically Palm Beach County, Kissimmee, and Osceola County.

There is a federal arrest warrant for him for a holdup in Delaware.

The FBI says the 37-year-old man should be considered armed and dangerous.


DOT: More drivers paying to use I-95 express lanes

(Information in the following story is from: The Miami Herald,

MIAMI (AP) — Department of Transportation numbers show many South Florida drivers are willing to pay to drive in the express lanes on Interstate 95. So, the price may go up.

WLRN reports that as of October, drivers had made more than 112,000 $7 trips through the express lanes this year. That's an increase of 125-percent over 2012, 2011 and 2010 combined.

Drivers using the express lanes pay between $0.25 to a maximum of $7 to access the lanes. The idea is that by driving up the price as congestion builds during rush hour, traffic is driven back into the general lanes, easing congestion in the express lanes.

DOT held a public hearing last week on rule changes that could cap the toll at $10.50. The minimum would rise to $0.50.


2 top officials leave BP oil spill claims office

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Two top officials of a fund that pays compensation in connection with the 2010 BP oil spill have resigned, just months after the two were accused of engaging in improper conduct.

Program head Patrick Juneau confirms that CEO David Odom and Chief Operating Officer Kirk Fisher have resigned.

The process of paying claims will not be interrupted by their departure, Juneau said. Attempts at reaching both Odom and Fisher by phone or by other contact information were unsuccessful.

Juneau refused to comment on BP's allegation that the resignations follow reports that the men entertained subordinates at a strip club that got $550,000 in oil spill claims. The allegation is online in an ad BP says will run Monday in three major newspapers. BP won't identify the club.


Diver's death in Orange Springs rule accidental

(Information in the following story is from: Daytona Beach (Fla.) News-Journal,

ORANGE CITY, Fla. (AP) — Officials say a central Florida diver had plenty of air in his tank, but its air valve was only partially open when he drowned at Blue Spring State Park.

The Daytona Beach News-Journal cited a Volusia County Sheriff's Office report noted that 36-year-old Samuel Slack was not certified to dive in water as deep as he was in on Oct. 9.

An autopsy determined Slack's death was an accidental drowning.

Diving partner Daniel Vansickle told investigators they and were in water about 80-feet deep when Slack had trouble breathing. Vansickle says he let Slack breathe from his regulator.

When Slack didn't return it, Vansickle took it from him, swam to the surface and yelled for help. He dove back down and found Slack in about 100 feet of water.