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State to seek land swap with Miccosukee tribe

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 26, 2003

TALLAHASSEE -- Gov. Jeb Bush and the Cabinet ordered the Department of Environmental Protection on Tuesday to try to negotiate a land swap with the Miccosukee Indian tribe instead of seizing its Everglades property through condemnation.

DEP Secretary David Struhs was told not to proceed with condemnation of the 805 acres in Golden Gate Estates South, southeast of Naples, unless good-faith negotiations fail.

The land, which would be flooded for the Everglades restoration, was purchased in recent years by the Miccosukees for a total of $452,500. Struhs said the tribe has rejected a $1.7-million offer for it.

Dione Carroll, the tribe's general counsel, told the Cabinet the land has cultural significance to the Miccosukees and that medicinal herbs and palm fronds used in dwellings are gathered there.

Kevin McCarty to head insurance regulation office

TALLAHASSEE -- Kevin McCarty was named Tuesday to head the state's new Office of Insurance Regulation.

Gov. Jeb Bush and the Cabinet unanimously approved the appointment of McCarty, who will be responsible for regulating insurance companies, including licensing, rates and solvency.

McCarty, who previously was deputy insurance commissioner and has more than 10 years' experience in insurance regulation, will be paid $118,387.

The office was established when the Cabinet offices of comptroller and insurance commissioner were combined into chief financial officer.

U.S. releases 11 Cubans aboard hijacked plane

MIAMI -- Federal immigration officials on Tuesday released 11 Cubans who came to South Florida last week on a hijacked plane and subsequently asked for political asylum.

At least 16 others returned to Cuba over the weekend. One person is still in custody of the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, said agency spokeswoman Barbara Gonzalez. She would not say if the person was seeking asylum.

Last Wednesday, six Cuban men armed with knives and a hatchet allegedly diverted a flight that took off from the Isle of Youth in Cuba and was headed to Havana. The plane landed in Key West, escorted by U.S. fighter jets.

On Tuesday, U.S. Magistrate Hugh Morgan ruled that each of the six accused hijackers could be released on $25,000 bail, but the U.S. Attorney's Office asked for a stay of that ruling while it appeals.

U.S. wins dispute over ownership of moon rock

MIAMI -- The United States is the proud new owner of an old moon rock.

A federal judge issued a verdict for the government in a fight against Florida businessman Alan Rosen for control of the moon rock valued at up to $5-million.

The fingertip-size piece of lunar material was given to the Honduran government by President Nixon in 1973 but wound its way to Miami under conditions that are still unexplained.

Rosen lost the 3.5-billion-year-old rock when he showed it to undercover agents who set up a sting by placing an ad seeking moon rocks in 1998.

He claimed he bought the rock from a retired Honduran colonel for $50,000 after it disappeared from the presidential palace. The Justice Department insisted the rock was stolen and should be forfeited. U.S. District Judge Adalberto Jordan agreed.

The Honduran government has asked for the return of the rock, and it is up to the U.S. government to decide what to do with it.

Audit says Miami-Dade misspent airport funds

MIAMI -- Miami-Dade County officials dipped into Miami International Airport funds to pay almost $39-million in expenses not related to airport operations, a federal audit concluded.

The auditors' report, released Monday, revealed the county misspent $38.7-million of the airport's budget between 1995 and 2000, including $31.4-million in questionable administrative charges.

Airport director Angela Gittens, who was hired in 2001, said she is working to prevent further misuse of the airport's money.

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