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  • The week in review


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    The week in review

    © St. Petersburg Times
    published April 14, 2002

    Cranes wing it as they head home

    CHASSAHOWITZKA -- It was a good week for whooping cranes, if it's possible for any week to be considered "good" when you are among the last of your kind on the planet.

    With fewer than 400 remaining in North America, the whooping crane is one of the world's rarest birds.

    First came the news Wednesday that the five famously guided whoopers that wintered in Citrus County began their journey north on their own -- without the guidance of ultralights this time.

    Having learned the 1,228-mile trip from Wisconsin to Citrus County by following costumed pilots in ultralight aircrafts, the birds are relying on instinct and clues they picked up along the way.

    Flying nearly seven hours, the cranes traveled about 220 miles the first day, stopping in a freshly tilled field with a pond nearby. Behind the ultralights, they never had flown more than two hours.

    Then came news that a pair of whooping cranes built a nest and hatched two eggs in the dried-out bed of a lake ringed by about a dozen homes in Leesburg. Though one of the chicks was lost to a hungry eagle, the surviving chick, dubbed Lucky by its birdwatching neighbors, has thrived and may benefit from an urban home with no bobcats in sight.

    Hernando seeks some modest nudity rules

    BROOKSVILLE -- Hernando County is trying to put up a privacy wall to keep out adult businesses.

    Saying it wants to promote modesty and decency, the County Commission voted 5-0 in its first public hearing for an ordinance that would prohibit nudity in public places.

    The commission resisted calls for provisions to allow nudist resorts, moving the ordinance without amendments to the next public hearing April 23.

    County Attorney Kent Weissinger stressed that the ordinance would allow all but the skimpiest of swimwear and would be enforced only in public places and businesses that deal in alcoholic beverages.

    E-mail with porn stirs official gasps

    TAMPA -- In other nudity news, Hillsborough County Commissioner Ronda Storms raised a few eyebrows -- and reddened a few cheeks -- when she forwarded an e-mail with a nude photo to other commissioners.

    Storms, who wants to shut down a public access show that features graphic shots of nude women, forwarded the e-mail from a protester with a note that asks "How's this for free speech?" above an attachment. The receivers opened the attachment and were greeted with a full-screen color photo of female genitalia.

    Not everyone appreciated the effort, and two commissioners are asking whether Storms may have violated county policy or broken the law by distributing what she herself considers obscene material.

    Storms said she found the e-mail so objectionable she felt other commissioners should see it.

    "I don't see how you can be intellectually honest when you say you support funding that and object to receiving it on your e-mail system," she said.

    Student cell phones getting another look

    INVERNESS -- The ban on cellular phones at Citrus County high schools is still intact.

    Though the phones are stashed in plenty of book bags and lockers, the Citrus County School Board voted Tuesday to maintain its official prohibition, at least for now. A final decision will be made in May.

    School districts across the bay area are struggling with policies governing possession and use of the phones. Parents jittery over school violence and terrorist attacks want to have their kids just a phone call away.

    School officials in Pinellas and Pasco counties are recommending that students be allowed to carry cell phones as long as they are turned off and stowed during school hours.

    Hernando County began allowing middle and high school students to carry phones at school in February.

    Hillsborough school administrators are likely to strike a cell phone prohibition from their student handbook next year.

    School districts have long considered cell phones to be one more headache on campus. At best, they were seen as a ringing distraction. At worst, they provided access to drug dealers.

    School district pulls two books on killers

    TAMPA -- A Valrico parent who is running for a County Commission seat has prompted the Hillsborough school district to remove for review two books on serial killers from the shelves of four Hillsborough public high schools.

    Tony Pawlisz, a Democrat who is challenging Ronda Storms for her commission seat, complained to the Durant High School principal last week after his 16-year-old son brought home The A to Z Encyclopedia of Serial Killers from the school library.

    What his sophomore son found intriguing in the book's 356 pages, Pawlisz found appalling: addresses to join fan clubs for serial killers, graphic details on how the murderers killed their victims, offers to buy serial murderer game cards and profanity.

    His complaint prompted Hillsborough school officials to immediately remove the book as well as The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers.

    A committee at each high school will review the books' content and determine whether they should be permanently banned.

    In short . . .

    TAMPA -- Metropolitan Ministries, the area's best-known charity for the homeless and poor, decided to drop its requirement that "professed Christians" make up a majority of its board of directors. The controversial religious quota had splintered the organization and hurt fundraising.

    KENNETH CITY -- A Town Council member was forced to resign his seat after only a month because of a U.S. Coast Guard rule barring active-duty personnel from holding office. Ted Wiesner said he first received permission to run, but the Coast Guard reviewed his case after receiving calls from town officials.

    LARGO -- The owner of the Bay Area Renaissance Festival filed a lawsuit Monday challenging the city's decision to evict the long-running festival from Largo Central Park, saying it failed to give sufficient notice before terminating the contract.

    ST. PETERSBURG -- Dr. Fred W. Alsup, a physician and civil rights activist who sued the city to integrate Spa Beach and Spa Pool in 1955, died Thursday at the age of 88. Despite his victory in 1957, the battle wasn't over. In 1958, city officials closed the beach and pool several times rather than let black people use them. By 1959 the issue was fading, partly because the white tourist industry felt closing the facilities would hurt their pocketbooks more than integration would.

    Coming up this week

    Expect lines at the post office Monday. Many bay area post offices will have extended hours to help last-minute filers meet the Internal Revenue Service deadline.

    Tampa Area Naturists will press their case Thursday for turning an obscure part of Fort De Soto Park into a clothing-optional beach. But the tide appears to be against them. The group is set to talk to Pinellas County's park board, but most county commissioners say they won't approve such a measure.

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