Florida briefly

Published August 26, 2006

Bush to lead kids' bid for world reading record

LAKE BUENA VISTA - More than 200,000 Florida middle school students will try to set a Guinness Book of World Records mark for simultaneously reading aloud in multiple locations next month, Gov. Jeb Bush announced Friday.

Jane Feber, a language arts teacher at Mandarin Middle School in Jacksonville, came up with the idea, Bush's office said. He will lead the reading Sept. 28 via a live public television broadcast and Webcast from Disney-MGM Studios here.

"Reading is the key to learning and the foundation for success in school and life," Bush said in a statement. "This event also lets children know that reading is fun."

The current record was set in 2004 by 155,528 students from 737 schools in the United Kingdom who read William Wordsworth's poem Daffodils.

The Florida students will read a passage from Peter and the Starcatchers by Miami humor columnist Dave Barry and fiction writer Ridley Pearson. The book, published by Disney Editions, is written as a prequel to the J.M. Barrie classic Peter Pan.

Teachers and principals can register students on the Web at www.justreadflorida.com.

Jury finds labor camp owners guilty of drug sales

JACKSONVILLE - A jury on Friday found the owners of two migrant labor camps guilty of dozens of charges related to their hiring of drug addicts and homeless people and selling them crack cocaine and overpriced cigarettes and beer on credit, transactions that left them deeply in debt.

The U.S. District Court jury found Ronald Evans Sr., 60, guilty of 57 of 58 charges and his wife, Jequita, 45, guilty of 49 of 51 charges.

U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Corrigan ordered the couple jailed until sentencing. Each could receive maximum sentences of life in prison and millions of dollars in fines.

Prosecutors said the Evanses recruited men from homeless shelters, charged them $50 a week for room and board at farm labor camps in East Palatka and New Grove, N.C., and put them to work in fields for minimum wages. At day's end, workers could purchase crack cocaine, cigarettes and beer at inflated prices on credit.

When they were paid on Saturday, they often found they owed money.

Three of five suspended abortion clinics reopen

ORLANDO - State health officials have allowed the reopening of three of five abortion clinics associated with a doctor whose license was suspended, pending his appeal.

Offices in Ocala, Tampa and Fort Lauderdale, where Dr. James Pendergraft served as medical director, can resume abortions. The procedure remains prohibited for new patients at two clinics in Orlando.

The Florida Health Department suspended Pendergraft's license last week, saying he performed two inappropriate third-trimester abortions.

Crash of small plane near Ormond Beach kills two

ORMOND BEACH - A twin-engine plane crashed Friday afternoon about 5 miles northwest of Ormond Beach, killing both people aboard, officials said.

Ward T. Walter, president of Drug & Laboratory Disposal Inc. in Plainwell, Mich., and his wife Barbara were on their way to a vacation residence in the Bahamas, the company said. Walter was piloting the Mitsubishi MU-2 aircraft when it crashed.

Rain was reported over Volusia County at the time, officials said.